When I do my daily writing, one question I often ask myself is "What Do I Want To Create Today?" It's a question that typically gets my brain moving in a good direction. For some reason - maybe something I was reading, a discussion I was having - the words Transactions vs. Relationships popped into my head. So, let's take a look....
Creating a Transaction in today's world can certainly be challenging. But it's doable. As I found out way back when as a stockbroker, transactions are often driven by numbers. Call (or more likely today) email enough people, ask them a question or make a request i.e. purchase this product or service and you'll probably find someone to say yes. In fact, when I was doing that work in the financial services field, we had it down to a science: 300 calls = 30 conversations = 10 likely prospects = 1 sale. I'm sure those numbers have shifted since the 90's and my days of cobalt blue shirts. The point is what I've just described is all about time spent, effort invested and return. There's very little about quality, the depth of the humans I spoke to and most of all, it's simply not about serving. It's primarily about ROE with the E standing in for my Effort.
Creating Relationships is such a beautifully different practice - in fact I almost hate calling it a practice because it's something that happens almost effortlessly in its best and most authentic form. And this holds whether we're talking about romance, coaching, fundraising and yes, even finance (I'm happy that things have evolved since my days on Wall Street!). In almost every way it's the opposite of creating a transaction: It's not about quantity or the number you've reached out to. It is all about the quality, kindness and connectedness of your interaction. Most of all there is no E! There is no intention on either part for any kind of return. Relationships are at their best when each person is giving simply to give. Serving to serve. End of story.
I'm not sure I introduced anything very new here. However, I hope this a helpful reminder about the brilliance of What You Can Create Today.
I recently launched a group coaching program called Emerging Nonprofit Leaders. If you're in the group and reading this again, thanks for your willingness to try something new!
One of the things we talk about and I often coach others on is the topic of Leadership. Of course there are countless books, podcasts, seminars, trainings on this topic. And that makes sense as there is an endless amount of potential to define what good leaders are, what they do, how they show up - on and on it goes.
Often when I start working with a new client they'll tell me they just want to be a better leader. After I ask them to define "better" many times one of these excellent leaders may share that they haven't received formal training, didn't get a diploma - in other words, they weren't given proper (said with a slight smile and nod of the eyebrow) Leadership Training.
When I hear this, sometimes I think of the wonderful movie the Wizard of Oz. I'm sure most of you know the movie and remember how the Tin Man wanted a heart, the Scarecrow wanted a brain and the Cowardly Lion wanted courage. And then we know that in reality, these same characters exhibited the qualities of kindness and compassion, intelligence and well, plain old courage as they journeyed on to Oz. Once they were there - and after a bit of pretense- the Wizard bestowed upon the three of them the formal trappings of what they wanted.
My point here - besides some nostalgic reminiscing - is that leaders so often have and demonstrate so many of the qualities of a true leader. Just a happy reminder: You don't need to have formal training, a diploma or anything else to show up as you are, take responsibility and be an example of decency and compassion to be a leader. It's in you already.
When I work with you, I have the privilege of helping you see it for yourself .
I started today's post forcing an idea that really wasn't there. No need to dwell on it. The bottom line is that there really wasn't a lot of truth in what I was writing about. There really wasn't something I could share that would serve any of you that might be reading this. I won't take up your time with that.
This new approach to writing - Nonprofit Now! Today - has been a wonderful and often challenging exercise for me. I'm seeing what I can come up with ON DEMAND in 15 minutes. Harkening back to what I learned from Neil Gaiman over my weekend listening is that the best thing I can do is write something that is truly me. In other words, I could spend the 15 minutes reframing someone else's stuff but you're never going to get much of me - my thinking and most of all, my offer of service.
So today, my only little tip is Don't force something that's not there. Those who read or listen to you will know it's not your truth. And more importantly, You'll Know It's Not Your Truth. Why do that?
The best we can always offer is our authentic selves and whatever is really coming up. Anything less doesn't honor those we're sharing with and those we want to serve.
You've been hacked!
That was the header to the email I woke up to at about 1:00 AM last night. Actually, my bad completely as I woke up, rolled over, picked up my phone and started to go through emails. This is probably why all those expert books tell us not to keep our phones next to our bed. We get up. We start reading. It's all over - you're not going to bed anytime soon.
But back to our story. The email went on to say a bunch of other stuff meant to scare me into paying them ransom. Real? Fake? I'm not sure but I started thinking about what happens to us - or speaking for myself (me) - when we allow ourselves to easily buy into a story. That's exactly what I was doing.
My first inclination was to believe it without any evidence or aspects of credibility. I initially reacted with fear (our go-to emotion), then a search for evidence, solutions and on and on. Until I realized something: I can decide how to respond to this or if I choose to respond at all. I can decide if it's simply a story and a story I want to adopt as truth. I could even decide if I wanted to make it My Truth and start living into that story and that truth.
Regardless of what I decided, we're constantly being hacked like this. Sometimes it's by ourselves and sometimes its external forces. We get to decide what to do with the hackers. We get to decide what serves us, others and what we're trying to create and be in the world. Think of it next time you're hacked.
As I had a really long drive over the weekend, I was listening to a ton of podcasts. The one that really struck with me - in full disclosure, this one was a MasterClass - was one with Neil Gaiman. Now Neil Gaiman isn't someone I would have guessed would have given me a lot to think about. However, as I'm writing my first book (committed to having it out in December) I thought it might be worth a listen. I would note that I had never actually read any of his books though I knew he was very prolific. And of additional appeal, I knew he had done some work on a Batman graphic novel which added to the intrigue. There were a few things that resonated with me...
He spent a lot of time talking about mistakes and the value of making them. One idea I loved was that you'll learn so much more by completing a project that has lots of mistakes then starting the perfect project but never completing it. I'm guilty as charged: I've started more great songs that had a wonderful riff, a catchy chorus but no verse. Then frustrated that the rest of it isn't quite as perfect, I set it aside. There is real value in seeing a project through, getting the feedback, learning and evolving.
I also loved his point about style and mistakes. He mentioned that he wasn't sure but he thought Jerry Garcia (guitarist for the Grateful Dead) had once said something along the lines of Style is the stuff you can’t help doing. Style in some ways is the stuff that you do wrong. While he couldn't actually confirm the quote, I love these ideas. In fact, it connects to something I strongly believe in....
I don't want to be the next (fill in for your favorite leader, hero, guru whatever). I just want to be the best me.
So with a little help from Neil Gaiman...
I guess it's Running Writing Metaphor week! In fact, in the spirit of creativity, let's declare: It's National Running Writing Metaphor Week. So, all of you folks that use running metaphors to coach, motivate, inspire and impact others, this week is yours to shine! By the way, if you're a fan of this genre of writing, I'd recommend my personal favorite Dr. George Sheehan and his wonderful book Running and Being.
But back to the main point...
This morning I was NOT running in the dark and in fact was doing my thing as the sun was rising and brightening. At one point, the sun was so strong and in my eyes that, much like the dark, I had to slow down, be more intentional and take one step at a time. I'm realizing that with a slight uptick in age (just a number of course!) I need to be careful not to hit bad bumps in the road. So slowing down a bit, being more intentional serves me well.
This idea of slowing down, taking one step at a time because of too much light - almost too much ability to see - connected with a conversation I had yesterday....
A client I truly admire had left a role at a nonprofit he was with for a little over a decade. He had decided to pursue his true passion of working with teens and education. As we discussed his steps forward, he was very comfortable in the space of beginning to explore this starting work as a volunteer. He
wasn't overly concerned with What's Next? Or What will this lead to? Or the many thoughts that often go through our mind as we start a new journey.
As an experiment, we played the game of mapping out his next year with a very intentional and structured plan that included increasing roles, responsibilities and opportunities. Not surprisingly, he found this dull and uninteresting. He was truly seeing the joy in sitting in the unknown and seeing what comes to him on this journey. Step by Step. Moment by Moment.
What happens when you Run in the Light?
Yesterday, I had a discussion with a client about the concept of giving back both from a volunteer and donor perspective. We were talking about the type of impact he wanted to have. One of his frustrations was that while he cared deeply about some health/disease related issues, he felt that when you make a donation to a large nonprofit, you are simply one of many contributing to a large pool. He continued on that he felt it didn't really connect him with the legacy he was trying to create. We then went on to look at alternatives i.e. giving to smaller charities where his investment could make more of a difference.
My goal isn't to say whether his opinion is right or wrong. In this case, I don't feel there is a right or wrong. However, I do think the discussion brings out an intriguing point.What is your criteria for giving and providing support? I would extend this question beyond simply giving time and/or dollars to charitable causes.
How do you make choices as to where you, as a helping and giving person, can do the most good and have the greatest impact.
It's a question worth considering and exploring. I'll close with a borrowed quote from Michael Neill, one of my favorite coaches. Happy Exploring!
About a month ago, I injured myself pretty badly when I went running in the dark. I was visiting family, staying in a hotel and had been running the same route for a few days. I woke up really early - still dark out - and decided I'd hit it early - and try out a new route. About a quarter of a mile into it, I hit a piece of bad pavement, went flying and opened up a few nasty cuts and bruises on my knee and elbow.
I was off for a full week, slowly got back to walking and gratefully, am back to my usual routine. Most importantly, I vowed, No More Running in the Dark.
Fast forward - today - and I am again on the road, staying at a hotel with a few good running routes I've gotten comfortable with. Deja vu! I woke up super early today and thought to myself "No way! You are not running in the dark."
Then I thought to myself. Hey, you have a headlight you can wear. You can go a bit slower. You can be a bit more mindful. But you can get outside. In fact, you have to go outside NOW and not be afraid. There might be something to learn here.
And so I did. I had a good energetic run on some new terrain. It was a beautiful morning. I had the joy of watching the sunrise.
Sometimes our thinking is our best friend and sometimes you have to realize these are just thoughts. Today the thought No Running in the Dark was happily replaced with some new ones that were so much more powerful. Don't be afraid. Move forward with what you've learned.
How can you go Running in the Dark?
Every day you get to do it better.
Now, let's take that apart.
Every day - By the way, I did a quick check because I got curious. Everyday is an adjective to describe things that occur well, everyday. Every day is what we're focused on here. That means each day. Each time you wake up. And throughout those 24 hours or 1,440 minutes. What an unlimited supply of opportunity!
You - This is all about YOU and your choices. The choice to create, serve, be and impact others.
Get to do it - Here's the really cool part! It can be anything, everything or just one thing. You can focus on widespread improvement or going deep and going for big change. It's all good. It's all your choice
Better - You define it. What is better? It's not always more or bigger or the more typical definitions. It could be deeper listening - which is silence instead of sound. It could be slowed down - instead of really fast.
What will you be better at today?
Power is often thought of in terms of strength, magnitude and the ability to sometimes even dominate. In all candor, I've personally thought of power as my ability to influence or have an impact on a group of people. This thinking tends to be about Quantity. In other words, the more people I impact or influence, the greater my power. I suppose there is truth in that.
But what about Quality? There is power in the ability to support, help or simply be present for one person. Consider the potential impact of spending unlimited time, caring deeply and being focused on the well-being of just one other person. That too can change the world.
It's not one vs. the other. There are moments for both. Choose wisely.