By Deanna Tharpe, Executive Director of DSAIA
I had the amazing opportunity to watch Mark and Scott Kelly (yes, the astronauts) speak recently at the annual meeting and exposition for the American Society for Association Professionals in Salt Lake City. Of course, it was great to see these two incredible brothers talk about their journey from kids in New Jersey to leaving the earth’s surface. However, their message gave me some key takeaways that I have to share because they are so relevant to what we do on a daily basis as Down syndrome association leaders.
One of the first nuggets of wisdom from the talk was that we have to focus on what we can control, not what we can’t. Helping to lead a Down syndrome organization is an incredibly difficult job, no matter which part of the job is actually yours. And that is why we need to remember to focus on the jobs that are ours – those that we can control. If you are in charge of New Parent/Family Outreach, focus on that and do the best job you can do. Maybe your area is legislative advocacy. Do your research, keep informed and keep connected to national organizations. It’s what is within your control.
Oh, but, come on. What if you are the Executive Director? Or the board president with no staff? What if you’re in charge of everything? Wait. No, you are “responsible” for everything. That’s where others come in (volunteers, board members, staff) so that they can be in control of something. And you – you can assist them in their jobs by giving them the training and resources they need to do them successfully.
But, let’s delve deeper into this because it affects everyone in leadership positions. Sometimes I think all of us tend to let things that are beyond our control take over our focus. We can’t control the weather on walk day but we can control planning for that eventuality. We can’t control the fact that our major sponsor that loved our organization so much that they gave each year generously ended up selling their company and the new owner is a little less generous. But we can control diversifying our funding streams and being aware of changes in our community. We can build relationships or at least begin the process.
I think about Mark Kelly’s heartfelt story about the day his wife was shot. He couldn’t control the situation but he could control how they handled it as a family. And it reminds me that we as leaders of Down syndrome organizations can take a page from many of the families we serve. A family can’t control whether their child is born with Down syndrome…but they certainly can focus on what they can control. And part of that is turning to a valued and trusted resource for support throughout their child’s lifetime. And that is what a DS leader can control….the quality of the services they receive.
So, let’s take a moment to buckle in, get focused on what we can control and blast off. The sky is not the limit anymore, it's just the beginning of the journey.