Me: So, when you were writing songs, were there any rules you adhered to? Things like chord structures, progressions - things like that?
Jon Anderson (from Yes): No. Some of us knew that stuff. For most of us, we just did what felt right. What felt real to us in that moment.
Paul Westerberg (from the Replacements): What are you talking about??? Rules? We never paid attention to rules. There were times when we played a song six different ways on six different days.
Steve Chandler (an awesome coach): Write the book you'd want to read. Don't pay attention to the way you're supposed to do it. Leave the shoulds behind...
Me: Thanks guys. Thanks for reminding me to write what's real for me. That goes for writing books, posts and music.
The above "paper conversation" was yet another exercise in the Accidental Genius by Mark Levy. While my writing over the past couple days may seem a bit like a book report, I find that the best way to put new ideas into practice is to put them into action. I'd recommend that for anyone committed to change. And I do it here in the hope that my attempts at these things might help you if you're looking for new approaches.
But to the point of the conversation above, over the past few weeks I've gotten a bit caught up in whether there's a "right way" to write. I think this may come from being a musician. I've known since my early days of learning music that there are chord structures, progressions and melodies that work - simply put, they're pleasing to the ear. And there are plenty of books and articles out there about the right formula for writing an article or book that connects with the audience. For example, a typical how-to for writing is "Start with a Grabber". A grabber could be a shocking or inspirational quote, a brief story or something like "These are the top 5 mistakes people make when...". I have no doubt these things do have a wide appeal and can get the attention of a reader. I may even do them from time to time.
Anyway, don't get caught up in the identities of the people I'm talking to in my paper conversation. Suffice to say they're musicians and a professional coach that I have a ton of respect for and admire. More importantly, they're what I would call Originals. They do what they do in a way that leads and doesn't follow whether it's with the music they're written or the coaching they're offered and books they've written. Holding this little conversation was my way of reminding myself and you of one of my favorite sayings:
Don't be the next (fill in the blank with someone you want to be like). Be the first and best version of you.
Simply put: Be an Original
Over the past eight years, I've wrestled with different feelings about the value of Giving Tuesday. The first several years after it was launched, I was a fan. The idea that a rising tide lifts all boats seemed to be the appropriate sentiment. I say this because the day provided nonprofits with a heightened sense of awareness from the public and a great recognition of the need for financial support. Some of that positive feeling may have been contextual. Around the time Giving Tuesday was introduced, I was splitting my time between growing my own new nonprofit organization and leading another more established nonprofit. I could see that for less visible organizations like mine, Giving Tuesday was especially helpful.
Over the years, that sentiment has shifted. I still believe Giving Tuesday is a wonderful idea, but I've also experienced some of the pitfalls. Please know I'm not generalizing here - I'm merely stating some of what I've experienced. I've worked with several nonprofits where Giving Tuesday cannibalized the launch of a year-end holiday appeal. There was an organization which made the process of donating and fundraising so complicated that it became an 8 step process requiring numerous emails many weeks in advance. I've talked to organizations that spent lots of time, energy and resource planning elaborate campaigns for the day only to see very small amounts raised - sometimes pretty much what would have been raised with little or no effort.
Here's my end point: Giving Tuesday provides a unique opportunity to globally raise awareness of the important work of the nonprofit community. That in and of itself is of value. At the same time, organizations should decide whether it's a worthwhile investment to dedicate significant resources to the effort.
How do you make that kind of decision? Pretty much the same way you'd decide on and structure any campaign. Understand the results you want to create. Have a good understanding of what you'll need to raise to create those results. Know your donors and how they receive messages. And finally, figure out if Giving Tuesday is the best way to connect with those that are eager to support you.
And my final endpoint: Wishing all of you a Giving Tuesday that rewards your efforts and supports the important work you do.
With one breath, with one flow
You will know
- Synchronicity, The Police
This concept was on my mind this morning as I was reading so I decided to focus on it in today's post. I'm also listening to this old favorite by the Police from 1982 as I write this. I haven't listened to it in quite awhile and just thinking about the ability to write a song with the main verse structured around a five syllable word served to remind me just how talented a band they were.
But back to the concept of Synchronicity. First off, despite the sadness of not being able to be with my family up north, I had a nice holiday. Most importantly, I took almost a straight four days off of what I would call Deep Work. For me, that includes focused coaching or consulting, writing and the other daily practices that are so important to me. While I love what I do, the fact that I can enjoy stepping away from it doesn't demean my love for the work. Quite the opposite. In fact, what was incredible was that with a lighter mind, the full concept and design for my next program offering simply came to me.
Some of you know that in October/November, I was excited to launch the Emerging Nonprofit Leaders (ENL) program. I thoroughly enjoyed co-creating this program with six fantastic leaders in the nonprofit space. We wrapped up a few weeks ago and I've been thinking about what ENL 2.0, which will be launched in January, will look like. After a wonderful bike ride Saturday morning, with nothing much on my mind, the whole concept of what it will be came to me. I know that if I would have sat down to think deeply about it, I couldn't have come up with something better. So, if you're interested in joining for January, keep an eye out on my website www.yournonprofitnow.com as well as these posts to check it out (yes, shameless plug!)
Sure enough, the focus of the chapter in the book I was reading this morning, the Accidental Genius by Mark Levy, was the Value of Disconnecting. My hunch is that we've all had that experience of trying to think of remember something and we just can't get it. The minute we give up and figure that we'll eventually remember it, we remember. It's very similar with creativity. Sometimes we have to stop being so creative and stop being so much in our thinking to really come up with ideas and designs we love. Very much like what happened to me this morning.
So, the takeaways for this morning:
Over the weekend, an individual I have a ton of respect for read my suggestion about Slowing Down in my weekly newsletter. She suggested I address the reality that many of us are facing during these challenging times. She noted that we may be looking at reduced funding for our organizations, more demands on our time, and competing priorities. Finally, if we're lucky enough to have our jobs, we're faced with a mixture of deep concern and gratitude. She understandably noted that perhaps some of us don't have the luxury of slowing down. Perhaps the best we can hope for is taking a break.
In looking at what I just wrote, my first reaction is similar to what I often tell people if I invite people them to a coaching conversation and they respond "I can't do that- I have absolutely no time!" If I hear that, I feel even more conviction in my offer this person an introductory coaching conversation. The thought is that if you can't take an hour for yourself, you should probably take two!
But perhaps that's unfair of me to say. I'm not in anyone's shoes but my own. While I can advise myself to slow down and believe that can be universally helpful. it is simply my perspective. And that's what the coaching is. It is me (as the coach) being clear that I'm not the expert on anyone - you are the expert on you. The best I can do is ask you questions that get you talking to yourself (in a good way that is!). It's me making some inquiries to help you get to the greatness that's in you out there in the open.
So, here are questions I'd ask or you can ask yourself - if you're in a place where you feel like you can't slow down - or take a break:
I don't know if there's responds to what my friend was asking. I can say that this is the most honest answer I can give while still believing I'm sharing out of a genuine sense of service. I hope it helps any of you who might be feeling like you can't slow down or take a break.
In yesterday's post titled Happy Accidents, I alluded to the beauty of doing whatever you do with the willingness to have an important and incredible experience - what would typically be called making a mistake. But as so brilliantly explained by Bob Ross (the TV Artist), "we don't make mistakes, we have happy accidents." I thought this idea was worthy of more exploration.
Personally, I know whenever I start a new venture - creating a new organization, starting new work like coaching or learning a skill, I struggle with trying to be good. Or let's call it what it is. I want to be perfect. The perfect entrepreneur. The perfect employee. The perfect student. On it goes. And for so much of my life, I worked really hard at that. In a few cases I guess it worked - in my own head at least. I felt there were areas where I really tapped into my "inner perfect."
But I rarely found joy in that because if you think about it, when you're striving for perfect, it's impossible to reach that. For example, with my mentality, if you run a 4:30 marathon, you rarely savor the 4:30 before you're wondering what it will take to do a 4:20. More importantly, you're highly unlikely to stop if you see something amazing along the way and savor it's beauty. If you do that, you'll never hit that 4:30! Not to mention missing the fun of meeting new people, learning a new city. Those are just some of the happy accidents in this example.
Moving onto creativity, the examples are more robust. If you're determined to launch the perfect nonprofit, you may read all the right books, set up all the right structures, envision the perfect program and apply for a 501c-3. But there are other paths. You could pilot a program in your community and see what happens. You could create a hybrid model of several program models you admire. Bottom line, by willing to experiment and make some mistakes you open yourself up to the joy of happy accidents! And serve people more effectively in the process.
To close, I'll share one of my favorite sayings from my coach Melissa Ford. She describes how when she was starting, she would ask herself " What can I screw up today?" I know from working with her, the result of screwing up is a brilliant coach that's of service to so many.
So ask yourself "What can I screw up today? If you do, you may find yourself with some Happy Accidents.
One of my favorite sayings these days is Happy Accidents. But I want to give credit where credit is so deserved. I first heard this wonderful saying while watching the TV Artist Bob Ross. While many have become familiar with Bob over these last several years, I am proud to say I was a fan in the early 90's when you could only catch the shows in their original form on PBS. The show was originally taped in Muncie Indiana - I have no idea why - and the final season wrapped in 1994 (I think). Sadly Bob passed away shortly thereafter but his legacy for calm and creativity have lived on. And now, 20 plus years later, he and his half hour shows demonstrating easy effortless landscape painting have found new audiences and can be seen on streaming networks. Some trivia to start your morning!
My original point was that Bob often stated "we don't make mistakes, we just have Happy Accidents". He shared this because while he may have been using different colors or painting a range of landscapes, there was a clear process and discipline to his work. By following this approach he came up with unexpected but wonderful results. The sum of those Happy Accidents was the creation of a painting that had started off in his imagination.
I see many parallels when we do we do or as Seth Godin often calls "our art". It comes from developing practices that are the truest expression of ourselves. For me, I love creating new connections with nonprofits and their leaders. My practices are doing a few things every day - invitations to conversations, responded to requests for help, sharing ideas - that speak to that commitment to connecting. I find that the more consistently I do these activities, the more these Happy Accidents seem to find their way into my work.
Yesterday I was having a conversation with a leader in the nonprofit space. She runs an organization that is doing truly groundbreaking work. What's also interesting is that she runs her nonprofit in a unique way that challenges the typical ways we tend to look at nonprofits. But I'm going to leave this leader to tell her story - and I've been pleased to be able to share some suggestions for doing so. So I'll leave that there.
What I wanted to focus on today in this brief note is the need for new and original thinking in the nonprofit space. We need more Thought Leaders.
As we were talking about her path yesterday, I shared some information about Dan Pallotta, his books Uncharitable and Charity Case and perhaps the most intriguing of all, his Ted Talk. The talk is called The Way We Think About Charity is Dead Wrong and I've conveniently provided the link HERE. I shared this because 1) I am a huge proponent of what he's suggesting (you either know this or will shortly find out) and 2) I was using him as an example of someone moving beyond simply being an author - he's become a Thought Leader for what I'll call the helping sector.
I'm using "helping" because Dan has written and talked about moving away from the whole concept of nonprofits. The word nonprofit has implications - many that are negative. So why not elevate the language from the "no" or negative? Why not give the sector the respect it deserves for focusing on solving major problems.
So you can call today's short post a recruiting call for New Thought Leaders. And by the way, I'm not talking about some new strategies or tactics for raising money. Or a new approach to management or even leadership. Not at all. I'm talking about truly challenging the paradigms that have characterized this work for so long. Since I love the idea of I don't know what I don't know, I'll suggest that The world can't wait for the breakthrough thinking we can't wait for.
The World Is Waiting for You and your thinking. Don't keep us waiting.
As I'm writing today, I realize I've put myself in a place of what I'll call positive pressure. Today I have an overload of ideas I'm excited to write about - there's almost a nervous energy to it. This the result of having a genuine interest in things I've been writing about here for the last few days including the concept of No Just Means Not Yet. It also includes looking at alternative structures for solving significant social problems like health issues, homelessness and hunger. Notice I'm not using the work nonprofit here. I'm truly questioning the most effective structure, industry - I'm not even totally sure of the word - for solving these issues besides the current one where charities are forced to fundraise to solve these problems.
Beyond the above, I had the privilege of spending 90 minutes with Steve Chandler along with my colleagues in Melissa Ford's Intentional Prosperity for Coaches Program. Wow! I walked away with so takeaways that I could be writing for days instead of just 15 minutes. SO, the winner among all these competing thoughts is.....SLOW DOWN!
I realized as I sat down to write today how grateful I am to be able to learn from people like Steve, Melissa and the rest of my group. Moreover, having lots of ideas to start creating from is wonderful and the best thing I can do is realize it's not a race. I don't have to hit each one of these ideas out of the park today. I have the opportunity to SLOW DOWN, give each of them their due time, focus and ultimately share them as appropriate. That might mean doing some free writing on them. It might mean sharing them in coaching sessions. It could even mean doing nothing with some of them for a bit while they percolate.
But ultimately, SLOWING DOWN allows me to focus whether on creating, tackling a problem or challenge and most important of all, being of service to someone I'm coaching or working with in some other capacity. Try it.
The free writing experiment from yesterday is still going on but as I mentioned, sometimes ideas for writing come at the most interesting times....
Like 1:23 AM this morning. Really. I was doing what I'm not supposed to be doing and had my phone next to my bed. As often happens, I woke up and broke the "don't look at your phone" rule which is notorious for creating disruptive sleep. Very accurate.
I looked at an email message that had come from an old colleague with a nonprofit I had worked at fifteen years ago. As part of my 17 invitations a day, I had reached out to her six months ago. Her email started off with an apology for not having responded sooner. But more interestingly, she shared that work at her organization had become incredibly challenging and had her thinking of her career trajectory. Ultimately, she wanted to take me up on my offer of a conversation.
This was such a pleasant reminder of why I do what I do and hope that you'll consider doing something similar. As a reminder, I make it my business to reach out to connect or re-connect with 17 people every day. Why 17? Well, that's a longer story. Suffice to say that it's what I've determined to be the optimum number to create the results I want to create this year for both me and those I work with.
But back to you and why I suggest doing this. My story above is the perfect illustration that a No (as in no response or a no) simply means Not Yet. I won't pretend for a minute that I created this concept. Two of my favorite coaches, Jeff Gitomer and Steve Chandler say it numerous times in their writing, speaking and coaching. I just happen to love when I can say authentically that it's true with a live example like the one above.
If you're a fundraiser, this concept is relevant for prospective donors and partners you may reach out to. And if you're a coach - or for that matter anyone that creates a business by starting conversations - I hope this gives you a little bit of inspiration for getting your day going. Have a good one!
I'm trying something new today. At the suggestion of a colleague, I've been reading a book called the "Accidental Genius" where one of the central themes is "free writing." This is essentially what many people might call private writing or journaling. The main emphasis here is writing fast and continuously. The only thing that's not so different than what I typically do - or have been doing for the past two months or so - is setting a timer. I typically set my timer but in truth, I do it once I've landed on a topic. Sometimes I've come up with a topic way before I sit down to write. I seem to get a decent number of ideas when I'm running or cycling in the morning. That's probably the result of having a clear mind. Or at least the only thought occupying my mind is how can I do this a little better, a little faster or more efficiently. So, while I wouldn't say that's "cheating" the process, I'm typically starting with something.
The other big difference is that I share my stuff with you, the readers.
Today is different. I set the timer and started exactly what you're reading right now. By reading this you're participating in a live experiment or beginning of a newer practice. I truly have no idea where this will land but in the hopes of coming up with something interesting - or perhaps it will be where we start tomorrow - I'll throw down three topics:
Volunteer Recruitment and Management in the Virtual World
Hmmm....I realize these are things I've written about over the last few weeks so they're top of mind. So, I'm going to push for three new topics that come to mind:
How to build a fundraising program
How to create a more vibrant nonprofit community wherever you are
How to change the dynamic of nonprofits today.
I like the last one. While it's been discussed before and I have no doubt there are a few books on it, here's the big question: Is there a better model for organizations that concern themselves with solving the world's social problems? Diving in a little deeper, what is better in this case? Well, currently, the mindset is that (for the sake of this discussion, let's call them helping organizations or help orgs for short) should adhere to what Dan Pallotta once described as the Puritan model for charity.
He was referring to the fact that charities originated from our forefathers need to do penance for what they deemed were the capitalistic tendencies they brought to the New World. They were buying and selling land, trading and a host of other things that they looked at as somewhat sinful. So they felt they needed to do something redeeming. This is where the concept of tithing started as well. From this mindset, charity was born. I might not have all of this down perfectly but that's the gist. You can learn more in either of Dan Pallotta's books Charitable or Charity Case. I highly recommend both.
Well, the timer just went off. If you've continued with me this far, Thanks for playing! I think we might be on to something interesting and I'll continue tomorrow. Unless the fast writing takes me in a new direction.