Saturday, June 1, 2013

Find Your True North

2012 ASSE President
Richard A. Pollock, CSP
I have enjoyed penning these messages each month. I've written about volunteerism, developing leadership skills, continuing education and the ASSE governance process. I have also written about ASSE initiatives, such as global outreach, fatality prevention and sustainability, and how to embrace change. Interwoven throughout has been a message about the importance of personal and professional growth. I hope you have enjoyed the messages. I truly care about you, our profession and the Society, and I see a very bright future ahead.

Since this is my last message, I want to share some parting thoughts for the future. As we look ahead, I'm reminded of the movie Back to the Future. Through the entertaining, far-fetched story, we learn that changing just one thing in the past can profoundly affect the future. In Marty McFly's (Michael J. Fox) case, his life depends on it. Marty has to ensure that his mother and father kiss at a school dance so they will eventually marry and he will be born.

So, imagine you are in Doc Brown's DeLorean with the flux capacitor set to high, ready to travel back in time. If you could change one thing, what might it be? Each moment of every day, situations, events, decisions and actions affect the future. However, in the present, we do not and cannot recognize these defining moments. Instead, we do our best, relying on our ethics and morals to guide our actions.
My father was a great leader and a wise man. He often said, "Sitting down and wishing will not change the fate. God will do the fishing, but you must dig the bait." It took me years to understand that he was talking about preparation and regret. We control how well we prepare, and we never want to look back with regret because of insufficient effort or poor attention to detail.

Let's think of it another way. Suppose you could travel to the future. Think how it would be to know what is coming. With the ability to predict the future and guide others, you would be seen as highly credible and you would be well respected. You would also have an aura of confidence knowing that your advice is helping and likely correct.

Predicting the future based on our knowledge and past experience is what SH&E professionals do. ASSE helps us achieve that more than we realize. Through networking and by applying our collective body of knowledge, we look into the future and plan accordingly. We assess risk and identify the probability of serious outcomes. Then, based on our knowledge and understanding of the past, we predict the future to make accurate recommendations. We see potential failure and create plans to avert it or to mitigate its effects. In the process, we gain respect, our confidence grows, and we create a vision of the future, almost like we've been there before.

In The Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins takes a life-altering chance by leaving the Shire to journey east. Through his adventures, he experiences new situations and encounters great dangers that require a quick wit, cunning and bravery. He gains strength, knowledge, confidence and the respect of others. In the movie Groundhog Day, Phil Connors (Bill Murray) is an arrogant and egocentric TV weatherman who, during a hated assignment covering the annual Groundhog Day event in Punxsutawney, PA, finds himself in a time loop, repeating the day again and again. As the movie proceeds, he begins to reexamine his life and priorities, and realizes that he can continue to complain about life or he can do something to make it better.

"Sitting down and wishing will not change the fate. God will do the fishing, but you must dig the bait." The lessons are many. No one wants to have regrets. Work to advance your knowledge, expand your network and prepare for the opportunities ahead. Step outside your comfort zone and venture into new territory. Be optimistic and focus on the good around you. Instead of complaining, seek solutions. Learn to see the future for the good of others. Find your guiding light, your true north, and always be proud of the work you do.

Thank you and take care.

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