New level, new learning

Ever get involved with something and have these visions of how things might be, ideas in your head of what the road you are traveling might look like? What I’m getting at is our perceptions of the future when we are getting involved with a new initiative or activity.

Last year I coached a minor hockey team with a buddy and while I had heard about how crazy parents can be, and had witnessed it at some level as an assistant coach on teams for years, I wasn’t prepared for what I experienced. At the start of the season I was excited about having a team that I could mould and teach–a group of players that I could bond with and experience the thrill of competing and hopefully winning as a unit. And while some of that definitely happened last year, I came face first with some of those experiences I had heard about or witnessed second hand.

When you are a young adult volunteering your time, it’s quite an experience to have a parent call you up and yell and scream at you due to some ridiculous reason they have created in their mind. It was a real eye opening experience for me. And while I decided my time was too demanded this year to take another team, I know that when I coach in the future I’ll be so much wiser and be able to draw upon the lessons learned from last year.

Last year I got involved with another volunteer activity and unlike coaching hockey this one didn’t end in April though I sense that my involvement is coming to an end.

This volunteer outlet allowed me to participate in an activity on a national level, to work on a project that has great significance and will potentially make things better for a whole lot of Canadians. I went into this experience with eyes wide open knowing that I’d learn a whole lot. As my involvement nears 12 months I can tell you that I’ve learned lots, or perhaps maybe a better way to phrase it is that I’ve had previous lessons of mine strongly reinforced.

I just turned 29 last weekend but I have always said there are three parts of my personality: one is 13, another around 25, and a third is 55. And I pull out the appropriate part depending on the situation and what I feel is required. However sometimes I think that the old wise part of me, the 55-year-old goes missing at such important times.

You see I went into this new volunteer effort with such good, innocent intentions. I was thrilled to get the opportunity to participate in this potentially historical activity, and this is the key: I thought everyone involved was there for the same reasons. This is where my learning happened.

Throughout the course of the past 12 months I’ve learned that people don’t always say what they mean, and that people don’t always have good, honest intentions. You see I have this natural disposition that extends a significant level of trust to anyone I meet and that trust stays intact until my experiences justify adjusting the trust level. The fundamental flaw with this approach is that those who you get involved with who happen to be interested in self-advancement and personal gain, as opposed to the greater good, well they often end up taking advantage of you. And that is exactly what happened with my national volunteering.

And I have to tell you that I feel a little deflated, kind of like I did when I would get off the phone with a parent who just called me things that would give a movie an “R” rating. I feel a little discouraged and as I talked with Karen about it last night. In my mind I think that I can just shut this stuff off, but that’s not true. I don’t sleep and these deflating thoughts combine with a sick feeling in my gut and it consumes me a little bit.

It’s kind of like working with someone who you have come to hold in very high regard and developed respect and admiration for their approach and effort only to find out that the respect and admiration you have is for an individual that is misrepresented in your mind. In essence I created this misrepresentation. It makes me want to begin my involvement with any new group by having an initial check in with everyone, under oath, that requires everyone to state their reasons for involvement. At least then we’d have it all out on the table and we would all know where we stand.

That is the way I’d like it to be, however I know that is not realistic. So what I’ve done is work to an understanding, or acceptance of the possibility, that perhaps this individual who I developed great respect for does have the right intentions. But the dynamic of working with new people who did not warrant the same level of trust to which I’m accustomed to giving, justified their approach. In short, from their position there were certain sacrifices that were necessary to reach the goal. And if so, and if we achieve that ultimate goal, then it was probably worth it. And this is the idea I’m holding onto, because if people in positions of power and influence who appear to be so sound in their intent are able to pull the wool over my eyes like this then I’m going to have to spend some serious time with the 13-year-old in me and smarten him up!

And while I may be young and learning about people, I can tell you that these last 12 months have also solidified some of my previous core beliefs. They are pretty simple: it is important to say what you mean, and do what you said you’d do, treat others the way you’d expect to be treated, and whether you’re coaching minor hockey or working on a national organization there is absolutely no substitute for honesty and integrity. You can fake these things for a while but in the long run, if you’re missing these key elements of operation in your personal or professional life they will catch up to you. That I can say for sure.

This new level of participation provided some solid reinforcement that all the things I believed in are the right things for me. Others will operate in their own way and that is fine, but I’ve decided that when the environments in which I work and play are operating too far outside my accepted values and beliefs then I’m best to get out as opposed to faking it ‘cause I’m a crappy actor and reaching the goal is no good if I’m keeping Karen awake all night.

Always…
Live life. Love life.

Geoff

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