"To start, I need to build awareness." Who hasn't said that about polluting less? It seems the standard starting point. On the contrary, it's the standard delay tactic. In a world where environmental issues are front page news and everyone sees the pollution that they create, claiming a goal of awareness more often delays action. You're already aware. Plenty aware. Action creates awareness more than awareness creates action. Beth shows personal leadership---accountability, responsibility, openness, honesty, and more---in revealing that someone who is aware, when she chooses to act, reaches whole new levels of awareness. I believe most people delay action because they anticipate how much awareness of themselves they know action will create. They'll realize they could have acted long before and will feel bad about it. She got hit over the head with how much more she depends on plastic than she expected. She didn't hide from it. Unlike most people, instead of giving up, she used the opportunity to grow, to try to live by values that she thought she was but wasn't. Thinking, planning, and trying to build awareness without acting is like standing still in comparison. Yes, it makes us feel bad to live with our values in conflict with our values. We can try to cover up those feelings by ignoring the conflict. It doesn't make it go away. That conflict manifests as anxiety, anger, shame, guilt, and other emotions we don't like. Instead of changing, we cover up, blame others, and point fingers. Anything but changing. The route out of feeling bad is to face and overcome the internal conflict creating those feelings. Other people and the world don't create internal conflict. We do when we value one thing and do another. Few people face such challenges, fewer still among renowned leaders, fewer still publicly, fewer still keep at it and find ways to use the challenge to recharge them. Beth did.
Beth personifies whom this podcast is designed to showcase: someone whose hard work, risk-taking, and personal challenge brought her to the pinnacle of her craft, which she is willing to share. That is, someone who did what leaders in the environment have to---to work hard before you can see the light at the end of the tunnel, having faith in yourself. She shares inside views of cultural change toward environmental stewardship at General Electric, with over 300,000 employees, a world of suppliers and clients, a century of history including major environmental damage. To this day, when I mention swimming across the Hudson, people ask about GE, PCBs, and carcinogens. She didn't shy from the challenges. She took them on. As I saw it, she worked as successful leaders do, with people, seeing them as allies and resources. You'll hear her story, results, and lessons, which apply to my work with large corporations. You'll hear me learning from her how I can help my clients. She also takes on a challenge that sounds big to me. I can't wait to hear how it goes.