Not an excerpt from any book title nor near as profound. My thoughts today are about my recent journey which reminded me the value of silence and where it can lead you. I keep a personal journal about my experiences throughout my work week. Only recently have I decided to take my entries public. I’m not 100% convinced I’m qualified, but I do look at things imaginatively to evoke positive change in my personal environment. Maybe my views will transform something in yours.
I am the director of marketing for the Tennessee State Fair. I have a fun job. Some people think I test cotton candy for a living. I do, but there’s so much more to marketing animals, rides, food, experiences all in one fail swoop!
I actually work in the world of entertainment AND politics–at the same time. It’s a circus; a balancing act, a lot of manure! On one hand I’m being creative and innovative, and on the other I’m struggling with ways to work within the confines of local government to get things accomplished. Struggling is putting it mildly. I have found that making people see things my way and “winning” the fight can be unflattering and counter-productive. I am often faced with situations that make a sane business person nutty because of the “way we’ve always done it” mentality.
Given the polarizing differences between fun and politics, demanding and asking, and winning or losing, I had to take a detour to somewhere in between. It’s a place called Humbleville. It’s just down the road to the right. If you haven’t visited there lately, you should put it on your list of “1,000 Places to See before You Die.”
I understand that I have a job to do. I know it’s not easy. My job this year is to reinvent the Tennessee State Fair, and really it’s to reinvent people’s perception of the Fair. All the while dealing with budget cuts, personality differences and political agenda’s out of my control—and did I mention manure? We have a lot of it, literally and figuratively. I could get caught up in the red tape and the naysayer vortex…or I can forge on and do my job. It’s all up to me! I must save the fair!
The first sign I passed on the road to Humbleville said, “Hey chick, you’re not doing this alone!” And the next sign read, “CAUTION: arrogance will get you nowhere fast.”
I was spinning my wheels—trying to do this alone; like it was my sole mission. How comforting and humbling to find out that 1) the fair is not so important that it’s success competes with world peace and 2) if I thought I could change a mindset that has taken 20 years to form, I’m as crazy as the high-diving acrobat aiming for that kiddie pool below.
I’ve realized that all I can do is, well, all I can do. But this isn’t about just me. It’s about all of us. It’s about the good old days. Knowing this, I wondered what I could accomplish with the help of the people around me. The results were magical. I proceeded with a simple plan:
- create a “new initiative” idea list
- cross-out that which could not be contained
- seek out a dozen stakeholders in the Fair and ask them to be a part of the process
- ask them what’s important about the message
- remind them that this is their state fair, too
- give them the floor
- shut up
Yep, then I shut up! For the first time in a LONG time, trust me on this one, I shut up and let the conversation flow. It was educational, enlightening, empowering and engaging!
The results of the two week conversation: The 2009 theme, MY STATE FAIR; a culmination of their pride and ownership into its success.
The goal of every new initiative this year: Must contain each of these elements: Education, Entertainment and Engagement.
My personal lesson (although I already knew this): Listen more, talk less, and engage others whenever at a crossroads.
Silence is powerful. Listening is wise. Grandma always said not to eat with your mouth full, so this is my reminder to take a bite of grandma’s homemade humble pie and give someone else the chance to speak up!
Visit TN STATE FAIR Facebook Group or www.tennesseestatefair.org to see the new logo WE revealed this month.