The Tao of credit unionism

It’s easy to take a look at the world around us and see one huge, hot mess. Scroll social media or watch five minutes of the 10 o’clock news, and you’re quickly reminded that we live and work in a very chaotic time. Our society is polarized, politically and economically, and the shouting can be intense. The world itself seems to be falling apart through climate change and the hate-inspired philosophies of men.

At the micro-level, many of us are running as fast we can, just trying to keep up. Despite the positive facades we try to project, we all have challenges that we’re dealing with. In a very connected world, many feel alone, undervalued, and struggle to find meaning in their lives.

Take a deep breath.

When we feel like we’re running faster than we’re able, or when we feel alone and don’t think we’re making a meaningful difference, we need to slow down, take a deep breath, and reground ourselves.

For me, the meaning of my life is all mixed up into one great-big interconnected smorgasbord that includes faith, family, friends, and service to others. Each provides me with reassurance, guidance, and joy. I place my work with credit unions into the “service to others” category. This work is aligned with my values and gives me endless opportunities to stretch, grow, and find joy in the process. Some may categorize credit unions as an industry. Not me. I view credit unions as a purposeful movement towards financial inclusion and a better quality of life for the people and communities credit unions serve. Because I enjoy it so much, it isn’t work after all. I’m intentionally pursuing a path that includes my work with credit unions to gain opportunities to transform, leave things a little better than I found them, and to bring me joy.

What path are you on?

It IS possible to find joy in a chaotic world, and that includes your workplace. To do so, you need to find your purpose. Once you do, I believe it’s the pursuit of this purpose that generates the greatest joy. During my long credit union journey, I’ve worked with people who find joy in their work and those who are miserable. The most joyful people I know in the credit union space are those who have values congruent with their organization. In every case, these individuals are substantially engaged in work that fulfills them. They are learning, growing, and serving either coworkers, members, or communities they value. I find these people in credit unions of all shapes and sizes. Frequently, they’re working long hours with limited resources. They’ve discovered joy because they believe they are making a difference. They are busy, but they find ways to make extraordinary things happen.

The unhappiest people I see are usually in toxic cultures or working in environments not aligned with their passion, strengths, or values. They may feel trapped because they need the income, or are afraid to change – but they’re not happy and not living their best life.

As crazy as our world, life, and work environment can be, it’s still possible to find joy and fulfillment. I’m talking about more than a weekend getaway (or in my case, a day spent fly-fishing). Short-term escapes are great, but not enough in the long run. Pursue a path that is right for you, personally and professionally.

“Far too many people spend a lifetime headed in the wrong direction. They go not only from the cradle to the cubicle, but then to the casket, without uncovering their greatest talents and potential.” – Tom Rath, StrengthsFinder 2.0

Why it matters

Credit unions operate in fiercely competitive markets, with constantly evolving consumer needs in changing economic times. Only the most robust and most relevant (not biggest) will survive. Today, more than ever, millions of consumers need a financial advocate. As long as there are people who are overlooked or underserved, there will be a specific need for credit unions (small, medium, and large). Helping credit unions fulfill this need gives my life purpose – but it isn’t for everyone, and that is okay.

If you’re the kind of person who thrives on helping others, the credit union movement has a place for you. Credit unions need people who will push hard, overcoming obstacles and challenges, and who can find innovative ways to help more people and achieve a more significant impact for their team, the members, and the communities they serve. This will require people on our teams who are internally motivated to stand up, raise their hands, get involved, and stick their necks out – then wake up and do it all over again the next day.

Working together, we can find the Tao (way) of credit unionism and the meaningful difference it can make in our lives and in the lives of the people we serve.