While I was watching the Academy Awards the other night along with the 43 million other fans of all things Hollywood, I was struck by Matthew McConaughey’s acceptance speech for his Best Actor Award.
McConaughey is somewhat of a favorite son here in Austin, where he attended the University of Texas, got his start in films with the locally shot movie, “Dazed and Confused”, and built a colorful reputation with his unique and carefree lifestyle at the Pecan Grove RV Park, located near the epicenter of the Keep Austin Weird movement. But I digress…
There was one part of his speech that was particularly fascinating to me:
“When I was 15 years old I had a very important person in my life come and ask me ‘Who’s your hero?’ And I said, ‘I don’t know, I’ll have to think about that. Give me a couple of weeks.’ I come back two weeks later, and this person comes up to me and ‘says who’s your hero?’ I said, ‘I thought about it, and you know who it is? It’s me in ten years.’ So I turned 25, ten years later, and that same person comes to me and goes, ‘Are you a hero?’ I said, ‘Not even close!’ She said why and I said, ‘My hero is me at 35.’ So you see, every day, every week, every month, and every year of my life, my hero is always ten years away. I’m never going to be my hero. I’m not going to obtain that – I know I’m not. And that’s just fine with me because it keeps me with somebody to keep on chasing.”
This had me thinking about how associations, particularly its leaders, could benefit from having a similar view on life and the goals we set for ourselves and the organizations we serve. I think there is a need to have an ever-changing vision of the future that while possibly never obtained, is used as a driving force for growth.
Associations are notorious for living in the present with an eye fixed firmly on the past – we know this as the status quo, or our comfort zone. Seldom do I hear association leaders talk passionately about their organization’s long-term future – about a vision they are striving to achieve. After all, the future can be a scary thing.
In McConaughey’s speech he never reveals what that ten-year vision of his better self looks like. And for an association, it certainly isn’t easy to describe the picture of what the organization will look like a decade from today.
But as Jim Collins states in his book, Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos and Luck — Why Some Thrive Despite Them All:
“We cannot predict the future. But we can create it. Think back to 15 years ago, and consider what’s happened since, the destabilizing events — in the world, in your country, in the markets, in your work, in your life — that defied all expectations. We can be astonished, confounded, shocked, stunned, delighted, or terrified, but rarely prescient. None of us can predict with certainty the twists and turns our lives will take. Life is uncertain, the future unknown.”
And while Collins is correct that we cannot in a real sense predict the future, we can also agree that whatever the future may be, change will definitely be a key component. We know this because technology is driving change faster than any other catalyst in recent memory. The ability to embrace that change and to Collin’s point, create a future will remain critical to continued growth and success.
So back to McConaughey’s point – what are we chasing? Do we have that ten-year vision of what our associations should look like? And if we can’t clearly see that vision today, are we doing what is necessary to adapt to the world that future change will deliver? Are we setting the stretch goals we need to be competitive in that future marketplace?
In the article “Jim Collins: Good to Great in 10 Steps” this very question is addressed:
Set a 15 to 25-year big, hairy audacious goal (BHAG). This is a goal that is concrete enough, and ambitious enough, to guide your company’s progress for years.
As McConaughey acknowledged, you may never obtain that goal, but it is most definitely worthy of pursuit.
In his book, The Dream Manager, noted speaker and author Matthew Kelly writes, “fully engaged people believe the future can be bigger than the past, and they believe they can directly influence that bigger future.”
That’s really our No. 1 job as leaders, to convince people of those two things. It’s really at the heart of what I believe virtually every association should strive to achieve – forge a deeper connection with members by providing them with even greater value, leveraging the tools technology brings to the table. By doing so, we can chase that vision of our associations ten years from now; always working to earn the trust and loyalty of the members we serve.
As McConaughey himself said, “ To that I say alright, alright, alright.”