I’ve just returned from Newark where we held the second of our 2018 APHA Summits Networking Events. About 30 advocates attended, with backgrounds ranging from leaders (long-time advocates who have built successful advocacy businesses) through a handful of folks who are just getting started and who arrived as sponges intending to absorb everything they could.
The experience was, in a word, magical. The energy in the room was electric.There was a constant buzz and hum of shared ideas and experiences. There were the usual words of advice that everyone has read or heard in the past, mixed with some surprises when the leaders were asked, “What do you wish you had known when you started your new practice that you didn’t know then?”
There was laughter, there were stories, there was joy, there were “on no!” moments, and there were “aha!” moments, and there was, as attendees departed, a sense of companionship, collaboration, and growing confidence, as in “I got this.”
I came away from this experience as I did from the networking experience in San Diego last month, with a stronger belief than before that private, independent advocacy is maturing, and that the phrase “paying it forward” is alive and well.
This is a change, by the way. A huge one, worth noting here, because I haven’t always been confident in that notion.
When I began to move into the world of healthcare in 2005, having spent decades working in the corporate world, then into advocacy by 2007, I was repeatedly stunned by the observation that too many would-be-advocates are afraid to, or simply refuse to collaborate and help each other out. I’ve witnessed the b*tching, backbiting, bullying, and avoidance. I’ve worked to connect people who I know can help each other only to learn that one party simply refused to reply to an email or phone message. Too often I’ve listened to one advocate make a giant leap to an uncalled for negative conclusion about another advocate. I’ve been told by dozens of would-be-advocates that they contacted existing, working, advocates only to be summarily dismissed with “I don’t have the time to talk to you.”
I’m far from alone in this observation of negativity. I’m asked about it frequently by others who are involved in advocacy who have experienced the same. We can hash and rehash the reasons it exists, but doing so is far secondary to the idea that for the good of the profession, and even more so, for the good of the patient-clients we serve – all that person-to-person negativity just needs to stop.
Which is precisely why I am so thrilled to report to you, in sharp, SHARP contrast to all that negativity, my observation at our Networking Summits that there was simply no sign of any of that. None.
Are we finally growing up? Are we finally understanding that the rising tide floats all boats? Have we grasped that it is only through our collaboration that we will grow, and grow stronger as a profession?
Steve Jobs once told a story that illustrates what we can accomplish when we support each other in our pursuits.
When Steve was a young boy, a neighbor, an elderly man in his 80s, invited Steve into his backyard where they collected dozens of small rocks. They washed them off, dumped them into an old tin can, then poured in some liquid and grit. They attached the tin can to a small motor and it began rolling around and rolling around over and over again. The neighbor told Steve to return the next day.
What did Steve find when he returned? The old man dumped the rocks out of the can and onto the table. Those old, ugly, dirty rocks had morphed into something entirely different. They looked like polished gems! They were the same rocks, but had been transformed, and through friction, simply rubbing together, had produced something very beautiful together.
OK – just a disclaimer here – (because past experience tells me someone will take offense!) – I’m not suggesting for a moment that advocates begin as ugly, dirty rocks! 🙂
But I do believe we all begin our advocacy practice journeys with a real need of polishing. We need to rub elbows with each other to bring out the best in our work for patient-clients. By continually meeting, collaborating, sharing, and supporting, we will transform our entire profession.
There are two more Summits scheduled for 2018, so if you haven’t attended one yet, this is your golden opportunity!
Come rub elbows and grow with us. Join the transformation. Help us continue to strengthen our foundation.
Shine with the rest of us!