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by Paul Kiser
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Paul Kiser

Last week I offered my thoughts about Re-Imagining Rotary. That was the first part of what I wanted to say.

Early in 2010 I wrote an article about ‘Dissatisfiers.’ The point of the article was to suggest that before a decision to make a significant life change (switch to a competitor, quit a job, or leave an organization, etc.) a person has typically will have experienced a series of negative events with the company or organization that sets the stage for them to make that decision. In the end, the reason for making a change is about the series of dissatisfiers, not a single event.

I now have arrived at that place with Rotary. While the final decision to leave Rotary was reached in the last week or so, the stage has been set for me to leave for some time. The final reason is simple. Rotary no longer offers the satisfaction it once did and that is largely due to an ongoing series of smaller, but significant, dissatisfying experiences.

However, I still have great admiration for Rotary and many of the great people who are a part of this organization. The concept of Rotary is a brilliant one. It is place where business professionals from all trades and industries can meet, share ideas, and help to build better communities by donating their vocational skills. It is an organization that we sorely needed in a world that has become increasing motivated by selfish and unethical desires.

Rotary is an organization with the most crystal clear guiding principles of any organization I have ever known. The Four-Way Test is a standard that brings morality to any situation or person. The Test is simple:

  • First, is it the truth
  • Second, is it fair to all concerned
  • Third, will it build goodwill and better friendships
  • Fourth, will it be beneficial to all concerned

We would have no need for government oversight of any business endeavor if the legal standard was the Four-Way Test. To be certain, not every Rotarian, including those in a leadership position, abides by the Four-Way Test everyday. It is a difficult, and somewhat unnatural, philosophy to maintain. But just the attempt brings honor to those who try.

What I discovered in Rotary was that many of those who were members were among the best of the best in the business world. If the founder of Rotary, Paul Harris, were alive today I would love the opportunity to introduce him to some of the people who served as great examples of what it now means to be a Rotarian. I would find people like Mike Hix who was President of the Rotary Club of Sparks, (Nevada, USA,) the year I was inducted. Mr. Harris would be well pleased with Mike and what he has done for his club, his community, and his Zone.

There are thousands of examples of great Rotarians who have made the world a better place and are working hard to keep Rotary relevant in a rapidly evolving new world of business and I am honored I have had the opportunity to work beside just a few of them in the last 9 1/2 years.

But Rotary faces a huge challenge in the next few years. Because of Rotary’s close attachment to the business world, the organization is mired in same traditions of hierarchical structures and slow responsiveness to change that currently plague many American industries. Younger professionals typically ignore and/or bypass most of the traditional business concepts of leadership and organizational structure that restrict change, which is why many young professionals find Rotary outdated. That is why Rotary’s future lies in its ability to adjust to the expectations of younger professionals.

Can Rotary overcome challenges it faces? It will because it has to, and I will cheer on those who make it happen. Thank you to Rotary and to those who cheered me on for most of this last decade.

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