"It's not who I am (underneath) but what I do that defines me."
Recognize the line above? It's from Batman Begins. I loved it the first time I heard it and continue to be inspired by it. I'll share that I've been a Batman fanatic since they made Corgi Bat-mobiles back in the 60's (think Adam West as Batman) I was extra thrilled and re-inspired when I watched the film twice last week- it was one of the featured films going both ways on a recent trip.
I love this line because these days, the trend is to view people and organizations as brands or symbols. Today's superheroes are those that have legions of twitter followers, "likes" and hits on a website.
But consider IMPACT over IDENTITY. As professionals and organizations, we could all benefit from a little more Batman -- a renewed focus on WHAT WE DO (that defines us). And less on WHO WE ARE.
How often are we asked what we do and answer "I'm a (fill in the blank). That response doesn't describe our impact on others or the world. One example of this difference: When I was in financial services, the truly successful professionals didn't say "I'm a stockbroker" or "I'm a registered representative." Instead, they described their work as a mission in progress commenting that "I help families send their kids to college, finance a comfortable retirement, and fund a philanthropy of their choice." Clear, concise. A difference in the world.
In the charitable sector, this question can seem very clear and concise. It's easy to describe our work with an organization in terms of activity. For example, I feed the hungry, house the homeless, or heal the sick. But go beyond the here and now to consider your personal role and vision. Let's say you're the Development Director for an organization that supports homeless shelters. Yes, you raise money to build homeless shelters. But what's the bigger picture? You bring together individuals and organizations in the effort to end homelessness. That's a lasting difference in the world.
I bring all this up not just because I'm a Batman fan or to encourage more meaningful cocktail conversation. I believe that taking the time to define WHAT YOU DO and not just WHO YOU ARE is time well spent. The result:
(and the keys to the BatMobile...)
Robert Grabel is the President of Nonprofit Now! You can find his posts here and at www.robertgrabel.com
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