A few years ago, I joined a club/leadership group called Chicago Global Shapers.
It’s a chapter-based program for young entrepreneurs and leaders founded by the World Economic Forum. I felt way out of my league when I joined and I still do. Over the past few years, we’ve worked together on various volunteer projects in Chicago. And several of the members have inspired me with their work and supported me as I pursue my own endeavors.
But over the past year, my participation has declined. The combination of building Ei combined with an array of personal matters have required more time alone or with close friends and family.
I thought I could fade into the shadows, but that’s a bad way to leave a group – especially a group of friends and peers.
Thankfully, two of the group’s leaders reached out to check in and ask how I was doing and if I wanted to continue participating. They would have had every right to be frustrated, but instead, they were kind and gracious. Our mandatory annual retreat was approaching and they asked if I could participate. When I told them I wouldn’t be able to attend and that I should bow out of the group, they asked if I wanted to share any words with the crew. Another sweet offer.
It reminded me that leaving anything well requires consistent and thoughtful communication. The sooner you communicate, the better. And the more honest you are, the more you keep bridges in tact for the future.
I didn’t do those things, but thanks to those leaders, Elle & Sarah, I had a chance to share the few words below.
If you’re thinking about leaving…
Remember that it’s ok to do so. But do your best to leave well. Address it sooner than later, be honest about where you are and why, and share gratitude for the time you had.
The way you leave may be one of the most memorable and impactful things you do as you navigate your work and relationships. Leave well, and you’ll help everyone involved be well.
Recently, I stumbled on a note from one of my best friends. The note was written five years ago, almost to the day.
In it, my friend spoke about the ways he was seeing me change as I pursued my own endeavors. He was proud of me, but he also cautioned me about newfound tendencies he’d begun to notice. I remember it was a hard note to receive. But it was necessary. Very few people had such a close view into my life as this friend.
It was helpful to read it again five years later. Thanks to a few dear friends, I’ve kept some of those tendencies at bay. But a few of them have become habits and are now things I am now working through. [No, I’m not going to list them here.]
The point is that someone in my life was brave and thoughtful enough to notice my blind spots and call them out. With his help, I saw things I was missing. And even though I’ve stumbled a few times, I’m a much better person because of his courage and voice in my life.
When I think about a strong community like the Shapers, I think about being that kind of voice for one another. Not just people who make things together, but people who work through things together. When we do so, our eyes, hands, and hearts are multiplied by the number of people in the community.
Unfortunately, I haven’t been that for many of you lately. I can blame it on being busy or a personal life that’s taken heavy hits, but there are no excuses. I simply haven’t been able to invest the time that this group deserves. I’m sorry for that.
Still it’s been a joy to be on the periphery. I’ve seen as you’ve worked through audacious Impact Projects, hosted meaningful Learn & Serve events, and kept the group moving forward through leadership changes. And you’ve done all of this by sending a mere 1,364,234 emails. Amazing.
Kidding, of course.
Thank you for letting me be part of such a special group. And thanks for speaking into my life at various times. You’ve given me counsel about Ei’s new programs, helped to launch Leap Kit, given me personal advice, and sent flowers and notes over the past several months. Your kindness is beautiful.
I’ll be stepping down from Shapers, but I won’t be far. If you need a hand, personally or professionally, I’ll always try to help or lend an ear. I know you will too.
And as you spend the weekend together, I hope you will be brave with your words to one another. Listen closely and share the things that need to be said. Your collective courage and investment in one another may be your greatest contribution during your time as a Shaper. It will lead you to your best work in this city and beyond.
In the words of the late Samuel Mockbee, Proceed…and be bold.