By: Reed LaPlante, First National Bank | Alamance Chamber Board Member
Last November at the 2018 Chamber Leadership Retreat, Lisa Pennington, Chamber Board Chair, asked that all leaders in the room challenge themselves in 2019. The challenges could have been as simple as volunteering in a school, attending a diversity training, or as extensive as starting a non-profit event. The major takeaway was what would Alamance County be like if every leader challenged themselves throughout 2019?
I started right away with something crazy- I ran six miles at 5 am in a terrible storm at Wrightsville Beach- it was 40 degrees and pouring down rain. I was freezing cold and very uncomfortable. And then something clicked for me. I follow a very colorful endurance athlete, David Goggins, and he has a saying that you have to find comfort in the uncomfortable- for when you become uncomfortable that is when you can truly change. Knowing I was uncomfortable in the 40-degree weather with rain and high winds, what could be even more uncomfortable? Swimming in the ocean during that same storm. So… at 6am I went for a swim. What a way to kick off “Accept the Challenge.” Not what Lisa intended, but I took it and ran (pun intended).
I wanted 2019 to be a year of challenge for me so I signed up for several ultra-marathons. I knew the training was going to be intense, but my new mantra was to find comfort in the uncomfortable because
positive change will follow. In September, I realized that physically challenging myself was not enough- I needed to begin the real challenge that I accepted at the 2018 Chamber Retreat. I decided to focus on two areas:
- Attend an event about Diversity & Inclusion- with an emphasis on race in America
- Attend a Board of Education Event- Board Meeting or Work Session.
I chose Diversity and Inclusion because honestly, those conversations make me uncomfortable. I want everyone to work together and have a good time, but I know that is easy for me to say as a white male in our society. To further my growth in this area, I attended the REI Groundwater Presentation in October. Since then, I have encountered several situations where I began to wonder if my identity made the outcome work in my favor or the situation go more smoothly. Two of the most salient occurred in areas where I learned that systemic racism can be most prevalent, housing and healthcare. I realized that my identity makes learning about this topic and gaining tools to have these uncomfortable conversations even more important.
I chose the Alamance Board of Education work session because of my experience as part of Leadership Alamance 2011 and because I struggle with my view of Alamance County public schools, when I was a product of several wonderful public schools growing up. As my father always told me, if you want something to change, get involved and change it. Attending that event helped me realize that while there is work to be done in our schools, we have a lot of great people in the school system doing the best they can with what they have, but we need to help them get more! Additionally, we have board members who really are looking out for the community and its children- they are willing to push back, ask hard questions, and make Alamance Burlington a better school system.
Since Leadership Alamance I have always looked for experiences in Alamance to help me understand who we are and where we are going. I have not always known how to go about that, but this “Accept the Challenge” was impactful in showing me how to go about continuing to educate myself on the County every year. I want to thank Lisa, Chamber Staff, and the Chamber community for your help and resources to guide me through the challenge!
I encourage all of you to do something uncomfortable this year and continue building upon the strong foundation of our community. Help change it, shape it, define it! The Alamance Chamber is a great place to start your Challenge- and if you need a jumpstart, join me for a brisk run and swim at the Chamber Retreat in 2020!