“Rediscovering Purpose and Adventure: Insights from Thunderbird Alumna, Stacey Abella”

Kyle Richard Kay

Kyle Richard Kay

Das Tor President

In less than one week, many of us will be embarking on a transformative journey, the Global Challenge Lab. It’s an experience that promises adventures, challenges, and the opportunity to explore our potential as global leaders.

However, at the risk of being presumptuous, the Global Challenge Lab is just the beginning of our international endeavors, and if anyone finds themselves standing at the crossroads of personal and professional pursuits, pondering the tempestuous sea of ambitions and uncertainties, this article may help.

Stacey Abella, a Thunderbird alumna, career coach, and author, graciously took the time to sit down with Das Tor and offer invaluable insights on what it means to pursue personal and professional growth with clarity and intent. Throughout the interview, we explored self-discovery, living in the moment, embracing ambiguity, trusting one’s instincts, finding balance, and stepping out of one’s comfort zone. 

Reigniting Passion in a Fast-Paced World

Stepping into one’s freedom and reigniting the adventurer within are central themes in Stacey’s new book, “Secrets From My Travel Diaries: How One Burnt Out Executive Reignited The Adventurer Within”. But how can Thunderbird students, poised on the threshold of their careers, maintain the same level of passion for adventure in a world that appears unrelenting and fast-paced?

In her coaching approach, she uses a sailboat analogy, proclaiming the importance of clarity. It’s all about identifying what you truly want, and having clear goals and systems in place to get you there. She says, “When you start to feel friction and realize that your boat is overloaded, it’s essential to take charge and intentionally steer your ship in the right direction. Otherwise, everything else will take over, such as the pile of papers, responsibilities, or distractions. You need to decide where you want to go and what’s most important to you. It’s easy to get lost in distractions and lose sight of your goals, so taking control of your life is crucial.”

As students, effectively applying this philosophy can help us strike a balance between passions and the uncompromising demand of the real world. Learning to identify which obligations are genuinely important and which are less critical will help us achieve that equilibrium and ultimately become adaptable, purposeful, and successful global leaders.

Technology: A Tool, Not a Master

This topic is a personal favorite of mine. In the spirit of Stacey’s advice to be present and open to experiences without technology, I have prepared a very low-quality joke to tie in some themes and get us underway: Why don’t adventurers use smartphones? Because they know the real journey is about ‘cell-f’ discovery!” … It’s clear I made the right decision pursuing business instead of comedy.

In her book, Stacey reflects on being able to travel the world without the burden of smartphones and constant connectivity. While acknowledging its utility, Stacey accentuates the need to consciously refresh our presence. Her book recounts several examples of how getting lost without the comfort of technology led to much more fascinating encounters. These unplanned experiences, while potentially intimidating, formed the richest moments of her travels.

Stacey’s experiences highlight the value of living in the moment, developing strong instincts, and being comfortable making decisions without constant technological reliance. In our professional careers, this can translate into honing one’s decision-making skills, adaptability, and problem-solving abilities. We can learn to trust our judgment in uncertain or unfamiliar situations, and apply this newfound confidence to make informed choices both personally and professionally.

Venturing Beyond Comfort Zones

Thunderbird students frequently find themselves in uncharted territories. Stacey urges us to embrace diversity and ambiguity, recognizing it as the true strength of Thunderbird’s unique community. The real world, as she notes, is increasingly global, and Thunderbird students are well-prepared to navigate it.

Her riveting account of ascending a Swiss mountain to try paragliding, even when feeling outside her comfort zone, encapsulates the essence of pushing beyond our boundaries. The path may be challenging, yet the journey unfolds with the promise of a breathtaking view at the summit.

Stacey’s insights reverberate powerfully in the context of global management. Venturing beyond our comfort zone is about having a clear destination in mind, and the reward far outweighs the initial trepidation. The ability to take calculated risks and push boundaries is essential for personal and professional development.

Final Thoughts for Reflection

As some approach the GCL, and others prepare for their own pivotal moments in life, it’s important to continuously challenge ourselves. Our journey of personal and professional growth is a perpetual voyage, and one we are all well equipped to traverse.

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