The itsy bitsy spider
Climbed up the water spout
Down came the rain
And washed the spider out
Out came the sun
And dried up all the rain
And the itsy bitsy spider
Climbed up the spout again
— Author unknown, published in Camp and Camino in Lower California (1910)
Editor’s note: This column comes from Amy Spatrisano’s sustainability session at IMEX Frankfurt.
Ever feel like the itsy bitsy spider? You’re climbing your way up to something, and it isn’t easy. You slip, then must regain your footing and any distance you lost. The climb feels daunting at times. Finally, just as you’re about to crest the top, something or someone knocks you down. You’re back where you started, feeling like it’s all for nothing.
I’ve felt like this many times while working toward sustainability. The constant resistance — coming up with reasons why not to engage or, worse, total contempt for anything that remotely sounds or smells like a sustainable act — is exhausting and demoralizing. In those moments I feel like the rain comes down and washes everything away.
What would a spider do? Well, as the rhyme goes, the sun comes out, dries up the rain and the spider climbs again. It’s not always that simple for people. But the rhyme does prompt me to think about what spiders have that makes them determined to start anew. How does a person get or stay motivated in the face of opposition. Here’s what I discovered.
There are three traits of a spider that resonant with me. They’re the weavers of webs, extremely agile and great at maintaining the balance of things. If you sketched the number of industries with which the meetings industry connects daily, it likely would resemble a spider web.
We house, feed and transport people. We use all forms of technology and buy products and services from all over the globe. We contribute to local economies when attendees shop, visit attractions, restaurants and entertainment. By connecting this way, we can have an amazing influence on how meetings are conducted, how to minimize our impact on the environment, support social legacies and communities, and experience economic stability and growth. Understanding this helps me resume the climb.
Whether you’re involved in sustainability work or not, your ability to be agile is critical to your sanity and success in the meeting industry. Spiders have the ability to move quickly and be gracefully nimble. So do most of us.
The spider’s ability to maintain balance is something to which any sustainability devotee should aspire. Balancing the people, planet and profit is an ongoing practice. I find it critical to determine the purpose, the goal and the why.
For a spider, web-building is a singular purpose: They much catch prey to survive. Balancing the people, planet and profit is also about survival, one could argue. Using sustainability to keep my balance helps me make smart, respectful and more successful choices. Unlike the spider, I do have diverse purposes for weaving a web and ensuring its viability.
To find the motivation, I have to look beyond the spider because it’s instinctively programmed to climb up the spout again. Not me. And determination isn’t always enough motivation. When you’re repeatedly washed down the spout how do you shake it off and try again?
If you’re following the rhyme, you wait until the sun comes out, right? Well, sort of. The sun can come in many forms. In my case, it’s an amazing circle of support from my business partner, my team, my clients, industry friends and family.
Just when I don’t think I can do this anymore, one of three things happens: I get a random email from someone thanking me for something I’ve said or done; I’ll stumble across a reading or quote that has just the right message; or someone from my circle slaps me (metaphorically) on the side of the head.
In a sense, the sun does come out again and reminds me that I’m grateful to do the work I do. And while I’ll likely get washed away again, the sun will come out, dry up all the rain and I can climb up again and again and again.