For my whole life, I have been a “yes” person. Rarely do I dissent. I hardly ever say no to doing a task. I love listening to others’ suggestions, but I don’t often give my own. I observe, I nod, and life continues to move around me.
In the fall, a colleague and close friend of mine sat me down and told me about an idea to do a conference that was completely against the grain of ACPA, NASPA, and other acronym-heavy student affairs organizations. When she asked for my help, of course I said what I always say: “yes”.
By January, we found ourselves with a core group of four people ready to plan something with no structure, no form, and no guidance: the Big Ideas Conference.
I would be lying if I said the planning process was all fun. I tried to delegate tasks out to my fabulous committee members, but I changed my mind on a daily basis. There is no planning guide for innovation. I was particularly frustrated with the notion of setting up a Cool Curators exhibit. Conference participants were reluctant to present, responding to my e-mail requests with, “I’m sorry, I don’t think I have anything cool enough to share.”
So, I pushed. Phone calls with friends from Florida, multiple back-and-forth e-mails, researching conference participants’ work online – these were all methods I took to make it happen. And I realized something. I was FINALLY pushing the boundaries. I was making an impact on these people. I was a mouthpiece for innovation, without even realizing that I was speaking out about it.
During the whole Big Ideas Conference, I learned a lot of great things about provoking others, giving opportunities, developing others’ skills, and having fun. I could write hundreds of blog posts on the topics and ideas that I’ve gained. But the main thing I learned is that I can be the provoker. I have the answers, I don’t need to look to someone else to give them to me. I can say “yes” or “no”, and people will listen.
I am so grateful to have been a part of the planning team and to learn that my words and actions have meaning and are valuable. Now my task is to ensure that my students feel the same way.
It all started with saying “yes”.
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The Jersey Alliance