The thing about being generous

Is that most of the time the generosity comes right back at you, except when it doesn’t.

You can lean into that rejection too.

That tiny sense that someone just took advantage of you? It’s a reminder that this isn’t a zero sum game.  It’s also a chance to remember that there are times when you, too, were less generous than you could have been.

Whatever you do, don’t let these rebukes stray you from your path.

(and speaking of paths, here’s Nipun Mehta’s beautiful UPenn Commencement speech on generosity – the transcript of which has been read more than 100,000 times)

Most of the time

You can’t make people care.

You can make people act.

How does knowing this change what you say and do?

The thing they don’t tell you

…when you set out to change the world is that the bottom right part of the table is actually MORE frustrating than the bottom left.

If you’re stuck there, I hope you choose to keep looking for the top right (succeeding), rather than retreating to the bottom left (not trying).

It’s not personal, it’s business

Really?

Feels to me like that’s a big part of the problem.

How did you raise all that money?

“I hustled.”

“Yeah, but what else?”

She already answered your question.

Six types of blogging days

  1. “This is such a great idea!  People will love this!  I’m a wonderful blogger!  It’s so easy!”
  2. “What the #*$%# is wrong with my  #%*$%$ computer!!”
  3.  “I’m not used to writing here/at this time of day.”
  4. “Gosh I thought this post was going to be easier to write.  This is taking forever and it’s still not there yet.”
  5. “Is this post good enough?”
  6. “I have nothing to say.  I’ll never have anything to say. It’s all been said before.”

The hard part is: you have to post on all of these days.  And the dirty little secret is that no one, not even you, can tell which is which.

Keep at it.

(p.s. this post isn’t just about blogging)

Each and every dollar

If you work at a nonprofit, as I do, you might pause and consider: each and every dollar for your organization comes from a gift.

Obvious at some level, but if you stop to think about this for a second your perspective changes.  Think of the seriousness and the intention of every donor, the dreams – small or big – they attach to the donation they have made.

I’m not at all advocating for penury for nonprofit staff; in fact I firmly believe that we need the best people to create massive change.  The problems we are working on are so important, so challenging, so complex, and pay is part of the equation in getting and keeping the best folks.

But there’s a certain humility that comes with remembering that you are working on someone else’s dime, that no matter where you are and what you are doing, you are engaged in service work thanks to the trust that someone has placed in you and in your organization.

It never ceases to amaze me that the nonprofit sector has a reputation for being less rigorous, less focused, less fast-paced, less strategic than the private sector.  First, because all the people I know who work at nonprofits put their hearts and souls into their work every day.  Second because once we’ve made the decision to do this work we have no choice but to be completely committed and to do our best work every day.

The minimum bar is to treat the money your organization spends like your own.

The higher bar is to remember that it is a gift from someone else, entrusted to you to make a change in the world.

It’s a huge responsibility.

Missing deadlines

There are two things that happen when you miss deadlines, the first obvious, the second insidious.

The direct impact is that you don’t ship your product.  Revenues come in later.  Business partners are disappointed.  Your team is let down.

The insidious part is that – drip, drip, drip – what you mean by “deadline” starts to erode.  “Deadline” becomes “what we’re shooting for if nothing goes wrong.”  But of course something always goes wrong, so the first sign of trouble becomes a chance to negotiate (with your team , with your business partners, and with your procrastinating self), a chance to argue that something’s got to give.

When hitting deadlines becomes non-negotiable, you and your team put that whole negotiation aside and just get to work.  It’s amazing to discover what you can produce when you expect yourself to deliver every time.

*                         *                               *                                      *                                    *

(If you’re curious: it turns out that the source of the word is a “dead line” for American Civil War prisoners who were kept inside a stockade.  A railing placed inside the stockade marked the line prisoners were not allowed to pass – and guards were told to shoot any prisoner who crossed the line, because they were deemed to be trying to escape.)

Wanted: open-hearted troublemakers

Katya posted here and here about a call for co-conspirators in creating Generosity Day 2012.  For newer readers, we launched Generosity Day 2011 as a reboot of Valentine’s Day, a chance to create a day about genuine love, openness and connection with everyone.  Katya’s post has the full scoop.

The first time we did it, it was a flash-mob of an idea created and executed in 72 hours over a weekend.  With no budget or plan, we created a mini-phenomenon, validating our hunch that there’s a hunger out there for permission to act differently.

Let’s make it bigger, bolder, better in 2012.

Here’s the sign-up form for any role you want to play, big or small (enthusiastic support from the sidelines; committing to spread the word; being part of the core planning team; etc.)

The day only happens if you’re part of it.  Sign up here. (No downside, no spam, we promise).  You can even click just to tell us you like the idea.

Work really hard

All the most incredible people I know work hard.  Really hard.  Crazily hard.

My first job out of college was as a management consultant.  The deal in those jobs is that you sign away your life for a few years in exchange for a professional experience that gives you a lot more exposure and learning than you really deserve, given what you know.

That was my experience.  In the first two months on the job I worked 7 days a week, 12-14 hours a day.  It was pretty miserable.  And that was a close approximation of the next four years.  Of course, I also learned a lot.

I also figured that working that hard had to be temporary.  It had to be, I figured, since the distinction between “work” and “my life” was a bright line.  Work wasn’t terrible, but it was definitely work = something I had to do.  Not working = fun.  Over time, the more I worked the less I felt I was living.  For me, that was exhausting.

That’s why I think passion and loving what you do win every time – because you want to be there.  Your mind is always churning with the next idea, not because your boss tells you to but because you’re doing your life’s work.

Of course you’re not going to love every job every day starting today for the rest of your life.  It takes some time to get there, since it’s a combination of self-discovery, trial-and-error, and chance.

If you’re not working at your dream job today, what do you do?

The easier, but ultimately limiting, option is to slog away at the job you don’t love, and steal every last minute you can for “free time.”

The other option is to make finding and living your passion a big part of what you do, starting today.  You don’t do this by quitting your job (assuming that’s not an option) but by taking the time you have when not at “work” to keep on working, not on your day job but at discovering and learning your craft and your passion.

Jump into your dreams today.  Find the 15 most influential/inspirational people doing/writing about the work you hope to do, and read them religiously.  Add in a few people who are going to give you a daily dose of kick-in-the-pants inspiration.  Get involved in conversations that will lead to opportunities for real-life interaction and opportunity. Learn the skills that will serve you in your life’s work – by setting aside the time today, rolling up your sleeves, and doing the work.

Stephen King famously said that step 1 in writing is “Put butt in chair.” That chair isn’t placed in front of a TV or a computer that’s browsing Facebook, it’s not a barstool and when you sit in it you’re not reading a trashy novel.

It’s placed squarely in front of the tools of your trade, the ones you hope, someday, to master.