I learned a valuable lesson in perspective the other day through an experience I had with my six-year old son, Jake. I decided to take the kids off my wife’s hands for the day. It was a great Saturday. An unseasonably cool day in Atlanta, the smell of honeysuckle was potent, and my kids were angels. The stars were aligned. So the boys and I hopped into the truck and off we went to get some groceries for the week. Brownie points were in abundance. As I pulled into the familiar parking lot of Harry’s Farmer’s Market, I asked the boys to go ahead and get unbuckled. My eldest son Jake proceeded to tell me he wasn’t going in. For background purposes I think it’s important to know that Jake is my child of perfection. He is always reasonable; he is sweet, devastatingly handsome, and an all around great guy. So his obstinace surprised me. “I’ll nip this in the bud,” I thought to myself.
Me: Jake get unbuckled and hop out of the car.
Me: Jake you are going to get out one-way or the other. You can do it the easy or the hard way. (How many of you have said that, be honest?)
Jake: You’re going to get out the hard way daddy!
(Father is actually intrigued as to what this hard way may be for him)
Me: That’s interesting buddy I can’t wait to see what that’s about.
Jake: Don’t open the door daddy it’s going to be hard for you.
Now if this were my second son, I would’ve probably paused and thought through all the potential avenues of terror he could enact prior to opening said door. But this was Jake. Jake is perfection in a 40lb blonde container. This is going to be a cakewalk. So I opened the back door and Adonis dropped to the ground, reared back and with all of his might punched his father where the sun don’t shine. Now my surprise was great, my anger was epic, and the look of fear in my son’s eyes was almost comical.
So how does all of this relate to today's world of associations you ask? Let me tell you. Just like in life, it is terribly important to maintain perspective when facing difficult/changing circumstances. There is a tremendous amount of “noise” in the marketplace trumpeting the end of membership, as we know it. Screaming that millennials are going to change the face of associations. Pontificating that the disruptive nature of technology is going to forever change all things associations as we know it (queue the ominous music). Now there is no doubt that each of these factors will play a role in how we shape our organizations moving forward. I would ask each of us to pause, however, for a brief second to ensure we are leveraging perspective. We need this perspective to equip us to respond successfully.
You see, in the situation that I described with my son, I had a tremendous amount of experience that shaped my expectations for what was to come. For all intents and purposes, I am an expert at understanding my son, Jake. I know his norms, I’ve helped shape his personality, and I am an active participant in his life. With that said, however, his actions surprised me. My surprise did not eclipse my experience. Just like the changing nature of technology or the generational divide eclipse yours. My surprise did not remove the important role I play in his life. The same is true for associations today. Instead, his thunder punch simply woke me to a new reality. A reality that I needed to respond to appropriately and with perspective became clear.
Technology, millennials, and yes membership are very real parts of our new association reality. Do you know what else is? You, the association. You bring a tremendous amount value to the table despite the disruptive nature of change. The other thing I want to remind you of is simply this; you’ve been through this before. Just reflect back on your whole life.
P.S. for those of you concerned with Jake’s well being after the incident, he is alive and well. A little less aggressive with his right hook none-the-less.