Cleared Hot and Engaged: Lessons From a Flygirl

November 6th, 2013

Vernice Flygirl Armour PRSA 2013 BurrellesLuce Fresh IdeasWhen Vernice “Flygirl” Armour asked for permission to shoot her weapons in the middle of combat, she was waiting to hear the words “Cleared Hot.” And as the first female African American Marine Corps combat pilot, Armour has conquered her share of challenges and obstacles, and she herself is definitely cleared hot. On day two of the PRSA International Conference in Philadelphia, she shared a bit of her energy and motivational insights in her keynote speech, “Zero to Breakthrough: How a Breakthrough Mentality Creates Breakthrough Results!”

I attended Armour’s speech, in which she acknowledged that as a minority, as a female, and as a female in the Marines, she’s overcome a number of obstacles herself, but that we all have obstacles in our work and personal lives. “The key is to acknowledge the obstacles,” she advised. “Don’t give them power.”

The content of Armour’s speech wasn’t revelatory; instead, it laid bare the obstacles we put in front of ourselves. It might be we want to quit or disengage when we get frustrated, but throughout her speech, Armour reminded us that we have permission to engage – with our colleagues, with our clients, but most importantly, with ourselves. “At what point do you give yourself permission to engage?” she asked. “And if you don’t, who will?” Only we can tell ourselves we are cleared hot.

Engaging with ourselves and our community is basic to the PR profession, but it’s easy to get trapped in the small tasks of keeping our heads above water day to day. “What’s the bold breakthrough move you need to take to put yourself back on course to break out of the mediocre and mundane?” she asked us to ask ourselves.

As a newcomer to the PR industry (I was a journalist in Beijing until August), Armour’s speech was timely in its motivation factor – time to determine how I define success in my position and life – but unfortunately vague in ways to get started. But that’s perhaps the most positive thing about Armour’s speech: she’s not telling anyone how to define success or get on their path; that’s not her MO. I think this independent, inward approach will be a beneficial aspect of personal success and my impact at Burrellesuce.

It was refreshing to hear Armour ask us to turn inward to help ourselves get ahead personally and professionally. When it comes to work, it’s mostly about what we can do for our organization, not for ourselves. But the way we engage with ourselves and how we choose to meet our challenges can immediately affect our professional success, and thereby have a positive effect on our organization. My colleague recently competed in a Tough Mudder challenge, and in challenging herself personally, she gained a lot of insights applicable to her professional life. As Armour puts it, “We’re asking folks to engage when we’re not willing to engage most of the time.” We must engage ourselves to begin engaging with others.

Armour doesn’t have answers for how to engage, but again, it’s not something she can dictate. All she can do is share her experiences, lend some motivation, and remind us that “Positive thought creates positive action” and “A breakthrough mentality creates the reality.”

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