Go for the Gold

I’m not just an Olympics fan, I am an Olympics fanatic! I love the Olympics – winter or summer – it does not matter. The spectacle…the excitement…the thrill of victory…and the agony of defeat (anyone see the USA-Canada Women’s Hockey Gold Medal game?). Think about it, when an individual or team wins a gold medal it means that at that singular moment in time they are the BEST in the world. Granted, the Olympics are not always about winning – they are about participating and proudly representing your country.

Two weeks ago during the major snow/ice storm, I was actually in Squamish, British Columbia (between Vancouver and Whistler) with my son for an ice hockey tournament. I am embarrassed to share that it was 40 degrees, sunny and snow-free (until the morning we returned). While there, in between games and the sights, we relaxed in the hotel and watched the Winter Olympics. We were in Canada and it is amazing how different the Olympic coverage was. No Bob Costas. No vignettes on American medal hopefuls. Just lots of (unknown to me) Canadian athletes.

In many ways, we each view the Olympic Games through our own lens. Is it about winning and losing? Is it about your home country’s athletes versus everyone else? Or is it about the incredible skill and talent each of these athletes possess? As my family knows, no matter who wins, I always have a tear in my eye. I feel their pride and excitement in their Olympic accomplishment.

What sets these athletes apart is that they do not give into the “culture of can’t.” The culture of can’t is the culture that says, “Get real” in a negative way. It is the culture that gives the litany of seemingly legitimate reasons why something cannot be done. The culture of can’t is the safe and easy road.

Michelangelo once said, “The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short, but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.”

Our community has the opportunity today to be extraordinary. As we look to reinvent Jewish Portland and aim for greater accessibility, fun, joy and passion for Jewish life, the most critical step we can take is to change the context of our work from problem-solving to vision-based expectations. By definition, problem-solving is about fixing something we do not like or is not going as planned. To use the old axiom of the “forest and the trees,” problem solving focuses on the exclusion of the “forest.” We often can only focus on one or two “trees” at a time. 

Vision-based expectations, on the other hand, are about creating the future we DO want - a powerful vision that imagines the positive future we intend to create. And, along the way, we will solve many of the current problems or prevent future ones. We need to immerse ourselves in the big picture – focus on the entire “forest” as a path to sustainability and growth.

What kind of community do we dream of? Imagine that all the systems used by our community organizations were aligned behind creating visionary community change. How we do that is open for discussion.

Last week, community consultant, Lou Feldstein, visited Portland and met with community leaders, agency executives and presidents, board members, rabbis, and others to hear their thoughts and ideas about our Jewish community’s future and the Jewish NewCo concept. He will be back in early March to meet with additional community members to gather more input. It is our goal to have a report to the community by mid-April with his findings and suggestions going forward.

Aiming at the future inspires us to be the very best we can be, for ourselves, for each other, and future generations. It inspires us to consider our legacies as individuals and as a community. It inspires us to consider our boundless potential to keep getting better – potential that builds more potential.

Olympic athletes believe in the “culture of CAN.” That is what will create a better future. That means aligning our resources behind the end results we want for our community. That is what will make our community golden.

Shabbat shalom and GO TEAM USA!


PS – Do not miss three great community-wide, all ages events – click on the links to learn more and to register. 

The Pew and the Jew on Monday, March 3 to learn more about the Pew Study and how it relates to Portland’s Jewish community

Good Deeds Day on Sunday, March 9 for community wide hands-on volunteer activities.

Family Night at OMSI on Monday, February 24 (we have OMSI all to ourselves and only $10 per family, $5 per person)


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