One of the people I most admire in the credit union movement, Gene Blishen, wrote a post yesterday that, like most posts on Tinfoiling, leaves me enveloped in introspection and philosophical turmoil. He was responding to a Tweet I posted indicating that I was considering pulling the plug on my blog. I've never been so touched by a blog post - not just because of the sentiment, but because of the source.
So, instead of writing a three page essay comment on his blog, I figured I'd write a response right here to communicate what's going through my mind.
A few things are happening in my life that make me question how my time is spent. First, I have a two year old son who does nothing but entertain, enlighten, and amaze me every moment he's awake. Unfortunately, time is a zero sum game. Every second I spend blogging is a second I do not get to spend with my son.
Second, I am a month away from turning 30. When I was 17, I set some very lofty professional goals for myself to be met at certain ages. By 30, I was supposed to accomplish A, B, C, and D. To date, I have partially accomplished A and B. While I don't view these necessarily as failures (rather, crazy notions 13 years in the making), it does make me question if I have misspent time.
Third, while 2008 was one of the most fulfilling, productive, and rewarding years of my career, it also resulted in the lowest pay raise I have received since graduating from college in 2001. Clearly, there are external factors involved with this decision, but it certainly makes one question a few things...especially when coupled with current credit union news.
Let me explain.
Most of my career goals, like is the case with most ambitious kids, centered around income and power. When I got involved in credit unions, that changed. Sure, income and whether or not I am in a position to be heard are still important...but the movement made me rethink what was truly important in a career. With credit unions, I had an opportunity to truly make a difference in people's lives. I was part of something special - a cooperative of cooperatives that did things differently than their bank brethren. We did things the right way. We made decisions based on what was right for our members, not what was right for our own pockets. For that reason, I have always been OK with earning less than maybe my market value outside credit unions might be. In exchange for fame and fortune, I argued, at least I could look myself in the mirror each morning knowing that I was making a positive impact on hard-working men and women that make up our membership. Tasked with telling the world how credit unions are an infinitely better option for consumers than banks, this was a story I have been more than happy (proud, even) to tell.
Fast forward to recent credit union news.
After spending the last five years preaching the credit union difference, I now find out that CUNA, NAFCU, and NCUA want parity. After months upon months of telling us that credit unions have been well-insulated from the credit crisis' fallout, our trade associations are effectively saying the sky is falling. After standing by idly for years as some credit unions (still a small minority) made the exact same lending mistakes as the big banks, the NCUA finally wants to take action - and they do it with precious little communication to their member credit unions.
So, my struggles are these: Do I continue to spend an amazing amount of time posting, commenting, researching, guest posting, etc. about a movement whose founding principles I truly believe in at the risk that the movement's actions make me look like a hypocrite? Am I being economical with my time? Is the opportunity cost of blogging justified? Do I still believe in credit unions...or just the dwindling number that are sticking to their for service, not-for-profit, conservative roots?
The conversation on credit union blogs has become decreasingly passionate/active over the past 4-5 months. Probably due to economic variables. Maybe due to some of the same concerns I have above. Not sure. But no one can argue that this has not been the case. Most of the best posts I've seen in the CU blogosphere over the past several months have received an embarrassingly low number of comments. That's not why we do this...or at least that's not why I do this. I want a conversation. I want a debate. I want to learn and to discuss and to grow. I want to see passion for the movement again.
I love my little piece of the internet whether I'm getting thousands of visits per month, or the paltry 539 I received last month. I just need to figure out if I'm getting out of it as much as I'm putting into it. In that sense, I totally understand Ron Shevlin's decision to pull the plug on his amazingly well-executed blog. He (just like me) sets an incredibly high bar for himself. It was obvious how much energy, passion, and time he put into his blog. And it was obvious that he made a huge impact in doing so.
But this is draining. While I can't speak for Ron, I feel confident that mental exhaustion was a big part of his decision. It's tough to come up with compelling things to write on a regular basis. And it's even tougher when you do so in spare time that simply doesn't exist. And it's absolutely devastating when your supposed "conversation", unsubsidized and developed with time you don't have, becomes essentially a one-way street.
I have a loyal group of readers and commenters that I love dearly - both professionally and personally. I just need to refocus on things that, right now anyway, are more rewarding: time with family, my employer, and my career goals, for example.
I have always thought that blogging about a cooperative of cooperatives should be more...cooperative. Thanks to Gene's post, and some really kind Tweets from Jimmy Marks, Denise Wymore, Ginny Brady, and Christopher Stevenson, I am rethinking axing this blog. Instead, maybe there's a way to get some of the best CU bloggers together to create a multi-voice, credit union editorial blog. Sure, my Google Reader account aggregates content in a way that this blog already, sort of, exists...but why are we duplicating so much energy? Last month, I approached Mark McSpadden about a potential CU Warrior/CU Skeptic video podcast series to debate credit union issues. Why wouldn't additional collaborations work?
Just a thought.
Thank you for all of your support, and for reading this way too long rambling about things that are much more revealing than I intended. I just thought it was important to hear my side of the story.