Passion and Stories and Passionate Stories

Post from the 2011 Conference in Boston


by Larry Blumenthal, Open Road Advisors

Two thoughts struck me while listening to America Ferrera tell the Communications Network crowd this morning of her rise from meager circumstances to a life as an actress and philanthropist.

First, her passion to make a difference. Maybe it comes from the life she left behind. Maybe it comes from inside her. Maybe a combination of those and other factors. Either way, her determination as a college freshman to consider giving up the acting she loved to devote herself full-time to social issues displayed extraordinary passion for the work we do.

When an audience member asked how she chooses among numerous requests for help, her commitment showed itself again. You have to find what is in your heart, she said. That sort of passion often gets lost in the bureaucracy, politics and other nitty-gritty of the daily work inside a foundation. Ferrera proved a nice reminder to hold on to it and recognize it in others as we go through our days.

Second, her emphasis on the importance of storytelling. We in communications all talk about it. But Ferrara’s examples of how the movie “Real Women have Curves” and episodes of “Ugly Betty” and “Modern Family” touched and inspired people, hammered the point home again and again. “The way we tell the story is as important as the story we tell,” she said, emphasizing that it is OK to be entertaining.  The importance of story even cropped up in her example of how a nonprofit inspired her to participate by providing a “very detailed plan of action.” They showed her where she fit into the story and what she could do specifically to make a difference.

Her two lessons? 1) It is OK to stay true to your passion, and 2) use that passion – whether it is acting or something else – to have an impact beyond yourself.

Valuable lessons for all of us.

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