Michele L. Sullivan shares how she turned being “different” into one of her greatest strengths in her new book “Looking Up: How a Different Perspective Turns Obstacles Into Advantages"
Sullivan, 55, who has a rare form of dwarfism called metatrophic dysplasia and stands four feet tall, has had a successful 30-year business career and became the first female president of the Caterpillar Foundation (the philanthropic arm of the manufacturing giant).
Her book chronicles her journey from grade school math whiz and chess champion to MBA, to Caterpillar and to philanthropist.
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“My parents were very supportive and pushed me. They said you’re small, but you can do what anybody else can do. And education was important. I ended up going through with an MBA and then started my career at Caterpillar Corporation, " she told Forbes.
“Twenty-two years into my career I applied for the Caterpillar Foundation job. It’s a very visible job, one of the most influential corporate foundations out there, and everybody wants it. I was fortunate enough to get the job, the first woman in that position and also the smallest employee at “Big Yellow” (laughs). I took it in a totally different direction and created the Together Stronger platform.
(“Together Stronger” is a collaborative impact platform that unites businesses, nonprofits, government, and citizens to combine their strengths to alleviate poverty for millions worldwide.)
“The foundation gave me insight I would’ve never had. I saw people living in extreme poverty, and they inspired me, as do all people. I’ve looked up to people all my life being four feet tall. But the experience also gave me the vision that I look up to everybody figuratively, not just literally because we all have immense value. And that’s what my book is about that we should look up to everyone. With the world being so divided, we need hope and need to come together and embrace our differences.”
Sullivan’s leadership also landed her on the board of the ONE Campaign, founded by Bono and Bobby Shriver.
“She’s one of those people who is totally present and in the moment,” Bono told People. “She takes in every detail, listening like a hawk, before swooping in with her point, every time very astutely made. And she’s so much fun. The first to make a joke, the first to get a joke, always with a very loud laugh. What struck me when we met was how curious she is about people. She’s fascinated by the stories of others, as you can tell by her book. And despite the fact that she asks all these direct, probing questions, people just trust her. Instinctively. She always looks for the best in people, and she always finds it.”
"Looking Up" aims to uplift and inspire others in how they approach their professional and personal lives. Thanks again for your endless support, Bono!Publiée par Michele L Sullivan - Looking UP sur Mercredi 26 février 2020
Sullivan says she is now concentrating on philanthropic work and public speaking, and hopes to use her experience to give back.
“Growth is never just physical,” she told People.. “Maybe physical growth stops as adulthood starts, to remind that us that the growth that matters isn’t on the outside.”
“The biggest life we can live is not an independent one. When eyes are all we use to see people, we aren’t looking with every resource we have. People have a lot of obstacles. Many that you don’t see.”
You can learn more about Sullivan and her inspiring life on her Facebook page.