By Kristin Anderson
Greetings fellow stenographers, students, teachers, legal videographers, legal professionals, staff, my dear friends and family, and everyone else here who supports the stenographic profession! Welcome to the great state of Texas and our largest city, Houston, and the home of the reigning Major League Baseball World Series Champions, the Astros. By now you probably realize our staple fragrances by day are H-E-B brand SPF 70 or greater and by evening bug repellent spray. If you have not picked these two items up by now, trust me, these will be unbelievably valuable tangible connections to make this week if you are venturing outside the conference center.
It is also my distinct pleasure to welcome each of you back here to Texas after 16 years. NCRA was last here for its annual Convention in 2007 at the Grapevine Gaylord located in the DFW area. Ironically, that was the very first NCRA Convention I ever attended, and I have not missed one ever since then.
Make Every Connection Matter! This is not only the theme you are going to see this week but something I hope that is very impactful for you both personally and professionally in the year ahead. First, let us discuss connections as vital foundations in our lives, the things that keep us grounded. We are connected to those in our lives either by blood, culture, or circumstance. Meaning we have connections through our family heritages, nationality, and race. These social and emotional connections matter because, during our formative years, we develop our values and moral codes. These include the individuals you can confide in and who understand you. Just like a skyscraper must have a firm foundation to withstand Mother Nature, we, too, must be firmly grounded to face all the challenges in our own lives. Some of us have survived great adversity from our personal circumstances, possibly even serious health issues, but here you are today. Think about the connections that give you your strength, courage, and perseverance to overcome misfortune to get through to the other side. Likely, there are personal connections in your life that made a difference for you at that time, whether it was family members, mentors, or friends — or all these people. Always remember where you came from and how it got you to where you are today.
As I scan the audience before me, some of those incredibly special people are here for me today: My family, my friends, and my mentors. Some of them are not here or have passed. However, the power of their presence and the positive impact of all these connections mold you into who you are in this world. Reach out to these individuals, check on them, and let them know what they mean to you. Time is so precious because in the end we never have enough of it.
Every connection matters, but the strongest of these connections will improve your physical health, increase your mental and emotional well-being, your confidence, and your self-esteem. Strong connections allow you to have life satisfaction and happiness, provide better coping skills in stressful situations, and allow a greater sense of purpose and belonging. With that said, always be available for face-to-face interaction. In today’s digital world, it is easy to rely on text messages, email, and social media to stay connected with our colleagues, friends, and family members. Do not underestimate the essential benefits of face-to-face interactions for maintaining strong personal connections. Be available for quick meetups for coffee, walking your Labradors, or even happy hour.
Professional connections are people you know through work or other trade activities. These connections can be helpful in networking and advancing your career. So stay involved with your state and national associations and attend their industry events. This allows you to connect and network with individuals face-to-face who share your trade and your values. These will help advance your professional career and your skills all while promoting the profession. Meaningful professional connections not only allow you to learn and grow from the guidance you receive from others, but it is also personally rewarding to see your own support and encouragement benefiting your connections as well.
Remember to be an active listener when interacting with others by being present and truly listening to what they are saying. Showing genuine interest in another person is a key component of any strong connection. Put away your phone, make eye contact, and ask questions to show engagement in your conversation. Again, whether it is a simple “thank you” for a random act of kindness or a more heartfelt expression of gratitude, taking the time to show appreciation will go a long way in strengthening your connections. Always remember to be yourself. It is important to be genuine in your interactions with others to offer assistance and support. One of the best ways to nurture your connections is to be there and support others when it is needed. This will solidify your bond.
Intellectual connections are people you share ideas with and who challenge your thinking. These could be people you debate with, people you learn from, or people who inspire you. Creative connections are people you collaborate with creatively. These could be people with whom you enjoy writing or presenting seminars with.
The world is becoming increasingly interconnected, and it is important to have a diverse network of connections to thrive in society. Diverse connections will provide a broader range of perspectives. Being exposed to one way of thinking promotes complacency, but by seeking out diverse connections, you will become more open-minded and understanding. You will even learn new things. If you only seek out and connect with individuals who are like you, you will not learn new things and information. If you diversify your connections, you will have the opportunity to learn about new topics and gain new skills, thus becoming more innovative. If you want to be truly innovative, surround yourself with people who have different backgrounds and perspectives. By hearing different points of view, you will be able to produce more creative solutions to problems and be better prepared for the future.
Again, making connections is important for your mental and emotional health. It can help you feel more connected to the world and less alone. So do not be afraid to reach out and make real connections every day. In a planet full of connections, the tangible ones of modern day — including electricity, internet, and television, which we use to stay connected to society — can hinder the true value of personal human connections which can get lost when too much technology is involved. We can relate a lot of that burden to COVID-19 when our universe shut down and was dependent on working technology. Mental health can be fragile to address, so please check on your people, be there for them, help them, and never underestimate the value of personal and face-to-face connections. Every connection truly matters and having outlets is essential — whether it is working off stress at the gym each day, riding a motorcycle, meditation, or horseback riding — make time to reset those intrapersonal connections for your long-term health and well-being as well.
How else do connections matter? We have our passions, which include our professional and personal interests that all make us unique and able to leave our footprint on society. Being a stenographer is a distinctive skill set to have. Those of us who are seasoned in our industry, think back to when you were a student. I can remember it like it was yesterday. Sometimes attorneys take me back there as I hold on for dear life to keep up with the 300-plus words a minute, which used to be heated interchanges but now seems more like the status quo. How do we make it through the good and the bad days? We have mentors and friends, and we celebrate and sometimes commiserate together. We are all human. Do not underestimate the value of having connections to learn from in our industry and with whom we can share our abilities and experiences. We are all stronger together.
Make these connections matter. I can tell you, if the method did not matter, if steno did not matter, I do not think many of you would be sitting in this room today. I surely would not be standing before you. So encourage one another, respect one another. In a world full of so much uncertainty, I will remind you in all your dealings to think before you speak and ask yourself: Is it true? Is it necessary? Is it kind? Our work is difficult, and it is important to lift one another up and not tear one another down. Our army of steno advocates is small but mighty; we achieve more working together to promote and protect it. This also means stepping outside our comfort zones and having hard discussions with decisionmakers, stakeholders, and the public. Make a connection with legislators and administrators, share with them the limitations of other methodologies for record making including privacy and chain of custody concerns. If you need more information on how to better equip yourselves for discussing these issues, contact your leadership. I want to hear from you. Email me at my personal email address, and I will advance your interests and concerns to the board of directors so they can be addressed.
In a world that is often increasingly focused on me, me, me, it is easy to forget that we are all interconnected. We are all in this together, and what we do affects those around us for better or for worse. That is why it is important to give back. When we help others, we are not only making their lives better, but we are also making the world a better place. And this benefits all of us.
Giving back does not have to be a grand gesture. It can be something as simple as lending a listening ear to a student stuck at a certain speed in need of encouragement or volunteering to serve on a committee or advocate for our profession. It is the little things that matter, and they all add up. When we give back, we create connections. We connect with others in a way that is deeper and more meaningful than just superficial small talk. We connect with our shared humanity and stenographic community, and we realize that we are all in this together.
Giving back to your profession also helps us to develop a sense of gratitude. We start to see the good in our lives, and the random acts of kindness and compassion make the world a better place for all of us.
The state bug of Texas is the monarch butterfly. A butterfly symbolizes transformation, beauty, rebirth, hope, freedom, endurance, and love. Some essential parts of the NCRA Strategic Plan are to increase public awareness to drive support for the profession, incentivize professional development, strengthen and expand the professional community, increase recruitment of new talent, and insulate against marketplace infiltration of deceptive practices and inferior methodologies. We still have work to do to achieve the goals set out in our strategic plan. By utilizing these traits of transformation, hope, endurance, and love for our timeless profession, we can and will accomplish them every step of the way. Volunteer and share your talents and knowledge to give back and make meaningful connections that will last a lifetime. No matter what happens in this life, we always have an opportunity to refocus and reset and change our course for the positive.
In Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, his powerful lessons in personal change remind us to be proactive and take initiative, begin with the end in mind, put first things first, think win/win, seek first to understand, then to be understood, synergize, and sharpen for balanced renewal. So in being a steno advocate, be like the monarch butterfly, be transformational and enduring, and go out in this world and make every connection matter.
Kristin M. Anderson, M.A., RPR, FCRR, is the 2023-2024 NCRA President.