Three strategies for stepping into leadership, defining success in a way that resonates with us, and living each day creating impact and influence.

By Amy Franko

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30,000 days to play the game of life.

At the time I came across that number while reading Arianna’s book on the third metric, I was celebrating a milestone birthday, having turned 40. I did a quick calculation. With that number, that means I’ve used about 15,000 of my 30,000 days. (I’m hoping if I play my cards right, I might squeeze in a few more beyond that 30,000 number.)

It made me stop and think. As I move through the 30,000 days that make up my life, how often have I stopped (or at least slowed down) to consider my impact? And am I making an impact with the people and in the ways I truly want?

Conversations about impact and legacy often come later in life, as we look back at what we’ve accomplished and contributed. What if we looked forward instead? What if we looked forward and consciously designed our path of impact and influence?

I had the opportunity to talk on this topic of creating a life and career of impact and influence to about 200 future leaders. I’m sharing with you a few of the key points from that talk on how we can all step into leadership, define success in a way that resonates with us, and live each day creating impact and influence.

1. Commit to finding your bold vision. (It’s OK if you don’t have one today.)

You might not be aware of Roya Mahboob. Roya is a rare force and what I call a woman of impact. I discovered Roya’s work a number of years ago while writing a piece on women in technology, and her story is nothing short of amazing.

Having been a refugee in Iran until 2003, Roya is now an entrepreneur in Afghanistan, as the founder and leader of a top software development company in the city of Herat. What makes this so amazing is that she does this despite deep cultural resistance and even threats to her life. In addition to employing many women in her firm as software engineers, she also runs an NGO that empowers women by providing them work weaving carpets. (You can watch this NATO video to learn more about Roya.) Today, she is the recipient of a number of leadership honors, one being named to Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world for 2013.

What does it take to become someone as extraordinary as Roya? She has chosen a bold vision and has chosen to live a bold life; she has chosen to be a leader who creates opportunity where most would see none, and to pioneer the way for women in technology. She has taught me that to be someone of impact and influence I have to be willing to choose differently, to commit to finding and living that bold vision. Some of us are born with that certainty of vision, but I think the vast majority of us need time and experience to help us uncover what we’re most passionate about.

When I reflect on my vision and where I want to be a leader of impact and influence, I am most passionate in my work of developing future leaders in various capacities. I’m in my element, time stands still, and the work comes very naturally to me. Growing up the oldest of 5 daughters, I’m also extremely passionate about mentoring young women and girls into leadership roles. I wish I could say these things came to me overnight, or that I was born knowing them, but it wasn’t the case at all. These things came to me over time, and usually started with the kernel of idea, someone pointing me in a direction, or providing an opportunity that was perfect at the time.

I would encourage you to take those kernels of ideas that speak to you, spend time with them, and see where you can grow them into a bigger and bolder vision, a vision that you can turn into a cornerstone of impact and influence.

2. Trade in the traditional to-do list.

People of impact and influence invest their time differently. I’ve found that they have a way of getting laser focused on what is truly most important, and they can delegate, delete, or delay the smaller things in life. I’ve also learned that people of impact and influence trade in the traditional to-do list for some more significant lists.

Most of us have a bunch of to-do lists – professional, personal, the bucket list, the lists we keep in our head, the lists we keep on post-it notes, the lists we keep on our mobile devices. I’m not saying those lists go away entirely, but if we can trade in the traditional to-do list for some lists of more significance, it would make a huge difference in our ability to be impactful and influential. Below are five lists that I encourage people to reflect on; they typically have only a few things on them, but they take much longer to create:

• To Be: What kind of person do I want to be in the world?
• To Have: What (non-material) things do I want to have?
• To Achieve: What do I want to achieve that is significant to my vision?
• To Serve: Who do I want to serve, and how do I want to serve them?
• To Stretch: How can I push myself out of my comfort zone?

3. Ask yourself some important questions (and keep asking them).

The work of living a life of impact and influence takes time, space, and the willingness to sit with a lot of questions. Some of them uncomfortable, some of them difficult to answer, some that take a lot of introspection or the courage to ask your trusted circle for their input. Below are some of the questions that I sit with – I often journal about them, and keep them somewhere that I can reflect on them over longer periods of time:

To become someone of IMPACT:
• Where do I INVEST my time, talent and treasure?
• Do I embrace a MINDSET of impact and influence?
• Am I pursuing my PATH with PASSION, personally and professionally?
• Am I asking for ACCESS and am I ACCESSIBLE?
• Am I living by CHOICE and not chance?
• Am I allowing TIME for space and silence?

And INFLUENCE:
• Am I willing to INSPIRE others?
• Do I cultivate and share my NETWORK?
• Am I FUTURE focused?
• How do I want my LEADERSHIP to be remembered?
• How am I creating my UNIQUE vision and bringing others along with me?
• Do I ELEVATE those around me?
• Do I NEGOTIATE?
• Am I creating a CULTURE I can be proud of?
• Do I EXPECT more?

If there’s one thing I try to keep in mind at all times, it’s this:

There may be someone in this world right now, in this moment, looking to me and watching what I do. I may be a role model or in some small way help them along their path. I may never have the opportunity to interact with that person, but I have the opportunity to make an impact without even knowing the outcome.

When I consciously try to live with that reminder, it helps me to continue looking forward on that journey to being a leader of impact and influence.

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