I've spent my life looking up to slightly unconventional role models. I was never particularly blown away by the Kim Kardashians of the world - instead admiring leaders like Nelson Mandela, Eleanor Roosevelt and Emmeline Pankhurst.
I have been extremely fortunate to work with, for and in collaboration with some of the people I would name as the most inspirational in my life.
Many people were quite honest with me about how difficult it is to start a social enterprise - and while I believed them there are moments I wonder whether I gave their words the weight they deserved when considering the monumental task of changing the world.
Perhaps I was, as is fairly typical for me, naive to the point of delusional about my capabilities (and weakness'). With my head in the clouds and my toes only just maintaining contact with the ground. Perhaps it takes this type of mindset to have the courage to actually do something about the problems you see in the world - instead of just complaining about them.
Regardless, I am almost certain that without the candid response from one of these remarkable social impact leaders in a virtual coffee catch up during the first year of FutureTech (and the tail end of the worst of COVID-19) I would surely be yet another dreamer starved of sleep.
It was another day of hazy covid life lived inside, and I was undoubtedly terrified. I was scared of covid, scared I would never see my family overseas again, scared for my grandparents and the vulnerable people I support.
For some reason, instead of defaulting to my historically automatic behaviour of hiding from the world in times of disaster - I decided that in this time of existential threat and impending doom, I had nothing to lose. Launching FutureTech in September 2021, in the midst of one of too many covid lockdowns.
I'd like to say that my fear was genuinely channeled into excitement about making my dreams for supporting young people like my incredible brother a reality. But that would be a lie.
I reflect back to that time, before my AuADHD diagnosis, in the pits of despair, chronic suicidal ideation and hopelessness - and I felt nothing but brave.
But, I allowed my fear to fuel me, the disaster unfolding around me, exactly the reason that FutureTech was so important to the world.
In a lot of ways FutureTech was a selfish endeavor. For a long time it was the beacon of hope that kept pulling me back to now. Fleeting and brief contact with the ground, reality and life.
It was - and remains - an enormous weight of responsibility to our young people, species and world, that kept me anchored in the knowledge of the role I had to play, driven, focused and unaccepting of anything that would stand in my way.
But, like any dreamer forging a path few others have conquered - I was at a very real risk of setting a passionate blaze that would one day catch up to me, and I too would succumb to its flame.
Perhaps this is why they call it burning out. Because burn out is most deadly and devastating when your ferocity for the goal was the thing that sparked the match.
I anxiously reached out to a dear mentor of mine, someone I knew had walked this path, for advice and support - and perhaps mostly to connect with another human who wouldn't list all of the reasons I shouldn't, or couldn't, fulfill the mission in front of me.
I met Kimberly through her charity Share the Spark, pitching FutureTech at the inaugural Spark Tank event in 2019. Since that lifetime ago Kimberly has remained a source of support, guidance and light that has helped me to navigate this extraordinary journey in the dark.
Baby Bec pitching at the Spark Tank Event in 2019. Image courtesy of Share the Spark.
Catching up on all things - sharing updates and plans for when this COVID thing would finally resolve - I reveled in respect for this wonderful human who seemed (like many others do) to glide down the rivers of social impact with relative ease, maintaining poise (and bloody incredible hair!)
I wanted to be just like Kimberly when I grew up, and at that moment I wondered what her secret was. When I asked I expected to be met with a long list of strategies for staying organized or optimizing processes for efficiency or maybe even that she never slept and lived off of one meal a day (ehem, I have never done this lol).
Instead, what she told me completely shattered my presumptions about all of the incredible leaders I have always admired - and reframed a lifetime of placing perfectionistic standards on success.
'Kimberly, how do you do it all?' I asked.
Shrugging and smiling, she replied 'Rebecca, I don't'.
Leaders have always been expected to have it all together, to somehow know the unknowable. To show up and act like leading and changing the world is somehow easy and effortless. It was a stark revelation that changed the way I perceived my own journey and the incredible leaders I had looked up to for inspiration.
The truth, as Kimberly candidly shared over our virtual coffee catch-up, was that she, like everyone else, grappled with the same uncertainties and challenges. The effortless glide down the rivers of social impact wasn't always as smooth as it seemed. Behind the scenes, she faced hurdles, doubts, and moments of vulnerability.
As she continued to unravel the layers of her experience, Kimberly emphasized the importance of embracing imperfection. The pursuit of changing the world, she explained, wasn't about having all the answers or maintaining an illusion of perfection. It was about acknowledging the chaos, learning from mistakes, and adapting in the face of challenges.
This revelation was a game-changer for me. I had always felt the weight of my responsibilities, driven by a desire to make a meaningful impact on the lives of young people like my incredible brother. However, I had unknowingly burdened myself with unrealistic expectations of flawlessness.
Kimberly's words echoed in my mind as I navigated the tumultuous journey of steering FutureTech through the complexities of a global pandemic. It wasn't about being fearless; it was about being courageous despite the fear. The recognition that even the most accomplished leaders had moments of uncertainty made the path ahead seem less daunting.
The enormous weight of responsibility to our young people, species, and world became a reminder rather than a burden. It fueled my determination to stay grounded and focused, knowing that setbacks and challenges were not signs of failure but opportunities for growth.
In those moments when burnout threatened to consume me, I revisited Kimberly's wisdom. I learned to listen to the signals of my own well-being, understanding that pushing relentlessly toward a goal could dim the very passion that ignited it. The fire that fueled my mission needed to be nurtured, not sacrificed.
I realized that success in the realm of social entrepreneurship wasn't about avoiding burnout at all costs but rather about managing it wisely. It required acknowledging vulnerability, seeking support, and recognizing the value of self-care in sustaining the passion that drove me.
Kimberly became more than just a mentor; she became a beacon of authenticity in a world that often glorified the facade of invincibility. Her words served as a constant reminder that embracing imperfection was not a weakness but a strength—a testament to resilience and genuine commitment.
Bec and Kimberly at FutureTech's second birthday celebrations.
As I continue on this journey, I carry Kimberly's lessons with me. I understand that the pursuit of social impact is a dynamic and challenging endeavor, one that requires both tenacity and vulnerability. It's a journey filled with highs and lows, successes and setbacks, and the acknowledgment that, like Kimberly, I don't have to do it all.
So here's to the dreamers forging unconventional paths, to the leaders embracing imperfection, and to the courage it takes to change the world, one imperfect step at a time.