My name is Kelsey Wong. I am a creator, connector and community lover. I care most about three things: creating meaningful experiences that connect communities, making Phoenix a better, brighter, more vibrant place, and being my personal best in all that I do. Defining my unique curiosity and purpose through Ignite, was not an easy task; it took a great deal of digging to uncover what made met tick. At the time, I had just returned from a life-changing travel adventure abroad and was working in Phoenix part time for a non-profit organization. Though the organization was led by an incredibly inspiring woman and worthy mission, it was not directly tied to my personal curiosity. Without such, my work lacked the passion and enthusiasm I knew was inside of me.
Things happen for a reason, if you have the eyes to see it and it was through that organization that I happened to meet Tom McDermott. I knew there was something serendipitous to our paths crossing. When I learned what Tom was starting with Ignite, I was excited and eager to go through the process. Tom took me through a more informal process; where we spent many afternoons talking and going over my life experiences. He would ask me “What were you always good at as a child? What did you find yourself wondering about that no one else did? What kind of environment do you thrive in? What kind of advice do most friends seek your input on?”
These afternoons left me with more questions than answers.
I started to wonder, is there something that I am best at? It felt like there never had been. What clues from my childhood were lost? I had such a blurred memory. What the heck was I truly passionate about?
Then Tom asked me the most important question of all, “What question would you walk to the ends of the earth, for the rest of your life, to answer?” “In other words, what are you most profoundly curious about?”
Finally it clicked.
“Why are we as a human race so utterly disconnected and disempowered?”
“Why do my peers spend more time behind a screen than outside basking in the sun, running in the rain, laughing after stepping in mud? Why are our communication and interpersonal skills so poor? Where are our manners, selfless gestures and simple acts of kindness? Why must there always be a motive? Why doesn’t anyone trust anyone anymore? Why are we driven by fear instead of love? And furthermore, why don’t we believe in ourselves? why are we told to dream and then constantly shut down for having dreams that are “unrealistic”? What kind of dream is a realistic dream anyhow? Who makes all these rules and projects such high expectations? Why aren’t we provided any guidance in understanding who we are in school?”
These questions streamed out of my mouth, leaving my heart pounding and almost out of breath.
That wasn’t one question like he had asked, but we had finally found the hot spot in our scattered puzzle.
Next piece, where did these feelings come from?
Growing up, my family never discussed topics like religion, politics, spirituality, government, world news, finances, college, travel or dreams. I imagine we had something to share at the dinner table, but it wasn’t anything memorable.
If curiosity were a dog, my parents though loving and well-intentioned, never took my dog out for a walk, never let it explore or sniff out foreign substances. I didn’t realize how limited and naive about the world I was until I moved to another city, found my own form of spirituality and back-packed through Europe solo.
Since then I’ve realized that it’s not their fault for not exposing me to a greater community or teaching me about the Universe. I had a close family and they don’t follow a spiritual practice. Though they never told me they believed in me, they always supported me. Besides, we all do what we believe is our best at the time.
After that deeper understanding, my world opened and the community, connection and empowered self I was truly seeking were there.
A little about Phoenix, you might find it funny that this geographically fragmented place has become the source of my community love. But I truly believe that life is what you make of it and where you live doesn’t dictate your level of happiness. After understanding what I lacked in my life growing up, I wanted to be in a position where I could give that to others.
Also through Ignite, I also discovered that my natural talent is as a “Project Lead”, which is a better way of saying I’m an organized bossy pants. My natural strengths are that I am Empathetic, an Activator, I provide a lot of Input, I enjoy Intellectual conversations and that I am naturally Positive. The best environment for me is one that changes frequently, is flexible and allows me to constantly meet a diverse group of people.
Low and behold, my current position as Director of Operations or “Bosslady” as it says on my card, for CO+HOOTS coworking, a hub for entrepreneurs, creatives and small businesses to connect and collaborate. When I first walked into CO+HOOTS, I thought, “Wow, what an incredible space. Why don’t more people know about it? Where are all the people in here?” CO+HOOTS was about 1.5 years old and Jenny Poon, fearless founder and professional graphic designer had grown it from the ground up. There were about 25 coworkers in and out of the space and about fifteen businesses. But it had so much potential.
“It’s incredibly important to pursue something you’re passionate about, but also to be in the best environment and role for you to leverage your natural talent and strengths”
Jenny and I spent two hours talking about our vision for making Phoenix a more connected place and how important it is for aspiring entrepreneurs and creatives to have a community that empowered and inspired them to pursue their passions.
It’s now been 9 months that I’ve worked for CO+HOOTS. Here, I’ve taken the lead in growing the space from 25 coworkers to over 75. We’ve moved office locations twice (which takes a hell of a lot of coordination, especially when you’re the youngest person in the office). CO+HOOTS is now recognized nationwide for its outsized impact in downtown Phoenix and the metropolitan region. And best of all, I love going to work every day to connect people and create community. It is here that talking to others is a strength, not a distraction.
In my spare time (is there such thing?) I plan and promote events for an organization I founded called CO-OPhx, which includes a group of inspired individuals dedicated to creating philanthropic, sustainable events for the Phoenix community. Our most recent event, the “Fall Clothing Swap + Clothing Drive,” brought together over 300 people and raised 1600 lbs. of clothing, which we donated to the Fresh Start Women’s Foundation. Because of its success, the event is now being replicated at Arizona State University and North High School in Phoenix.
Now, friends and colleagues regularly ask me how I found a position that is so perfect for me. I tell them without a doubt, that the Ignite process was the map that led me here. You couldn’t have asked for more personalized insight into yourself unless you were some crazy psychic guru or the big guy in the sky (okay that’s a little dramatic). But seriously, this is the key, if life were a puzzle, Ignite would help you find the four corner pieces. It takes people ages, sometimes even an entire lifetime to figure this stuff out and in our world, that’s just not fast enough.
So do yourself a favor and spend some time and energy dedicated to getting to know yourself. It will help you reach your happy place way faster than a happy meal or a shot of tequila ever will.
You are the most important person in your life and your relationship with yourself must be nurtured. Beyond that, when you are actively doing the purposeful work you were meant to do, you will find the perfect community of people who will embrace you and empower you to grow to your fullest potential.
I would wish you all the best but I don’t believe in wishes. I am certain you will take the steps to living the life of joy you deserve as soon as you’re ready (like now).