I recently joined the board of the Cascades Mountaineers in Bend, OR and have been helping expand the reach to draw in new members and breath new life into an awesome organization. We are using Meetup.com to post events and make it easier for the volunteers to manage RSVPs and event changes.
I received a one email in particular that stands out from a woman interested in joining one of our monthly social climbs at the Bend Rock Gym – an opportunity to meet other climbers and get to know them in a low-key indoor environment. We’ll call her “Norma.”
Norma said she REALLY wanted to learn to rock climb and asked if we would be welcoming of beginners. I said “Of course! We have climbers of all abilities and those of us who are more experienced still remember what it was like to be a beginner.” She RSVP’d “yes” and then did not show up.
The next event rolled around and Norma reached out again asking, “I’m in my 60s and I’m worried I’ll be the oldest one there. I want to have new adventures and meet new people. Will I fit in?” I responded, “Of course! We have a wide range of ages who participate in the Cascade Mountaineers. Age is no barrier and in fact, I recently climbed a tough mountain with a friend who is 73.” Norma RSVP’d “yes” but then did not show up again.
Norma was interested enough to reach out, express her interest, and even express her concerns…but she let her fears hold her back.
Let’s deconstruct her fears. It was clear she was afraid she would be judged as a beginner and as an older climber.
If an organizer inaccurately described an event as beginner friendly, it would be the organizer’s error, not the attendee’s error, if the event really wasn’t beginner friendly. But how many people do you know would truly alienate someone new who was eager to learn?
I have climbed with men and women as young as 20 and as old as 73 and all were great experiences. As someone smack dab in the middle (at 40), I have no issues about my age or others’ ages as climbers. Yet, when I assured Norma that her age was not an issue based on the demographics of the club and the attitude of climbers generally, she still did not show up. Sure, it’s theoretically possible she could have been the only 60 year old in a group of 20 year olds, but she might have just been that much more welcome as someone who could provide inspiration to young folks.
Is it possible that she could have shown up to an event and found herself alone in a group of elitist a$$holes? Sure, it’s possible, but truly, how likely is that? Clubs are formed to help build community, volunteers donate their time to help others and share the love of the activity, and events are designed to enable people to get to know each other.
Norma failed only herself by not showing up. The risk was that she could potentially be rejected by a new group of people. The reward could have been the resolution of her aspiration to try climbing, and perhaps even discover that she was good at it and enjoyed it. In the end, she felt the risk was greater than the reward. Would you agree?
How are you holding yourself back? What are you wishing you could do or try, but you keep sabotaging yourself by failing to show up? What happens if you try by showing up, even just once?
Think about it.