At the University of Oregon, we reduce emissions and waste, recycle all we can, and teach business practices that balance social, environmental, and financial responsibilities.
Along with that, writer, speaker, and strategist Cortney McDermott wants us, particularly women, to embrace a different kind of sustainability—the ability to sustain oneself. She sees women losing their core, their humanity, to outside demands and obligations. In this way, she says we are burning through our most precious resource.
McDermott, whose work has appeared in The Huffington Post, MindBodyGreen, and SUCCESS magazine, served as keynote speaker for the 13th annual Women in Business gala held April 18 at the University of Oregon’s Ford Alumni Center.
Nearly 200 students, sponsors, employers, alumni, and staff attended the gala, the largest event of the year for the university’s Women in Business club which is housed at the Lundquist College of Business. The event pairs students with professionals for a night of networking and inspiration over dinner.
McDermott jump-started her talk by asking the audience to stand up and shake the tension out of their wrists. Breathing and stretching exercises followed, then a group exercise.
Leaning on themes from her new book, Change Starts Within You: Unlock the Confidence to Lead with Intuition, McDermott outlined how “slowing down to speed up” helped her reconnect to her body, mind, and soul when her jet-setting, corporate lifestyle with a Fortune 500 company made her “miserably successful.”
She had spent her career “chasing gold stars.” Yet after achieving the awards, promotions, and other external recognition, McDermott found herself exhausted and unfilled and asked, “Whose dream am I chasing, anyway?”
By reconnecting to her values, and letting go of both baggage and constant comparison, McDermott said she achieved greater balance, which she called “sustainable success.”
“Sustainable and profitable are not mutually exclusive,” she said, extoling how shifting from “first gear to fourth” (blind devotion to career versus passion for career coupled with taking time for family, friends, and self) is actually more efficient.
“Cortney reminds us that the internal self is an excellent guide,” added Sally Bell, faculty advisor to Women in Business and senior associate director of industry relations for the Lundquist College. “She rightly points out that many of life’s answers are already within ourselves. We just need to be given the permission to listen.”
—AnneMarie Knepper-Sjoblom '05