The opening round of ASAE recap blog posts have been a bit of a downer. This does not surprise me given the conversations I was having with friends of colleagues towards the end. For one reason or another, the meeting just wasn't as good as the last several years. Acronym has a central link to all the posts in the first couple days back, including the post I did for my monthly column on SocialFish–and that one had a critical tone as well.
So far, though, I wouldn't characterize the complaining as bitter. It's been heartfelt. The people who are complaining about a meeting that didn't meet their expectations are expressing these thoughts because they love ASAE. That's huge! I wrote about this over a year ago when the Power of A campaign was launched (to the disappointment of many bloggers):
Frustration is a very powerful force. When it gets expressed, it usually means those individuals have crossed a tipping point where they have moved to take action, rather than just stewing about it. What an opportunity! People relevant to your organization or system are taking action. Sure, we'd rather them take action by singing our praises and showering us with more money. Whatever. They are taking action, they are showing some passion. What are you going to do with that?
The keyword there is passion. That concept was central to me this year at the Annual Meeting. As I mentioned in the SocialFishing post, I talked to the YAE Committee about passion–specifically how they would be able to translate the diverse passions of their committee members into coordinated action. Lisa Junker also did a blog post on acronym after interviewing me and the YAE Committee Chair, Aaron Wolowiec. It's not enough any more to have a committee action plan. You need to tap into people's passion of you want it to work.
I look at Maddie's post, which is by her own admission a bit of a rant, and I look at the SEVENTY TWO comments (yes! 72!), and I see a great dialogue and tons of passion. I see lots of people expanding on each other's ideas, and I see a lot of constructive disagreement as well–disagreement that never denies the passion of the opposing view. The conversation is never about ASAE being "good" or "bad" or right or wrong. It's a community of people who love their association and care enough to talk openly and honestly about what works and what doesn't, and what's important to them and what's not (knowing there will never be 100% agreement about that). ASAE doesn't necessarily leap into the conversation, but they show up, and I know they are listening.
I may not have liked everything about ASAE10. Some of it wasn't particularly within ASAE's control (the lack of energy in downtown LA), and some of it was (the way they organized the general sessions), but who expects their community to be pleasing to them all the time? Who expects any important relationship to be all roses all the time?!
I mentioned in my last post about fear that courage is not the absence of fear, but how you react when fear is present. There is a corollary for love and community. The test of a relationship is not how you act when things are working well. When you really need love is when there are problems, and despite your anger or your frustration or your confusion or your disagreement, you still manage to keep your passion focused in service of the relationship or in service to the community.
I see that happening now, so despite my frustrations with ASAE10, and even my sincere concerns about how well they will be able to change course (being a large organization), I still love ASAE and I loved ASAE10 because it let my passion flow. It allowed me to deliver some new material to groups of people in my community who wanted to talk about it (YAE session and Truth Session). It allowed me to pursue important yet unofficial passions like the ever growing YAP community, and it allowed me to deepen my relationships with fellow community members, including people I've known for years, like fellow WHADITW authors Jeff De Cagna, David Gammel, and Mickie Rops (we missed you Amy!), and much newer (but no less important) connections, like Robert Barnes and Jeff Hurt.
Passion matters. Yes, it opens up opportunities for let-downs and heartache. But that's the price of admission to a world where more gets done, and potential is realized, and synergy is actually accomplished, not just referenced in a keynote speech. Don't let the hard parts of passion scare you away. Stay with it and marvel at where it takes us.