Find Your Bliss, Your Passion, Your Ikigai

“Follow your bliss,” said Joseph Campbell
“Follow your passion,” said everybody else on the planet

I’ve heard these phrases mentioned since I was born, or at least it feels like it’s been that long. So I find it interesting that millennials are, to a large degree, pushing back on this approach to life, and they have a point.

The point being, “how do I know what my bliss/passion is? and if I don’t know, how the hell can I follow it?”. Well said, and I know what they mean.

While most of my friends jumped from high school to college, then dove into their career the moment they graduated, I had no idea what I wanted to do after high school, which may explain why I found myself building helicopter landing pads in Augusta, Georgia at the age of 18, and why I’ve bounced from one discipline to another, from VP of Ops, to CIO, CMO and CEO in the decades that followed.

It’s only by looking back at this point in my life that I’ve come to see how I was, in fact, following my passion. But as it turns out, that passion was for learning, not for a specific career.

The reason I took on so many different roles was that I was fascinated by the process of acquiring new skills, of challenging my mind to discover procedures and processes as a way to understand how things worked.

And I see that same trait in a lot of millennials. They’re hungry for learning, and will jump from one job to the next, decide to become an entrepreneur, or adopt the life of a freelancer, rather than pursuing a “career”, as is often expected of them. New gets them excited.

But that doesn’t mean we should ignore the idea of bliss, or passion. It just means we should look at our life a bit differently, which is what I found myself doing as last year was coming to a close.

I’m not one for new year’s resolutions, but as each new year comes around I do take some time to reflect on the last twelve months gone by, and the next twelve months on the horizon.

It was in the waning moments of 2017 that I discovered an article on Medium by Remo Giuffré. Remo is something of a savant when it comes to people, and in this post he talked about finding one’s purpose.

He brought forth a new term (well, new to me) to describe the intersection of many factors that lead to discovering our purpose – Ikigai. According to Wikipedia, Ikigai is a Japanese concept which means “a reason for being”, and according to Japanese culture, everyone has an Ikigai, though we often have to search for it.

Ikigai Toronto Star Graphic

I invite you, as I did, to take some time and examine this visual concept. I admit it’s a bit complicated, especially the empty sections surrounding your Ikigai, but I think you’ll come to realize that Ikigai is far more than passion – it’s service, it’s fulfillment, it’s the gift that only you can share with the world.

For me, it represents the work that I’m doing now, which is storytelling, by way of storylistening. Passion + Mission + Profession + Vocation. And it took decades to discover. So to those who buck the trend of being defined by their career, who have this unbridled thirst for knowledge, and experience, and service, you’re doing just fine. While some will find their Ikigai early on, don’t worry if it takes a lifetime to discover. Enjoy the ride, and remember that each day you’re writing your life story.

Article written by Mark Lovett – Copyright Storytelling with Impact – All rights reserved


Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative Sharing Ideas in San Diego

Whenever I get an email from the San Diego Diplomacy Council, I know something interesting is afoot. In this case, it was a group of entrepreneurs with the Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative coming to San Diego, and they wanted to know if I could develop a storytelling workshop for them. How could I possibly resist.

San Diego Diplomacy Council Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative

The Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative (YLAI) builds linkages between younger leaders across the hemisphere and address the opportunity gap for youth, especially women, by empowering entrepreneurs and civil society leaders with the training, tools, networks and resources they need to transform their societies and contribute more fully to economic development and prosperity, security, human rights and good governance in the hemisphere.

On October 20th I had the pleasure of meeting a dozen entrepreneurs from a dozen Latin America and Caribbean countries who had founded a dozen very cool companies, each with a different focus.

Aarón Bendfeldt, founder & executive director of Grønn (Guatemala)

Aarón Bendfeldt Young Leaders of the Americas InitiativeGrønn upcycles glass bottles collected from Guatemala City, then makes and sells new glasses, pots, vases, and other products, all handmade by local women.

He previously participated in SPOR, an exchange program between Guatemala and Norway. Aarón is studying Chemical Engineering at the Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala.



Altagrace M. Maignan, founder of Belle Créole (Haiti)

Alatagrace Maignan Young Leaders of the Americas InitiativeBelle Créole is a micro-enterprise program that empowers people, particularly young women, who are living with HIV and AIDS to rise above their circumstances through learning a skill and creating and selling their work.

She serves as a Manager at Fondation Esther Boucicault Stanislas. Altagrace holds a Master’s Degree in medicine from the Universidad Autonoma de Santo Domingo.


Andrea Baltodano, founder of Maracao Beachwear (Costa Rica)

Andrea Baltodano Young Leaders of the Americas InitiativeMaracao Beachwear designs swimwear that promotes women’s confidence and empowerment, while helping at-risk women from marginalized neighborhoods by offering ethical employment practices and fair wages to its employees.

Andrea holds an Associate’s Degree in Fashion Design from the Universidad Creativa of Costa Rica.



Carolina Ramos, founder & COO, Natural Pop (Ecuador)

Carolina Ramos Young Leaders of the Americas InitiativeNatural Pop produces natural snacks out of local grains from Ecuador in order to provide affordable and healthy snacks to the local community.

Carolina has a degree in Food Engineering from the Universidad San Francisco de Quito and attended graduate school for French and Social Skills at the Institute de la Providence de Herve in Belgium.



Christine Daley, founder of DoodleSurprize (Jamaica)

Christine Daley Young Leaders of the Americas InitiativeDoodleSurprize provides monthly subscription activity boxes for children ages 4-12 in order to help kids discover themselves and their passion through art, crafts, and science.

Christine has previously worked in Accounting, Marketing, and Project Management at Digicel Jamaica, Zinergy International, and Black Ink Marketing.


Jau Ramírez, co-founder & president of Movimiento SOMOS (Venezuela)

Jau Ramírez Young Leaders of the Americas InitiativeMovimiento SOMOS is dedicated to defending the rights of LGBTQ people through legal counseling and legislative projects, as well as educational and cultural initiatives.

He also works as a Communications Coordinator for Grupo Social CESEAP, and has led communications trainings for a human rights program on the border of Colombia and Venezuela.


Junieth Machado, founder of Cousy (Nicaragua)

Junieth Machado Young Leaders of the Americas InitiativeCousy seeks to increase the self-esteem of housewives and single mothers by developing their business and communication skills. as well as inform women of their rights and train them on violence prevention.

Junieth previously worked for DeHumoTV as a journalist and producer, Imaginarte Films/Abre Tus Ojos as a trainer.


Miguel Ángeles, co-founder of CIRSYS (Peru)

Miguel Ángeles Young Leaders of the Americas InitiativeCIRSYS provides technological solutions to recycling and waste management with IRBin, a social robot that automatically classifies solid waste.

Miguel previously worked as a production manager at Corporación Ingelsa S.A.C. and as a junior project engineer at Gloria S.A.


Pedro Young Parietti, co-founder & GM of Huerta en Casa (Uruguay)

Pedro Young Parietti Young Leaders of the Americas InitiativeHuerta en Casa supports urban homeowners so that they can produce vegetables organically by providing all the tools necessary to start a home vegetable garden and advises on maintenance and production.

Pedro has previously worked at Estero S.A., a seed production company, where he managed the experimental field.


Roniel Guzmán Toribio, CEO of Hub Makerspace (Dominican Republic)

Roniel Guzmán Toribio Young Leaders of the Americas InitiativeHub Makerspace gives members access to workspaces, tools, and machinery – from sewing machines to 3D printers – allowing them to develop their projects and work with the guidance of mentors.

Roniel previously worked as a Project Manager at Domotics Dominicana, and he holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering from the Instituto Tecnológico de Santo Domingo.


Shamiro Anita, founder & CEO of Bizness Success (Curaçao)

Shamiro Anita Young Leaders of the Americas InitiativeBizness Success provides growing businesses with help and services to expand, such as training, courses, software, and other tools.Before this, Shamiro worked at his family’s video store and eventually became the manager. He started his own fire safety, security, and automation contracting company in 2012. Shamiro holds a Bachelor’s in Business Administration and a Master’s in Business Management and Organizational Control.


Stephanie Hong, co-founder of Garateá (Brazil)

Stephanie Hong Young Leaders of the Americas InitiativeGarateá tackles the inefficiency in emergency public services by empowering communities with first-aid training and certification, as well as alerting first-aid-qualified volunteers through an app, victims can be helped before ambulances arrive, even in rural communities. Stephanie is currently a Lawyer at Pinheiro Neto Advogados.


After going through the basics of personal storytelling, and a session on brand storytelling, many of the entrepreneurs got up and gave the audience a two minute overview of their company, and the ways in which their product or service would changes lives.

That’s the reward I get when working with entrepreneurs, especially from outside the United States – so passionate and dedicated – focused on the the critical issues that millions face in everyday life.

Hats off the the San Diego Diplomacy Council and the Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative for allowing entrepreneurs to share ideas, wisdom, and best practices, across countries and continents.

Article written by Mark Lovett – Copyright Storytelling with Impact – All rights reserved


Creating a Storytelling Workshop for African Entrepreneurs

I get requests to conduct storytelling workshops from a variety of sources, from business networks to startups and professional organizations. But I was recently asked to craft a storytelling workshop for a group of amazing African entrepreneurs who were coming to American as part of the Mandela Washington Fellowship program. At first I assumed they were high school or college students, just getting started in their career, but I was way off the mark on that assumption.

Mandela Washington Fellowship at University of San Diego

I began the workshop, as all such meetings do, with introductions from each of the attendees in the room. In the U.S. we think of states, but in Africa, it’s countries. Zambia, Togo, Senegal, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Mauritius, Kenya, Ethiopia, South Africa, South Sudan, and Nigeria (I’m sure I missed a few) were all represented as each of the women and men spoke up.

The Uber of tutors, a novel payment collection system, a philanthropic software platform, sports journaling and entrepreneurial accelerators were mentioned. Many of these “students” had already started 2 or 3 companies and were changing lives in their communities.

I wasn’t sure what the entrepreneurs most wanted to hear most – I had no chance to speak to them before the workshop began – so I created a hybrid that combined the essentials of a great TED/TEDx talk, with material from my brand storytelling workshops. It turned out to be a good mix, as the entrepreneurs articulated their brand philosophy and tactics like savvy business leaders.

Joseph Oliver Wani AYAN Africa

Joseph Oliver Wani was one of the remarkable leaders sitting directly in front of me. As the finance manager for the African Youth Action Network (AYAN), Joseph was dedicated to helping refugees from South Sudan.

Founded in June 2015, in Uganda by South Sudanese young people, AYAN has worked directly with UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) to support South Sudanese young refugees to receive scholarships to study in Uganda. The organization believes that Illiteracy is one of the major cause of conflict in South Sudan. The organization is currently registered in South Sudan with a branch in Uganda and looking forward to opening in Kenya.

African Youth Action Network (AYAN)At AYAN, we believe that the youth are well positioned to organize and participate in promoting a movement of sustainable peace through the organization of positive, non-violent, community-building activities, through trainings, mentorship, community outreach programmes in the Great Lakes Region and other volatile Parts of Africa.

In the United States the refugee crisis – which has reached staggering numbers – is not something we think about very often, as it’s “over there” somewhere, yet the impact on humanity will be felt for generations to come. And to be honest, it wasn’t a topic that I expected to materialize when I was getting ready to conduct this workshop – entrepreneur and refugee crisis didn’t mix in my mind.Refuge Figures July 2017 UNHCR

As to Joseph, I had the opportunity to continue the conversation a week later during closing night ceremonies on the University of San Diego campus. He had just spent the the past six weeks in the U.S. studying business and entrepreneurship, and he was excited to return to his work, to apply the skills and insights gained, not to create the latest widget or cool app, but to help those fleeing violence in their home country. I couldn’t have been more proud of this young man.

In closing, my thanks go to the San Diego Diplomacy Council who played a major role in the program and invited me to participate. I’m sure I learned more from the process than the students.

Article written by Mark Lovett – Copyright Storytelling with Impact – All rights reserved


Speaker Adventure – June 2017

Was this the coolest and craziest Speaker Adventure ever? Well, that’s certainly what it felt like at the conclusion of June’s retreat held on the 3rd and 4th. With Sonia taking us on a journey to aboriginal rain forests of Peru, making her case that indigenous peoples are the keepers of 80% of the earth’s healthy ecosystems, yet don’t have a seat at the table when critical economic and environmental decisions are made. She convinced us that the earth’s future hangs in the balance.

Speaker Adventure Graduates June 2017 Cool

Mark’s bravery and vulnerability were at play as he recounted his own struggle to create a peaceful world in which to live, encouraging us to take a step back whenever the potential for anger was present. For those faced with disruption, or the possibility of encountering it in the future, John reminded us all that trust is something that can’t be outsourced, or replaced by artificial intelligence, and it forms the foundation of important relationships which survive disruption.

Speaker Adventure Graduates June 2017 Crazy

We all deal with decisions and attitudes on a daily basis, but have you ever considered the power of examining both at the same time? That’s the secret Jerry has used throughout his career and in his personal life. What saved Jenny from an abusive childhood and led her to a life of joy and happiness? Music. And she’s now on a mission to spread the word that music can have profound, and positive, effects on the lives of children. Aaron realized that his ‘fast and free life’ wasn’t sustainable, and once he made the decision to change, he came to see and experience the evolution from half-hearted, to committed, and ultimately to devotion. His life has never been richer!

Be a part of our next adventure!

Speaker Adventure

Article written by Mark Lovett – Copyright Storytelling with Impact – All rights reserved


Idea to Published Book Bootcamp

Seems everyone has a book in them, which is not surprising when you think of how quickly we’re able to assimilate information, learn new skills, and travel the world at a whim. We’re both smarter than ever, and at the same time, hungrier for knowledge than at any time in history.

But how to get started, how to stay on track, and assuming you make it to the writer’s finish line, how the heck do you get that book published and promoted? Enter Author Bridge Media, whose sole purpose is to take aspiring (and seasoned) writers through each critical step. And to that end, their Idea to Published Book Bootcamp is the best place to start.

This three day, intensive and interactive program will help you to:

  • Write a book that creates an emotional connection with readers
  • Brand your book to attract credibility and grow your business
  • Publish your book on platforms such as Amazon and Audible

Need an added incentive to attend this workshop? Of course you do. And that incentive would be me (shameless plug), as I’ll be one of the speakers, providing my take on Storytelling with Impact – how to convert the amazing idea your book is based on, into an equally amazing 15, 30 or 45 minute talk, from a more focused TED/TEDx-style presentation, to long-format keynote.

Now you really want to go, so Sign Up Today!

Idea to Published Book Bootcamp 2017

Article written by Mark Lovett – Copyright Storytelling with Impact – All rights reserved