VIA Institute on Character
On this Labor Day, I give reflection to the twenty plus years since my college graduation. It has been a long journey, although the years seem to pass by at record speed.
Sometimes it is an unexpected moment, a news story, a photo or scenery out my car window that triggers my memories of projects or clients that have made our Greater Cincinnati community a better, stronger place to be. I am reminded of passionate people I have had the fortune of working beside and supporting, whose life work is about making a meaningful difference in the lives of others. And reminded of outcomes that give me cause for a smile to think about my role as part of the team.
My very first project as a freelance communications contractor in Cincinnati was developing a public relations plan to transform the image of what was at the time seen as a dilapidated, uninhabitable area so that the first city-owned townhouse development would sell. That neighborhood was the Betts-Longworth Historic District and that development was Longworth Square. Its success became the driving impetus for continuous expanding growth in our region’s Over-the-Rhine.
Over the years, I have worked to raise awareness and build relationships on behalf of so many wonderful causes and events. Among the highlights – inspiring a community to believe in the power of inclusion through my messaging for the Inclusion Network, creating a school supply campaign that in just two years was generating enough to assist over 700 children, conceptualizing and implementing a recognition event to not just honor young volunteers but also to encourage lifelong stewardship for them, creating a Downtown Hoedown competition in the hub of Cincinnati to spread the word of the Appalachian Festival, and developing a public relations campaign for the Hidden Treasures CD tribute to legendary King Records and its belief in the power of inclusion.
And, on the side, I have used my studies on positive psychology and behavior science to not only enhance my own relationships with people and my pets – but also to educate others to do the same. That passion has evolved into this Good Things Going Around blog project – and a side pet training business I call So Much PETential.
It most certainly has not been a smooth journey the whole way through. As is the nature of doing contract work, there are lulls and those lulls can be downright scary. I won’t lie. Last year was one of those times. But, then, it is so magical when an even better opportunity comes along that allows me to use my strengths and I am reminded it all has a purpose. These are the lessons in the big classroom we call life. If it were not for my hardship, I would never have attended the Association for Professional Dog Trainers Conference, met encouraging friends and my mentor, and ultimately pursuing pet training on the side. Something that has been a huge impact.
And I would never have found my most recent better opportunity.
What is that opportunity?
Ironically it is returning to work with someone for whom I did some of my most fulfilling work in the past. About 10 years ago, I worked side-by-side of Breta Cooper with the Mayerson Foundation in creating and implementing a PR plan to promote the Hidden Treasures CD, a tribute project to Cincinnati’s King Records with a very important message. From internationally renowned, to national touring, to local favorites, some of the most respected musicians and/or groups with roots in Cincinnati were part of that unique CD featuring new, never-before-heard versions of songs, originally recorded on King Records. However, that project wasn’t just about promoting King Records. It was about raising awareness of the fact that by bringing diverse people together for a common goal, that the result is even greater strength.
I also worked with Breta during my eight year relationship with the Inclusion Network. For seven years, I was one of the producers in charge of the messaging for what was one of our region’s most inspiring events drawing over 900 people – the Inclusion Leadership Awards Event. In just 2 ½ hours, our goal was to teach attendees a lesson that would somehow change the world as they know it. They heard stories of organizations that instinctively know how to uncover talent, and of people, whose abilities are no longer obscurities. Acceptance was no longer an abstract. Inclusion, they learned, was not about “them”, but about “me”.
So now, for the past three months, I have been working with Breta (and Kelly Aluise) to help convey the message of the nonprofit VIA Institute on Character doing social media messaging including building and managing a brand new blog – www.VIAcharacterblog.com. VIA has a global scope of empowering people through the advancement of the science and practice of character strengths. Their aim is to fill the world with greater virtue.
And that is my aim too.
Being human, we all have strengths within ourselves. Those strengths are our greatest assets. Nurturing them has been proven to not only energize us to learn and reach for our goals, but also to lead us toward a happier, more satisfying life. However, we may not even be aware of what they are and even more likely we may not proactively engage ourselves in exercises to heighten those assets.
The VIA Institute on Character is a Cincinnati-based nonprofit organization with a global scope of empowering people through the advancement of the science and practice of character strengths. Their aim is to fill the world with virture.
One very important way they do this is by offering their VIA survey free of charge across the globe – and since VIA’s inception in 2001, more than 2 million people in 193 countries and 17 languages have taken it. (There is also a survey for youth.) Professionals can use the survey to learn more about their clients or employees.
I highly recommend setting aside 30 minutes to take the 240 question survey. You will be given a free personalized description of your 24 strengths in their order of importance to you, as well as some suggestions for flexing your strength muscles. For an additional $20, you can receive an indepth VIA Pathways Report that shares much greater information on exploring and using your strengths. There are additional resources on the VIA website. There are additional free and paid resources on the VIA website – and on the new VIA blog – to help you nurture your strengths. They offer courses too for individuals and professionals whose work is focused on bringing out the best in others.
According to the VIA survey results, I actually have 7 signature strengths (highest rated strengths) because I have numerous score ties. They include: Honesty, Kindness, Leadership, Perspective, Humor, Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence, and Fairness.
I can see so many of my life choices wrapped up inside these seven virtues. Much of my career has been focused on communicating to inspire positive change in individuals, organizations, communities and even pets. Both my Good Things Going Around blog project and my So Much PETential pet training have to do with bringing out the best in others.
Ironically, just this past spring I spent a lot of time developing my personal, professional ‘brand’ (with great thanks to T.J. Budd and Tessa O’Neal from Centennial, Inc.). This is what I came up with:
I guide organizations to communicate their core mission and brand with integrity and resolve, telling their story strategically and compellingly. An out-of-the-box thinker, I thrive on developing creative tactical ideas for raising awareness, educating constituents, and building consensus around communication goals. When it comes to relationships, I enjoy being both a leader and a team player, supporting the strengths of others.
My pet training brand (which I am still tweaking) is:
I believe training is not just about modifying behaviors and teaching skills, it is also about enhancing quality of life for our pets. In my quest to have well mannered pets, I began studying the science of animal behavior and positive reinforcement strategies over 12 years ago; and I can’t stop learning. My behavior change strategies blend science with kindness, integrity, creativity and fun. Seeing how that approach has not only set myself and my pets up for success, but also strengthened our relationship, is the driving force behind my passion for educating and helping others achieve similar outcomes.
Wow, I can absolutely see how my VIA strengths are an integral role in all that I do. And by my focusing on them it has led me to make career choices that are very satisfying for me.
I’m excited to say that my latest career path – is working with VIA! As a contractor, I am part of the communication team with two very positive, motivating people – Kelly Aluise and Breta Cooper – and I am working on telling their story through social media. I’d love it if you’d follow us on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+, AND please stop by the all new VIA blog that I am managing.
This is absolutely the stuff I thrive on!
It is so easy for us in life to focus on our own and other’s shortcomings, and when times are difficult to lose sight of those virtues that give us the capacity for greatness. However, by shifting our focus instead toward those virtues of strength an amazing and beautiful transformation can happen. We grow and prosper in new, meaningful ways. Our life is so much more satisfying.
I am choosing to focus on nurturing my VIA strengths. How about you?