Filling Your Basket: Four Questions to Define Your Calling - Velma Deleveaux, Ph.D.

Point of View
5 min readOct 30, 2023

In my previous article, we looked at how pausing for “reset and renewal” can bring us a fresh perspective on what we’re called to do in our lives. For me, taking that pause led to a long adventure outward, back to my Bahamas homeland, and an even longer journey inward, to explore what’s most true about me and my place in the world. I also mentioned the value of creating a personal reflections repository. For me, this is called “Velma’s Basket.” It’s a place to collect thoughts and dreams, feedback, and the results of self-assessment tests (my favorites are “Strength Finders” and “How to Fascinate”) that enable me to see my best self — a me that continues to evolve over time.

Many who read my previous story wanted to hear more about how to create their own basket. This article offers guidelines on how to do just that.

Know that the quest to fill your basket may yield some real surprises, including scary — and humorous! — findings about yourself. (For example, several colleagues who offered feedback reminded me I’m terrible, just terrible, at doing repetitive administrative tasks and, if that role is part of the plan, I should “run for the hills.”) Yet I found that when I’m completely open to what emerges through feedback and reflection, honest self-discovery is the gift that keeps on giving.

It all begins with four questions. In taking stock of my life, these questions helped me to “fill my basket” with an eclectic mix of insights, musings, and reflections that were all about my gifts and purpose. The answers helped me stay focused on my authentic self, avoid paths laden with draining tasks, and guide me to careers where I could fully leverage my strengths. I’ve shared these questions with those I mentor — and offer them here as guideposts for all who are looking for their next calling.

  1. What do I do really well? Over the years, friends and colleagues have sought me out for guidance in three areas: 1) strategy, 2) big ideas, and 3) advice on career choices. Devising strategies and generating ideas are an innate part of me. For as long as I can remember, these things come naturally to me and give me energy. In fact, when people are describing a problem or idea, I can readily see a conceptual framework for defining different dimensions. The drive to mentor others, particularly young people, in making the choices best for them is also key to who I am. In contemplating my future, I knew staying close to these core strengths — forging strategies, launching new ideas, and helping others — would take me to my next destination.
  2. How do others see me? I asked family, friends, and colleagues about their perceptions of me. These helpful people often see us in a way we cannot see ourselves — and can put succinct words to who we really are. A colleague called me a solution driver. My business coach described me as a curator of ideas. After a major life shift several years ago, when I was perhaps at my most vulnerable point, I talked also with a pastor who didn’t know me well but knew the right questions to ask. We sat at a restaurant together and drew with crayons on a paper tablecloth, mapping visually the possibilities. I took home our output, which is still in Velma’s Basket and continues to serve as an important guide.
  3. What is my “life assignment”? What collective issue bothers me the most — and has been put in my heart to help resolve? The answer is twofold. I am passionate about empowering the underserved generally, and specifically, a target group of underserved, the Black farming community. My grandfathers were farmers and I have witnessed firsthand the inequity of land loss. I am passionate also about addressing environmental injustice. When my family moved from the Bahamas to Florida, we lived across the street from a chemical plant that continuously spewed toxins into the environment. Such plants are disproportionately placed in Black, Brown, and poor communities. It’s no coincidence that our county had one of the highest rates of cancer — and two members of my family sadly contracted the disease.
  4. In what space can I best use my talents and passions? Renewable energy is the realm where my gifts and passions — devising strategies, generating ideas, and empowering others — intersect. Today, I am laser-focused on the new field of agrivoltaics, “agri” for agriculture and “voltaics” for sun. It’s a dual-duty climate solution that pairs solar panels with agriculture to benefit farmers and ecosystems. For further reading, here are links to three articles about agrivoltaics and my involvement in its many innovations:

The exercise of answering these four questions will lead to valuable insights for your basket — in the form of a “2 x 2” or “3 x 2” matrix. This is the intersection of your greatest strengths and passions — and the top industries where you want to apply them.

In the months ahead, I look forward to connecting with others who are looking to fill their baskets and create their matrix for action. Together, we can claim our strengths, pursue our passions, and chart the way forward.

Connect with Velma on LinkedIn.

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Velma Deleveaux, Ph.D. is an independent board director and strategic advisor to corporate executives. With distinct expertise in growth strategy development, government contracting, cybersecurity, supply chain risk management, and renewable energy transformation, she brings a holistic perspective to the critical issues facing board and executive leaders. She was recently appointed to the governance board of the Electrified Processes for Industry without Carbon (EPIXC), a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Clean Energy Manufacturing Innovation Institute, and to the operations advisory board of Underwriters Laboratory Research Institutes (ULRI).

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