In January 2009, I began working on a new book with my co-author, Virginia Jacko, who is president & CEO of the Miami Lighthouse For the Blind and Visually Impaired and one of only a handful of blind CEOs in the United States. Tentatively titled “The Extraordinary Odyssey of a Blind Visionary,” our book, which Governance Edge will publish in October 2009, will describe Virginia’s incredible personal and professional journey and provide the reader with practical lessons on leading growth and change, drawing on Virginia’s experiences. I’m sure you will find Virginia’s story as captivating and inspiring as I did, hearing Virginia tell it over the course of several hours together these past few months. Beginning as a part-time financial analyst at Purdue University in 1978, Virginia rose quickly through the ranks, becoming a senior financial executive working with the president, provost, and treasurer. She was stricken with retinitis pigmentosa, gradually lost her sight while working as long as feasible at Purdue, and started all over again as a vocational rehabilitation client at the Miami Lighthouse For the Blind in 2001. Invited to join the Lighthouse Board of Directors, she eventually became its treasurer, and in 2005 Virginia became the president and CEO of the Lighthouse. She has been an outstanding CEO, dramatically increasing Lighthouse revenues and expanding and diversifying its programs.
Virginia and I passionately believe that learning to lead and manage your own change and growth is critical to leading a life of fulfillment and deep satisfaction. Virginia took command of her own change as her sight was slowly but surely disappearing, turning a devastating blow and potential tragedy into a stunning professional rebirth. Of course, she had a choice. She could easily have been overwhelmed, retreating to her home, disengaging from the world, bemoaning her cruel fate, but she did the very opposite. Virginia and I believe that every human being has a choice to take positive action – to embrace change – no matter how dire the circumstances, and we also believe that Virginia’s story contains a number of practical lessons that you can put to use in your own personal and professional life.
Virginia and I were inspired and influenced by two little but very powerful books that you might want to check out: Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor Frankl and How People Change by Allen Wheelis. Having lost his new wife and his father, mother, and brother in Nazi death camps, where he spent years as a prisoner, Frankl, who went on to a highly successful career in psychiatry, defines meaning in terms of taking action in a particular set of circumstances, no matter how limiting. Wheelis, who had long suffered from tremendous performance anxiety despite his professional success, focuses on recognizing unconscious emotions as one of the keys to taking action to expand one’s life.
Working on this new book with Virginia has been a labor of love, and I will share more with you as the manuscript grows in the coming weeks.
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