Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Demise of REM and Association Management

Meet me in the crowd, people, people
Throw your love around, love me, love me
Take it into town, happy, happy
Shiny happy people holding hands
Shiny happy people laughing......REM, Shiny Happy People


Can it really be that long since Shiny Happy People hit the airwaves?  Listening to this track today brought me right back with a whipsaw motion that almost snapped me in two.

It shouldn't seem odd that the Subculture would be unable to resist blogging about the death of this particular band although it is a little funny that some of my readers predicted it with Minority Report accurateness (Stephanie Reeves, I'm looking at you...)

Loves me some Nirvana, Pearl Jam and the like but we all knew REM was the key, the cornerstone. Controversial.  Political. Independent. The real reason alternative rock grew into the life changing phenom that it did.  Now they are breaking up.  Cordially.  Respectfully.

As much as I mourn this passing on of an era, (and no matter how old this is making me feel), I am really not that surprised.  We GenXers worshiped at the altar of REM's independence.  How fitting that at the end, they refused to allow even their biggest fans to dictate their future.  I congratulate them for realizing they wanted something new. Other ways to express themselves musically.  Or maybe just a well deserved rest.

I have to wonder if we are all capable of making the tough decision to quit when the time comes to do so.  We are surrounded by messages about "getting our heads in the game" and "staying the course," and "up with people, you can do it!"  In spite of all the platitudes and guilt trips, if we lose our passion for our home life or work life can we make the same graceful decision to exit stage left?  Do we, in fact, have an obligation to do so?

Will your association know when it's time to quit?  If your association comes to a cross-roads where they need to make a choice to merge with another for the betterment of their profession or industry, or cease operations because their landscape has changed so dramatically - will they have the courage to remake themselves or to purposefully leave the stage altogether?  Will they change course and redirect resources when the opportunities present themselves?  Or will they ignore all of the options they have to best protect their own legacy and their members and instead go down screaming and flailing into the long night of irrelevance?  (Don't get me wrong, I am not Debbie Downer.  I firmly believe in the future value of associations but not every single one of them is going to make it during the next 25 years and we are kidding ourselves if we think they will.)

How about yourself?  Can you make the choice to move on in your relationships or careers, (no matter how fantastic they are or may have been), because it's time to remake yourself again?  Life is messy.  Life changes course.  Life pulls you on and under and sometimes pushes you to heights you didn't know you were capable of.

Are we going to be shiny happy people...holding hands?  And if so, for how long?  Goodbye REM.

Embedding was disabled but here is the link to the video....


  1. What can I say? It's a gift. Kidding aside, knowing when to quit is hard, professionally and personally. I left my previous association of 10 years at a time when I was happy and appreciated. Stepping out into a new position in a much larger association was an exciting opportunity, but I faced some real challenges. Had my hand slapped more than once. However, one year later, I have no regrets. Kudos to R.E.M. for leaving on their own terms.

  2. When my mother chose REM's Everybody Hurts as the song she wanted at her funeral, that was the end of listening to REM for me. Pity, I really liked their stuff. That was my Mum's exit strategy - planned to the last detail once she realised she was going to need one.

    What did this teach me? Self-awareness. The legacy my Mum left me with is an astute level of self awareness which I feel underpins the courage to have one's own exit strategy. I believe that in life, in work and particularly in business the second most important tool you have afetr a success plan is an exit strategy. Some guidelines on how, and perhaps why, you need to start considering a move onwards from your current situation.

    Moving on still requires courage however there is a small decision safety net created when you can refer back to some notes about issues or circumstances you forecasted for yourself to pay attention to as possible signs it is time to engage Operation Next Action.

    Importantly this level of self awareness (about when you start disengaging or creating personal roadblocks) can also serve your organisation and peers well. Being able to front up to your concerns about your lack of motivation or engagement is an important part of recognising that our work must be in the best interests of the industry or profession we serve.

    It is even more powerful when, as my learned colleague Stef Reeves says above, you are able to use this tool to make a decision to exit with clarity and a level of anxiety for new a challenge and do so leaving your own legacy of achievement and fun memories with those with whom you worked.

  3. Robert - I am so honored that you chose to leave the comment about your mother. Thank you for sharing your words of wisdom and all my best.

    Stephanie - Congrats on making the decision and not looking back! Glad it worked out for you!


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