3 Roadblocks That Keep Us From Making Space

3 Roadblocks That Keep Us From Making Space

By on Apr 13, 2016 in Associations, Behavior, Blog, Creating Space, Education, Growth, Making Space, Professional Development, Reinvention | 1 comment


“[Creating space] is not about time, as I learned. It’s actually looking at everything in a different way. Like stepping outside the association’s front door and looking in.”

-Amy Frankmann, Executive Director, Michigan Nursery & Landscape Association

Podcast Episode 025

Like most new executive directors, I felt the need to spend my early days as an association leader traveling and meeting members. It was a national organization so the travel was quite extensive. I learned a lot during that time and it certainly was rewarding, but it had its limits. One day, I looked up and I found myself in an intellectual rut.


I was stuck in the echo chamber, surrounded with others doing basically the same things in the same industry and of generally the same mindset.


I was working for the cut flower industry and they were essentially in the final stages of extinction. Congress opened the markets in the 1980’s and many growers went down to Colombia and Ecuador to take advantage of the favorable economic conditions there.

Get your free worksheet on making “me time”

Around this time a grower I admired shocked the industry by moving from growing roses to growing orchids. That’s a seismic shift in production practices to those in the industry, but most outsiders are baffled why this would be a big deal. This grower had a reputation as the best quality grower in the US and was still commanding a premium price for his roses.

So why would he take a hard right turn and do something completely different when he was experiencing success?

In short, he saw the writing on the wall and went beyond what was working in the moment to seek a viable solution that would sustain his business for years to come. This guy connected with different groups outside of his industry, in this case greenhouse growers that knew how to grow different crops. The former rose grower spent a few years researching alternatives that would be attainable given the capital investment he made in the greenhouses. Last I checked he was still doing well though nearly all his peers have closed up. That was my first lesson in expanding my network.

Then, a few years ago, my wife took me to the MACUL (Michigan Association for Computers in Learning) conference. This is where teachers share knowledge on what kinds of tech they’re using in the classroom. I was surprised at how much we had in common.

I began to see how the tech-based learning platforms used in schools could easily be repurposed to fill a gap in association educational needs.


On top of that, teachers have to get creative because they have no budget and need to do things on the cheap! Sound familiar? I learned so much from that experience and have attended the conference a few times since then to see what new tech tools are useful to educators.

The fact of the matter is, you have to make time to go outside of what you know. Take in new experiences and apply how others address challenges and opportunities that are similar to yours.

This approach is standard procedure with Team PureReinvention and a big reason why I’m running with this crowd!

So, to help you break out of your comfort zone and go beyond what’s working in the now to set yourself up for future success, I made a list of three common barriers to doing something different. You’ve probably heard them before. I’ve used these same excuses to turn down opportunities. While it’s impractical to expect you to participate in everything that’s presented to you, I urge you to dispel these myths and allow yourself an opportunity to create space to see your world from a new angle and build networks beyond the traditional watering holes you’ve become accustomed to.


Roadblock #1: I don’t have the time

This is more a mindset than a reality. You can either manage time or have it manage you. I can’t tell you how frustrated I was in my last CEO position having to carve time out to plan and look at the big picture when I had 2 appointments, 1 webinar, 2 committee conference calls and a list of return calls I needed to make on any given day. The reality was I had to install planning time and mental breaks into my regular schedule. If I didn’t stick to it, I found myself feeling overwhelmed and I would mentally check out toward the mid- to late afternoon.

You can either manage time or have it manage you. Click To Tweet

With some advanced planning, you can carve out the necessary me time if you truly want to. I found that if I hit the balance right, my productivity greatly improved. Pick your professional development opportunities and times when you want to create space early and then commit to sticking to them – they’re that important!


Roadblock #2: I don’t have the money

Much like time, your perception is everything when making this determination. If you view professional and personal development as an expense and not an investment, stop now. There’s nothing more to read here. Making space is an investment in you. It gives you an opportunity to take a step back, assess where you are and move forward with renewed energy and a clearer perspective.

Oh, good – you’re still reading. Now that you’ve decided to make a financial commitment – congratulations! You’re 80 percent there. This is the time to do your due diligence and most importantly, put yourself in the mindset that you’ll need to maximize your investment.

If you go to an event or seminar with work on the mind or unwilling to have an open mind, you’ve wasted your time and money. You have to be willing and receptive to learn and create new connections if you are to maximize your investment.

Roadblock #3: I don’t need it

The biggest trap in keeping your organization relevant (and I’ve encountered it in my own small business) is the temptation to keep within your industry when it comes to networking. There’s no doubt that this is important, but it is a mistake to spend ALL your networking time in this space.

Have you ever had times when you feel out of ideas or struggling to keep things fresh? That’s the telltale sign you’re not going sufficiently outside your sandbox. Other industries are a tremendous source of ideas. You’d be surprised by similarities you may have and the solutions that they’ve used to address problems. Detroit has been a tremendous inspiration to me over the last couple of years. The creativity that’s being used to address very real issues, and more importantly, the collaboration and cooperation they’re employing has taught me to look for inspiration in unlikely places.

The echo chamber creates a false sense of security, breeds false assumptions that eventually morph into truths. Click To Tweet


Barriers Beware

Staying in the echo chamber is the most dangerous tactic in these most disruptive times. The echo chamber creates a false sense of security, breeds false assumptions that eventually morph into “truths” and ultimately gets you out of touch with your target audience.

Do you think that the kids developing the next disruptive app or product care about the industry rules and norms that were created decades ago? They see a need and they’re addressing it. We’re scratching our heads and wondering why we didn’t see it coming. We’re living in the echo chamber.

Break the cycle by cross pollinating your network! Read blogs from thought leaders outside your industry. Attend events in different industries, better yet attend an event or professional development program that draws people from different backgrounds and experiences.

Still need more? We’ve developed a free guide for you to help overcome roadblocks and allow yourself to create space for growth. Look for it on our mobile app later this month.  We’ll also provide it free to those who register for our email list.  I invite you to come along for the ride! Once you’re on, it’s one you won’t want to get off.



I grew up in associations and have been a technological advocate for nearly 20 years.I have a proven track record by running three trade associations, serving on the technological committees of several others.I am passionate about leveraging content and technology to keep trade associations relevant. Founding member, @purereinvention & Social Media Marketing Society.I was honored by MSAE in 2014 with the Director’s Gavel Award for advancing the strategic interests of the association.

    1 Comment

  1. Great post Will! It’s easy to become overwhelmed with the day-to-day tasks that always seem to fill our lists, but carving out time to really assess where you’re going is the key to not only remaining relevant, but also to avoiding burnout. As you say, ‘having time’ is a perspective we can either choose to embrace (and plan for) or choose to use an excuse. Thanks for the reminder to take control!


    April 18, 2016

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