What Can I Do?

What Can I Do?

For five years, I managed Capital District Key Club Convention.  Each year, this weekend event was attended by about 700-900 high school students plus about 100-200 adult advisors and Kiwanis members.   Our on-site work began mid-day Thursday, attendees arrived on Friday afternoon, and the convention concluded late Sunday morning.  At any given moment during any of these conventions, I was busy, inspired, stressed, excited, busy, frustrated, crazed and busy.  Did I mention busy?  It was always a hectic, all-consuming, weekend.  It was powerful and empowering too, in many different ways.  The high school students serving on the Key Club District Board made it worthwhile, always.  And they often taught the biggest lessons too.  The first year I was in charge, I remember vividly those who came to me repeatedly throughout the weekend saying, “What can I do?  Do you need help?  Can I do anything for you?”  Fortunately, this trend continued for each of the years that followed by conscientious, impressive young leaders I worked with and loved during that year.

When these questions were asked, sometimes the answer was yes, and tasks were easy to delegate.  Other times it required more explanation than it would be help so there was no delegation.  I often would say something like, “Not just this second, but stand by because probably in a few minutes, yes.”  And they would.  Either way, I was always grateful.  These kids were the best.  They weren’t saying “What can I do?” because they wanted something to do and they needed to feel needed – or to make some sort of statement about how sometimes it is hard for me to delegate certain tasks.  They were asking because they cared about what we were all doing together and they wanted to contribute – and because they cared about me too (and the feelings were mutual).  It was a powerful reminder about the value of being supportive and saying the right thing at the right time.  You are expressing much more than an offer to assist when you say to a busy person, “Can I do anything to help you?”  When I think about my five years of managing programming, logistics and everything in between, these words, from poised and kind high school students, tie everything together.   Each year, we had a theme for the convention, but these words are the recurring theme for me, and they validated and buoyed me during the hectic moments of the weekends.

This weekend is the first Capital District Key Club Convention since 2010 that I am not managing and since 2006 that I am not attending in full. I know for sure what I wish for those who are managing it this year though: lots of sweet and earnest kids who say, “What can I do?” – and mean it – and who are willing to help with whatever is needed, even if that just means waiting until the next thing happens that needs to be done.  I know that’s what I will be expressing too on Friday when I visit, and I know first-hand how much it will make a difference…even if there’s nothing to do at the moment I ask.

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36 Things I Know for Sure

36 Things I Know for Sure

  1. “When people show you who they are, believe them.” –Maya Angelou
  2. Be intentional. Know what you’re doing and why – and own it when something does not go exactly how you intended.
  3. Operating out of fear creates stress and tension for you and everyone around you.
  4. Love is in the details.
  5. There are three ways to be when leaving something (a place, a job, et cetera): act like you don’t care/have a screw them mentality; act as if you’re not leaving/so that people wonder, “She knows this is her last month here, right?”; or just be chill, do your best as usual and have only good intentions for what you’re leaving. Choose the third option, please.
  6. Accepting that something isn’t the right thing for you is very hard, but sometimes very necessary.
  7. Using people’s names in conversation builds connection.
  8. If you can do it, do it (whatever it is – for you or for others).
  9. Always take the opportunity to tell someone you’re appreciative, grateful, happy, and/or better off because of him/her. (“Celebrate what you want to see more of.” –Tom Peters)
  10. Acknowledge. Validate. Say thank you.
  11. Being truly empathetic is about showing up, listening, hearing, being there; it’s not about problem-solving.
  12. Technology is a tool – for efficiency, for connection. It’s not for exclusivity or rudeness.
  13. Discretion, especially in groups, is a very valuable yet a very underused skill.
  14. Friends made during life-changing experiences are often life-long friends.
  15. When you have an uplifting, escapism and/or Joy Rising experience, you’re resetting and refreshing. Look for big and little ways you can do it regularly. It’s so good for you.
  16. Self-conscious inclinations limit you; try to break free from them, even if little by little.
  17. Kids whose parents divorce or have some other challenge (in their family or within themselves) could benefit from talking to a professional. There’s no shame in it.
  18. Energy matters. (“Take responsibility for the energy you bring into this space.” –Jill Bolte Taylor)
  19. Showing emotion is real and true; it’s not something about which you need to be embarrassed.
  20. When someone gets cancer (or is going through something tough), just say, “That sucks. I care about you. I am thinking of you. How can I help?” Nothing else is needed.
  21. Be yourself, openly and with pride and humility. You will encourage others to do the same.
  22. Quality leadership shows itself in so many tangible ways. You often don’t realize what you have until you don’t, but try to be aware and recognize it when you have it and be a contributor to the positive culture and environment.
  23. Community isn’t a place, but a feeling. It should be synonymous with safety, trust and connection.
  24. Honor your friends’ trust.
  25. Find your person and people – and never forget how incredible it is that you did.
  26. Traditions and inside jokes can be the best. Know when it’s the right time to bring these out though based on who’s around you.
  27. When communicating to a group, operate as if everyone is brand-new to the situation. Thinking this way helps you be very clear with the information. Anticipate what will be asked and address that up front.
  28. Manage expectations – for you and for those around you.
  29. Credibility and respect are earned through honesty, being real and having a pure agenda.
  30. Invest in what matters to you – with your time, resources and effort. (“Actions express priorities.” –Ghandi)
  31. Trust your gut. Go with your instincts. (“Doubt means don’t.” –Maya Angelou)
  32. Give credit where credit is due. (Even to yourself. And when others acknowledge you, being gracious is the best response.) Don’t take credit for something that isn’t yours. Know your role.
  33. Knowing when it’s time to say goodbye or call an ending takes a lot of maturity and self-awareness. It’s important to know when it’s time to give someone else a chance and/or find out what new opportunity is awaiting you.
  34. Be careful with the word “but.” When used, most anything said beforehand is not heard.
  35. We can’t ask people to do things that we aren’t willing to do ourselves, especially as leaders.
  36. When giving a speech, remember President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s words: “Be sincere. Be brief. Be seated.”

Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due: Writing this list was inspired by Drew Dudley’s “38 Things I’ve Learned in 38 Years.”