Taking the Initiative: Initiating Beyond Fear

By Christina Neri

Initiative is a little like creativity in that both require curiosity. Not the search for the “right” answer, as much as an insatiable desire to understand how something works and how it might work better. The difference is that the creative person is satisfied once he sees how it’s done. The initiator won’t rest until he does it.”
 Poke the Box by Seth Godin

All too often we find ourselves curious for a better answer, a better way, and yet we stand still, right in the thick of what is making us miserable instead of striving toward the one thing that can ignite us and throttle us. Of course, we use the excuse, “But I just don’t know the answer. I don’t know the better way.” Or worse, we buy into the lie, “This can’t be possible. This is fine just the way it is. I probably couldn’t even get there if I tried.”

Why? Why do we allow ourselves to slowly fall into the dark pit of disillusionment instead of fight our way out of the mess and use every ounce of grit we have to get to a better place? Fear. Fear has the intense power to consume us whole, but what happened to our intense power to fight back? When did we stop fighting? When did we stop believing the undeniable truth that we hold power inside of us? Power to change our circumstances. Power to change our kid’s beliefs about themselves and the world. Power to help our coworkers. Power to encourage our spouses. Power to create and initiate. When what hangs in the balance of all of this is our marriages, our children, our physical health, our careers, and our mental well-being how can we not make a bold move toward initiation, risks, challenges, and those very things we are afraid of?

I urged myself out of a miserable state and made a decision to initiate. I refused to believe the lie that the passion I had to be a part of progress in peoples’ lives was just a fantasy. Last year I was working for a psychiatric hospital that admitted many sick people on a daily basis. Ordinary enough, right? I guess I grew up naïve to this unfortunate reality, but I actually believed that just like schools, churches, and homeless shelters people went to hospitals to get a need met, to receive some sort of help, and I even ventured to believe that they would have a positive experience there, maybe even get a little bit better. Due to the limitation of insurance coverage, lack of adequate psychiatrists, and the overworked nurses and social workers my patients came in sick and left sick.

With each day, I felt the passion I once held to see change, to initiate change, to encourage change being sucked right out of my very soul. Now, that is truly something to fear. The small successes we celebrated were few and far between. I realized I was working for a completely broken system and with everything I had left inside my “bleeding heart” I attempted to motivate and encourage our team of social workers while being realistic of the difficulties we faced. I attempted to initiate change in my patient’s lives even when they said it was impossible. I made waves. My waves were met with resistance and it appeared that while everyone else was miserable too they actually preferred the status quo. I loved my patients and the people I worked with, but the sad truth that I attempted to change was inflexible.

The sickness I felt because of this disappointment made my being shake with rage and deep sadness. I couldn’t believe that this was real and the good work I thought was possible felt like such a crazy dream. I felt like giving up and I practically threw in the towel deciding that maybe I would continue down this dejected path when I was reminded by something deep inside of me that this story was not over.

I initiated a change. I began to search within myself and within the resources around me. I began to recall the happiest moments in my academic and professional career and I somehow resurfaced the love I still had for working with families and students. I realized I had a duty to pursue my passions and Seth Godin calls this, “A moral obligation to start.” He says, “I believe there is. I believe that if you’ve got the platform and the ability to make a difference, then this goes beyond “should” and reaches the level of “must.” You must make a difference or you squander the opportunity. Wasting the opportunity both degrades your own ability to contribute and, more urgently, takes something away from the rest of us.” Seth, you crushed it. I must start, I must contribute, I must make a difference.

Against all the odds I stumbled upon this opportunity. Fusion Academy seemed like an idealistic, utopian, and, honestly, and impossible dream. As I explored Fusion’s model, vision, and purpose I was overcome with suspicion and yet I was utterly in awe because Fusion’s 30 campuses (at the time) nationwide were creating and initiating change every single day. I came from a system where change was impossible and then I was introduced to Fusion where initiating change every day was just the norm. As I met the employees, the students, the families, I was totally enthralled and my passions had been re-ignited. Those beautiful pieces of me, that I thought were lost, were actually re-inspired with a whole new mission.

I couldn’t rest until I became a part of this change. I was 100% an initiator, as Seth Godin says. On all accounts as I immersed myself in Fusion’s culture and began to reach out into the community and share with people that a revolutionary option for education was available and coming to my very own city and home in the Western Suburbs of Chicago. Now, my initiation was not based on something I was able to see, touch, or feel, and at times I was afraid because I was trusting the process set before me. I had to step out in faith that our campus would actually come to fruition and, more than that, I had to believe and trust the process that there would be families and students who would come to Fusion and have their lives totally transformed for the better. It was a scary journey.

Initiating isn’t easy, but it’s possible and it leads to rewarding, life-altering, extraordinary results. Results that look like 1:1 education based on the relationship between the teacher and student, where students’ challenges, interests, and dreams become the recipe for their academic success. Results that look like students graduating high school when they previously couldn’t even pass a class. Results that look like an environment where students feel loved, feel safe, and thus feel confident in their ability to flourish despite their history of depression, anxiety, or other stigmatizing diagnoses.

Now I ask you, will you initiate with me? Or will you simply be creative and be curious? This is the question I ask the professionals and families I speak with and meet with every day. Some have initiated. Some have their students enrolled in Fusion Academy Oak Brook and those some are the ones seeing their students smile, those some are the ones having their family back because no homework is going home, and those some are the ones who have put fear behind them and chosen to believe the story that their student can succeed far beyond their academics to become healthy and happy individuals.