It was time to be bold.
I brought one of my books along yesterday when I attended a panel discussion on ending civil wars at the US Institute of Peace. I didn’t know who I wanted to give it to, but I imagined I might run across someone worth connecting with.
One of the panelists was Nancy Lindborg, the President of the Institute, and as I listened to her speak, it only made sense I should give the book to her.
The panel discussion was robust, with foreign policy experts from Stanford, MIT and George Washington University, exploring ways to stabilize fragile countries to improve humanitarian conditions in those nations as well as enhance regional and global security.
To be honest, the level of conversation was fascinating and a little bit intimidating. At the end of the session, I hesitated. I watched people from international embassies and think tanks approach the stage. I overheard conversations about United Nations activities and complex diplomatic negotiations.
I lingered, deciding whether I should just leave or move toward the stage. When the person talking with Nancy Lindborg walked away, she was free for a moment, and I chose to be bold.
I introduced myself and was glad to hear she was from Minnesota as well. I explained that from a policy standpoint, I might be out of my depth, but as an artist, I explored these issues from a human and storytelling perspective. I handed her my book and gave my best pitch.
What I expected to be a brief exchange turned into a full conversation. She called over a colleague from the Iraqi embassy to have me explain the project, and noted that a project like this could help restore hope in a post-conflict society.
“There is a connection here,” she said. “I’m just not sure what it is yet.” She reached out to another colleague and asked her to bring me upstairs to be introduced to the head of public programming, who was just on her way out the door to catch a flight.
“How much time do I have?” I asked.
“I can do it in 5,” and we talked. And connected. They are interested in exploring possibilities. We’ll have a phone call when she is back in town at the end of the month.
I’ve done this long enough to know that promising leads can fizzle. Sure things turn into dead ends. And for 8,000 reasons, things fall apart.
But I also know that when a door opens, you should walk through it. That’s the way this project has worked from the beginning, and that’s what I’ll keep doing.
People have told me over and over again that I need to bring A Peace of My Mind to Washington DC…and we have…in different ways. But maybe now is the time to connect on a higher level.
I’ve often given the advice that your odds are greatly improved by asking…I’m glad I listened to myself this time.