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  • Writer's pictureJoe Danis

unum… the journey continues

It’s been just over a year since I launched unum and posted my first blog. I still recall that moment when it was time to take the plunge and simply “put myself out there” as they say. I still get anxious when it comes to posting a blog or sharing my thoughts on social media. I guess I need to go back and read some of my own work and heed my own advice in terms of following my passion and overcoming my fears. But what I think makes this journey so interesting to me is that it has forced me to be two things. To be brutally honest with myself and to continue to maintain a sense of curiosity to fuel my passion for who I am and what I do.

Being honest with yourself is not an easy thing to do. I can rationalize anything and I’m quite good at it unfortunately. Being honest means accepting our flaws and coming to terms with WHY you are the person you are and WHY you get the results you get. Honesty means when you don’t like what you see in the mirror it’s the understanding that it’s no one else’s fault but your own. Honesty means when you don’t post a blog for a few months, it’s not because you are too busy, it means you’ve placed greater priority on other things. Or, maybe it just means you’ve sunken back into some shadows of insecurity you thought you’ve overcome but in reality, you have not. For me, this is what makes unum so special. It’s the reality of my journey. The ups and the downs. The journey we all stare down every single day trying to muster up the energy to do something special. Or, maybe just get through another day. Survival mode. Either way, we are all flawed and the sooner we can come to grips with our flaws, and be honest with ourselves, the sooner we can find some inner peace. This sense of peace brings clarity and confidence. And, when we think clearly and act with conviction and confidence, things change.

When we think clearly and act with conviction and confidence, things change.

As for the idea of curiosity, it’s a concept that has completely shaken me in terms of my ideas around passion and purpose. It was a short video by Elizabeth Gilbert that really got me thinking about this concept. As I have been speaking and writing about the importance of passion and purpose so much, I realized that not everyone is even remotely close to understanding what this might mean for them. That finding passion and purpose might not be part of one’s current mental/emotional state and that’s OK. What curiosity does is quite magical really and it’s something we lose through time as we age. Curiosity gives us the courage to explore, try new things, learn, grow, and basically evolve as human beings. So, for me, unum has given me a platform and a gentle nudge towards maintaining a sense of curiosity. This has resulted in tremendous learning opportunities, interactions with some amazing people and some pretty cool experiences. And, when I go back to what my personal mantra is of connecting people with experiences and opportunities… this is exactly what I am supposed to be doing. Curiosity is fuelling this. And, fuelling me to keep moving unum forward. To keep moving myself forward.

So, one year later… While unum has slowed in terms of pace at times, it has consistently been moving and re-shaping and evolving and nagging me to keep being me and doing what I do. It has connected people all over the globe and created some pretty cool conversations in the process. I’ve been able to share my story through a TEDx Talk in Germany and from there expand the unum network creating even more opportunities for engagement and connection, building a community of people who simply want more out of life and of themselves. It has also resulted in numerous speaking engagements from grad students at Michigan State University to budding entrepreneurs at a pitch competition in the Kitchener/Waterloo region. Throughout this process, we’ve launched a scholarship program for students and adult learners in El Salvador, supporting their desire to live a better life through education. Hey, we even launched the unum store and sold a t-shirt (yes, only one but it’s a start) in support of the joe’s crew scholarship fund.

My unum soulmates Freddy and Ivan continue to do their part in making the world a better place by building community in their own unique way. My man Sid is driven on a quest of bringing justice to situations, places, and people who have essentially been forgotten by society while their scars are still fresh, even after decades. Norina, the global denizen, continues to “put herself out there” by maintaining her own sense of curiosity through travel and a strong desire to experience everything life has to offer… whether it’s a cold beer with an old friend or a semester in China – she’s game for anything! Our dear Bengali friend Sabrina, the writer, the poet, the advocate, always amazes me with her beautifully woven words and strong sense of self while living in a country of vibrant colours, controlled chaos, and rampant corruption. And, Kayla and Tomas are doing their thing… one step at a time, finding their way, and living their journey. We’re all writing our own story, one page at a time, one chapter at a time.

So, while on the surface it appears we’ve been quiet and still, it doesn’t mean we’re not moving, communicating, growing, and creating positive change. We are just doing it on our terms and at times without fanfare or much notice. And, that’s OK. That’s what makes unum what it is. We will do what we do based on quality not quantity. Based on true connections, not “followers.” Based on real gratitude not “likes.” Based on authenticity not a glossy social media persona. If we are being honest with who we are, and we navigate our way with an openness and sense of curiosity, we can continue to create positive change. Continue to connect and build community. And, most importantly, continue to find that sense of inner peace that is the foundation for a life well lived. For me, that’s what unum represents. A vehicle for expression and connection. And, hopefully, it inspires others to do the same and find their outlet, their vehicle, their light.

Joe Danis

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