Friday, March 9, 2012

Why others' opinions of us sometimes should count more than our own

My very (non)-favorite (non)-singer, Rihanna, has a song out now that’s one of the most irritating I’ve ever heard; something about “I found love in a hopeless place.” Well, last night, Here’s what I found:

Grace. In a place not at all hopeless, but altogether unexpected.

(This post has nothing to do with Rihanna -- thankfully, as I cannot stand her -- but sometimes a writer can’t figure out just how the heck to lead into something. That didn’t quite work. But here we go.)

I currently serve as the chair of a nonprofit group that helps support the fine arts at Drake University, my alma mater and the university my daughter attends. (Keep reading. This isn’t a pitch, I promise.) I love Drake, and I believe wholeheartedly in this group and everything it stands for and accomplishes. We meet once a month, and between meetings, I typically work a few hours a week on issues relating to our efforts. I have a binder and notebooks and a system that works for me.

Only it doesn’t always work, though, as I realized this week that I had dropped the ball on something pretty big. A reminder about a deadline had come to me while I was having one of the surgeries I’ve seemed to enjoy so much lately, and although I had made a mental note to take care of this issue, I hadn’t addressed it. At all.

So the result was this: One of our tried-and-true, high-profile fundraisers – one that helps raise money and awareness for the programs we help to support – isn’t going to happen this year. Period. No adjustments can be made; I missed the deadline. End of story.

To say I was absolutely sick when I realized my oversight doesn’t do justice to my feelings of panic and dread; I emailed a couple of officers in the group right away, but knew I’d have to face the entire committee yesterday to issue a mea culpa. As the agenda items ticked off, I broke into a cold sweat. Then it was time to tell the group what I had done.

I was honest, taking full responsibility for the mistake. As I yammered on about the details, I almost started crying. Thankfully, that didn’t happen. I finished, and there were a few seconds of silence. And then the most amazing thing happened.

This group of about a dozen people immediately set about making me feel better. My predecessor, who now serves as vice-chair – an amazingly busy but always-together person – was the first to say, “We’ve been wanting to ‘go rogue’ on this for a while now. This might just be a great opportunity to see if we can do that.”

At the end of the meeting, we had a plan: One of the committee members is going to determine if we can host our own similar event outside the auspices of the umbrella group with which we had been working. The group was energized and excited, and I was surprised and humbled.

Like many busy people who wear a lot of hats, I tend to be hard on myself when things don’t work correctly; in this instance, a few things could have transpired differently to ensure that the deadline was met, and not all of those were on my plate.

But still, the buck stops with me. And because I tend to take on too much and end up beating myself up, I had spent 24 hours feeling pretty darned worthless and low.

I wondered, though, why I had underestimated these people. They’re all high-achieving, busy, and passionate about the causes they believe in, and chances are each one of them, at one point or another, has mucked up something important. Why had I anticipated their wrath rather than the kind, affirming responses I received, most along the lines of “You do a great job – stop being so hard on yourself”?

Because of the way the world is, I think – because of the way we’re always moving too fast and sleeping too little. Because our emotions are fraught and we’re pulled in too many different directions. And maybe because some people – ones with whom we come into contact all too often – are quick to lash out when things don’t go their way.

Everyone who makes a mistake should have the privilege of coming into contact with – and being embraced by – the good people who had my back last night. After all, reactions such as theirs are extra motivation not to screw up next time.

No comments:

Post a Comment