October 5, 2009

As I read the title of Garrison Keillor’s Sunday column this week on healthcare reform, I anticipated I would be reading a humorous account of his time spent in my medical mecca, the Mayo Clinic, after he suffered a recent stroke. I scanned his view – waiting for the punch line. When it came, it connected so strongly to something I have been mulling over, I had to sit up and take note with my yellow high-lighter.

“Old men shouldn’t be allowed to doze off at the switch and muck up the works for the young who will have to repair the damage. Get over yourselves. Your replacements have arrived.”

First let me explain – I was born on the cusp of the Boomer Generation – technically a Traditionalist, but with a nod to them for saving our country and for instilling guiding values in all of us that followed them, I thought it was time for them to get out of the way-particularly in the workplace. I bonded with the Boomers, ignored the barriers, worked harder, out-strategized, built a collaborative network of support and succeeded. And I was blessed with results. I became a corporate director at age 28; and became a VP in a second company before I was 40. I left the corporate world as part of an executive team that had taken a sleepy $20 million dollar company to an industry leader with almost $1 billion of sales in less than 15 years. And what was among the motivators for my departure? I had no time for that generation entering the workforce in the early 90s- Generation X – after all, what did they know? Sound familiar? Different times, different terms, different outcomes, but it continues to happen throughout the centuries and we are in the midst of it happening yet again.

Event Marketing became my next life, and to succeed, I had to be open to new ideas, new technologies, and new thinking. Our industry is one of change and new trends and a continual search for what’s new. Most of the stars in our industry, like event marketing itself, are young-with little need to protect how we have always done it because it has not always been done. We all understand, as our objectives and audience change, so too, must we.

That discipline spills over into other arenas – so I have often found myself bothered by the disconnect that is happening in our world today.

After 9/11, we all heard and used phrases such as: “the world has changed”, what is the “new normal”. That, coupled with the exponentially increasing technological advancements in the last ten years, along with the arrival of the Millennials in the workforce, gave rise to “move forward in the 2lst century” and “21st century thinking”. And the devastating recession of 2008 accounts for another major shift as we “reset in the new economy”.

Generally, I tend to be a moderate. I don’t have any right answers to all the issues we face today whether that be the economy, the wars, healthcare, or anything else – all I have is a viewpoint, based on what I hear from the opposing sides. But like every other citizen in 2008, I had to make a decision between Obama and McCain. And I passionately chose change-away from the traditional-to collaboration, citizenship and community. Those were methods of success I had learned in the corporate world which are reinforced in the world of event marketing today. And with that choice, I understood success would come in small steps and would be hard to judge, as we were entering new territory. To achieve change, we would need to monitor and evaluate, adjust and continue to move forward, without digging in with yesterday’s out-dated thoughts.

Yet just eight months into a 4-year term, our hopes for change are being judged harshly, We are quick to question progress and find it wanting, justified because “WE KNOW FROM PAST EXPERIENCE”, as I heard this morning on Meet the Press.

What do we know from past experience? None of us have experienced this before. Nothing we have read, been a part of, or lived through can replicate this new world that is just emerging.

We have become the old men; is it time to get over ourselves. get out the way, and give hope and change a chance to play out?

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