The Houston Northwest Chamber of Commerce has moved to a new office, albeit only two blocks down the road from our previous location, maintaining a presence on Cypress Creek Parkway. Like so many other businesses affected by the pandemic, we recognized more was not necessarily better and downsizing our office was prudent and practical. We were also motivated by a desire to reduce our overhead as the pandemic has impacted the Chamber’s revenue. Rest assured, by doing this and other key decisions, the Chamber has positioned itself to weather the downturn. Yet, through the course of pulling up roots, another sense of purpose emerged aside from this just being purely a business decision.
What comes with moving into a smaller space is the need to purge, and to my gross underestimation did I realize every nook and cranny of file cabinets and storeroom shelves were jammed with practically every piece of paper ever accumulated since the Chamber’s founding in 1974. In some regards it was probably a good thing, because a server crash in 2016 left many of the Chamber’s critical digital files corrupted, missing, or unreadable. Therefore, we embarked on the painstaking process of individually combing through every piece of paper, in every folder, in every box or drawer to determine if it needed to be scanned, rescanned, tossed, shredded, or retained for posterity.
In doing so, two things happened. One, was that of cleansing. Anyone who has moved after being in one place for a long time knows this feeling. It is the shedding of skin, giving one the sense of a fresh start, and the ability to focus on looking forward without being burdened by the deadwood of the past. Yet conversely, in sifting through the papers I was able to review the past and become enlightened to the hard work and endeavors the Chamber and its members had embarked upon and accomplished over the years. I also turned over some not so pretty rocks, but only observed with interest as those issues were long resolved and there was no need to carry those with us any further.
The second, somewhat unsettling feeling was the opening of numerous files addressing issues and initiatives still very relevant today, which by no coincidence happen to be my strategic priorities. There are tomes of files on the numerous attempts to start a management district. In reading these documents, I could not help but think I was stuck in my own version of Groundhog Day. I found documents from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from the 1970’s calling for meetings to discuss the flooding problems on Cypress Creek. I found a white paper from 1976 outlining the Cypress Creek Parkway Project. This is the plan to build parks along Cypress Creek and connect them all with a trail network. Sound familiar? Granted, there has been great advances on these fronts, but Lordy, the horizon still looks so far and steep.
To reference an article I recently wrote about the differences between “Kind” and “Wicked” problems, it is not that we as a community are particularly inept. Instead, it is because these long-term visionary goals are “Wicked” problems. They are not easy to solve. While on one hand, it can be depressing to think nothing ever gets accomplished, on the other hand we should be chin-up about the fact that we have the hutzpah to tackle these challenges in the first place. It takes a great amount of courage (and naivete) to dedicate the energy to these problems, knowing they will most likely outlive us.
It was humbling to recognize so much time and energy had been invested before, and it granted me the wisdom to realize my time here is temporary and my purpose is to help move the ball a little bit further down the field. Hopefully, when it comes time for a hand-off, I have ensured greater success for my successor. If I can do that, then it will have been worthwhile. As arduous as it was to go through this purging exercise, I feel like doing this could not have been more timely. Because a fresh start right now is good for the soul. In retrospect, perhaps the nun who taught me 7th grade meant something different whenever she barked, “Eyes front, feet forward.” …Nah, probably not, but for today I am giving it new meaning.