VMAP—Just Do It.

Snapshot from the Valley of Norfolk, Virginia's 2015 Fall Reunion class

By Joel T. Bundy, 32°, Norfolk Valley VMAP Chairman
Scottish Rite Mirror, Valley of Norfolk, VA

The year 1988 marked the launch of one of the most successful advertising campaigns in American business history. With its “Just Do It” advertising campaign, NIKE, Inc. increased sales from $877 million to $9.2 billion and dominated with 43% of the American short-shoe market.

Can we learn something more from that slogan? Does it make a difference if we “Just Do It” when it comes to our daily lives and behaviors at home, work and play, and specifically in the Scottish Rite with the Valley Membership Achievement Project (VMAP)? Are there tools that can help us to get work done in our Valleys, to better engage the brethren with focus on teams, subsequently leading to motivated discovery of things new?

Yes!

Much of it has already been well studied and with legions of articles and books written, often stemming from other sections of society, such as from the business community. Nike convinced a generation to buy their shoes. We should learn from what they accomplished in 1988 in an effort to increase Valley membership, but more importantly to improve the quality of the experience in our meetings and during ritual, foster mentoring, further education and enhance fellowship. This is the power of influence. In John C. Maxwell’s book, the 360 Leader, he writes that in addition to influencing those who lead us, our peers, and those whom we lead, we should spend the most time learning to lead ourselves.

Often we speak about what we want to achieve, but not how to achieve it. This leads to confusion. We need to determine how to achieve our goals, then to look for behaviors that will help us to accomplish this, and focus our energies there. The first time I read the now classic book “Influencer” by Kerry Patterson and Joseph Grenny, it became clear that we usually tell others, including ourselves, that we need to “have a better meeting,” or “increase membership” or “improve the experience of our reunion” without giving them a roadmap with “vital behaviors” on the how. For example, in the hospital setting, as a way to avoid having a wrong-side surgery, it is not enough to tell a surgeon to avoid this, but we must provide a checklist, similar to the airline industry.

This checklist is necessary behavior that will allow the surgeon to avoid causing accidental harm, and has been scientifically proven to be effective. It is not enough simply to wish to do the best practice. Thus it is with us, in our Valley. Our checklist has come to us in the form of the VMAP tool, full of specific, measurable goals all pushing our Valley to the outcomes we want-to be better. This difference in the emphasis on behaviors over outcomes is a foundational point. Making VMAP a contest or game to complete also aligns with what we understand in neuropsychology regarding human satisfaction. Again, Patterson and Grenny speak to turning simple tasks into rewarding accomplishments, in part from the immediate feedback given. There are reasons that McDonald’s restaurants continue to play its Monopoly game after so many years…it works. How do we get ourselves and others to consider and work on these behaviors?

There are two important questions that the authors of Influencer posit as fundamental, and these deal with motivation and ability: Is it worth it, and can I do it? Ask yourself these questions when considering any activity. If you cannot answer yes to both, then you are likely to fail. The Situational Leadership model stems from exactly these questions. Why do people feel that something is out of their comfort zone or ability? Sometimes it is because our emotions and intellect are not aligned. Another wonderful book that should be in your library is The Happiness Hypothesis, where Jonathan Haidt writes about the elephant and the rider, the elephant being our emotions, and the rider our intellect. A common psychological phenomenon is that big projects will often spook the emotional speaker.

As is done with VMAP, it is important to break down goals into small actions, each of them more achievable than when considering it as a whole. Our intellect on its own as the rider is unable to tame an unruly elephant. VMAP has ten sections, each with its own small and manageable goals and tasks. So what does “just do it” have to do with the VMAP program? It is part of influencing ourselves through classical conditioning. Simply doing an activity can lead to feedback that can be in itself rewarding. It brings us back for more. Little Mikey ate his Life cereal and liked it. Exercise and running, when done consistently, often leads to intrinsic satisfaction, even if not obvious at the beginning, but the eventual outcomes reinforce the behaviors. If we just do the specific small actions as outlined with VMAP, we avoid spooking the elephant, allow everyone to play, get satisfaction from the immediate feedback, condition ourselves to want to continue even after we finish our “contest” this year.

Answering those important questions, yes, we can do it, and yes, it is worth it. If our fraternity is to survive and remain relevant for the next one hundred years, we need to lead it there. Not necessarily because we have the control to do so, but by our ability, without true positional authority, to accomplish something akin to what Nike did back in the 80’s. Remembering what Maxwell so eloquently stated, “The true measure of leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less”. It all starts with you. Now, Just Do It!