Your vision needs a spark.

So often, when we read articles about individuals in successful businesses, we assume it’s a blaze of an idea that sweeps through their life and lights their purpose and vision. While yes, that can be true, it’s also important to know that to strike light in the darkness, you only need a spark.

Think about your own life for a moment. Press into what elements of your life are the match. When you’re around them, do they spark? Can you physically feel it? Does it immediately fuel your flame? That very thing is part of the leadership journey you are on. Listen to it. Let it be your guide.

What is rarely spoken about during your leadership journey is losing that light. Ask yourself, what happens when your light is snuffed out? Do you know how to overcome the challenge of finding it again? Its reclamation does not have to be a solitary one. It begins by allowing yourself to share with others what you’re going through. The more comfortable you are at sharing 1-1, the more likely you are to feel a sense of acceptance and that you’re not alone There’s an additional insight on how to navigate the path. Not sharing what’s going on, leaves us isolated and alone to fight the fight. As leaders, we’re not stronger fighting alone. We heal faster and continuously improve our resilience by having supporters cheering us on. Pursuing the mentorship of others comes at all ages and can refill your cup when it feels half empty. We may miss an opportunity to feel relief if we isolate ourselves from the support of others by placing potential mentors or guides in a box. Have you ever done this? Maybe you assumed that someone would not understand what you’ve been through only to hear later that they fully understood and had incredible wisdom to share?

Think about this.

What does a mentor mean to you?

Do you have a particular vision or thought of who your mentor “should” be? Maybe that they “should” live in the same city? That they were only meant for a specific season? They’re too busy to connect with you? Are you making assumptions? If we exclude mentorship opportunities through false assumptions of what a mentor should be, we lose an opportunity for growth.

Mentors are here to guide our path. They encourage the positive aspects in us, help to make us stronger, wiser, and more articulate. Often times they will help purge the false thinking we create in our minds. Mentors can help us identify the truth and understand areas of improvement. Pause for a second and be honest with yourself.

Do you think of yourself as a mentor? You might carry a false belief that after “x” years of experience – you can mentor others. However, the opposite is often true, and teaching moments can strike anytime. An example of this was in 2010 when I attended a Summer Seminar from Bradley University. It was an opportunity to meet advertising professionals from the Chicago area. It was on this trip I met David Bard (Senior Account Executive at Corporate Imaging Concepts) after submitting a presentation for the group. The classic “you can never take back a first impression” still remains and demonstrates the opportunities that can unfold if you treat every opportunity as one of growth.

It’s been 10 years, and I have still kept in touch with him through my master’s program and while living across the country. He reminds me to stay inspired, to reach out to incredible businesswomen for mentorship and shares excellent articles to trigger strategic thinking. As I went through a tragic personal summer in 2019, he reminded me of many professional women who have had to also make smart, sacrificial decisions to improve their future for their mental health, families, and well-being. His mentorship propelled me to undertake necessary and tough life decisions. I was beginning to get my spark back.

As this difficult season carried on, I felt like I was literally lost in the wind — which for anyone who knows a Proverb or two — can attest that being lost in the wind is anywhere but where you want to be. You feel like you are perishing in the wind. You want your feet on solid ground. You want to trust your gut. You want the self-confidence that once radiated in your decision-making. And guess what? If yours is missing, you can get it back.

There is power in our souls when we can proclaim that we feel grounded. However, when you don’t feel grounded personally, financially, and professionally — it’s one of the most uneasy feelings. In this state, you’re quickly distracted, disappointed, discouraged and discontent. You’re grasping at straws trying to find the vision. Even the thought of daily habits and vision boarding sounds stressful because you’re stuck rebuilding in the dark, desperate for a spark of light.

I thought all the vision I had was going to perish. I allowed so many voices to shift my behavior. I ultimately lost my self-confidence, my identity, and replaced them with needing the approval of others. I created a reliance of self based on the comments of others.

How did this all start for me? Losing vision? If you haven’t lost it, take note, your chance to speak to others who are in the thick of it may come up.

Years ago, it started with criticism over health and nutrition facts I would share from publications like O and Shape magazine. They were my early on, go-to lifestyle magazines that my mother had influenced me to read. I can’t remember a day that I didn’t have a subscription. I felt my mindset improve and expand. I felt inspired, encouraged, and self-motivated. My engagement with these magazines influenced my leadership, goal-oriented thinking, and personal values. More specifically, my self-worth. When I stopped reading them because of someone’s comments, I realized a shift in my happiness and leadership mindset diminish. So, I went back to reading these magazines until the critique happened again years later. Little did I know I was a casual survivor of “people-pleasing.”

Over time, I realized within about seven years, I began to live a life based upon others opinions. I wasn’t filtering their words — I was taking it all in. My adaptability became overly adaptable, considerate and ultimately applied all the advice given — not necessarily wisdom. I felt directionless, chasing everyone else’s ideas — lost in the wind.

It was the first time that I began to feel concerned for my future because I learned how imperative it was to carry and cast vision in my life. I would hear “what do you want?” or “what’s going to make you happy?” and for the life of me, I couldn’t find the answer. I was overwhelmed with the realization that I had lost my vision and direction.

In the fall of 2019, while I experienced one of the hardest seasons losing my husband, I opened up with a long-time mentor about what I was really going through. My world had essentially flipped upside down in every way. It was from David. He reminded me that we all ride the roller coaster of life. He sent me Spark by Angie Morgan, Courtney Lynch, and Sean Lynch. The focus of this book is directed around leading yourself to success with the help of others. It helped me articulate and understand the power of receiving help from others through the relentless pursuit of wisdom, inspiration, prayer, encouraging emails/texts, phone call check-ins, hand-written cards and much more. Spark not only helped me to get my life back in order but allowed mentorship into my search for vision, helped me to identify the emotional and leadership loss I was feeling.

The next step was reconciling with myself the grief process, being open to counseling, and being open to “feel all the feels” as they arrived. I decided I’d rather face the loss instead of internalizing the pain of my loss.

Spark walks through values, action, and character. I particularly love how it walks you through establishing credibility principles, including the ability to narrow the “say-do gap.” For example, what you say and what you execute on. What’s the gap in time? Are you executing it quickly or are you repeatedly saying you’ll do something and not following through — ultimately harming your credibility.

Years prior, I had worked on balancing the “say-do gap” before I knew it was a thing. I was such a people pleaser that this gap became an ambitious one. Instead, small daily wins helped me narrow the gap between what I said I would do and actually doing it. In your own life, avoid the ambition as that will naturally come with consistent execution. Execution isn’t always an easy task, rather recognizing what you’re committing to and executing on your word. Furthermore, this leads to accountability in leadership. A loss of vision feels threatening and stems from a root of insecurity in abilities when leadership is pulled from you.

The further I stepped into this book; I realized the action of:

· decision making
· serving others
· consistency
· confidence

These were all elements that I was learning to rebuild. I had honestly never realized how innate these four elements were within me until I witnessed a series of events strike and steal these traits from me. Job loss and the loss of my husband, which are two extremely devastating events, however, I carried the weight, the need to push forward. Until I felt utterly shaken by them. I began to allow my mind to feel overwhelmed with failure. This feeling of failure finally evoked a sense of compassion for myself and the tremendous effort to build confidence and strong decision making from the ground up.

Think of someone who is a bit off-balance from what you know to be true about them. Take the time to invest, pursue, and stay consistently interested in igniting their fire. Ask them out to coffee. Schedule a bi-weekly FaceTime with them. Be the match to their spark. You never know what someone is facing and how you can help them find their vision again through a book recommendation or simply being a sense of inspiration. One of the greatest lessons from this journey is that this mentor (David) of mine helped me find that I had the ability to authentically be one of the solutions I was so desperately seeking. Spark knows exactly how to articulate this with action. In this tough season, I would repeat to myself that no one else was going to live my life for me or make life-changing decisions for me. And perhaps you have felt this same way.

Who can spark influence into your vision? And can you be the spark for someone?

I was grateful beyond measure to have a mentor who advocated so hard and pressed into the uncomfortable conversations of hard truth. This book walks out this concept in more depth, but I challenge you to consider being that mentor who presses into someone else close to you. Imagine the pressing of fine wine. You ultimately produce something beautiful on the other end with more depth and soul-filled connections with others if you’re willing to be pressed in the waiting.

Nonetheless, there’s a pressing in the waiting to find your spark. The waiting only renews your strength to encourage you beyond the days in front of you. Most of all, it begins with a leadership mindset. You must pursue the path because no one else can take a hold of this journey for you. Relentlessly pursue the giftings you discover about yourself and apply what others say they see working in and through you. Take time for meditation. Take time to rest and wake up early. Remember, if you’re not in this season, you have the audacious ability to refuse to let someone close to you, go uninspired by your leadership or mentorship. Extract what you see good in them. Tell them. Remind them. Remind them again. Be consistent in your pursuit. Allow the pressing of their season to bring new wine from the investment of your time, encouragement, and faithful pursuit of positively influencing their leadership mindset.



  • Steph Barnes

    Brand Strategist

    Marx Agency

    With over nine years of experience and over 25 brands, Steph Barnes is a Brand Strategist at Marx Agency, and passionate about creative collaborations for restaurants, travel & tourism and lifestyle brands. Relational in brand partnerships, relevant in trend forecasting and a results-driven team leader, Steph is purposeful in her design thinking and brand partnerships. She possesses a keen creative eye for memorable communication with a customer-obsessed, global mindset. Igniting the potential of brands while captivating, untouched digital audiences drives her passion for working in advertising, creative strategy, and digital media. Steph Barnes has acquired critical skills as to how to entice and inform consumers in experiential ways while consistently and strategically expanding and elevating online engagement and offline purchasing power. Steph earned her Master’s in Communication Management from the University of Southern California – Annenberg in 2019 and holds a Bachelor of Science in Communications and Advertising from Bradley University. If you would like to get in touch with Steph check out her Linkedin profile.