External affirmation is really important. Encouragement, support, and appreciation help us get through the day and especially through difficult times. But it is not enough to motivate us to keep doing what we do, because when it is not there, you are in jeopardy of giving up unless there is something else deep in your core to keep you going.
I’ve looked this straight in the face this month.
The past six weeks (it feels like so much longer!) have been a difficult time in the ScienceOnline community (for those who may not know, I am one of the co-founders and the Executive Director of the ScienceOnline non-profit organization). And yes, I call it a community. Not everyone who attends a ScienceOnline event has to feel the same way, but I see the friendships, conversations, support, concrete help, fun, and challenges that occur—not only at the conferences/events, but also throughout the year. That to me is community.
Jobs, organizations, communities, and families are not “good” because of a lack of conflict. You will find conflict and problems wherever you go. What makes one place or group of people better is how they deal with that conflict and trouble. And, hey, we need to understand that it’s ok to disagree. We don’t have to all hold one ideology in order to be a community. In fact, the diversity can make the community richer.
And that is what motivates me. That is why I still stay up late working even when I feel bruised and crushed by what I see around me.
We can’t control how other people behave, but we can decide how to respond. I want to respond in a responsible, measured, fair, and yet hopeful way. I’m not talking about rose-colored glasses or burying my head in the sand to ignore issues. But what I am saying is that I want to deal with difficulties with grace and dignity.
Through the barrage of conflict, controversy, and criticism (& suggestions) this month, I had to keep reminding myself that this is worth it. The mission of ScienceOnline is valuable and worth working (very) hard for. The community is worth fighting for. I want us to be better at how we deal with the inevitable problems, conflicts, and even differences of opinion. Let’s treat each other right. As Anton has said for years—let’s treat one another with respect.
Science is important. The web has amazing resources. The people using the web for science are finding more and more creative, powerful ways to do their work and share their content. We need this. We need to keep getting better. And we do that by learning from each other. We do that by collaborating. We do that by serving a mission that is more than what we get out of it ourselves.
The sum is greater than the parts. I believe that now more than ever. We are better when we work together.