This is my final article for 2015. I’d like you to remember something.

Within any space, there are experts. There are authorities. There are conferences. There are speakers. There are people making predictions, talking about the future of that space. There are people using big words. There are people taking the old and making it seem new again. There are books. There are courses. There are webinars. There are workshops. There are podcasts. There are blogs.

Some of these describe me and my work (I’ll let you choose which, ha).

There are people who work hard to try to differentiate themselves, to make you feel as though they possess the secret knowledge. The emotional triggers they use might make you feel as if you are inferior or lacking unless you learn what they have to teach you.

This is not true. You don’t need them (or me).

You Have the Power

It is you, humble professional with your head down, doing the work, that has the potential to move us forward. It is us, as a collective, that realizes the potential of this work.

It’s not anyone’s prediction. It seems like, every year, I get asked for predictions about the future of community management, for a blog post, an ebook or something. Usually, I decline. Once in a while, I might take a stab at it, but no one really knows what comes next, no matter how confident they may sound. While these thought exercises have value, what makes the future is the work that you actually do.

Don’t Let Everybody Influence You

Many of the people I respect most in our profession do not regularly participate in our industry conversations. They don’t tweet about their work everyday. When they do, they don’t use the #cmgr hashtag. They blog infrequently, if at all. They might pop up from time to time at a conference or in a discussion on Facebook. But they aren’t ever-present. They aren’t selling you anything. They are doing the work.

I realize this is going to sound like an insane thing to say, but don’t fall into the trap of thinking that people like me – people who regularly write and speak about this profession – are necessarily the people you should be listening to. Seek out community professionals in your general industry. Have email conversations, lunches and Skype calls. Befriend the people in the same role at your supposed competitors, for they are facing the same challenges as you.

I know a ton of people in this space. I’m friendly with virtually all of them, and I’ve supported the vast majority of industry resources that have popped up over the last 15 years. But that doesn’t mean that I allow all of them to define what community is for me or how I go about my business. Choose who you allow to influence you – and who you allow to inform you of your self-worth as a professional – very carefully. Do not give that power lightly or just because someone has written a book, has a lot of Twitter followers, testimonials, etc.

The Future is Now

There is a humility that we all must have to become better. Those of us who are experienced need to have the humility to recognize that we have only a limited set of answers. That’s all we’ll ever have. We should seek to grow our understanding. Those of us who are new need to have the humility to understand that our work, no matter how revolutionary it might feel, is not uncharted territory. Your peers can save you time, money and pain.

But the future is not decided by predictions. The future is not what we talk about. It’s what we do. The future is decided by professionals like you, doing the work.