Razoo tweets and Ira Glass

On Monday I noticed a tweet from the nonprofit fundraising site Razoo, quoting a blog post of mine from 2012.


It was the elegant graphic they’d created from my blog post that made me do a little jig.   The bonus was when I scrolled I saw that the other folks they’d quoted recently: Roald Dahl, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Mr. Rogers. That’s a group I’ll always be happy to be a part of!


What’s the Razoo team doing here? Finding a few choice phrases and sharing them, simply and elegantly. Easy enough for anyone to do, really.

This got me thinking that part of the reason we don’t create and share enough of our own work is that we set the bar way too high. Our job isn’t to be brilliant every day and to say something that’s never been said by anyone anywhere ever. I’ll say that again: our job is not to say something that’s never been said by anyone anywhere ever. If that were our job, almost everyone would produce nothing.

Our job is, quite simply, to give something of value to a like-minded community. Tiny observations, drips of inspiration, curated content about something we are passionate and have a point of view about…these all count. It is in the act of giving, consistently, to that community that our voice gets stronger. And as our voice gets stronger, so does that community.

Ira Glass nails this point perfectly in this NPR video interview. What’s particularly great, which I only heard because I’m writing this blog post, is that at minute three he plays a tape of a broadcast he did eight years into his job at NPR, and explains why it is  terrible.  Just terrible execution of a good story idea.  Eight years in, and Ira Glass, future winner of the Edward R. Murrow award, wasn’t any good.  If you care at all about building your capacity as a communicator, listen to minutes 3-5 which include Ira’s one-sentence take on what the story really was.

Here are Ira’s words of wisdom on doing creative work (and here’s a video that brings Ira’s words to life):

All of us who get into creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But it’s like, there’s a gap…That for the first couple years that you’re making stuff, what you’re making isn’t so good. It’s not that great. It’s trying to be good, it has ambition to be good, but it’s not quite that good.   But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, your taste is still killer. And your taste is good enough that you can tell that what you’re making is kind of a disappointment to you, y’know what I mean?

A lot of people never get past that phase. A lot of people, at that point they quit….

And the most important possible thing you can do is do a lot of work. Do a huge volume of work. Put yourself on a deadline…Because it’s only by going through a volume of work that you are actually going to catch up and close that gap. And the work you’re making will be as good as your ambitions.

Go out there and create something.

Ask and ask again

Ira Glass, host of the NPR show This American Life, has a new twist on getting people to give to NPR.  As part of NPR’s funding drive, Ira is calling people on the phone and having them “turn in” family members who don’t give to NPR, despite being devoted listeners.  I heard Ira call up a woman who said her parents “subjected” her to NPR for years when she was growing up (now she’s a fan).  On the radio, the daughter gets the mother to the phone and says, “Mom, I’ve got Ira Glass on the phone and he wants to know why, after so many years, you haven’t given to NPR?”   It’s the light, respectful version of the phone tap.

(For a laugh, here’s the audio of Ira’s calls to Megan, Paul, and Kathleen from January 21, 2009.)

I used to spend 8 hours a week driving to and from work – a horrible waste of time, but I did get to listen a lot of NPR.  The pledge drive always was painful, but I admit that it sometimes took being asked more than once for me to remember to give.  And I fell for all the tricks – 2x and 3x matches; give a certain amount and get a copy of The Silver Spoon cookbook, you name it. I guess I and the rest of the listeners got what we deserved – it took that much ear-pounding to get us to give.

What I like most about the pledge drives is that the hosts of shows I listened to every day would get on the radio and say, “If you liked this show, if you listened to it all year long and if it made a difference in your life, you should support us financially.”  No qualms, no apologies.

I do think there are better ways to raise money, but it is helpful to be reminded that we often have to ask more than once to get someone to make a financial commitment (especially the first time).

A parting thought: I wonder if the NPR hosts themselves dread this or are proud to ask for money?

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