Reflections on #ASAE10: Passion Matters

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.

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  1. 30.08.2010 at 9:09 am

    Jamie- Nailed it! This is a recent discovery of mine from a similar angle.. the angle is me saying “I’m tired of so much drama!” Drama in my company, in my local community/government, in my church: everything is so dramatic! Then I realized- drama- as we usually think about it, only comes from people caring. In those organizations and parts of life where nobody cares, where there is apathy, you usually won’t find anyone commenting about the “drama.”
    So you nailed it Jamie. ASAE is great in the end… what a fantastic group of people to be associated with.(No pun intended!)

  2. 30.08.2010 at 9:27 am

    Well said J-Nott, well said. To the untrained eye, many of those comments look like bitching and moaning. But in reality, they are passionate statements from people trying to make things better. I would much rather see those occur in this space than to see people just fall off the map and stop participating!

  3. 30.08.2010 at 10:33 am

    Amen and Allelujah! I’ve recently been frustrated by some organizations’ blind dedication to “look on the bright side.” Celebrating our victories is important and affirming, but real growth and a sense of accomplishment comes from acknowledging where improvements can be made and (this last step is critical) making them. Bravo for a great post!

  4. 30.08.2010 at 10:58 am

    What a post. Thanks for writing it! I’m actually quite emotional at the depth of conversation swirling around the annual meeting – it’s clear to me (and I hope it is to ASAE) that we’re talking about what went wrong as well as what went right because we really really care about our association. I think everyone is waiting to see what comes out of this – there’s a huge opportunity here for ASAE to become more “human” and more of a “social organization” (something we talk about all the time and the subject of your column on SocialFishing). Fingers and toes crossed.

  5. 30.08.2010 at 3:38 pm

    Jamie, and all the other posters and bloggers about #asae10 — thank you for the courage of your convictions and the willingness to share your comments with us. I, for one, am very passionate about the association management profession and what it can do for our society, the world, and for us personally. I am a lifelong learner, and I hope that ASAE is as well. Try something different, try something new — learn from your members and attendees. LISTENING is a great way to learn.

  6. 30.08.2010 at 11:49 pm

    Well said Jamie. For while we may rant about the imperfections, we also are all willing to roll up our sleeves and help ASAE improve the conference. And no matter what, we’ll all be back at ASAE11 because we do love this community and we’ll not miss the opportunity to engage with it. That is the passion that the ASAE community has created. Ahhh, group hug! 🙂

  7. 01.09.2010 at 10:29 am

    So this has nothing — or very little at least — to do with Jamie’s post, but I was struck by what Johnson aka PeachJC said in his comment. I won’t see the annual meeting attendee survey results for a while, but from the blogging/tweeting community, there seemed to be little satisfaction with the last keynoter, Marshall Goldsmith. That’s too bad.
    I haven’t read the Mojo book, but I watched him a week ago and have seen him speak before. I think he’s really good, and I think the power of his message is something that puts a fine edge on Johnson’s comment. There IS a lot of drama in life. The trick to being successful in business or school or local community or anywhere, is knowing for yourself what is the important drama to you and what just isn’t worth your time. Happiness is finding the right amount of caring. Caring too much about lots of things means alienating others and a stressful life for yourself. Not caring enough about much of anything means not finding joy and accomplishment.
    So, yes, passion is a good thing, but too much of anything is bad.
    As for what all this means for ASAE… I’m in the camp that says the only real enemy is apathy. That doesn’t mean I want to disappoint people or make them angry, but I’ll take that over people not caring about us. There’s clearly some disappointment and anger after #asae10, and there’s clearly a lot of people really happy about their experience. What we’re doing now is putting it all into the cauldron, brewing it, and developing a plan of how to make 2011 a great experience. I’d be very surprised if we do not engage teams of members to help staff design that experience.

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