Earlier this year, I was at the TD Ameritrade Institutional LINC conference with more than 3,000 other financial advisers.
When I learned Viola Davis was speaking, I could hardly believe it. In the financial industry, women, especially women of color, are sorely underrepresented.
So needless to say, I was extraordinarily excited to see what Viola had in store for us.
Any expectations I had were soon surpassed. As soon as Viola stepped onto the stage, she filled it; her beautiful presence radiated to all corners of the room. She mentioned she was a little intimidated speaking to an audience of financial people — and I could only think it was we who should be intimidated by her, and her incredible success story.
The Story Behind the Story
Her talk was called “A Hero’s Journey,” taking us through the many ups and downs of Viola’s life; through the cycle of poverty and hunger that is so misunderstood — or even often times, simply overlooked or ignored — in our country.
Viola was vulnerable and honest. She shared how, despite her fame and success, her past traveled with her… to make her feel “less than.” But she also exclaimed, with confidence, that she was the hero in her story. That she will prevail.
It is that mindset that has helped Viola enjoy such widespread acclaim and success. Her self belief is palpable, and hearing her talk felt like we all got to share in her confidence and power for a short time. We absorbed her words and felt emboldened by her authenticity and fearless generosity of spirit.
Behind the Scenes
Her speech was educational, empowering and uplifting — and though she made many important points, one really resonated with me. Viola highlighted that you can never truly know what someone is going through, because you can’t see the story behind the story.
The starting line isn’t the same for everyone.
We think we all start at the same line. That we are all given the same chances to succeed in life. But that is not really true. All too often we see only the immediate outer shell we are presented with. In today’s modern and fast-paced world, we’ve forgotten how important it is to look deeper, and read the story hidden behind the facade.
Viola reminds us how important it is reframe how we see people and what it’s like not to have a place at the starting line. Opportunity may just not be there for everyone. And it’s with opportunity comes the increased possibility of moving forward and succeeding.
The Same But Different
You may think everyone is the same, but there are unimaginable circumstances around poverty that limit the ability of those affected to get ahead in life. Small changes to our receptors can make a person feel safe to speak, and to rise up through the circumstances that might otherwise hold them trapped in a cycle of misfortune.
I found it deeply moving when Viola spoke about the school programs, the scholarships and the teachers that literally saved her, providing a helping hand to raise her out of poverty. Without these opportunities, the rocky path she walked through in her earlier life may have blocked her ability to rise out of poverty, and take ownership of the woman she was clearly destined to become.
It brings everything back to the importance of living with compassion. When viewing others around you, try and withhold your instincts to judge. Become aware of the limiting circumstances of poverty and hunger. And perhaps, by extending a hand of kindness, you too may be helping the next Viola Davis to make this world a better place.
I believe practicing compassion may just save the world, and it’s people like Viola who will lead the way.
A Woman on a Mission
Since seeing her speak, I’ve continued to follow Viola and her work and passion projects, and the charities she supports. I’ve admired her photos and her different styles — but most of all, I’ve admired her voice. I mean, take this speech from the Emmys.
WOW, right? What a powerful and compelling use of her platform.
And other interviews are no different.
“One thing that is missing from the vision boards is what happens when you don’t get what you want,” she told Glamour. “Your ability to adapt to failure, and navigate your way out of it, absolutely 100 percent makes you who you are.”
Or, as she told The Porter Edit: “I always say life is like a baton and you got to run your leg of the race and pass it on to the next great runner. I want to pass a fabulous baton and leave something that makes me immortal, in a fabulous way. I want to leave an elixir that people can taste and that makes them feel alive.”
What Is Your Life’s Purpose?
As you can see, Viola lives life with a purpose; as though she has a baton to pass. She wants to pave the way for children and women of color, a mission that’s evident in everything she says and does.
But having a life’s purpose isn’t only for visionaries or celebrities.
It’s something you can consider, too — not only to make the world a better place, but also to improve your own life. Research has shown that people with a sense of purpose — with a “compass or lighthouse that provides an overarching aim and direction” — live longer than those without one.
So what’s your mission? Your lighthouse? Mine is to help clients make smarter financial decisions and get confident about their money.
Maybe yours is to raise your children into caring adults. Maybe it’s to make art that brings beauty into the world. Or maybe, like Viola, it’s about sharing your story to nurture the compassion in this world and know it does make a difference in someone’s life.
Whatever your life’s purpose, we’d love to be a part of helping you on your journey. If you’d like to discuss any aspect of your financial life, get in touch.