Lily Tomlin once said, “We are all in this together, by ourselves.” As small business owners, we go about our lives raising children, working hard, hoping our efforts make a difference in our community. During the daily flow of executing our plans, we experience bumps. Some are due to bad decisions on our part, people who take advantage of us when we least expect it, or being in the wrong place at the wrong time. In addition to the bumps, there are events that may take us down. As Mike Tyson said, “Everybody has a plan when they step into the ring – until they get hit in the mouth!”
How we as individuals respond to bumps and recover from the knockdowns is key to how we enjoy life, build businesses, and engage in and feel included as a community, the “together”. When we experience bumps and knockdowns because of who we are or where we come from, we experience “by ourselves”.
I served twelve years on the Eugene Chamber executive board. My service was not for what I could gain business wise but because I wanted a voice in how the future unfolded. For too long, only those with a seat at the table set direction. For too long, those at the table had one voice. If you disagreed, then you had no value as a person or a member of the community. My service was about opening mindsets and opportunities for who gets to play, who gets to say, and who gets to lead going forward. The late Dave Hauser, the former Eugene Chamber CEO, supported leadership and initiatives for inclusion before it was a buzzword.
When you are being attacked for including different voices and advocating for inclusive outcomes, you can turn into a Polly Anna and act as though it isn’t happening or you can remember every insult and promise to get even with everyone who has done you wrong. We chose a stronger and higher ground. We chose to remember why we started working for change, to stay firm in our beliefs. We took our shots when we had to and pushed back when necessary. When the community saw we were gaining success, others joined us in creating dialogues and opening doors. Our plan was to stay open and inclusive, which for Eugene was new. It is still new and hard.
I believe the key to building a strong successful family and community is developing a plan, staying open to who helps, look for help from people who do not always agree with you, and, together, work the plan through bumps and knockdowns. I wish Dave could see our foundation of work serving as a launch for the next level of a community working together.