Why am I Here?
The first time I was eligible to vote in an election was the 1992 Presidential Election that famously included Ross Perot, Bill Clinton, and George H. W. Bush. I took my responsibility to be an informed voter seriously and was glued to the debates, including the vice-presidential debates. I will never forget watching Al Gore and Dan Quayle getting into an argument (I think it was about the famous Social Security Lockbox) during the debate only to be interrupted by Ross Perot’s running mate, Vice-Admiral James Stockdale sitting up and saying loudly, “Who am I and Why am I here?” It was fodder for many Saturday Night Live Skits (including one of my favorites where Dana Carvey’s Ross Perot tries to abandon his running mate in the woods.) But the remark wasn’t made by an incompetent old man. It was a remark to snap himself and everyone watching out the moment where passions had run high and the point of the debate had been lost.
Since then, I have sat in many meetings that seemed to echo that long-ago debate. Arguments breaking out, dead horses being beaten ad naseum, the point and bigger picture being lost in passion-driven debates for personal causes. Then the question pops up, “Why am I here?” Danger! Danger, Wil Robinson!
Why is it dangerous? My time is precious. Paid or volunteer. If the question, “Why am I here?” is coming up then it means something is wrong. If you’re wasting staff time with unproductive meetings, projects, or initiatives, is that really a good use of that resource? What does staff time cost per hour? As a volunteer, my time is doubly precious. Volunteer time in meetings or not doing something that I feel furthers the organization’s mission, has an opportunity cost for me. When you waste my resources, I feel disrespected and burned out. Then I leave, taking my time, talent, and treasure elsewhere.
Have you ever had a “Why am I here” Moment?” What did you do about it? Have you ever realized that your volunteers or staff are having “Why am I here” moments? What did you do about it?