When “I can’t” is not an option

October 6, 2016
in People
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This past summer, First West Credit Union’s Chief Operating Officer, Shelley Besse travelled to Mexico where she traded in a good book and her beach umbrella for a hammer and nails, and her sandals for work boots, all in an effort to make a meaningful difference for one deserving family by building them a new home.
Shelley shares her experiences, and a valuable takeaway, below: 
Instead of a ‘typical’ summer vacation, this past August my sister and good friend joined me on a humanitarian trip with Live Different, a Canadian charitable organization that has built over 400 homes, schools and other projects since founded in 2000. I felt so privileged to have been a part of this trip; it was a totally new experience that pushed me far outside my comfort zone. 
In early August we flew into San Diego, where we were joined by 23 other volunteers which included men and women ranging in ages from 15 to 58. Our group loaded onto a bus that drove us five hours south to our project site in Zapata, Mexico. There we split into teams and our crew of 12 people spent the next four and a half days building a house for a deserving family―Sarahi, who was confined to a wheelchair following an accident she’d suffered eight years ago, and her daughter Samanta.
Being able to build this family their own home and empower them to live independently was an incredible feeling which has had a huge impact on me. The sense of fulfilment when we completed the project was overwhelming but moreover, I was surprised at what the experience taught me about myself and my own approach to challenges. 
My big “Aha!” moment came early in the trip, before we even began building. We were tasked with loading an enormous amount of equipment onto the bus, including one 200-pound generator. It was no small feat but there was no one there telling us we couldn’t do it. It didn’t matter if we were young or old, male or female―we shed our preconceived notions of what we could or couldn’t do to complete the task at hand. There was no place for, “I can’t”. 
I see a shift in mindset, such as this, an important step for all of us to take as we adapt to the ongoing change within our organization and in the financial services industry as a whole. While change is not always comfortable, it’s a vital step in the process of finding new and better ways to serve our members. All too often we develop our own perceived barriers that drastically limit what we’re able to accomplish. My experience in Zapata reminded me that we are far more powerful when we remove these barriers―which are all too often imaginary―and approach projects with an “I can” mentality. Once we eliminate our doubts, it’s amazing what we can achieve together in a short time. 
―Shelley Besse | Chief Operating Officer, First West Credit Union