Channeling Adversity into Living a Life on Purpose

ENCORE from June 2021

Elissa Fisher Harris is an inspirational example of how channeling adversity into living a life on purpose provides fulfillment and resilience. Her own experience growing up mostly homeless until the age of 13 taught her how uncertainty can make you fearful at a very young age; an autoimmune disorder in her 20’s taught her to seek out her own methods for holistic cures; being a victim of rape at a young age and losing two husbands from the same rare cancer taught her that life circumstances can’t be controlled. And all of it taught her that reaching out to others in the spirit of humanity and love heals in purposeful ways.

She founded her podcast, “A World On Purpose” to explore the stories, lessons, and innovative actions from changemakers who align their lives and careers with purpose, highlighting the key “Pivot To Purpose” that unleashes a positive, measurable impact on humanity. Elissa pivoted on a daily basis as a child reaching out to other children who needed help, which began her journey of “taking adversity in life and channeling it into vehicles for good.”

Today, Elissa is also a global leader, working as a partner and Chief Impact Officer with 5th Element Group, where she directs the company’s impact initiatives for their clients and develops omni-win strategies that help sustain and make the world a better place for all of us.

The 5TH Element Group—from Chief Impact Officer to Chief Storyteller

Elissa says that she didn’t really know what she was when a friend observed that she is a “strategist.” She says, “I knew how to put people together in situations where they could help each other and advance causes that they cared about.” Her career path was not linear, but she has consistently helped people “unify and do something great for the world.” She felt that she had found her niche as Chief Impact Officer, but she says that being Chief Storyteller is “profoundly important because stories create movements.”

She points out how social media has allowed people to tell their stories, and while there have been negatives, there have also been numerous positives—putting people together with services and each other for mutual benefit. Companies are now telling their stories and that is where the 5th Element Group comes in. Elissa says, “We are an impact-focused external board of advisors that are hired by donors, brands, impact investors, nonprofits, people that want to basically have strategies and advisory opportunities.” She points out that their clients are already great, but 5th Element creates strategic partnerships to amplify their impact in the world. With seven partners who have incredible skill sets and different backgrounds, they can grow that impact ten-fold beyond what one person in-house can do. They are involved with the Skoll World Forum that supports The United Nations Sustainable Initiatives, The Nobel Peace Prize Forum and many others to make a worldwide impact and truly effect change.

Ikigai—Reason for Living

Elissa says that she follows the Japanese precept, ikigai, and says that it resonated with her because the mere fact “that we’re alive means that we matter.” She says, “There’s something really unique and special when we make a conscious decision to say, I’m going to step outside myself and do something for someone else. And even if it’s one person, it doesn’t have to be serving hundreds of millions, which is great, too.” When your purpose is appreciating others for being human no matter what their background or income level, you are able to have compassion and be a sister, a brother, a friend, and love them until they prove you wrong.

Listen or watch this conversation for more powerful ideas and stories from Elissa and Dr. Nancy. Elissa says that Dr. Nancy was the first person to ask, “How can I help you?” A question Elissa is used asking. Check out her inspiring guests on her podcast, A World On Purpose, and learn more about how 5th Element Group’s initiatives are making an impact on the world.

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