Courtney Spence on Fatherly Advice on Why to Work Every Day Doing What You Love

In Chapter 2 of 20 in her 2013 Capture Your Flag interview, social entrepreneur Courtney Spence answers "Where Has Your Family Been Most Supportive in Your Career Development?" From an early age, Spence is encouraged by her father to "find a way to make a living doing what you love." He encourages his daughter, saying "I don't want you to have a job but I want you to work every day of your life." This guides Spence from college into her social entrepreneurship nonprofit work. All the while her parents find moments and space to support their daughter's development.

Social entrepreneur and storyteller Courtney Spence founded 501c3 nonprofit Students of the World (SOW) to shine a light on progress and celebrate the world's problem solvers. She is building a movement of next-generation storytellers and creative activists through the SOW program The Creative Activist Network. Spence is a graduate of Duke University.


Erik Michielsen: Where has your family been most supportive in your career development?

Courtney Spence: Wow. They have been supportive throughout my entire career development. From the beginning, it was find a way to make a living, doing what you love to do, and my dad always said I don’t want you to have a job but I want you to work every day of your life. And it’s that different philosophy of I don’t go to my job that I have to, I go work hard because I want to. And, you know, it doesn’t mean that you enjoy what you do every day, all day, or even all month, but, you know, as long as you find your passion and are able to follow it, it just lifts you up and lifts those people around you. And so, I think that kind of started me off on that path when I was, you know, 16, 17, 18 through my early 20s, thinking about what I wanted to do.

Most recently, this has been a really wonderful year, but a year of a lot of challenges, a lot of ups and downs, a lot of new situations that I have not faced before as a leader in our organization, and some really hard times. And I think that, you know, it’s when the going gets tough, I get on the phone or I go to my parents’ backyard, and I’m lucky to have two really wonderful parents who are mentors and that who really are equally as passionate about my passion as I am. And so, I would say that while I would give them credit for putting me on the right path to following your passion, I think that knowing that I can turn to them in times of doubt, or crisis, or questioning what we’re doing, and being able to have that as like a sounding board, and a family is pretty amazing, actually, so.