Tackle Tomorrow by Focusing on the Right Now

By Jonathan Adams, CAE

Innovation through ideas and inspiration ideas. Human hand holding light bulb to illuminate, idea of creativity and inspiration concept of sustainable business development.
Innovation through ideas and inspiration ideas. Human hand holding light bulb to illuminate, idea of creativity and inspiration concept of sustainable business development.

NOTE: This article appeared as the final column in the fall 2023 issue of FORUM Magazine. Each issue, we ask a member of the association community to reflect on the theme. Here is what Jonathan Adams, CAE, a technologist, had to say about Tomorrow is Now. 

Delving into this issue’s thought-provoking theme, “Tomorrow is Now,” a simple yet profound truth resonates with me: To build a better future, start small and start now.

Whether envisioning your own future or charting the course for your organization, incremental changes today pave the path to a successful and transformative tomorrow.

As association professionals, our hearts and minds are dedicated to driving positive change.  Change is ubiquitous within an association: new and re-imagined programs and services, advocacy efforts, bylaw changes, operating plans and much more. 

However, when discussing change within an expansive context—such as disruptive innovation, digital transformation, strategic plans and cultural shifts—it becomes alarmingly convenient to postpone change until a future date.  Common refrains might include:

“Let’s wait for the new software system implementation before tackling that issue.”

“That’s an important concern for our members. We’ll incorporate it into next year’s strategic plan.”

Jonathan Adams with his wife and three sons.

At the Water Quality Association, we consistently ask, “What can we do right now?” In 2021, aware that the following year would likely see a complete transition to new AMS, LMS and website platforms, we implemented many small improvements that were impactful immediately:

  • Refining back-office menus and views in the outgoing AMS 
  • Making small adjustments to our website navigation to be more audience focused
  • Refreshing some key content ahead of our formal, 500-plus-page, content audit.

These and other minor adjustments allowed us to address both member and staff immediate needs rather than leaving them hanging until the new system was ready. This approach prevented a larger-than-necessary pile-up of unresolved issues and ensured that we didn’t expect our new platforms and vendors to be a magic ‘fix-all’ solution.

Personal transformation is no different. Reflecting on your own journey, you’re likely to see substantial evolution: changes in personal habits, career progression or transitions, adaptation to remote work, skill enhancement and other noteworthy achievements. Yet, it’s tempting to put personal growth on hold for some future ‘ideal’ moment.  We’ve all said, “I’ll start this personal or professional goal…once work dies down,” or “after I earn my CAE,” or “after I finish [insert project]”. 

Small, steady changes have led me to remarkable growth, both personally and professionally. I started as a very introverted IT professional who would retreat to my hotel room immediately after the day’s last conference session.  Now, I am a confident, albeit still introverted, association executive who enjoys networking, speaking engagements, volunteering and even writing magazine articles like this one. 

Here are a few of the small changes I’ve made along my journey:

  • Stopping myself from bolting when I walk into a networking event where I didn’t know a single person.
  • Creating a vision board to bring clarity, focus and manifestation to my goals.
  • Setting aside time each day to reflect on something I’m grateful for.
  • Going for short walks each morning.

Each of these small steps was born out of a single question: “What can I do right now?”   These small, incremental steps have created a domino effect in my life, opening avenues and opportunities that seemed inaccessible just a few years ago.  If you seek profound change in your future or the future of your organization, remember, the best place to start is here, and the best time to start is now.

In the words of former President Barack Obama, “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”

What change can you make today?

About the Author

Jonathan is the VP of Innovation for the Water Quality Association. In 2022, he was recognized as a DELP scholar by ASAE and Forty Under 40 honoree by the Association Forum.

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