How many times have you found yourself in a room where you know just a few people? Maybe it is time.

By: David Patterson
Leadership Omaha Class 37

The first time you sit in a room with your Leadership Omaha (LO) classmates you instinctively start counting the people you know. As a native Omahan , this exercise usually results in a handful or two of acquaintances. But in this room you discern “I don’t know anyone” and then realize that Leadership Omaha is going to push you. I instinctively knew the year ahead would challenge me to look, listen and experience the city in a different way than I had before. My unfamiliar classmates brought unique perspectives to the table. Cohesion was not guaranteed, but change was inevitable.

My first LO change moment came to me during the opening retreat. Leadership Omaha Class 37 (LO37) gathered in Ashland, Nebraska for two days of team building and personal reflection. During one of those reflection exercises we were challenged to set a personal, one-year goal. It could be anything: climb a mountain, volunteer more, take a family vacation. You get the idea. I knew I wanted to push myself outside my comfort zone so I resolved to host my very first art show. As a corporate salesman by day, and aspiring artist by night, my knowledge of pulling off an event like this was limited. Not to mention, I didn’t have enough completed paintings to fill a wall, let alone an entire show. I was exhilarated and intimidated. Off the cliff I went.

Independent by nature, it took me some time to recognize that I could not reach my goal alone. Luckily, my earliest supporter and LO37 classmate stepped forward before I had to ask. Shannon Gilroy (Brownell-Talbot School) provided structure and a swift kick forward. Her steady support when I needed advice was invaluable. We brainstormed about marketing, she set up my business Facebook page, and she encouraged me to lean on other LO37 classmates for their expertise. Karin Campbell, curator of contemporary art at Joslyn Art Museum made recommendations about the lighting and flow for the pieces in the show. Her shared experience made my small, first-time show feel like something really special. KT Vap (Quality Brands of Omaha) offered to provide the beer for the evening. Robb Steffes (Kiewit) hosted a pre-party for our entire LO37 class to help encourage attendance at the show. And Shonna Dorsey (Interface Web School) built me a website ( where I can showcase my paintings and my process. Countless members of LO37 offered their well-wishes and attended the show. The support from this group of people was truly humbling. To think, 15 months prior, these people were strangers and now they were cheering me on as I achieved my most personal goal.

Six months have passed since my first art show and I can hardly wait for the next (scheduled for Friday, Sept.9th, 7 – 9 p.m. at Duchesne Academy). Inconceivable when LO37 first gathered in Ashland, I am now earning commissions for my paintings with increasing regularity. I am certain that my personal goal would not have found the same support and come to fruition without Leadership Omaha. It is a unique experience that places talented, forward-thinking leaders together and empowers each of us to strengthen and transform the community and ourselves. There are countless examples of Leadership Omaha providing a foundation for personal and professional success over the last 37 years. I am certainly not the only Leadership Omaha success story to be found. But in my case, individual achievement linked me to my class in an indelible way.

How many times have you found yourself in a room where you know just a few people? Maybe it is time.

One Comment on “How many times have you found yourself in a room where you know just a few people? Maybe it is time.”

  1. 1 Heike Langdon said at 5:43 pm on August 5th, 2016:

    I was just telling someone yesterday about sharing a room with a stranger for the first time since college, and that I still have dinner with that stranger on a regular basis, years later. What sounded like a strange and slightly ooky idea turned into a valued friendship. LO was a tremendous opportunity to get to know people from across the city, who I never would have met otherwise, and as we came together through an interest in improving our city, we got to know each other as people as well. I can honestly say it changed my life.

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