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  • Writer's pictureBill Petrie

Embracing My Discomfort

Thoughts on a bizarre start to PPAI Expo


Today is a bizarre day for me; let's just get that right out of the way. Why, you silently inquire as you read this? I'm so glad you asked. Today, I am being recognized for my service to the promotional products industry by receiving the Promotional Products Association International (PPAI) Icon Award for Distinguished Service.

Of course, I'm honored – I hope that would go without saying (or, in this case, writing). What likely doesn't go without saying is that it's more than a bit uncomfortable for me to be the center of attention. Oh, there was a time in my life when I not only reveled in being the focus of a room, I almost needed it. I craved the acceptance of others and thrived on it as if it were some sort of drug. However, at this point in my life, I'm more than happy for others to be in the spotlight. Truthfully, I prefer it – something that would likely surprise and even shock some people.

With this extra layer of being publicly recognized for something I've never done for accolades, I'm far outside my comfort zone. To my way of thinking, giving back to an industry that has given me so much is not only a duty; it's a privilege.

Giving back has never been about a pat on the back or receiving an award. In my mind, it's about leaving the industry better than when I arrived. My life has been ridiculously enriched by serving others, which makes receiving this award feel almost selfish, even though my actions have always been 100% selfless - quite the conundrum.

By the way, let me be clear: I'm not exiting the industry as I know my best years are in front of me. You all are stuck with me for a long, long time.

Over the past few months since I found out that I would be recognized for industry service today, I've had to juxtapose that feeling of unworthiness with the realization that receiving an award like this might inspire others to start their own journey of service. At least, that's my sincere hope.

As I write this less than 48 hours before stepping on a plane to Las Vegas, I'm filled with polarizing emotions: gratitude, anxiety, excitement, fear, and, yes even a tinge of pride. It's quite a bit to silently wrestle with on a day when I'll also be speaking at PPAI Expo.

So, if you see me acting a bit "off" today, you know why. Even so, please come up to me and say hello, shake my hand, or give me a hug – I welcome all of it.

Last, if you're on the fence about donating your most valuable asset – your time – I'm here to tell you that intentionally choosing to serve others in this industry has been the single best professional decision I've ever made. Whether it's sitting on a regional board, being a chef in PromoKitchen, speaking at industry events, mentoring others in the industry, writing this blog, being a Promotional Products Education Foundation (PPEF) trustee, or recording a podcast, I've received much more than I've given. I'm profoundly thankful for the many opportunities I've had…and seized.

Today, I'm embracing the discomfort and will do my best to enjoy every moment the day brings. Here's to a fantastic PPAI Expo for everyone!

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