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John J. Kruzel American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 25, 2008 – Motivational speaker and author Stewart Emery shared his philosophy today at the Pentagon with members of home front groups gathered here for the third annual America Supports You National Summit.
America Supports You is a Defense Department program that connects American citizens, groups and companies who want to show their support of U.S. troops and their families at home and abroad.
Emery interrupted a business trip in Cancun to fly here at his own expense and speak with almost 200 people representing 113 troop-support groups.
“I think perhaps I’m more nervous than I’ve ever been about a speaking engagement,” Emery, in a slight accent that reveals his Australian roots, told American Forces Press Service before addressing the crowd.
Asked why he would be nervous, given that his past audiences included the likes of Nelson Mandela and Bill Gates, Emery explained, “I’m nervous because more than ever today I want to be useful. This is a group of people who are displaying a generosity of spirit … and they’re working harder at this than perhaps they do at their day job.”
Unlike some hardbacks on a bookstore’s self-help shelf which feign directions down a one-size-fits-all path to pure bliss, “Success Built to Last,” co-written by Emery -- and the basis of his speech -- starts with simple question: What is important to you?
Emery, who along with his publisher donated 250 books to audience members, concluded that home front groups at today’s summit reached the same answer to this fundamental question.
“You all have the same bottom line, which is: changing lives,’” he said, “and you’re doing that.”
Emery said people drawn to volunteer their time and effort to groups under the America Supports You umbrella are “cause-driven people.”
“They get paid in the currency of caring for their own soul while they do this work caring for others,” he said. “It’s why we do what we do. We’re changing lives, and that is the most important work to be done.”
Emery said it’s impossible to pin down a universal definition of success. “I don’t think we can define success for other people,” he said. “The definition in the dictionary is terrifying.
“It starts off OK: ‘the achievement of goals,’” Emery said of the word’s denotation. “But then it goes on the say, ‘the conspicuous achievement or attainment of fame, wealth and power.’”
In a speech rich with humorous anecdotes, Emery emphasized the importance of letting their passion drive their progress. He told the audience the common thread weaving successful people or businesses together is that each has a clear statement of mission, and a devoted commitment to performing the mission well.
“One of the core findings of “Success Built to Last” is that you’ve got to find what you love,” he said. “We hear that all the time at high school commencement speeches that it’s kind of a throwaway line. But they leave a part out of that: You also have to get good at it.”
A gifted speaker with commensurate skill in management, Emery suggested each home front organization continue to define what it is they love to do, and find an equally rewarded niche for program volunteers.
“In your organizations, find the thing you love to do (and) do that,” Emery said. “Find in all of the volunteers that come in, what it is they love to do (and) what they are passionate about.
“Tie what they’re passionate about to a job you need done, and always keep them connected to the overall deliverable, which is, changing lives,” he said. “Make sure they understand that what they do today makes a difference tomorrow in the life of some person you’re reaching out to who needs your support.”