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The First Rule of Leadership

The first rule of every leadership book is to surround yourself with good people.

At the end of April, my boss emailed me early in the morning with the subject line, “Job Opportunity.”

Oh boy. I’m getting fired.

My mind has a problem with catastrophizing.

I opened the email and continued to read. She told me that her friend worked for a veteran’s nonprofit called the Travis Manion Foundation. One major component of the organization was an event called the 9/11 Heroes Run. These 5K races are put on across the country and world by local volunteer race directors. New York City didn’t have a race director. Would I be interested in helping out?

I skimmed the email and – once I had convinced myself that I was, indeed, still secure in my line of work – then read it more thoroughly. It sounded like a really cool opportunity.

I came home from work and poured through all the information I could find on the foundation. I dove into the website and watched their videos and less than 24 hours later, I told her she could e-introduce me to her friend.

I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I had all the enthusiasm of a 22-year-old who had never shied away from anything in her life.

What transpired over the next five months was one of the most amazing experiences in growth, learning, and self-discovery. But I don’t want to write this post about me. The race needed a director and I was happy to fill that role. More than that, though, the race needed a team.

In a matter of months, my rag tag committee of total strangers become a coherent family, seamlessly filling in the blanks and taking over for others when something started to fall through the cracks. Last month when I was a torpedo of chaotic movement and late night texts, my co-director kept me grounded, semi-calm, and sane (okay, semi-sane). I do not know what I would have done without a steady voice of reason and a reminder to get some rest every now and again.

The morning of the race, I watched as two members of my team - people who had never met - flawlessly executed our registration table and assured that people started their morning smoothly. I checked in with my vendors but more importantly, knew my vendor lead had that entire area under control. My volunteer coordinator and course marshal lead were so on top of things that I never stepped foot on the far reaches of the course. My committee members had scouted the course and had dropped volunteers off at every turning point.

I have never experienced such a moment of peaceful falling together.

If the first rule of leadership is to surround yourself with the good people, then boy am I lucky to have found the best. I am so grateful, not just for the experience of organizing a 5k in the craziest city in the country, but for the opportunity to work with such amazing individuals who had my back in every aspect of this event.

To learn more about the Travis Manion Foundation or the 9/11 Heroes Run, visit

Love always,


Pictured below: My committee + some of our amazing day of volunteers

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