Friday, January 04, 2013

Asking the Right Questions

By Jocelyn Rattray Godfrey '95 

During one of my last lectures at Pacific, my professor said something that still resonates 17 years later:

"We have not given you the answers; we have taught you how to ask the questions. Now go out there and ask them…”

Fast forward to my current role as owner of a branding firm. I attend conferences across the country with resoundingly similar themes focused on change… in administration, healthcare, and the economy. 

Seventeen years is too long for things to stay the same, and they haven’t. Since leaving the land of Marsh Hall, change has become the norm. Besides traveling abroad, taking up soccer and scuba diving, and meeting my two daughters—I’ve acquired more “jobs” than I can count. I use “jobs” loosely because I’ve owned my own company since 1997. 

Two years post graduation, while working for an ad agency, my once-in-a-lifetime opportunity arrived—I was asked to lead the advertising for a national fitness magazine. To do so, I had to start own company. At age 23, in an era before cell phones were as naturalized as fingernails, I equipped my home office and became my own boss.

As expected, company ownership has been utterly scary and utterly exhilarating. I’ve since worked with more national magazines, an international billionaire philanthropist, a Duke doctor, multiple publishers, even more speakers/authors/consultants, and many organizations. In one role, I interviewed Dr. Maya Angelou, Coach Tony Dungy, NBC’s “Apprentice” winner Bill Rancic, Olympic gold medalist Kristen Armstrong, and founder of Dilbert Scott Adams. Once or twice, I was a tad star struck (hearing Maya Angelou say, “Good morning, Jocelyn,” in her beautifully velvet voice just about knocked me out!).

Along the way, I’ve had to adapt to new marketing trends, technology, and life events. I’ve learned to value the following three survival skills through it all: 

1)Be resilient. What you do today won’t likely mimic what you’ll do in five years. Stare fear in the face, celebrate change, and use it to innovate—mindfully creating the life you want while embracing the adventure. I asked Maya Angelou how to overcome fear, and she said, “Look what you’ve overcome already. And some of the things no one ever knows but you.”

2)Be realistic. You won’t likely become accidentally famous, wealthy, or able to sing. Your business won’t likely take off while you sleep. But that’s okay. If you plan ahead, hustle, and take cover from time to time, you will survive and likely thrive.

3)Be relationship-minded. I still correspond with friends from kindergarten. If greatness surrounds me, it is in the people who support me. I try to enter new relationships less concerned about what I will gain than what I can give; everything usually works itself out in phenomenal ways when I invest in relationships first.

On that note, last year I partnered in business with my husband, Scott Carbonara, speaker, consultant, and author of the new book, A Manager’s Guide to Employee Engagement. He brings 25 years of executive leadership experience, and together we love the role of helping organizations—ranging from one-man shops to global companies. 

Pacific didn’t deliver me the answers. More importantly, it implanted the curiosity, drive, and confidence to ask the right questions. (Thank you!)

Godfrey ’95 is the owner of Spiritus Communications, Inc., see, a branding firm offering speaking, training, and organizational consulting in areas of employee engagement, culture, change management, performance, leadership, and more. She also manages a marketing and publishing division of her company—advising authors, speakers, and thought leaders, and editing their books.

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