Pop culture aficionados will recognize that line from the 80s TV show, The A-Team. It is the catchphrase of the team's leader, Hannibal Smith. When everything fell into place and the plan to thwart the bad guys was complete, (which was every week around 9:55 p.m. on whichever day the show aired), Hannibal would drop his line.
I too love it when the various parts of a plan come together, fall into place, and the result is the success toward which the team has been striving.
When I last checked in six weeks ago, I mentioned I had a new project in the offing: organizing an opening night gala event for as part of a citywide disability arts festival. I have been helping my girlfriend start a new non-profit and this was a chance for us to introduce our work to a much bigger audience than we have had to date. It was not entirely unlike standing up the community center: I had roughly two months and a constrained budget within which to work, and there was a litany of tasks that only seemed to grow instead of shrink. Having spent time in Chicago's theatre community, I was not green as I was when I jumped into building an afterschool program. Still, I would not consider myself well versed on the theme of disability.
One key difference this time around was having a larger team of people from the jump. Instead of needing time to find my team, many of them were already involved in our organization, either as board members, and cast members of the show (or past shows). We formed seven teams, each responsible for moving forward aspects of the opening night event. I put the pieces in place and made sure everyone had what the resources necessary to accomplish their respective. Work was divided among "buckets" (or Control Accounts, in project management lingo) including decorations, catering, invitation and program design, communications, equipment rental, and preparing the show itself and the audience dialogue that followed. Barring a few hiccups, things went swimmingly. That makes two large, well-planned, and successfully executed projects in a row, for those keeping count. (Pats self on back.)
I find myself thinking back to some of what I explained in my summary of the hand analysis sessions I had last Fall. My teacher introduced me to the idea that my being a rookie at something is the path I have to follow to find fulfillment. According to what she saw in my fingerprints, my greatest learning will come from putting myself in positions where I am not that authority. I must live in "not knowing."
My experience with the community center was just that. I am good project manager - assuming I know the field within which I am doing the work. A community learning center serving a Latino community's needs was completely foreign to me. In the months I was there, I gained enough experience and learning to fill the Grand Canyon - about the type of work and environments I am interested in; and about myself - my abilities, limits, strengths, weaknesses, blind spots, etc. All of that learning, which was a result of being vulnerable enough to be a rookie, came in to play arranging last night's gala event. I would go so far as to say this latest experience only reinforced the learning.
And perhaps that is the learning at this time: in order to find more fulfillment in life, a person has to risk looking a bit foolish at first. Think about it. If you have something in your life over which you have some degree of mastery - art, sports, gardening, etc. - you likely fumbled with it at first. If so, how did you feel about that? Some folks throw themselves headlong into a new passion with no regard whatsoever of failure. Those people are often self-confident to a fault. Others, not so much. Achieving that point of mastery requires persevering through the awkward starts and staying committed to improvement. That can be difficult. Discouragement can creep in quickly. That is why it is good to have a buddy along for the journey to help us stick with it.
To recap, I know I want to apply my talents toward big challenges whose solutions serve a widespread need. I also know I like leading teams of individuals with varying talents who, when armed with the resources they need, can thrive. I also know I have to be willing to not have all the answers when leading said team. And, the more I allow myself to "not know," the better it is for everyone in the long run.
That is all I have. And I guess I just have to be content with it for now.
To my team who came through and delivered on last night: well done. I am grateful. And I love it when a plan comes together.