Nothing we do is inevitable.
Our success as association professionals is not inevitable. Achieving a thriving conference and burgeoning membership is not inevitable.
We are not guaranteed that our association will stay small or that it will grow big. Nor are there any assurances that if we do everything right, at the right time, with the right people, we’ll succeed spectacularly—or nose dive miserably. So as long as you choose to take this amazing, exciting, frustrating, uncertain, fulfilling and terrifying journey of an association professional, here are a few words of encouragement to ponder and remember.
1. Stay Curious And Hungry
Why is it that some association professionals are in a rush for their organizations to become as average and dull as the ones they left? Sometimes it’s because we like the security of a steady paycheck and a regular routine.
If you have a team of volunteer leaders and staff working with you, they’ve probably already demonstrated that they are more adventurous, courageous and voracious than many. So why would you want to trade that curious, thirsty, life-long learning attitude for something as mundane as the status quo?
You need curiosity and that life-long thirst for learning. Your organization needs that same hunger and curious spirit. If you don’t model and supply it, who will?
2. You’re Not Alone.
If you are discouraged and feeling the darkness, remember you are not alone. It’s normal. And it won’t last forever. The sun will rise. The light will come. Darkness will be expelled.
Yes, there’s lot of joy, adventure and excitement on this association journey. There is also a lot of sadness, discouragement and even failure.
Failures and missteps are common. As long as you use them as learning experiences, you’ll recover. Don’t let them become a stopping place from forward movement.
If you’re in the zone of despair, pick up the phone and call a friend. Send a text and let a loved one know. They will hold you up and support you until the sun shines on your next steps in the adventure.
3. Stop Chasing Cool
Cool is boring. Cool is not fashionable. Chasing cool is not about how you dress, style your hair or use the next tech tool. Styles just come and go.
When you chase cool or hunt for the next cutting edge tech tool, you’re just following trends. You’re not a trendsetter at all.
Chasing cool doesn’t include people. It excludes them. It creates the in and out crowd. Cliques emerge.
People and associations that chase cool don’t change the world or anyone. You can’t change your world when you’re running frantically to keep up with it.
4. Avoid Copying Others
Sure, we all have leaders and organizations that we admire. We even learn from them.
However, we need to avoid copying them. Because when we do, we just become a faded, dull imitation.
If that’s all you ever do is sit around with like minded peers searching for tips and tricks to copy, you’re just chasing another association’s version of success. Don’t try to be them. Sometimes the best insights come from widening your scope beyond the common places you visit. It’s outside of your community that we‘ll see something we never expected.
5. Aim For Authenticity
Only you can do you! You are the best version of yourself. Be authentic.
There’s very little in our world today that is authentic and genuine. Most of the time it’s phony and pretentious. That’s why we are attracted to even the smallest glimpse of authenticity.
Don’t aim to be special. Or unique. Or cool. Aim for authenticity. Strive to be genuine.
No (hu)man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring two pence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it. ~ C. S. Lewis.
Take a breather occasionally. Rest regularly. Learn continually. Embrace every moment of this association journey. And be and do the best you possible.
Hat tips to authors C.S. Lewis, J.D. Greear and Karl Vaters.
What are some other words of encouragement you are willing to share with others along the association journey? Where do you turn when the weight of your nonprofit work takes its toll on your life?