The “WIFM”? Inspiration, hope and cheesecake.

By: Dan McCann

Let’s start with full disclosure: I’ve attended a lot of Chamber events over the last nine years. It’s part of the job – I do a lot of writing for the Chamber. So, I will refrain from opining about the menu selection at this year’s Annual Meeting – or whether CEO David G. Brown did or did not crush it at the podium. (Of course he did…) Instead, I want to stick to the “WIFM” as my old news director used to say – the “What’s in It for Me” – and not as a writer who details an experience but as a long-time Chamber member/attendee who gets to internalize it.

WIFM #1 – I get to feel a little inferior.

#1Am

What?? Bear with me… Sitting in an audience, listening to a keynote speaker who is accomplishing incredible things, can trigger two questions: What have I done with my life? and what will I do with my life?

Feeling a little inferior every once-in-a-while is a heckuva good way to be inspired to be better –
to do a little more, to explore what’s possible, to push yourself a little more intently.

Take Chuck Hagel at the Annual Meeting: business success, two-term U.S. Senator and former U.S. Secretary of Defense. Um-kay… I managed to download the ParkOmaha app outside of CenturyLink Center and get to the Meeting with two minutes to spare – and I considered that a pretty good pair of achievements.

Hagel encouraged the crowd – the young professionals in particular – to stretch themselves. I know I get too comfortable sometimes and benefit from hearing that. (Full disclosure #2 – I’m not a young professional anymore… missed it by that much… And if you get that reference, you’re probably not a young professional either…)

“Try a little of everything,” Hagel told the crowd. “Don’t be intimidated or afraid. Just don’t be stupid about it because you’ll find yourself in a ditch pretty fast.”

After the laughter subsided, he continued, “Try to develop a purpose for yourself personally and professionally. Stay engaged. Listen to people. It’s the biggest problem leaders have today and we all do – none of us ever listen enough.”

WIFM #2 – I get to feel a little more hopeful and reassured.

#2

During the campaign season especially, as we digest a steady diet of doom-and-gloom, a hope perspective provides critical balance. And hope has emerged as a common theme among the Chamber’s most recent keynote speakers – whether at an Annual Meeting, an Economic Outlook Luncheon or something else.

A few examples:
“We have more challenges today – more complicated challenges – but we have more capacity to deal with them than any time in the history of man. It’s really up to us. And, this nonsense about America being a second-rate or third-rate power, come on… There is no country on earth that’s near us.” – Chuck Hagel

“This is not the moment to settle. This is the moment for ambition.” – Rebecca Ryan, futurist, economist and one of America’s most influential thought leaders

“We are still the preeminent economy in the world and the most advanced society in the world – and not because of 537 elected officials in Washington. We’re the most preeminent economy because there are tens of thousands of people, like yourselves, who get up every day and say, ‘We’re going to make this place better.’ … That’s what makes us so powerful and resilient in the United States.” – Bruce Katz, founding director of the Brookings Institute’s Metropolitan Policy Program

“If all you do is read the headlines in the newspapers today, you can get kind of depressed. … It’s easy to think the country’s going in the wrong direction. I want to tell you, I don’t feel that way. I am tremendously optimistic. … Above all, we have a cultural advantage. We have a culture that embraces risk taking, that looks past failure, that roots for the underdog. That is a tremendous advantage.” – Geoff Colvin, Fortune’s senior editor-at-large.

WIFM #3 – I get to eat dessert.

Cheesecake

I said I wasn’t going to comment on the menu – but the cheesecake at the Annual Meeting was pretty killer.

I’ve been attending and covering Chamber gatherings for years – as a long-time member and a local writer. What’s in it for me? I’ll admit – I’m a sucker for good dessert and work, but it’s the hope and inspiration that continually sends me home satisfied.

Photos provided by: C41 Photography

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