I recently attended the PRSA International Conference in Indianapolis, where the theme – “Accelerating the Speed of Innovation & Connectivity” – carried through speeches and presentations delivered by top thought leaders and influencers within the communications industry and beyond.

PRSA Chair Mark McClennan, APR, welcomed all attendees and set the tone by quoting a famous phrase: “L’audace, l’audace, toujours l’audace!” (translation: “Audacity, audacity, always audacity!”). He encouraged each of us to be bold and courageous in everything we do.

We were privileged to listen to a philanthropist and an astronaut, and I’d like to share the most motivational takeaways from the captivating keynote speeches they delivered at #PRSAICON 2016.

Dr. Derreck Kayongo, CEO at the Center for Civil and Human Rights

Dr. Derreck Kayongo shared his personal journey of how he grew up as a young child in Uganda, became a refugee in Kenya, and now is living the American dream as a U.S. citizen leading and growing a successful nonprofit organization called the Global Soap Project.

The Global Soap Project collects and transforms used soap into new bars and distributes them to vulnerable populations in developing countries who are at risk of sanitation and hygiene-related disease. In partnership with Hilton Worldwide since 2011, the project recycles soap from hotels around the world that would otherwise end up in landfills.

Kayongo explained: “Life is about events and observations.” Just as he did, Kayongo suggests that we observe the world around us and leverage our skills to impact the lives of others (for the better, of course). He challenged us to think about what inspires us as we do our work and always think of SELF:

  • Serve – give back to others
  • Educate – educate yourself and others
  • Lead – lead others
  • Faith – have faith in yourself and in others

Captain Scott Kelly

Captain Scott Kelly reflected on his lack of interest in academics as a child, when he realized his dream of becoming an astronaut, his failures while training as a U.S. Navy fighter pilot, and officially joining NASA and surviving a year in space. He offered several leadership lessons learned through these experiences, many of which represent great advice for new professionals and valuable reminders for more seasoned professionals.

1. Don’t be comfortable with status quo

Captain Scott Kelly did not have the academic background that you’d think may be required of a NASA astronaut, but this didn’t stop him.

2. The sky definitely is not the limit

Have a lofty goal? Kelly suggests taking small, manageable steps to get there. If you can dream it, you CAN do it.

3. Take risks and be willing to fail

Reaching the sky, isn’t going to be easy. You must be willing to work hard, get out of your comfort zone and take risks. It’s okay to fail so long as you learn from your failures and remain focused on your dream or goal.

What’s the best piece of motivational advice you’ve received in your marketing career? Let us know in the comments below!