Conversations with a Mirror

man-in-mirrorPM1

It has been said, “We are all a work in progress.”  While I believe that we all are a work in progress, sometimes we can find ourselves “stuck”. Maybe we’re a work in progress, but if we think about it and are honest with ourselves, sometimes we find that we haven’t been doing much work at all. Maybe we’ve been too busy with our careers, family or something else. Sure, we’re working, but we’re not working on ourselves.  I recently came to the realization that I hadn’t been working on myself.  Actually, it took a couple of really good friends to tell me that I need to wake up.  I needed to make some serious changes because I was totally unaware that my behaviors were not matching my intentions. It didn’t take me long to realize that no one was going to do the work for me, so I decided it was time to take a long hard look at myself in the mirror.

We all look in the mirror. Most of us do it daily to make sure we don’t look like a hot mess when we get to work.  What most of us don’t do is take the time to look into the mirror and really see ourselves. Reflect. Dream. Plan. Think. Get comfortable in our own skin.

I didn’t do this for a number of reasons:

  1. It doesn’t feel natural
  2. It’s not comfortable (It was actually really uncomfortable.)
  3. We might not even have the slightest idea that something is “off”
  4. We might not want to know who we really are because we’re satisfied with the persona we project as a natural defense mechanism

There are many other reasons but these are mine and I am owning them. I am sure you have your own reasons, too. I did it, though. It wasn’t fun, but it made me realize how much work I have to do.

So, now I’m in the process of trying my best to mend the relationships I have neglected. Show people who I really am. I’m not telling them who I am, I am showing them. Life is hectic. As we get older life finds a way of getting more and more complicated and slowly, but surely we lose little bits of ourselves. This becomes a problem when you lose the aspects of yourself that other people like. I don’t consider myself a workaholic, but I do have an unhealthy “obsession” (I can’t think of a better word and I don’t want to use a thesaurus) with working until I find myself drained. Drained of the excitement I once had. Drained of the energy to do anything else that once was fun. Drained of the energy to put forth my best self. Luckily for me, I have some really good friends who aren’t afraid to call me out on my bullshit.

So what am I driving at here? Put simply; you have to work on yourself first if you eventually want to put others first and create authentic human relationships. I’m talking work relationships, friendships, and romantic relationships. If you aren’t comfortable with yourself and you’re unaware of the areas you need to work on, chances are you will never be able to be present for the people who need you. And if you take nothing else from this blog, there are a lot of people who need you. If you’re reading this, there’s a really good chance that I need you, your talents and everything else you bring to the table.  And if I need you, I can guarantee that a lot of others need you, too.

Putting yourself first can sound selfish and it certainly can be when we’re not careful about what “putting ourselves first” really means. Life isn’t all about me, but I know that if I am not working on my emotional intelligence, reflecting on my words and being aware of how I interact with others, I am probably of little value to anyone.

So, take the time to look in the mirror. You might not like what you see at first or you might love what you see. Either way, it’s completely okay. If you like what you see, keep being you. The world needs what you have to offer. If you don’t like what you see, start working on yourself, the world needs what you are keeping hidden and have to offer.

We’re all a work in progress. Some of us just need to end our lunch break and get back to doing the work that will change our lives and the lives of others.

Without wax,

Bryce

When Memes Go Wrong

dear asshole

Hey there.  I know you’re not a frequent reader because I haven’t updated my blog in 2+ years, but guess what, today something hit me so hard that I thought I should share my thoughts.  You may disagree.  You might even agree.  It doesn’t matter.  I’m right about this.  If you disagree, please take a bit longer to examine your thought process.

I’ve selected an image to be attached to this post.  Honestly, I am disturbed that it exists and I had a hard time taking a screenshot of it because all I could think of was that I may also be contributing to the problem I am about to dive further into.

The title of this blog is misleading.  It’s not when memes go wrong, it’s when people go wrong.  I go wrong a lot.  I know it.  Most people know it and I’m not denying it.  So please, don’t take me for a hypocrite.  One thing I do know is that I NEVER joke about mental health.

Chris Cornell.  Chris Cornell died this week.  He left this earth and he left behind groundbreaking music, but he also left behind three children and a wife that he adored.  By all accounts, Chris had everything you and I have probably ever wanted, but he had something else that some of us might deal with day to day, some others might have a family member who fights their illness day-to-day and others may have never experienced depression, a mood disorder or any other type of “mental illness”.

By now, you’ve read a lot.  Here is my point.  If you walk by three people a day, statistically one of those people has had or will have a depressive “episode” in their life.  As a side note, I am using quotation marks when I must use terms that I do not agree with.

Chris Cornell did end his own life.  This is a fact.  Aaron Hernandez (the football player convicted of 1st-degree murder) also killed himself inside his prison cell.  Both of these HUMAN BEINGS had nothing in common with the exception on the Hollywood limelight.

To compare these tragic events in the hopes of a few Facebook Reactions, Twitter RT’s or whatever is completely insensitive and one of the key indicators of why our (the American) society continues to trot along with blinders on our eyes to the real issues we must first address.

In summation:

  1. Please stop using other people’s misfortune to gain a laugh, promote your product or further your own selfish initiatives.
  2. Suicide is NOT an issue of someone taking their own life.  Suicide is the sometimes sudden, but other times prolonged process of brain chemicals causing a person to experience various levels of suicidal thoughts and/or depressive/manic episodes.
  3. People who struggle with a mental health diagnosis are ill.  Some may be ill for a short time, others may battle their illness their entire life.  NO ONE ever makes fun of someone battling cancer, but in less than 48 hours people have created memes about a HUMAN BEING ending their life.  Correction, what I should have said is that a HUMAN BEING’s illness finally became insurmountable and they succumbed to it.

If you’re reading this and you feel like it is an attack on you, it isn’t.  This image and cultural appropriation runs rampant in our society.  It must be stopped.  I am just sharing my thoughts because I fight a struggle myself.  I don’t know what struggle Chris Cornell fought.  For that matter, I don’t know what battle(s) Kurt Cobian, Layne Staley, Bradley Nowell and so many others have fought.  You can read the articles and call it drug addiction, but please know that addiction is a mental health diagnosis and often the after effect of a pre-existing mental health diagnosis and they call is co-morbidity.  Look it up.

Anyhow, please just stop it.  There are a lot of funny and often hilarious things that take place in life.  Unfortunately, there are also very sad and tragic things that take place every day, too.  We know about the more tragic events because of a thing we call, “the news”.

With social media, we can be the NEW news.  We can share the positive.  We can discuss issues and we can also debate.  Unfortunately, we can also make light of serious situations.  We can jest at others misfortune knowing that they may never see it but we may forget that the loved ones left behind may see it.

I know I’ve done my fair share of making light of others misfortunes before and I am confident that if you go back in my FB history you will probably find more than one instance of this immature behavior and I will likely be a hypocrite in someone’s eyes in the future, but for some reason this issue just really hit me hard.

I could write nonsensically all day.  Trust me, I could.  At the end of the day, I am writing this because it’s cathartic and I hope that it will change my future behavior and maybe someone else’s.  For the last 72 hours or so I can’t tell you how many times I have listened and viewed some of Chris Cornell’s YouTube videos.  I am thankful that we all have those to remember him by.

Thanks for reading.

Bryce

Redefining ROI

ROI-graphReturn on investment (ROI).  Every business person is familiar with this term and if you are a marketer, like me, it’s kind of a big deal.  No matter the nature of your business, marketers spend money to make more money.  It’s a pretty simple concept to grasp, but I’m not convinced that all of us really understand everything that needs to be involved to deliver firm numbers and report results.  So, now that I’ve put my credit union hat on, let’s talk about some of the issues I’ve encountered personally and heard from other people over the years.

Planning

It’s astonishing to me how many times I hear that marketers do not have a strategy or plan for the year about what they will be advertising, why they will be doing so at a certain time and how much of their budget will be allocated to a specific campaign.  If tracking is a big problem, this one is even bigger.  If you don’t have a plan, it’s impossible to track.  If you don’t have a plan, you become reactionary instead of proactive.  If you don’t have a plan, your message has a greater chance of getting lost in all the other advertising that is going on around you and your members.  There is certainly no shortage of financial institutions in any market, so, if you don’t know how you are going to deliver your message and why you’ve chosen a certain way, good luck standing out.

Execution

If you have a plan in place it is much easier to execute (no brainer, right?), but planning doesn’t mean you have to stay rigid.  Rates change daily and financial marketers are constantly playing a balancing act of gaining deposits or lending money out.  When you have a plan, you know what an ideal year would look like, but you also know where you can reallocate funds should you need to focus more on deposits or loan growth.  I can’t stress enough how these things should be interrelated, but often they are not.

Tracking

A lot of people aren’t tracking their total marketing spend!  This blows me away, but it’s a bit more complicated than it sounds.  The biggest here is that a lot of credit union folks don’t spend the time to calculate their allocations to each delivery channel and they don’t work close enough with their accounting teams to crunch the numbers before going live to determine what a “win” looks like.  A win isn’t just making more money than you spend, but providing a real value to all of the people who take advantage of what you’re selling.  Great product + significant income = win.  I’m not saying that I am the world’s best “tracker”, but if we all don’t continue to try to improve, we are doing ourselves and our members a great disservice.

The above are only three key aspects of calculating ROI, but let’s get into the whole redefining idea.  You need to generate a return.  Regardless if you are not-for-profit, non-profit or for profit, we all need to make money.  In the case of cooperatives (credit unions are cooperatives, btw), we need to make money so we can re-invest in our members and our communities.  So, the standard ROI is a given.  What I believe cooperative marketers need to really focus on in addition is Return on Involvement (ROI2).  To me, ROI2 is a function of our obligation to practice the Cooperative Principles, manly Concern for Community (#7).

Consider this example:

A local high school submits a proposal for you to run an advertisement in their Fall Sports Program.  You get to place your logo and a sentence or two about your business.  The cost is $200.

Sure, supporting schools is a great thing to do, but when was the last time you (or anyone else) bought a sports program to peruse the advertisers?  probably never.  Where is the ROI2?  You’ve done your part, but what did your institution or your members get in return?  Could you not have been a little more creative and received better exposure for the same dollar amount and still supported the school(s)?  Furthermore, if you sponsor one school in your field of membership then you probably have to do the same for everyone else.  $200 can quickly turn into $1,000 or more.  No good.

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes “feel good marketing” is a necessary evil, but it doesn’t have to stay that way.  The key here is looking for opportunities to generate ROI and ROI2.  Most of the time, you will have to have a presence at things that your sponsor or endorse.  It’s as simple as having team members at the ready to thank current members for their loyalty or to tell your story in a compelling way that you could never do in a sentence or two in black and white ink.  Use the Cooperative Principles as the filter in which all decisions are made.  If a proposal for sponsorship doesn’t meet at least two requirements, you probably should pass.

The formula for calculating ROI is pretty straight froward and the same could be said for ROI2.  For starters, we can figure out how many people will our marketing spend (sponsorship) reach or directly impact?  Is it hundreds of people or thousands?  What does the business get in return for our spend (how does it help them maintain a program or provide more programming?)  How does this spend benefit the cooperative as a whole and not just our business needs (would our members be comfortable with us spending their money on this?)

So much more could or should be said, but you’ve spent enough of your time reading this far.  What are you thoughts?  Does ROI2 really exist?  Is the idea too much or a purist ideal?  What can we do to make sure we are creating ROI2 (assuming it exists)?

Without wax,

Bryce

Lessons Learned by a Young Professional

Lessons learnedThis past weekend, I made an outlandish and uniformed comment via one of my favorite social channels, Facebook.  My statement was about credit union trade organizations and the role that they play. While my intentions were to create a meaningful dialogue, my comments turned into a direct attack on the organizations that work every day to further the reach and impact of credit unions. I am deeply saddened and disappointed in myself for my words and actions and I apologize to everyone that I have offended or discredited.

I realize that my statements reflect negatively upon me personally and may be perceived to represent the thoughts and beliefs of the various organizations I am a part of.  I can assure you that the thoughts I expressed this weekend were entirely my own and were formulated with no empirical evidence to support them. This past weekend was most definitely a low for me.

While it would be easy to ignore my mistake or downplay the impact my words had, I realize as a Wisconsin Credit Union YP, it’s more powerful to own up to my mistake and share what I have learned.

I should never let my desire for meaningful change, my passion for credit unions and my impatience cause me to lose sight of the end goal.  As a firm believer in the power of cooperative finance (cooperative anything, really), I believe that every credit union young professional can learn from me by remembering to be mindful that we are an industry founded on cooperation and that the cooperative principles are our biggest differentiator from other financial institutions.

After reflection, it’s clear to me that it takes diversity to make an industry great.  We need our trade organizations to help us grow professionally and our trade organizations need us to provide them with constructive feedback and insight into the topics that we feel we need to gain a better grasp on.  Most importantly, we need organizations like CUNA to carry the political advocacy torch for us.  But, CUNA cannot do it alone.  We need the fresh ideas of professionals – young and seasoned – to bring new thoughts and viewpoints to the table to keep our efforts effective and fresh. The credit union industry is very diverse and is made up of  “shops” large and small.  Credit union vendors are an excellent way to help smaller credit unions make up for inefficiencies due to lack of resources human and/or capital and remain relevant in their respective marketplaces. Though we face big challenges, when we move forward together, we are unstoppable.

As I look forward to working in the credit union industry for many years to come, I know that the lessons I learned this week will help to guide my way of thinking as I continue to grow professionally.  They have reinforced my understanding of the importance of remaining accountable for my thoughts, words and actions.  I hope that my fellow young professional friends can use some of the above takeaways in order to further their own professional growth and be the assets that we need them to be so that we can continue to grow and make a positive difference in the lives of current and prospective credit union members.

Sincerely,

Bryce Roth

In Memoriam of Butch Roth: One of a Kind

21860_1233021705983_1242362164_30588441_8132082_nThirteen years. Thirteen years ago the Roth family lost a patriarch. Dale “Butch” Roth left us after a long battle with illness, but his life ended much how he took on every single day; with a fight.

I wrote briefly on it two weeks ago when it would have been his birthday and last week, the Roth and Link families suffered two more losses. My heart and prayers continue to go out to all of those who still grieve because, it’s been thirteen years for me and I still think about my “gramps”.

I could type a novel about all of my great memories at gram ( Eileen) and gramps house, but I won’t. Instead, I will reflect on a few things that have really stuck with me and continue to drive me today.

1. Gramps understood the vital role of family. Raising eight children in a three bedroom house, he worked his ass off to send all eight of them to St. Mary’s Central Catholic School. If family was important, the only thing that was more important was his faith. Faith and family are two things that keep families together, but even more importantly, they help family members grow in faith and in love. I hope I can set the same example some day.

2. Gramps was funny. Now, humor is relative, but all of the Roth men have the same sense of humor. I think the adjective that best describes it is ridiculous. Regardless, he was always ready with a joke or a funny song and some might say he had his own vocabulary. Some of my cousins have even honored him by naming some of their homebrew beers after his “made up” words. Laughter is a gift and gramps gave of it freely and often.

3. Gramps was a fighter. All of us grand children knew that our grandpa had served in the Navy and some of us knew he won the Most Handsome Sailor award while serving, but I don’t think too many of us knew how he fought a different battle ever single day of his life until after he passed. This is probably one of the things I thought about the most when we lost him. What a guy. To overcome what he did, raise eight amazing children and create such a long lasting legacy is quite a feat and he did a hell of a job.

Lastly, and I don’t think I need a number for this one; Gramps left this world for the next fighting the entire time. Thirteen years ago was a particularly important day for the Roth/Opfer family as my cousins were in the Ohio State Wrestling Finals. One was going for his fourth State Title which had only been done ten times before (I think that’s right) and the other was wrestling immediately after his brother and going for his first.

Now, it was no mystery that gramps was sick because in all of his years, this was the first State Wrestling Tournament he had missed that he had a child or relative competing in. He was there when my uncle made it and he was there when my dad ( Jude Roth ) won it. He was there for Jared Opfer’s first title and he was so sick in 1999 that he couldn’t be there when Jared and Drew Opfer won it together.

Can you imagine it?  Two brothers winning state titles together?  We were extremely proud of Jared and Drew, for many of us, it was like we won the title.  A ton of our family was in Columbus to witness the event and there probably wasn’t a dry eye among any of us after Drew’s hand was raised.  Tears of joy, hugs, pats on the back, years of hard work realized and complete happiness.  Now, if you know anything about the State Wrestling Tournament, once you win in the Finals, you are escorted all over the place for interviews and pictures and award ceremonies and then you finally get to come to see your fans.  When the brothers and their parents made their way to the SMCC section, half of us were crying tears of joy and a handful were huddled together in prayer and shedding tears of grief.

The message traveled through our family, but it was through my aunt Julie, uncle Ed and father who received the news first.  I can’t even imagine the emotional rollercoaster the Opfer’s went through in a 15 minute time period, but I know it couldn’t have been easy.  My sister, mother and I soon learned the news and our tears of joy quickly transformed.

While we were stricken by our grief, but we quickly realized that while something terrible had just occurred, something as equally amazing had also happened.  My grandpa’s official time of death occurred shortly after Drew’s hand was raised as a State Champion of Ohio.  Grandpa Roth went out with a fight.  I won’t pretend to know how he knew that Drew and Jared had both achieved their dreams of winning State Championships together, but what happened that day was more than a coincidence.  Dale “Butch” Roth fought for every second to make sure he was on this earth when that moment happened and now, when I look back thirteen years later, I smile as I type this sentence.

Grandpa, I hope they have WordPress in Heaven, because I want you to know how many people’s lives you touched.  I want you to know how proud I am to bear your namesake.  I want you to know how many other people will read this blog and will feel some of the same things I feel.  You were one of a kind and all of those you left behind were left with an example of what it takes and means to be a man.   You left us with memories and you left us with a blueprint for how to live a life fulfilled.

Thank you.

Your grandson,

Bryce

Where #DontTaxMyCU Falls Short

imgresIt’s Governmental Affairs Conference week and political advocacy for credit unions is all the rage.  Political advocacy has never been more important for an industry that serves over 96 million people and seems to be regulated more and more with each passing year.  If you read the title of this blog, you might think that this is a post intended to bash the #DontTaxMyCU campaign and that couldn’t be further from the truth.  The #DontTaxMyCU campaign has been wildly successful among credit union folks and it appears that we have even captured the attention of Washington without having to write a big check like some other financial institutions may or may not do.  But how much further can #DontTaxMyCU really go?  Does it resonate with credit union members?  Here’s my take and a few things I believe credit unions need to do if they really want political advocacy to reach a whole different level.

I’m not going to pretend that I’m a political analyst, but we all have a basic understanding of how lobbying goes.  Groups of all kinds are knocking on the doors of their respective representatives whenever they get the chance and there are always two basic assumptions in play.

1. The lobbyists have their own agenda.  In the case of credit unions, credit union employees want less regulation and we want our tax status to remain the same.  We all know why credit unions SHOULD keep our tax status and we also know that if we don’t, we will not be able to provide the services we currently offer, we won’t be able to serve the under served and a lot of us will be out of jobs.  We are fighting for our very survival.

2. Politicians (most) know the facts one way or another.  This isn’t a new issue, it’s just become so much more real.  Politicians are in a constant battle to keep their backers happy.  One vote cast the wrong way could mean the end of their career.  Essentially, politicians and lobbyists are both fighting to survive.

In any competition or fight, there is always a winner and a loser.  If we can assume that we (credit union folks) are up against the banking industry and politicians who like the banking industry because they have a lot of money, we need to be at our very best if we hope to stand a chance on the issue of our tax status.

Knowing how important this issue is, how many of us have thought long and hard about how we are trying to tackle this issue?  My guess is that some have, but others are just going through the motions because that’s what they/we’ve been told to do.  Here’s the problem: The vast majority of credit union members have no idea that their credit union has a special tax status.  Think about that.  Now think about how many of your members even know that your credit union’s business model is fundamentally different that that of a bank.  Lastly, think of how many of your members call your credit union their bank (I honestly don’t care what members call us, but I think you can see where I’m going.)

If our members don’t know these points, how could a message as simple as #DontTaxMyCU really gain steam in the consumer world?  Unfortunately, it can’t.  I know that tons of people have gone to great lengths to build an awesome website and create collateral pieces spreading the #DontTaxMyCU message, but those will only be effective if each credit union takes a more proactive form of advocacy through the lens of member education.

This is a pretty complex issue and even some of us in the credit union industry don’t totally understand the implications of a change in our tax status, how can we expect our members to understand the magnitude?

So what do we do?  I believe the answer lies in the 5th Cooperative Principle.  We need to educate our members in a way that makes this issue real to them.  We need to think like we do about other things in our life.  We need to think about “what’s in it for me?”  At the end of the day, when you are asking someone to do something that is above and beyond what they normally would do (contact a representative), you had better make certain you’ve given them a darn good reason to take action.

How can we educate our members?  In my opinion we need to get our members together to really dive into the issue.  We should be holding town hall meetings in our branches, we should be creating political advocacy groups among our members.  We should be running this thing like were trying to become President of the United States.  What message do you think would get more people’s attention:

#DontTaxMyCU

or

Because of possible government changes, we may have to raise our loan rates and charge more fees, soon.

A hashtag is great because it’s trendy, but hashtags were never meant to tell entire stories.  This is a story and it’s worthy of more than a social media tracking invention.  We need to have real conversations with our members that tell them the real life implications of this important issue.  I’m not saying the #DontTaxMyCU hashtag is bad, I’m saying it needs to have more substance.  When I use substance, I do not mean tweeting or posting on Facebook, “#DontTaxMyCU Go visit this website for more information.”  This is not a winning strategy.  Besides, when it comes to social media, most posts containing links are clicked on the least (especially on Facebook) when compared to posts of plain text, images and videos.  Social media is not the answer for this fight (can you believe I wrote that?)  Social media is but one leg on the stool that we need to create if we want to create member urgency and involvement.

With many credit union annual meeting coming up, is this issue on your credit union’s agenda to be discussed?

What are some ways your credit union is engaging your members in political advocacy?

Without wax,

Bryce

The Energy Equation

this-basic-equation-is-all-you-need-to-know-about-saving-moneyThis title makes me sound like I am a physicist or something.  I assure you that I am not.  However, I am quite in-tune with human emotions and behavior.  While I’m now in marketing, my first love has always been psychology and sociology.  What makes people do the things that they do?  Why do certain groups form?  How and why do people choose to interact the way that they do?

I think that we all should question ourselves occasionally.  Why are we putting in extra hours?  Why do we love (hopefully) what we call work?  What is the source of our motivation?  What are we trying to accomplish?  It’s cliché to say stop and smell the roses, but it’s human nature to get caught up in all of the projects and responsibilities that we have.  It’s not human nature (at least not mine) to actually take time to be a part of our everyday experiences.  I’m still working on this myself, so, please do not assume that I am speaking from an enlightened state.  Nope.  This is more of a philosophical blog.

I suppose what I’m getting at is that our lives are made up of a never-ending (well it does end at sometime) series of moments and like the saying, “You learn more from your loses than you do from your victories” speaks to, at every moment of our lives, we are either winning or losing the moment.  Since no one that I know of is “winning” at every moment (with the exception of Charlie Sheen), I think it makes sense to reflect on our experiences.  Here’s the kicker.  You can’t reflect on something if you haven’t truly experienced it.

Maybe we don’t want to question ourselves.  Maybe we’re afraid of the answers we might find.  I’m sure that I wouldn’t be completely satisfied with all of my responses, but if you don’t uncover areas you can improve on, you’ll never reach your full potential.  The lesson here is that in all aspects of your life (faith, family, social, work) we should all be striving to improve.  Personally, I’d like to be a better teammate at work.  I’m pretty sure most of us would agree that being liked is nice and being respected is even better, but how many times are we actively assessing our interactions with others?  How can we create a rapport with people if we aren’t honest with ourselves about how we are treating or leading others.

So, the question is this: How much energy are we putting into “doing” compared to the amount we put into the assessment of the things we do?  My guess is that for myself and many others, there is an imbalance in favor of the former compared to the latter.  What do you think?  Do you have any tips or tricks?  How can we better assess ourselves?  Let me know by leaving a comment.

Without wax,

Bryce