Springtime is that time of year when each of us begins to think about new beginnings. The other day I heard a woman from CA speaking about the beautiful flowers in bloom in her neighborhood. Here in the east we’ve had a really hard winter. Just this weekend we had heavy rains causing flooding and Buffalo has had over 100 inches of snow. Spring. New plants sprout, buds appear on branches, and shop windows showcase clothes in brighter colors. Spring-cleaning! I grew up with a mom who still prides herself at 92 to ready the house for spring by starting her “spring cleaning”. Being a “good” daughter I too have initiated spring-cleaning. I’ve been going through my office sorting files and deciding what I need to keep, verses what I might want to keep. It’s time to clean out file drawers and shelves and allow space for the new. Unfortunately, I’m a slow cleaner. I look through and reflect on many of the files I’m tossing. In one from my year as president of the National Association of Women Business Owners-NYC chapter I foundthe speech I made at the first Signature Awards banquet we held March 20, 2001. It struck me I could give this speech today with minimal edits and it would be relevant. I’ve reprinted it at the end of this blog.
Yes I now have more experience, maturity and wisdom. Ten years ago I spoke of the increased speed at which things were happening and the importance of letting go when the unexpected occurs. Isn’t that true today. I don’t think we had texting then but I find myself wanting to take advantage of every free moment to be in touch with someone for business. A quiet bus ride now becomes a work session, texting and reading emails. The comments from colleagues could have been said today. Although the guy admitting to 12 hour days would probably be looked down upon for not working long and hard enough.
The wisdom I take from these reflections is in life and business you have to have goals, desired outcomes. However you also have to be ready to alter the course when the unexpected happens or you become aware of new information. Secondly, and perhaps even more important today we have to have an inner core of principles and values upon which we live life and conduct ourselves at work. This essential core enables us to survive life’s uncertainties. Our organizations also need guiding principles by which we manage employees with respect, dignity for the human spirit and compassion. These are fundamental components of engaged workers and organizations.
Personally I think we are in the midst of another of Prigogine’s dissipative structures societal transformations. Being in touch with our inner core will help us through this transformative storm.
March 20th 2001 NAWBO Signature Awards Speech
“It is a pleasure and privilege to be here before you. Today is the Spring Equinox. One of two days in the year when there is exactly as much light as there is darkness. Total balance. Tomorrow there will be more daylight. We surely can use it.
We are just about to complete the first quarter of 2001. What a quarter it’s been. A NYT article this weekend said it is not likely we will see a decade like the 90’s again in our lifetime. Abby Joseph Cohen says, “the economy is strong and this downturn is a short term cyclical problem”.
In preparing for my remarks tonight I’ve spoken to many of you to find out the impact of the turbulence on Wall Street is having on you and your business. I’ve been listening to how you characterize your experience. I’ve heard some themes and common language.
- I feel as if I’m in a whirlpool.
- I’m just spinning round and round, faster and faster.
- I feel as if I’m reacting to a barrage of things that are just coming at me. They just keep coming.
- I’ve been in this business for 30 years and I’ve never experienced this. It’s as if I’ve lost control and things are just coming at me.
- I just want some solitude. I’m tired of 12-hour days; I want time with my wife and children.
I resonate with these comments. On a personal note I too feel sometimes as if I’m spinning, and dodging curveballs coming at me with increasing speed. Let me give you some actual examples. We planned this event late last summer. We did what we needed to do. Some deadlines got taxed but we were okay. A week ago Tuesday at our Board meeting I had to tell the Board we only had 32 people registered for this event. We had to pull together and make follow-up calls. Now usually NAWBO members are notorious for registering late for things but this was down right frightening. On that same day we learned one of our awardees Wanla Cheng was injured getting off a bus and broke both ankles. She has had surgery and will be in a wheelchair for a couple of months. She cannot be here but has sent a friend to accept her award and read her speech.
Yesterday i got a call from Lois Benjamin Bohm, her 92 year old mother Saturday and tonight she and her family sit shiver while we celebrate her accomplishments here. She too has sent a friend to stand in. I have to tell you last night I threw up my hands and said I surrender. Then I prayed that Micki Siebert and Di-Ann Eisnor would make it here without incident.
There is an energetic turbulence going on in the world today. Things are just going faster and seem more intense. When I awoke this morning before dawn to put finishing touches on this speech I thought of the book the Aquarian Conspiracy by Marilyn Ferguson. How many of you know it? Have you read it? I couldn’t believe it was written in 1980. She introduces the physical chemist Ilya Prigogine who won the Nobel prize in chemistry in 1977 for his theory of dissipative structures. I recall reading how the theory could be applied to societies. Briefly stated, it’s a theory of transformation. When there is intense stress in a system, the system is shaken up vigorously, perturbed, there comes a moment in time when the system must reorder itself. It is no longer what it was but has transformed itself into something totally new with a different set of properties.
As president of an organization such as NAWBO or a business, you want it to achieve outstanding results under your leadership, Your ego is involved. However when you feel as if you are in the midst of an unending meteor shower you have to surrender and let go of the result you envision. Let be what will be.
I share this with you because I think this is a metaphor for what many of us in our businesses both large and small, and our personal lives are experiencing. The best planning gets derailed. As they used to say in a training program called DMA…’just let go and let God.’"