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  • Writer's pictureMaria Vandenburg

A Magical Evening with Charles Handy

Updated: Aug 28, 2023

Have you ever had a moment that felt like magic? As in you were incredibly inspired but you didn't know why? This "masterclass" for me was one.

"Tell me, what it is you plan to do with your one wonderful wild and precious life" -Mary Oliver

That was the question Irish Author and Philosopher Charles Handy asked a handful of students this past week. I had the honour of being one of them.

Charles Handy and members of the Executive MBA Program
Charles Handy and members of the Executive MBA Program

Charles Handy has written numerous Organisational Development and Leadership books, but ironically, his lecture was more of a conversation. He set up two chairs in the centre of the room and each one of us was asked to answer that first question.

I eventually came forward (I struggle with public speaking, it's something I am working towards embracing however, as I have feeling it's somehow linked to my path). I found myself next to Charles.

I told him I wasn't entirely sure what I wanted to do with my wonderful wild and precious life. That before I had moved to London and started my MBA program I had had a set path - Project Management to Program Management to Organisational Development.

I recently realised and felt pulled to more. I wanted to be more, do more, serve more, lead more, but it wasn't clear to me. I also told him that I had just finished writing my first novel.

His eyes sparkled at my announcement of my writing, but he also left me with these few gems of advice:

🍎"You can't plan these things, but be ready to move, be ready for the chance encounters"
🍎"If your eyes light up... do more of that"

And finally, he stated the need to "stand in the orchard." Which meant the need to network, place myself in the right environments.

How can I collect any apples if I’m not in the orchard?

Charles described life as a series of curves, and clarified before one can move onto the next one, one needs to allow for a period of decline. One must jump before they peak within the current curve they're in.

I was recently interviewed for work to talk about what I was passionate about. Sarah (my co worker asking the questions) asked me about my 5 year plan. I said I didn't know but that "I would continue to be open to what inspires me." That video lives here:

What I love about this was that it was affirmed by Charles Handy a few days later.

He encouraged me to pay attention to what sparks me, what makes my "eyes light up" and to follow it. To be open.

He described success as an anonymous letter that he opened up that just said "Thank you."  I feel really similar. I currently have two pieces of writing I'm getting ready to share with the world, and honestly if they make a difference in just one persons life, if they touch them and help them in some way, I will consider them successful.

I become more and more excited for what the future might hold for me... even though at this point it is still not super clear.

I am so grateful for Charles' time.  Even though the conversation was brief, it's something I will remember forever.

Interested in learning more about my personal journey?

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