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Our new year is well underway.  So, how might we best set our direction?

I decided to kick off my year by joining in on a 21-day leadership challenge—not a typical Rick approach. The first challenge of the year? We had to choose from: 1) jumping into an open body of water (remember, this is January in Maryland); or 2) taking a cold shower.

Yikes! The point? To get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Of course, the discomfort was directed at the hard tasks for the remaining 20 days of the challenge. It got me thinking, however, about uncomfortable things ahead for higher education. We’ve all been through a tough two years, especially for all of you in leadership positions on campus.

Despite that, infusions of federal funding delayed some of the harder decisions that will likely now need to be made in 2022. Those decisions include restructuring academic offerings, streamlining administrative services, revising resource allocation models, and shifting resources toward programs and services that best serve the needs of students and employers.

Having partnered with hundreds of institutions as they engage in this work, I can guarantee you these efforts will be uncomfortable. They will generate noise—often in a very public way. What then should we do?

Do we pull back from the discomfort? Or do we, as leaders, embrace it?

Change without any sacrifice sounds wonderful. Physical health without exercise. Personal growth without honest reflection. Organizational change without pushback. But that’s not how lasting change is created. And it is not the job that we now must do.

The good news is that we are not alone in this work. We can discover and share successes with each other. And we can create a community of practice to ensure that these changes are enduring.

Thank you for all the ways you allow rpk to be a part of that community, and to work alongside you. Every day.