Letter From the CEO: June 2017

Jun 1, 2017, 10:17 AM by Chris Coker

The Society of Man

I know that this title is sexist, and it should probably read “The Society of Humankind.” However, in my defense, the book was written in 1966 by a professor named Louis Halle. The 60s were not known as a time for being totally inclusive. 

Despite the title, the book's message resonates. 

In a nutshell, "The Society of Man" says we are progressing toward one world society, not just a conglomeration of nation-states. The main character has a decision to make: tell the world of his momentous discovery, which would make him a household name forever, or keep it to himself and avoid the potential of world chaos. A stuffy, old British scientist asks him to do the right thing, to keep the discovery to himself for the good of society.

In doing so, the scientist asks the protagonist if he is a “member of The Society of Man.”

It is not a revolutionary idea; in fact, society is built on this concept. The police cannot actually keep control of our cities unless we all agree to abide by a common set of rules. This is also the basis for religion; religion provides us with a common set of behaviors and beliefs that we need to abide by. Think of the Ten Commandments. If we strictly followed the Ten Commandments, the police and divorce attorneys would go the way of VHS. 

When he is asked if he was a member of The Society of Man, the hero of the story is not being asked if he is a Republican, Democrat, Christian, Muslim, Nazi or Communist. He is being asked if he is fundamentally a good person who cares more about others than about his own fame and fortune. 

This is a question that we need to ask ourselves every day. It’s also a question that we probably all struggle with.

"We all like 'me time' or shiny things, but what is the trade off?"

As the CEO of a company, do I care more about myself than my employees and my members? Yes, occasionally I want to care more about myself. But I wrestle with that demon constantly, and I make sure I always try to do the right thing.

We also face that as parents, don’t we? Should I go out with friends, play golf, play tennis, ride my horse, go to my hula class? Or should I do something with my spouse, kids, parents or dog? We all like "me time" or shiny things, but what is the trade off? Do you even think about the trade off?

That is where the struggle lies.

Those who do not struggle are usually jerks (let’s be honest). Because they did not struggle, they simply choose what they want to do or what feels good in the moment.

I met a guy on an airplane flying to Vegas. I was going to Vegas (dirty little secret here) for a Star Trek convention. We did the usual chat. He was a successful businessman in his late 70s.

He found out I ran a YMCA, and I found out about his considerable wealth, his comps in Vegas and his wife’s jewelry. He could not understand the concept that the board of directors actually “owns” the Y but receives no compensation for their work. The concept of volunteerism was totally lost on him. Both of us were in an alien world (apparently for me the convention had started early).

I am surrounded by so many volunteers and donors that I have just come to assume that everyone is that way. That everyone is a member of The Society of Man. I seem to think we are all more worried about the world as a whole than we are about ourselves. 

So this guy took me by surprise. 

Ultimately, we have to ask ourselves how this guy was created and how do we break that mold. We break it by catching ourselves when we falter and by doing better. We break it by teaching our kids to do better.

We do it by not simply checking off a box. 

Here is what I mean. Most schools require students to do some sort of community service for either graduation or a social studies class. It’s probably around 6 to 10 hours. Do you scramble to find a volunteer opportunity because there’s a graduation requirement? Or does your family already make an effort to improve your community or the world?

"Our giving and volunteerism should be as impactful as our earnings."

I know, some of you are thinking about how busy you are with sports and violin and mathletes and drama, but you need to answer the question.

This is a basic membership question for The Society of Man. What are you going to put on the application form? Which form are you going to fill out: the one for The Society of Man or The Consumers Society of America?

I am all for success. I want you to make as much money as possible, but you need to remember to be a member of The Society of Man. Make decisions for the good of society, for your community, for your family. Our giving and volunteerism should be as impactful as our earnings.

Are you setting an example for your kids or are you just checking the box? Do you donate your used toys, do you regularly give to a cause, do your kids see you volunteer somewhere? Do you do good deeds all year round and not just at the holidays? 

Your children learn from you and you must set the example immediately. The lesson of Ebenezer Scrooge was that it is never too late to learn this lesson, so start today if you realize that you have been remiss. 

The Society of Man does not issue membership cards, but you will know when you have joined. More importantly, make sure your kids are legacy members.


Thank You, 
Chris Coker 
CEO/President of YMCA of Boulder Valley