To Infinity…. And Beyond! Life lessons from SYL
Well hello SYL community! If you’ve had the chance to attend any of our events the past few years, you’ve likely seen me hop on the mic to say hello. My name is Ashley – I am a third year SYL committee member, former Chair, and general Saskatchewan Young Leaders super fan. I hope this blog finds you and yours healthy and safe. This being my final blog as a member of the SYL committee, I wanted to write to you – our community – on a more personal note and share some of the life lessons I’ve learned along the way.
Lesson 1 – Lead from where you are
Allow me a moment to rewind the clock for you. The year is 2013. Macklemore has taken over the airwaves with his hit ‘Thrift Shop’, the Royal Family has just welcomed Prince George, Alberta was overcome by flooding and politician Rob Ford has just admitted to a personal battle with crack cocaine. It was a simpler time, friends. I had just entered the Credit Union system, and had already started learning some valuable lessons about credit and financial health through my role as MSR (teller). I was shocked by how much I didn’t know about maintaining financial health; I felt like I had been duped about how simple decisions could majorly impact our future. I was still rolling this newfound knowledge around in my head when a new SYL contest was announced – SYL Sask CU Advance. The aim of this contest was to develop a ‘big idea’ which would advance the system for young CUers. I was inspired. I wanted to share what I had learned with students – we could teach them early; let them learn before they had to do all of the adulting. I was nervous though – brand new to the system, hardly an expert, and still getting my footing in my job. With the support of a great manager (thanks Janet!), a strong SYL rep (thanks Lindsay!) and some guts I entered the competition. After late nights perfecting my video, campaigning for votes, and finally presenting my ‘Big Idea’ to a room of executives, I’m so proud to say that I won. I used my scholarship money to further my career in the system, and my love for SYL was born. They did not care that I was new and still learning; they welcomed me to bring my ideas to the table and encouraged me to act on them. I was hooked.
Lesson 2 – Disappointment
Shortly after my big SYL win, I was riding cloud nine career wise. I got a promotion, was pounding though my brokerage courses, and got the opportunity to actually take my ‘big idea’ to the students. It was incredible. When SYL put out the call for new committee members, I immediately went to work on the application. I had some quick wins and thought I would be a shoe in. So, when I wasn’t chosen to join the committee that year, I was devastated. Now for some people this may have just been a volunteer committee so no harm no foul, but this volunteer committee had given me the confidence, training and financial support to develop into my career. This was a hard lesson for me. Fast forward the next year; things had changed and my Credit Union’s SYL rep had left the system. It was time for applications to go in again. This time, it was decided internally at my Credit Union that this would not be my year. You can imagine how tough this was for me. I now understand that these decisions are based on so many factors, including the make up of the committee as a whole, and were not personal. But at that time… it hurt. It took me time to process, and it was not pretty. I was so disappointed. Fast forward one more year to a happy ending – third time was the charm! And what a charm it was – the year I joined terms were extended from 2 years to 3. It was a WAY better time in my personal life to take on the challenge that is SYL, and I got to join the committee with the best possible people. This was a lesson in humility for me, grace and ‘what not to do’. Always learning.
Lesson 3 – Trust
Have you ever heard about those little girls who get told in grade school that they’re bossy, and then everyone giggles and says they have ‘leadership skills’? That’s me. Except when I joined SYL I was still about 92% bossy and 8% leadership skills. Being on this committee taught me to let go and trust (stop laughing fellow committee members 😉 ). I have volunteered my entire life, but I can honestly say this was the first group I had been a part of where committee members ALL committed to things and then either followed through or had the vulnerability to ask for help. There is no ‘that’s not my job’ in SYL. The system is bigger than all of us, and we are stronger together. My second year on the committee I had the absolute honor of being called Chair. This was a stretch for me. Previously I had adopted a ‘if you want something done right, you do it yourself’ attitude, and this was not easy to let go of. Through a lot of soul searching and support, my committee members helped teach me the pleasure of working as a team and watching those around you shine in the spotlight. This year was the year I truly learned what servant leadership was all about. I had to practice teaching over doing, listening over fixing and giving the credit while taking the blame. I could not be prouder of what our committee accomplished the year I was chair, and the lessons I learned from each committee member will always stick with me.
Lesson 4 – Failing Forward
During my time on the SYL committee, one of my absolute favorite things was the freedom and encouragement to fail. Sound crazy? It’s not! This team encourages that blue sky, big idea thinking. Even if your idea fizzles, your thought can encourage conversation that can lead to something amazing. Our calls are loud – our meetings are louder. It is absolutely essential that everyone on the committee participates with passion and creativity. This is why we are so strong. We laugh with each other, we work with each other, and we never say, ‘I’m good with whatever’.
Lesson 5 – Everything changes
Coming into my 3rd and final year of SYL, I could never have predicted what the year would bring. I ended up accepting a job at a different Credit Union; leaving my coworkers and community when I never thought that would happen. Throughout all of that career change, I had a health scare that absolutely rocked everything I believed. And then there was the little issue of the global pandemic, affecting not only everything in our day to day lives, but bringing my last SYL year of events to a standstill. This year though… this year I was better prepared to roll with the changes. I watched my family and friends lean into me with so much support and enthusiasm. I watched my fellow committee members grow and develop new ways to enrich our credit union system; learning and mastering new ways of communication faster than you can say ‘Leadership Series’. I watched at the world adapted to this ‘new normal’, and yes – we did bend – but we did not break. It has not been any easy year, but we are still here and I cannot wait to see what the next year brings.
Lesson 6 – Some things stay the same
I know, I know. Lessons 5 and 6 are contradictory, but just stick with me for a second here. Since 2013 and my first introduction to SYL, there have been some steadfast truths within the committee and community. Passion in your career will get you everywhere, even if it’s not when you expected. The credit union system is designed to listen, but you cannot be afraid to talk. All it takes is a couple of days locked in a meeting room, so many m&ms, and a slight touch of day two flu to make lifelong friends who will be there for you no matter what. Leadership knows no age and no title. If you want something, it’s not enough to say it – you have to go out and work for it, and surround yourself with people who inspire you to push to be better.
A final note to my fellow committee members: I wanted this so badly, but I had no idea just how incredible you would make this experience. Tamara – the calmest, most organized leader talking me down from the edge all the time. Larissa – such a bias to action; every task was done quickly and with an unrivaled quality. Chris – your creativity is second to none, and I’ve loved growing together on this journey. Ryan – my right-hand man, Ricki’s twin, biggest confident and most likely to argue with – I appreciate you more than you know. Shaundra – I wish I could capture your way with people, and how easy it is for you to connect. Amy – you have made me feel welcome from day 1 in Unity, and you have an unrivaled way of correcting without judging. Darcy – you get stuff done with a flair and humility that is a joy to be around, and without being asked to boot! Stephanie – you show grace in the face of transition, and you are not afraid to speak up and champion this committee. Alex – your talent is incredible; you always bring 150% to the table. Jarred – you work for CUDGC but I still like you. But for real, I’m impressed by your quick mind and you are always the first to volunteer for a task – you jump in without fear even if it is brand new.
This was not how I saw my third year of SYL ending, but I cannot think of a stronger group of leaders to take on the important work we do in the system. Thank you for teaching me everything, and for making a math nerd like me always feel like part of the team.
All the love,