Megan Millard ’07 believes five key themes can be the foundation for how a person can build and live out an ethical life. The “5Cs” are:
- Core Values
- Continual Growth
She told the group of Culver Academies seniors, first classmen, alumni, and parents gathered for the Culver Connections event last Friday that leading an ethical life is “how you foster true, authentic connections and relationships with others and how you create powerful moments.”
Core Values fall in line with Culver’s Code of Conduct, she said, asking if the students “passively live by it because Culver tells you to, or do you truly believe in these things because they make you who you are?”
Your core values serve as the foundation for your life, Millard explained, “your words, your actions, your impact on other’s lives and the world.” There is no shortcut. “If you’re gonna talk the talk, you gotta walk the walk.”
For Millard, she simply follows the Golden Rule. She relied on it heavily during her first job at Procter & Gamble, when she was immediately assigned to a human resource project to lay off employees. At the age of 22, she found herself sitting across the table from people her parents’ age, telling them they no longer had a job.
She approached the job with respect. “I listened to people and asked them how they were feeling. I explained our position but also displayed empathy to the other person.”
One of her favorite quotes is by Aristotle: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.” And she remembers those times when she has had to ask for help or made a mistake, and how others have treated her kindly and with respect.
Collaboration can also be called cooperation or finding common ground, she said. Even following the Golden Rule, “some people have different ideas of what fairness, respect, and honesty means. There will be those who essentially disagree with you or have a different opinion or approach than you.
As she has matured, Millard said she more interested in hearing “what others believe” instead of telling others what she believes. It’s more important for her to understand where they are coming from, she said.
Through that, she has found how important it is to find common ground. She encouraged students to talk with others about their beliefs. By finding common ground, people can use their differences to collaborate. At her position with Amazon, Millard said, debating different ideas is standard.
And part of successful collaboration is having curiosity. “Curiosity doesn’t kill the cat – it kills the competition,” Millard said. Seeking relationships and making friends who are different from you will allow you to grow.
It allows you to learn more about yourself and what energizes you. For Millard, taking a math class with Dave Jensen at Culver; and studying architecture, neuroscience, and the history of rock and women in rock music at Vanderbilt; then taking French after graduation have added to her growth. Even when you fail, like she did at neuroscience and French.
“Our curiosity at Amazon is what has led to so many innovations.”
Each year, each decade, each stage of your life, you will grow.
Curiosity and striving for continual growth keeps you agile, she added. Saying yes to new experiences, even ones where you fail, allows you to grow and evolve. And your values may evolve as you experience new and different things. It is part of the maturing process. “You have never fully arrived,” she explained. “Each year, each decade, each stage of your life, you will grow.”
All this leads to courage. Her father had a favorite quote from Harry Potter: “There are all kinds of courage,” said Dumbledore, smiling. “It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.”
Courage doesn’t mean blindly heading off into the fire. You still need to be thoughtful about the risks you take, she explained, but taking them allows you to develop a “good gut sense” of when it is appropriate to do so.
And those risks begin to layer on top of each other. Going to Space Camp alone when her class went to New York City was her first risky experience. That gave her the courage to attend Culver, then she studied abroad, attended Vanderbilt and Duke, where she knew no one. That led to a new job in a new city; followed by a move half way across the country to start a new job in a different city.
Having the courage to take those risks made each experience meaningful. And she has developed many meaningful relationships along the way.
These “5Cs” lead to confidence. Your life 10 years from now will not look like what you imagine it will be now, she said. But stay “confident in who you are” and what you will evolve into over the years. “Be confident when you head into experiences that may make you nervous.”
And Millard reminded everyone that “you have a great group of friends here who want to see you succeed, who will be there to pick you up when you fall.”
So go into your future with confidence.