Free to Choose

I was enjoying a conversation with friend Elatia Abate, as she set out on an ambitious initiative to have 1:1 conversations with her 5000+ LinkedIn connections. Brilliant really, mining the wisdom of her network, building relationships beyond likes and comments. Elatia is a vibrant leader on the ‘future of work,’ a fearless communicator, and a beacon of positive energy. Her approach to these short interactions offered 5 questions, which were sent ahead of the call. My approach to conversations/interviews with pre-set questions is to glance over them and see if there is anything surprising that I need to research or refresh on. Otherwise, I prefer to just be present in the moment and more responsive than push out planned talking points.

When asked, “What is one piece of advice, from where you’re sitting, that will be useful in the coming 18-24 months?” – What popped up for me was the opportunity to remake choices on all the priorities and core beliefs in our lives.

Surely through the turbulence of 2020, we have all contemplated many of our thoughts and feelings, our vision, and our beliefs.

There is a heightened awareness sparked in uncertain and troubling times. This period has been far extended and still has no timeline in view, which provides a poignant inflection point and opportunity to rethink, reset and recommit.

We remain in a period of transition and we are all responding differently. That is what resonated so deeply for me as a great opportunity – now and for many months ahead. One thing is certain, what emerges on the back end will be different than the familiar patterns in place when 2020 began.

I find joy in the luxury of choice. Gratitude for having choice. My heart is heavy for those that don’t.

Things have changed, and if we haven’t felt the pain personally, certainly we feel the strife and suffering of the extraordinary mass of others. For me, this demands the hard work of exploring deep beliefs and purpose, more than surface washing thoughts and adhering to old patterns.

With tremendous shifts happening outside of me, surely, I must apply discipline to make the necessary shifts inside – preparing to best show up with clarity and purpose for myself and others in the months and years ahead. In this tumultuous time of pandemic, social upheaval, and institutional strife, it can feel like we are being tossed about without direction. I’ve been there before.

In “Believership” I write:

“As three months passed, I succumbed to the turmoil. Where would I go from here? Doubt and confusion clouded my thinking. I questioned everything from my values, beliefs, history, future, relationships…everything. It was a downward spiral that pushed me into escape. That feeling of despair seriously messed with my head, as I contemplated where I belonged. Where was “home” for me geographically, professionally, and psychologically? What churned deep inside urged me to walk away from the bulk of my life’s work, even if it alienated me from family and close relationships, the very foundation that gave my life meaning. I wanted to go somewhere alone and start over.

Existing in that unhappy state was misery, and I was miserable. I felt like everything that happened to me was out of my control. I reacted to circumstance. My innate strengths – the ability to create, my open-mindedness, my optimism – weakened. Without realizing it, I became closed-minded. As I focused on the pressures from the outside, I lost the power from the inside. Hope fought despair. Fear and doubt battled love. And perspective became cloudy. It felt like the wind was out of my sails, the waves were violently swelling, and I only saw the darkening, thunderous sky as I drifted further from shore. My navigation system was broken. I became smaller, lived in the challenge, and lost sight of what was most important; relationships, family, friends, and the potential for future impact. I lacked vision. I lost my gratitude.”

The great gift we have is the power within. The freedom of choice.

So that “one piece of advice” posed by Elatia; Choose You! The unique, authentic, revitalized YOU.


Mike Vacanti
Mike Vacanti
Mike believes, “It’s more than what we accomplish – it’s who we become along the journey!” His mission is to Lift Others, helping people discover their potential, embrace a growth mindset and achieve at inspired levels. Mike has transformed businesses and inspired people to perform at levels they didn’t think possible. Mike's known as a great listener and collaborative, creative problem solver. For generating speed and confidence through innovation and transformation. His current endeavors as advisor, consultant, and keynote speaker, are shifting the belief in what is possible and opening hearts to a better vision and future of business around the globe. Sharing his extensive career of invention, reinvention and highly complex business combinations, he consistently delivers on the belief that the heart of any organization is People – People drive results. Mike has released his new book, BELIEVERSHIP: The Superpower Beyond Leadership, and is the Founder of HumansFirst, a global community of positive change catalysts. Following many years in advertising and marketing, He launched early-stage start-ups & led M&A initiatives for publicly traded tech companies. Five-times he was thrust into the chaos of transformation and helped people navigate the doubt, fear, and chaos of significant change. His teams exceeded expectations, consistently beat the challenge, learned a lot and had some fun.

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  1. Wow, Mike, this piece is such an inspiring read! As I read the last paragraph, I took in each word as if it were my own. I connected with how you were feeling, and I thought, yeah, I’ve been there. I remember that abyss. And I am grateful every day that I was able to climb out from the darkness and find the light.

    Sometmes the power we hold within ourselves can be scary, but it is also freeing when we choose to harness it and let our voice speak what is meant to be said. I like to believe that we each go through an archeological dig of ourselves, and whether it is necessitated by circumstance or happenstance, we can learn so much from it. I know I did, and I continue to do so. Metamorphosis can happen at any stage, and I love the feeling when I finally emerge from the cocoon.

    Thanks for sharing your voice with us, Mike, and your spirit. It is refreshing, inspiring, and a testament to will.

  2. Its inspiring and really great to read your reflections and awareness that you can choose “you” Mike!
    Its a great thing to fall in love with yourself. When you love yourself…the way you want to be loved…you see things differently!
    Well written and so you my friend. Your genuine and true self will radiate with this!
    Thank you