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.
This morning I've got a serious case of procrastination. Right up to the moment I starting writing this, I was engaged in my usual distraction: news, emails., facebook posts and on it goes. This is not my usual morning practice.
Then I realized what was going on:
I was living up to my own expectations.
Given that the past two weeks were very challenging, yesterday I had a discussion with Me Inc. (thanks Theresa) and came to a decision. I was giving myself today off. This seemed like a great idea: A day of relaxation, a bit of binge watching and other nonproductive activity.
But then I woke up early this morning, went for a run and thought I wanted to work. Until I sat down to work and realized I just couldn't get into it. Somewhere in my subconscious I had told myself to just chill today.
I tend to live into my expectations in other venues too. Something very similar happens with my running. If my training calls for five miles, I'm mentally ready to run those 5 miles - but not much more. Yet, if training the next day calls for 7 miles, no problem and the five miles I ran the day before seems like a breeze as I had into 6 and 7. This plays out in other venues.
Here's my big point: I can't speak for you the reader but I have a hunch many of us tend to live into our expectations. It's something we have control of. The beautiful thing is that we always have the freedom to change our expectations: raise them, lower them or even completely redefine our expectations for ourselves.
If you're even an occasional TV watcher you probably recognize this line. It's from a clearly memorable ad for Capital One. Now, the point of today isn't to sing the praises of that bank. Quite simply, I sat down to write this post and it popped into my mind. So I decided to go with it.
All the sudden I was thinking of the wallet metaphorically as our "bag of tricks". I'm referring to those unique set of practices we all have. Whether we're aware of it or not, we tend to respond to situations with approaches to life for we've developed over time:
My simple suggestion to today is to do the following:
1) Take the time to become aware of What's In Our Wallet
2) Consider whether what's in our wallet is serving us as well as those we want to serve in a positive and impactful way and then;
3) Figure out if there are new things we want to put in our wallet
This is a practice that can add to the richness of life - pun absolutely intended!
I’ve been in the nonprofit fundraising profession for nearly twenty years. And I’ve now been in the coaching profession for about two years. I’ve seen plenty of coaching blogs and as well as fundraising blogs. Yet, I’ve never seen something that combines the two into actionable daily posts or ideas. I’m changing that Right Now (kind of like Nonprofit Now!)
Why am I doing this?
I get to start each day by serving others while creating something new in the world.
Today is easy! I created Nonprofit Now! Today. Tomorrow will probably be a bit more challenging.
By the way, this doesn’t mean that I won’t continue to write longer posts and share bigger ideas as I do on New Thinking From Nonprofit Now!. It simply means that starting today, I’m creating a daily practice of service to others and creation. Welcome to Nonprofit Now! Today.