Welcome to another year at the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce. Every year, I select a word of the year, one to ground me, focus me, and set the tone for the upcoming weeks and months. Amidst our fast-paced and often overwhelming environment, I’ve chosen ‘vulnerability.’
In a world preoccupied with perfect portrayals (hello, Instagram!), the value of authenticity can be underappreciated. Often, we find ourselves highlighting successes, fostering a narrative of constant perfection. Yet, there’s profound strength in recognizing and embracing our vulnerabilities. It’s in these moments of transparency and real connection that we find true engagement with life, building meaningful accomplishments, and enjoying sincere community interactions.
Last year, I had the opportunity to lead a session titled ‘Successes and Struggles’ at the annual IACCE (Illinois Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives) conference. This session was a platform for getting vulnerable and real, building connections and relationships, and learning from others while understanding, not undercutting, each other. By sharing our struggles, I believe we have laid the foundation for creating even greater successes. I believe that by sharing both our ups and downs, we can grow collectively – after all, a rising tide lifts all boats.
To put it another way, and to quote a favorite show of mine, “West Wing,” Leo McGarry tells Josh Lyman this story in season two:
“This guy’s walking down a street when he falls in a hole. The walls are so steep, he can’t get out. A doctor passes by, and the guy shouts up, ‘Hey you, can you help me out?’ The doctor writes a prescription, throws it down in the hole and moves on. Then a priest comes along, and the guy shouts up, ‘Father, I’m down in this hole, can you help me out?’ The priest writes out a prayer, throws it down in the hole and moves on. Then a friend walks by, ‘Hey Joe, it’s me, can you help me out?’ And the friend jumps in the hole. Our guy says, ‘Are you stupid? Now we’re both down here.’ The friend says, ‘Yeah, but I’ve been down here before, and I know the way out.’”
This year, let’s make an effort to share more than just highlights. Let’s talk about the challenges we face, the efforts we put into our work, and the genuine moments of relaxation and joy that sustain us. By embracing vulnerability in all these areas, we aim to build not just a business-centric Chamber but a community that recognizes and celebrates in the diverse experiences and achievements of all its Members.