One of the best things about taking time off over the holidays is having more bandwidth to read—preferably in bed, ambient music in the background, a hot herbal tea within easy reach.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve read two books that have helped me better appreciate SHPE’s unique journey: where we’ve been, where we are and—as we welcome 2020, with all of its significance and symbolism—where we go from here.
The first book is Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, by University of Houston research professor Brené Brown. In it, she addresses the concept of vulnerability (something I’ve talked a lot about this past year), and how embracing it can change how we live, lead, and interact with others.
One passage in particular struck a chord with me. It’s about “The Man in the Arena,” the 1910 speech written by Theodore Roosevelt shortly after he left the White House. As a lifelong boxing fan, the metaphor was impossible to ignore. (I actually boxed in law school, in addition to downhill mountain biking; it was my way of decompressing—and quelling my uber-competitive streak.) The full 35-page speech is easy to find, but here’s the part that Brown references:
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
Setting aside Teddy’s myopic use of “man,” there’s a whole lot here that I, and we as an organization, can relate to. When you’re in the public eye, critics and detractors are everywhere, telling you that you aren’t doing enough—or doing it fast enough. That you don’t belong. That you’re not sufficiently smart or experienced. This is bunch of bunk. Ultimately, ignore these naysayers. Because it’s the folks with the courage to actually step into the proverbial ring, who fight for what they believe in, who are the true agents of change.
Ignoring the cynics and jumping into the ring is easier said than done. When one is in the process of growing and evolving—whether as an individual or an organization like SHPE—the challenge of stepping into the fight can be enough to force one to the sidelines. To affect genuine change, we must be willing to jump in, vulnerabilities and all, knowing that our contributions are not only valuable, but crucial to creating the future we want.
This brings me to another book I read over the Holidays: Simon Sinek’s The Infinite Game, which explores the difference between finite games (things like chess and football) and those of politics, business, even life itself.
Just as Teddy Roosevelt talked about the importance of staying in the arena, of never leaving the fight, Sinek proffers that, for true transformation to happen, individuals and organizations need to focus less on the short-term, finite “games”—things like quarterly profits and winning an election—and more on the big-picture.
While we’ve reached incredible heights at SHPE within the last two and a half years—record membership, sponsorship and attendance; unprecedented engagement from our members—we can’t lose sight of the greater summits in front of us.
As we head into 2020, a year where the metaphors of hindsight and vision are unavoidable, let’s challenge ourselves to build an organization that will stand the test of time. Let’s mold our mission not in terms of the next performance metric or benchmark, but in terms of a greater, just cause—one we and our allies are willing to fight and sacrifice for. A cause so appealing and empowering that everyone, from the CEOs at our industry partners to our student members, feels like they have a stake in the outcome—that there’s a reason to stay in the arena. #SHPE4Life!
Now is the time to engage and get more involved. Now is the time to lend your heart and hands to helping us “Ascend to Transcend,” the theme of our 2020 Convention in Denver. Now is the time to step off the sidelines and into the arena.
We’re as focused and feisty as ever. We’re ready to transform, ascend, and transcend. We are here and ready to thrive.
I’m all in. SHPE is all in. We’re in the arena—and we’re here to stay.
Are you with me?
Raquel Tamez, SHPE CEO