Productive Flourishing
Productive Flourishing
Angela Wheeler: How Volunteering Shapes Your Professional and Personal Development (Episode 151)

Angela Wheeler: How Volunteering Shapes Your Professional and Personal Development (Episode 151)

In this episode, Angela joins Charlie to discuss how they are balancing service work and volunteerism within their personal and professional lives. Both Charlie and Angela have taken on new commitments with various organizations, and they’ve been examining how much time they’re giving to service and volunteerism, as well as making some important decisions about what those boundaries look like.

Key Takeaways:
[1:38] - Charlie and Angela talk about the new commitments they’ve taken on - in many cases within organizations they had already been previously involved in. Their boundaries for what they can take on are being tested as these new commitments displace other things. They have had many conversations about how much time they’re giving to service and volunteerism, as well as taking a hard look at those boundaries.

[4:18] - At the Wayfinding Academy, they are flipping the college experience on its head - it starts by focusing on students first and who they want to be in the world, and helping them cultivate themselves and their next steps needed to be that person. Charlie has recently become the board Chairman within this organization. His work with Social Ventures Partners, where he is also on the board, focuses on bridging the gap in Pre-K education for minority populations.

[6:45] - Angela has also taken on a new role within the Wayfinding Academy, as Chairperson of the Wisdom Council (Charlie’s old position). In addition to this work, she is involved with the board of a women’s spiritual community in Portland, serving as the right-hand person for the spiritual leaders of that community. This commitment is twofold; in addition to the administrative commitment, there is also a spiritual commitment.

[9:15] - Angela talks about why they are involved in these acts of volunteerism. In addition to it just being part of who they are and what they do, there is a big focus at Productive Flourishing on community integration. It’s a great quality to have to jump all in with the things you’re involved in, but sometimes you may get into a situation where you jump in too fast. Charlie and Angela keep this under control by checking in with each other on boundaries and making sure these commitments are aligned with the work they want to do in the world, while continuing to take care of themselves.

[12:43] - Charlie talks about value (both economic and otherwise) and how that can guide our decisions about what we’re involved in and continue to do. He also talks about Proactive Activism: a strong civic involvement to help bridge the gap between the public and private spheres. Instead of just preaching, they get involved because they want to model the message as well as sharing it. For them, a big focus is education, as it is a pathway to equality.

[15:55] - Finding institutions that advance your political or social priorities is really important. Charlie and Angela talk about the personal reasons they have for choosing their particular organizations to be involved in, and what it means for them to be involved in those organizations now.

[21:50] - Charlie talks about their involvement on the boards of their organizations - both Charlie and Angela don’t like to be passive in an organization, and being on the board allows them to be in a high-leverage scenario to make the the most impact. These positions also fit their specific skill sets. Additionally, they both prefer greater involvement in a few organizations rather than spreading themselves too thin across several organizations.

[25:55] - Integrating volunteerism and service into business: How do these organizations further Charlie’s professional and personal development? For Charlie, these organizations are a natural outgrowth of the people he’s involved with in the community and embody who he is as a person. It has been challenging to incorporate the results of his involvement professionally, because the leadership is more committee-based rather than the type of leadership he would use for a small business. Although it has challenged him, it’s been a good learning period.

[28:53] - Your business can’t fuel all parts of you - volunteerism and service provide another context for leadership and taking on big goals.

[31:25] - In addition, having these extra involvements has made Charlie more intentional with his business work with Productive Flourishing. It has also made him more intentional about spending his extra time to further Wayfinding Academy and Social Venture Partners (SVP), rather than killing time on Facebook or something that is not as fulfilling. Charlie has experienced a lot of personal growth.

[36:00] - Angela shares her experience of how volunteerism and service have influenced her personal and professional growth. She feels that her leadership skills have been tested and challenged, and have gotten better in the past few years. She has also gotten more comfortable speaking up and using her voice to make her perspective clear. Being able to use her past experiences in her new contexts has allowed her to better show up with her work with Productive Flourishing. Her work with Productive Flourishing, Fourteenth Moon, and Wayfinding Academy seem to feed each other.

[39:11] - In Angela’s work, she has been challenged by engaging in and facilitating hard questions and conversations. It has been an interesting development for Angela, but she’s been able to take the ability to facilitate tough conversations in her personal life into other areas, like Productive Flourishing and her council and board work. This is an excellent example of the benefits of being involved in civic organizations; they can help you develop skills you may not have otherwise developed. In addition, it gives you an additional avenue to cultivate and practice these skills.

[44:10] - Being involved in outside organizations also allows you to keep your growing pains and strife outside of your personal relationships. Keeping those aspects in outside organizations that are in service to your community is a good way to build synergy and a good life where you are able to grow and develop in service to other people.

[45:17] - There can be some downsides. Investing your emotional energy into external or volunteer organizations can decrease it in other areas. It is important to find a balance and make sure you have ways to “fill your cup” as it becomes depleted. Angela and Charlie both speak to the fact that working through these challenges themselves has allowed them to help other people with them as well.

[49:44] - Charlie describes the effects of their involvement in these organizations as catalytic, both in business and in personal life. It has allowed for new growth and awareness. We don’t always realize what we can do and who we are in a lot of ways until we have the external situations that reflect those things back to us and give us a mission, trial, or opportunity to play out what we can do.

[50:55] - If you’re looking for ways to thrive and flourish in the world, find places to volunteer or be of service in your local community, and align those things with the ways that you want to grow.

Mentioned in This Episode:

Productive Flourishing

Wayfinding Academy

Social Venture Partners

Women of the Fourteenth Moon

Democracy on Trial, by Jean Bethke Elshtain

Bowling Alone, by Robert Putnam

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Productive Flourishing
Productive Flourishing
Productive Flourishing (formerly the Creative Giant Show) explores how to do the work that matters to become your best self in the world. Host Charlie Gilkey and occasional co-host Angela Wheeler take listeners on a deep dive into the lives of leaders, changemakers, creatives, and entrepreneurs who are thriving in life and business by doing work that matters. Listen in to see how they cultivate meaning, success, and happiness as well as their approach to productivity, business, health, and the challenges (yes, even the deep, dark ones) that show up in their lives.