One of my favorite career-coaching questions is, "What brings joy to your life?"
I ask clients to think about this because sadly, all too often, we lack joy in our work. It's an important point to consider. Contrary to popular belief, integrating joy into what you do isn't just about having fun. When you are doing work that feels good - it allows you to do good - and that in turn empowers you to share your unique gifts with the world in important ways.
Last night I was blessed with the opportunity to see "joy and wonder" at work while attending a gala fundraiser for the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF). By way of background, the MMRF was established in 1998 by twin sisters Karen Andrews and Kathy Giusti, soon after Kathy's diagnosis with multiple myeloma, an incurable blood cancer. In just little over a decade, they have become the world's number-one private funder of multiple myeloma research, brought four drugs to market, raised over $170 million for research, and become a model of how to get government, researchers and private industry to better collaborate for success.
Thirteen years after being diagnosed, Kathy is in remission and was recently named one of Time Magazine's 100 Most Influential People of 2011. The joy on Kathy's face as she gazed out at the sell-out crowd and the enthusiasm of the audience for her mission was palpable; the evening resulted in over $2 million being raised for their cutting-edge research. Talk about one person making a difference.
That accomplishment alone would have made the evening a whopping success, but as I mentioned before, the evening was about both joy and wonder. Wonder with a capital "W". One of the two people honored at the gala was the legendary Stevie Wonder who was presented with The Spirit of Hope award for his tireless humanitarian efforts on behalf of civil and human rights issues. In tribute to Wonder, the evening's entertainers, including Grammy award winning artists, Michael McDonald, Darius Rucker and Javier Colon, winner of NBC's, The Voice, sang Wonder's iconic songs.
At first it was not clear that Wonder would take to the stage to perform. But before long, to the delight of everyone in the room, he was singing and jamming along with the featured acts. (One of my other favorite career-related questions is, "What can't you stop yourself from doing?" and clearly Stevie Wonder just can't stop himself from singing!).
It would have been a treat to see Wonder perform under any circumstances, but because this was a private event, I was able to enjoy the performance standing within 25 feet of the stage. I was mesmerized watching his hands fly across the keyboard, and the harder he played, the more he smiled. Of course, he wasn't the only one having a great time on stage. The unbridled enthusiasm of both the featured singers and the back-up musicians was infectious, they were clearly honored to be performing alongside their musical idol. Not one of them could mask their, "I can't believe I'm really on stage with Stevie Wonder" look in their eyes. After finishing up an impromptu duet with Wonder, Darius Rucker, who was grinning from ear-to ear, proclaimed to the crowd, "I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm in Heaven right now."
Indeed it was a magical evening - filled with giving, joy and wonder:
Joy for Kathy Gusti whose remarkable vision and leadership has saved countless lives.
Joy for Stevie Wonder who overcame incredible odds to become a living legend.
Joy for the musicians who relished the opportunity to play with their childhood idol.
And, joy for all of us lucky enough to be in the audience to soak up the spirit of the evening. Thank you to the MMRF for an evening to remember. To learn more about this incredible organization, please visit their website.