Connecting to the power of our story heals, awakens, and connects us
About Karen J. Hardwick
Welcome! I am so grateful we are connecting ...
I love the first sip of coffee in the morning. And I crave times around the table with my tribe. I believe Montana is the “last best place” and that God rides shotgun with me filling my cup with grace and grit.
My life is messy: real and raw, amazing and joyful. I know there are blessings in brokenness. And if you were to join me on my porch we would most likely be chatting away, eating something like bacon and chocolate.
As a life-long seeker I have two of the best “jobs” in the world: being Matthew’s mother (Lord have mercy, parenting is a mirror, isn’t it?) and helping leaders have eureka moments that transform them (The leaders I consult with and coach are hands-down the best). Both of these “jobs” are more like callings than work.
I can attest to the fact that we are all just walking each other home and that the Center truly holds. And when I lose sight of that for even the teeniest of moments, the two divine beings that live with us (aka – our dogs, Dixie and Dakota) remind me life is meant to be savored, hitting the pause button is like sending a love note to yourself, and simple joys deepen our connection.
What would you say to a 10-year-old girl who thought it was her job to save her mother and take care of everyone around her?
I was that 10-year-old girl.
My mother had a terminal disease, and I spent over a decade trying to keep her loved, hopeful, healthy, and alive. It did not work.
The seed of saving people - and feeling worthy and powerful as a result - was firmly planted. So I embarked on my path - superhero cape and all - looking for folks who needed help and receiving the same kinds of accolades I did when I was a little girl: "you are so strong," "you are so generous," "you are so insightful."
I was so busy being a Higher Power, focusing on everyone else's well-being and being fueled by other's admiration of me, that I hid away from a painful truth: I was hurting, grieving, and feeling quite unworthy. I mean, what good is any of it if I could not save my mother? No one knew the truth I lived with every day: I was a colossal failure.
There is no rest for a self-appointed superhero looking to redeem herself, so life continued to happen, which included the typical trauma associated with those of us looking to numb our unworthiness: abuse, divorce, addiction, and all kinds of messiness. Oh yeah, throw in a bout with cancer and other losses that brought me to my knees.
Life had its way with me until the bottom dropped out, and I woke up exhausted, angry, and broken wide open.
One day at a time, I began an awakening process that involved me, some amazing guides, and God. I forgave myself for a whole host of heaviness, including not being able to save my mother. I let myself off the hook for trying to fix those who did not want to be fixed and hurting myself as a result. I am still working really hard on forgiving myself for mistakes I made as a mother.
Emotionally raw and real, I now practice surrendering. Courageous and not just a little sassy, I work on letting go of finding meaning in the outside solutions like titles, accolades, the appreciation of others, and all the trappings that "made" me feel powerful.
As I practice self-discovery, I grow more vulnerable, courageous, and connected to others in ways that are authentic and real. I ask for help. I say "no," which, amazingly, is becoming a holy word. I am done with other people's game-playing and craziness. And, I run toward healthy, honest, heart-warming connections.
I still am conscious of intentionally taking off my my cape; us self-appointed superheroes have a hard time giving up that rescuing stuff. Yet, it gets easier the more I put on self-discovery and spirituality, the kind rooted in a personal relationship with God.
This kind of radical connection - characterized by truthful stories, healing communities, redeeming acceptance - takes me, my tribe, and my individual and organizational clients to a place that none of my degrees could. A place characterized by empathy and curiosity, courage and accountability, mindfulness and awakening.
The more real and raw I am, the more people listen, follow, and heal. The more I open up and wake up, the more executives and their teams understand we can not MBA our way into leadership.
If I could talk to that ten-year-old girl, I know now what I would say: find connection and worthiness deep within you - where God planted it - and not by hustling for other people's approval and saving others by risking yourself.
It is what I say to those interested in being leaders - at work and at home - put down the facades and persona. Accept that we are in human school learning to empower our true selves by accepting our imperfections, healing our wounds, leveraging our personal stories, and celebrating our collective experience.
This is how we walk the path into the Connection Era: by doubling down on connection, not deflection, on transformation, not information. We do not need another leadership paradigm, we need the power of our stories and to understand that being fully human is what our people - at work and at home - need us to be.