“Should you find yourself in a chronically leaking boat, energy devoted to changing vessels is likely to be more productive than energy devoted to patching leaks”.I start my final column with Warren Buffet’s wisdom. All of us can become so wrapped up in stemming the flood that we fail to recognize our own power to change situations and refocus our energy on more productive pursuits. I used the quote as my email signature for some time after I was told my faculty position was being eliminated.
The months since the announcement have been long, challenging and draining at times. I am by nature an optimistic person but this news sapped my positive outlook. I had chosen to arrange my life to perhaps someday join the faculty at Goshen College and that had come to pass. Now, an institution I had trusted in so many ways was cutting loose not just myself, but other talented and committed colleagues as well.
That said, the GC board was absolutely correct in their edict that the institution end to extra endowment withdrawals to balance the budget. The colleges administration has been in a very difficult position over the last number of years as it has worked to reshape the institution into a more viable position with a combination of enrollment growth and expense reductions.
So where does this leave us? What can we learn? In my first column, I wrote about being kind. Wrapped in that advice was the idea that we have choices about how we treat people. In all of our lives there are times when we have very tough choices to make. Make the choice to uphold the value of individuals. Treat them with dignity. Concealing the truth is not kindness. It is a facade that will, in time, fall away to reveal naked facts often containing embarrassing truths.
When things go sideways and trust me they will, apologize. Own the action and hurt you may have caused. A sincere “I am sorry. That was my fault, decision or choice” goes miles toward rebuilding trust. It is only with genuine trust and healthy relationships that constructive debate can take place. Constructive deliberations where ideas can be brought forward and given a chance to grow and transform are vital. However, absent trust, voices stay muted, reluctant to join the conversation.
Finally, above all else, stay curious. Ask questions. Listen. Consider what you heard. Repeat. The old sales adage goes “God gave you two ears and one mouth, use them in proportion.” This statements holds true in many of life’s challenges and opportunities. Listen more.
Goodbye, friends, colleagues and students. A part of me is relieved to have my ticket punched to change boats. I am also happy to report I have a fine new vessel to board. At same time, a part of me would like to be on the SS Maple Leaf. It’s been a great four years and 11 months but the time has come to board a new ship.