The Joy and Terror of Launching

Watching dozens upon dozens of young professionals stream through the doors of our YNPN launch party, I simultaneously felt so happy and relieved that I wanted to cry and so terrified that I wanted to puke.

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I’ve become familiar with this adrenaline-packed mixed emotion over the past few years, as I’ve taken professional risks and lent my energy to side projects I’ve found meaningful. I’m no Olympian, but I imagine it must be what a diver or gymnast feels in midair, as their body twirls and they try to discern from their swirling surroundings whether or not they’ll land on their feet.

Launching a project is a lot of planning, even more communication and follow-through on plans. It’s pretty simple in theory: Figure out what you’re going to do, let people know you’re doing it and then deliver on that promise. But, in my experience, each stage involves overcoming a dose of fear. Sure, you’ve done your research and it seems like a good idea. You’re enthused! And then the doubt creeps in. What if you’re the only one who’s excited about it? You take the time to cobble together a social media presence, and then wonder if you have what it takes to feed that beast and contribute to the conversation in a way that will make people take note. You have your checklist of to-dos, only to be sidelined by other projects or a case of procrastination, or unanswered calls and e-mails. Get through all three and that’s the takeoff.

And then there’s phase two. To borrow an Iowa cliche: You built it, but will they really come? After all that work, you hope so. But not every gymnast sticks a routine, especially the first time. And if they do show up, is your project sustainable? Can you keep the momentum alive?

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The YNPN launch party felt like phase two of a gearing-up process I was grateful to share with other talented and committed professionals/friends. Instead of barfing, I took a deep breath. Looking at the crowd who enthusiastically assembled to launch this group was inspiring. I saw some familiar faces there to champion the idea, but I met a lot of new people who were eager to find a networking and professional development opportunity that fit the YNPN vibe.

Because the nature of this project — building a group of young nonprofit professionals who meet to share experiences, resources and connections to advance the field in Des Moines — success isn’t really about our steering committee executing a perfect move, then running a marathon. It’s about creating a structure others can and will take ownership of. I know there are many people in Des Moines who are ready to take a leadership role and find their own piece of the joy and terror of launching.

Would you like to contribute a guest blog to the YNPN Des Moines site? Details here.

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