The association organizes three gatherings a year, one annual conference and two regional meetings. In past years I always attended the annual conference but rarely made the regionals. I was a member of WLIA for 20 years before I finally ran for a position the board. It always seemed like a daunting commitment and one that I was hesitant to take on.
Now, having served on it for two years, I can only say it was an incredibly rewarding experience. I wish I had gotten involved earlier. Oh sure, I did some peripheral things, sitting on a committee here and there, but it was only when I got on the board that I was able to meet some peers that I would maybe have never gotten to know. I'm not one to go outside my circles to meet people, but when you are put in a position where you have to work alongside them, it changes everything.
And while Robert's Rules and long, drawn out board meetings are great, (sarcasm) I've discovered getting to know my peers was the best part of serving on the board. The people I met including:
- Jim. The running joke during our tenure together was a play on our name because we were both named Jim and both our last names started with L. Tall Jim, and slightly less tall Jim, Jim v. 1.0 and Jim v. 2.0, Gopher Jim and Badger Jim and so on. Turns out Jim is building his own kayak from wood, a skill I admire from afar. A technically talented guy who pours more sweat and time into WLIA than most anyone I know.
- Emily. A long time peer of mine that works in Milwaukee. She was brave enough to run for WLIA President, again something I admire from afar. And she killed it. She ran meetings tightly and organized a phenomenal conference. She is always smiling - even when things are going badly - a sign of someone who has the confidence in what they are doing.
- Peter. Another guy who likes kayaks. Just for kicks Peter went to Greenland last summer for a kayak trip and in part to say he visited one of the least populated continents in the world. He has some amazing stories from his time there, both in and out of his kayak.
- Ann. She is the Executive Services Manager for the association and I wouldn't be too far out of line to say she is the engine behind the whole organization. Without her we would not be where we are today. She is irreplaceable and now a good friend.
- Martin. He was president my first year on the board and was a taskmaster. He wasn't afraid to speak his mind when he needed action taken by one or more of us. I remember at the board retreat I was sitting on the couch and he sat uncomfortably close to me, just because he knew it bothered me. (I told him as much and he stayed right there, which cracked me up.) It was the start of an ongoing back and forth between he and I over the past two years, and now we are good friends. Again, I may have never gotten to know him had we not served together.
- Christine. She and I were sort of kindred spirits. We are both quiet introverts, but not afraid to speak our minds when the time is appropriate. We even had a back and forth over our last month on the board, but both of us respects the other enough to talk through our differences.
- Eric. A long time friend and confidant that also took the leap into running for President. I knew Eric well going into my term, but now feel like we've been through something together, which makes our friendship a little better.
- Tammy. We talked for a long time about concerts and music venues. She is a music nut like me, a quality I wouldn't have known had I not been on the board.
- Mitch, Tony, and a host of other cool people on the board that I am not afraid to say hi to or email or call if I need advice.
Because things were changing so dramatically at work, I couldn't commit to another 2 years on the board, so I stepped down after one term. I may run again someday.
I guess my point is that my regret with getting involved with WLIA is much like my delay in getting my writing career going. I wish I'd done both sooner.
If you're on the bubble for something you don't feel comfortable I would urge you to:
Not wait for "someday."
Take the leap now.
You won't regret it.