Mary Kurek, CEO of Frontrunners Innovate

What I’ve Learned from Frontrunners by Mary Kurek

In Publisher Channel, Updates by Mary Kurek

It’s amazing when I look back on how many people I’ve interviewed over the last eight years.  I’ve begun keeping count of the countries in which I’ve established a rapport with a “Frontrunner.”  My definition of a Frontrunner, by the way, is a person who is out front with their ideas, innovation, activism, diplomatic service, programs, devices, and so on.  They are marching to the beat of their own drum and they are getting things done.

It’s impossible not to learn from such a diverse treasure chest of smart and passionate people on a mission to make our world and everything in it better.  And, I certainly have learned a lot.  Here, on the eve of 2022, I’d like to share a bit of the wisdom that you’ve not just shared with me but have shown to me.  I’ll also let you know why I know that you are, in fact, changing the world.

Trying has immense value

In the storm that started brewing around the pandemic, we (all of us who could do so) tried to help.  We weren’t first responders, but, we tried our best to help save lives by helping to get needed equipment to places where death rates were overwhelming the system and taking down population figures in countries unable to keep up.  League members (Frontrunners) stepped up and worked tirelessly around the clock to try to get ventilators to New York City.  Thwarted by antiquated purchase order systems and delays in communication, the 3 occasions we were ready to make something happen, fell to no result.  Where one door closes, another one opens.  We were successful in facilitating getting needed equipment to India during a covid surge there.

Trying without success can breed determination and new knowledge that only comes with a first failed attempt. 

Since then, our team has been helping to facilitate supplies and equipment as the requests and opportunities come up.

What I’ve learned:  Resilience comes from unmet challenges.  The first few months we were trying to facilitate meeting the needs of pandemic victims were some of the most heartbreaking, frustrating, and challenging I think any of our team members ever experienced.  Trying to do the right thing often comes with this kind of “price tag” and no guarantees.  But, it is in the trying where we find that resilience.  Frontrunners, by their very nature, are better than anyone at consistently trying.

Stepping up is trust in action and trust promotes change

Over the years, I’ve called upon members to contribute their time and talents to a number of efforts that came up.  I honestly don’t recall if I’ve ever been told a flat “no.”  Frontrunners are generally all about “stepping up” and bringing what they can to a situation.  When I asked Aaron Smith if he could help Ambassador Khan to develop a curriculum to train diplomatic prospects, he said “yes.”  When I asked for a pool of mentors for our World Hope Youth Mentors pilot, I was looking for about 20 – I heard from 40 Frontrunners with a resounding “count me in.”  When my husband was in the Emergency Room on a day that we were producing our Climate Conversations Panel and I had to ask our young co-hosts (Emma in her 20s and Aditi, a teenager) to take over and run the whole thing without me facilitating, they said “yes.” And, by the way, they did an extraordinary job.  When I told Dr. Aniemeka that we had the World Youth Summit host stuck in the airport in Nigeria, he was ready to go get him.  And, there are as many stories like this as there are Frontrunners.

But, it wasn’t until we had a member in a medical crisis in Zambia that I realized how powerful stepping up can be.  All the way from Norway, the worried request came from one member to another in Indianapolis, and then to me.  From there, the request for help went to the only person I knew in Zambia, Dr. Mulenga Lwansa (whose beautiful young daughter, is our youngest Frontrunner).  A pharmacist and patient advocate, Dr. Lwansa stopped what he was doing, called our member in crisis, and went to see her within the hour helping to facilitate the care that was needed.  I’m convinced this intervention may have saved her life.

What I’ve learned:  Trust thrives in situations where stepping up is what is necessary.  Sometimes stepping up will be a request; other times it is self-generated.  More often than not, it isn’t our responsibility to get involved and that’s the beauty of it. You first trust yourself – your own moral code and set of values and you act accordingly.  Where trust exists, literally nothing is impossible.  Frontrunners tend to love solving problems, so maybe it doesn’t surprise you…but, they have blown me away with their willingness to step up…and trust.

Personal connection is the answer to solving the world’s problems

The first time one of my Frontrunners connected up with another one in person, it surprised and delighted me.  How awesome is it that two people I introduced from different countries actually came together personally?  Quinton Scholes from South Africa and Simon Bailey from the US sent me a snapshot of that event.  Just this week, Dinesh Shukla entertained a gentleman I introduced to him in his headquarters in Texas.  Dinesh likes in-person meetups and has met with co-founders of Giostar Stem Cell Research & Development at their US headquarters while he was on a trip to San Diego.  He made a special trip to Giostar’s grand opening event they held at a clinic this year in India.  That’s going the extra mile for connection.  When Jillian Haslam and Alana Stott discovered that Alana was visiting the UK recently, the two made it a point to meet in person.  Jillian and Alana have a shared interest in connections that would be useful for Jillian’s film project.

In the summer of 2021, I introduced two members who had faith-based interests in Africa.  The former US Congressman who was heading to The Sudan on a peace-building mission invited the US business consultant/private college owner to join the mission trip to meet with the leadership of The Sudan.  About a month after that call, I received the photo of them all together in Africa.

What I’ve learned:  Personal connections are how relationships are built.  And, while most of my personal connections are via Zoom, I am keeping count of the diversity of meaningful conversations I’m having with people all over the world.  And, I’m not so much talking about networking, as we know it; I’m talking about conversations that get to know who people are at their center.  To date, I know people in almost 65 countries.  And, they know me.  Imagine if you duplicate that with all of my Frontrunners.  You can.  Some of them have been to more countries than places where I know people.  It’s one of the reasons that I know for sure that the Frontrunners are changing the world.  They get that connecting with people is a joy and a privilege.  And, that connecting on a personal level is significant to how they are going to fulfill their purpose and help others to fulfill theirs.  I realize how true that statement is for me and I still love it when I hear how Frontrunners are meeting each other.

I’m learning every single day from you.  And, I look forward to creating more relationships around the world.  To me, it’s peace-building 101 and it’s also how world-changing ideas get to where they need to be.

All that said, probably, the biggest bit I’ve learned is this:  impact isn’t an end result; it’s just the beginning of something we’ll pass to others that come behind us.  Frontrunners know what they are doing may take their whole lifetime.  At some point, you realize you aren’t really building a business; you’re building your life.  The lines become blurred between personal and professional and the mission is simplified to just being the best human being you can be by helping others live as well as they can.  You do all this by faith undeterred and with a lot of help from other Frontrunners.

Blessings to all in this new year.