Are You a Joiner?

Too many people join associations as if they are buying tickets to a sporting event. They want to sit in their comfortable seats and watch others perform. When considering joining an organization, one of the first questions most people ask is, “What do I get for my membership?” That’s a valid question, and most organizations list the benefits their members will receive.

Ask Not What an Organization Can Do for You

But sometimes the more important question to ask is what you can give. I am reminded of the famous words of John F. Kennedy:

And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world, ask not what America will do for you, but what, together, we can do for the freedom of man.

Kennedy helped forge the idea of service with the creation of the Peace Corps; he believed that the success of the country depended on people becoming involved. Focusing on service, rather than entitlement, can be a key to our professional success — as well as our personal fulfillment.

When you join a group, receiving the newsletter and being listed on the membership rolls will have little impact on your success. Unless you’re willing to commit yourself, you’d be better off saving the dues money and not wasting your time — or the group’s.

The leading figures in most industries are consistently those who volunteer in their professional organizations. They network with others, they help organize the competitions and awards for the industry, and they mentor others in their industry.

Today there are groups whose sole purpose is to teach their members how to be successful. Although these groups may teach you how to be a better networker, if the only reason you join is to promote your own success, you will probably fail.

Go Where Your Passion Leads You

Success through an organization starts with matching your passions with volunteering. You can become involved in a community theater, entertain others and become known in your neighborhood. Through your involvement, people will get to know you and you will get to know others. You can join the community of faith through a local congregation, play a sport in a local league … if you follow your passion, you’ll naturally want to become more involved.

You know you’re plugged into a group when others are depending on you. People will not only want you around because of what you are giving to the organization, but will come to value your friendship. They get to know you and appreciate your passion.

Working with universities, I have become good friends with some of the people overseeing the recruiting. At Georgia Tech, they changed how they recruit. One of the changes had to do with the list of organizations a person was involved in; they now only want you to list your top five.

Why only five? They are recruiting the leaders of tomorrow, and they are looking for leaders — not just members. An Eagle Scout is more than just a Boy Scout.

There are two groups I have worked with that take this concept of involvement through service way beyond most other groups. As a result, they transform those in these organizations and have a profound effect on those around them. These organizations are Youth With a Mission and Chick-fil-A.

The founder of Chick-fil-A, Truett Cathy, can be seen even today picking up the trash around a store before he goes in. All of his managers are trained to do every job regularly. They can be seen cleaning the bathrooms. When a Chick-fil-A event is over, everyone in the organization volunteers to help clean up.

When students enroll at the University of Nations, part of Youth With a Mission, they are all expected to work while going to school. They have found that some people are like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. They talk a good game and sound caring and warm, but on the job, a different person emerges. The Mr. Hyde side might believe they are better than other people; they might not want to do certain jobs they think are beneath them.

Choose Wisely

We can learn a lot about ourselves by volunteering. It can even change who we are. Volunteering helps smooth out those rough edges we all have.

Accountability has influenced most organizations today. People don’t want to waste their time or money. They want to make a lasting difference.

Habitat for Humanity changes not only those who receive the homes; those doing the building are changed as well. The first family to receive a Habitat home was so transformed that each of the children went to college and became successful. Habitat has provided volunteers with the opportunity to enrich their lives while making a real difference in their communities.

Two of the richest men in the world, Warren Buffet and Bill Gates, have joined together to give money back to society. Their foundation’s activities are focused on world health — fighting diseases such as malaria, HIV/AIDS, and tuberculosis — and on improving U.S. libraries and high schools.

Bill Clinton, in his book Giving, tells stories of people who give. These remarkable stories suggest that the act of giving takes many forms and emphasizes that offerings of time, skills, objects and ideas can be just as important as contributions of money.

We have a choice. We can watch the game of life or be one of the leading players. Choose wisely; your success — and fulfillment — may depend on it.

[tags]photography advice, photography business [/tags]

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