Obstacles In Mirror Closer Than They Appear

Epic leadership Summer rolled into Fall with the Fort Collins Chamber of Commerce Small Business Breakfast at The Lyric.

Speakers included the former Chief People Officer for Southwest Airlines, Julie Weber, the Dean of Colorado State University’s College of Business, Beth Walker, CSU Football Coach Jay Novell, and CSU Women’s Volleyball Coach Tom Hilbert. Check out those stats from the College of Business:

CSU Colleege of Business stats

From there, Fort Collins Comic Con and the Fort Collins Ghostbusters were invited to help the Fort Collins Symphony celebrate its Halloween Pops Concert – featuring zombies and Thriller – it was a spooky success:

FC3 and Fort Collins Symphony

Transportation is a recurring theme – the engineers behind the new Montava development showcased a Dutch intersection design they want to implement in the neighborhood while utilizing a significant portion of the Front Range Community College parking lot:

Brain Change: A Night Of Smart Stories For Mental Health is an event I’ve been waiting a long time to bring back. We last hosted it in 2018 at the Downtown Artery. When I say we, I mean me and Paula Watson-Lakamp, someone I can always trust to join me for a crazy-ass experimental event. This time around, I was looking forward to working side-by-side with Ben Clark (aka Star Trek Ben and my right-hand ops man for events). Unfortunately, he had to tap out – a rarity- so I shouldered the setup alone. Despite that, it turned out well:

Brain Change setup

BrainChange is an Ignite-style night of short stories with a twist: you get $5 in quarters when you arrive. Each time you hear our delightful speakers share an idea that makes you laugh, feel, or think – put a quarter in the coin bank on your table and shake it. Folks can also bring their own quarters (or dollars, etc). At the end of the night, we donate that to a local mental health nonprofit. At the end of the night, we donate the quarters in every coin bank to the Alliance for Suicide Prevention to impact our community one idea and one story at a time.

8 amazing speakers graced the stage to share their stories about mental health, addiction, recovery, vulnerability, toxic achievement, toxic happiness, liking vs loving, metamorphosis, community, burnout, and so much more. Among the lineup, Leah Johnson, Becca Walkinshaw, Ariana Friedlander, Aquiles E Quiroga, Silen Wellington, Jen Cooper, Dr. Kristen Truman-Allen, and Jice Johnson.

I’m pleased to report that we were able to donate $500 to the Alliance for Suicide Prevention of Larimer County.

Thanks to the City of Fort Collins Fort Fund for helping us bring this event back to life, to SummitStone Health Partners and Larimer County Behavioral Health Services for providing so many great resources to our attendees.

Brain Change Speakers

It’s not all sunshine and rainbows:

All told, the event went REALLY WELL. However, organizing events can be tricky, so I want to take a minute to acknowledge that while I’m not shy about posting victories, there are a LOT of obstacles that accompany those wins.

For instance, here’s the signage that arrived for Brain Change about 2 weeks before the event:

Brain Change signage with no brains

Notice anything missing? 🤣 (printer error)

Next is a shot from one of the most technologically difficult panels we put together at Founded in FoCo on why accessibility matters. This was one of two panels on accessibility. No butts in seats for either panel and attendance was low across the board because of competing events, the time of year, and the fact that so many of our team were already committed to other events. These are big-name speakers with serious cred, and the panels were heavily promoted on our end:

An empty hall at Founded in FoCo

Next is a screenshot of the first comment on NextDoor (aka where neighborliness and common sense go to die) on the event post about Brain Change:

Dumb comments on NextDoor

We had about 70% of our normal volunteer rate for Fort Collins Comic Con this year on Saturday and about 40-50% on Sunday – not for lack of recruitment, but just recovering our team from the long grind of COVID idleness.

I share this because while there are quite a lot of things to be proud of about BrainChange, Founded in FoCo, and FoCo Comic Con, and many other events I’ve been involved in, and while I’m so very proud of the work of the amazing teams we’ve built around these events, there are many mentally difficult, physically challenging, emotionally devastating, and occasionally funny moments of failure.

None of these represent a lack of effort or planning. Sometimes things just go sideways or in ways you didn’t expect.

Organizing teams in any community do a lot. The pandemic made so many things harder, not the least of which is getting folks to commit to show up. Many of the organizers I’m talking to are facing similar struggles in finding volunteers or sponsors or even just attendees.

The big thing I’ve learned about all of this since the days of Ignite Fort Collins, whether it’s a political campaign or building a comic convention, it’s about the ride-or-die folks who show up with you to lift the heavy stuff. The folks on your team who can laugh about missing brains. The folks who make one suggestion that changes the whole event for the better.

The other big thing I’ve learned about doing anything for the community: if your heart’s in the right place, and you have the right folks next to you, most things are no biggie.

As Leslie Knope put it: no one achieves anything alone. I have wonderful teams of folks around me. I share a lot about our wins, and we often talk amongst the teams about failures, but I don’t often talk publicly about some of the failures.

Above are a few of mine, and I hope this encourages you to give yourself, your team, or an organizer you know, a little more grace for whatever didn’t go right.

Recentering with more leadership:

Nothing tends to re-center and re-focus me faster than spending a day around really smart folks, and Leadership Fort Collins’ November session focused on education. We started the day off at the new Timnath High School, where PSD’s mental health services team shared some really startling statistics (most of which you can learn about in this amazing presentation released shortly after this blog post published):

The key takeaway: the mental health of kids in our community has never been more imperiled than it is right now.

We explored CSU’s Nancy Richardson Design Center (basically a co-op maker space any student can buy a membership to), met ASCSU student leaders, learned one of our LFC classmates is a viral TikTok mental health puppeteer and another plays the euphonium in the Fort Collins Wind Symphony, and ended our day with a jaw-dropping tour of Front Range Community College’s medicine, EMS, and nursing programs complete with an actual ambulance and an ambulance driving simulator, the HVAC/welding/metalworking programs, the cadaver lab, and the observatory.

The opportunities that Front Range offers our community are endless, and I wondered if maybe a new career (or two or three) is in the mix sometime soon.

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