Most of this week, I attended what is called a Primex Risk Management Summit.
Primex is an amazing company that handles risk management for most of the towns and cities, and many businesses in New Hampshire.
At every age we can still learn so much. It is also important for us to keep up-to-date and aware of new issues and concerns that will affect and often can help all of us. Starting as a teacher years ago, conferences and learning are right up my alley.
Something else I feel honored to tell you is that this same company Primex picks a group of who they call “Emerging Leaders” in our state to offer additional training and classes to throughout the year. It is something you must be nominated for and the application process is pretty involved. To apply you even had to submit a video of yourself explaining what you do and who you are.
Each year they select 16 people who they believe have high leadership potential from across the state. The group is made up of first responders and other people involved in our municipalities and schools. This year, just from our area alone, I think it is pretty impressive that three of us were selected. Two of Derry’s exceptional and devoted assistant principals David Brown of the Ernest P. Barka Elementary School, Michelle Cremone of South Range Elementary School and me as Londonderry Town Clerk.
Another one of these "You never know where your paths will cross in life." Close to 10 years ago when I was a cross country coach for St. Thomas Aquinas School in Derry, Dave Brown was the coach at Gilbert H. Hood Middle School and every afternoon Dave and his team would welcome us to share with their track and field team. Just watching Dave work with his team I learned so much from him. After not seeing each other for years, here we were.
Another great thing about the Primex conference is that CEO Ty Gagne believes in giving back. This is actually a free conference to members who want to attend.This year over 350 people did. They bring in speakers from all over the country that they believe will bring us as much helpful information as possible over the course of a couple days.
Our first speaker was Andy Cohen and his presentation was called “Challenge Your Assumptions." In a nutshell, it was about how often we assume something about a person or situation and we are road blocked in our own perceptions to really understand the situations.
Our assumptions are often wrong, wild, and can run away from us. We assume we know what another person is thinking what their motives are or we assume we know the situation at hand. Andy has actually coined the name for these — our “assumps."
Andy opened with this story — and honestly, at first I wondered where he was going with it.
He started by telling us that he and his wife live in New York City, and both are very busy. They decided to finally step away from it all and take a day off together. They headed to the mountains for a hike, just the two of them.
At first they were very excited, packing and preparing together. Of course trying to leave the city in lots of traffic caused them to go from that feeling of one minute happy and relaxed to the next stressed and tense sitting in traffic.
Finally, the traffic cleared and they reached their destination a little later than planned, but they made it. Their stress went away, they stopped picking at each other and they started their beautiful hike.
They were so happy to be away from it all. It was quiet, peaceful, just the two of them, they start talking, laughing together and even did a little hand holding as they were hiking along.
They reached the top of the mountain a little later than planned in the day. They were so happy, relaxed but given the time, 4 p.m. in the fall, they decided to make their way back down before it got dark.
They finally got back to the entrance and their car was the only one left in the parking lot. They hopped in their car, still happy talking about heading out to dinner. Unfortunately, as they started to drive off they noticed the park gate was down and locked. They were the only ones stuck inside the gate and it was getting darker by the minute.
A nice little getaway started to turn negative. They were trying to figure out what to do. Andy decided he would try to go around the gate with the car. His wife yelled something like “Don’t do that, you are going to tear the bottom out of the car!” He said the worst part was he stopped and realized she was right. Time was passing, they were getting more annoyed with each other by the minute and then suddenly his wife said the best three words he could imagine.
At first I thought it would be “I Love You,” "It'll be OK," but that did sound too typical. What do you think those three words were?
Check the gate.
Their “assumption” about the situation was the gate was fully across the road and they could see the huge chain wrapped around it, they were stuck. Andy got out, saw the chain and padlock but when he tugged on it, sure enough it wasn’t locked after all. He just needed to remove the chain, move the gate, drive through, re-wrap the chain and attach the lock, unlocked.
Andy explained that they had spent at least 15 minutes sitting in the car together, getting more aggrieved by the minute with each other because of assuming about the situation.
It gets better though — once they got to the other side of the gate, they noticed a small piece of white paper under the windshield wiper. Now remember it had been there the entire time.
The paper said, “If you’re leaving after 5 p.m., the gate will be down, just remove the lock but please remember to put it back in place!”
What a great way to open our minds and the conference, and wait until I tell you what I learned about learned about cybersecurity next week!
Sherry Farrell is Londonderry Town Clerk and a lifelong resident of New Hampshire.