Friday, December 27, 2013

Popular, Best, Good enough

One of my favorite Christmas traditions in our church is the Children's Program.  Actually, I tolerate the bulk of the program because I'm really there to hear one thing- "The Friendly Beasts."  If you've never heard that song sung by children- live, and non-professionally- you're missing out on one of life's great moments.

What makes it special is that is ISN"T perfect, or even close to perfect.  It has to be "good enough," it wouldn't be any fun if it was a total train wreck.  It's little kids in animal suits doing the best they can after a few rehearsals.  If they know the words- at least with a little prompting, and can even carry some semblance of a tune- it's good enough.  The restarts and other miscues are part of the appeal. 

Sometimes, as adults, we loose that spirit and get too worried about perfection- to the point that we don't attempt things that we could do.  Maybe not do perfectly, but good enough.  We choose to do nothing instead.  Bad choice.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Which Charity? By Seth Godin

Great post by Seth Godin.  If you don't follow him already, you should!

Which charity?
Organized non-profits provide reach, leverage and consistency that can't be matched by the millenia-old model of individuals helping those they encounter in the community. It's one of the extraordinary success stories of the industrial age that they've been able to have such a worldwide impact with relatively few resources. As our choices continue to increase (yes, there's now a long tail of philanthropy), it gets ever more important that we make conscious choices about what to support and how.

Here are a few questions with no right answers, questions that might help you think about where you want to allocate your charitable support...

Are you more drawn to emergencies that need your help right now, or to organizations that work toward long-term solutions to avoid the emergencies of the future?

Would you prefer to support a proven, scaled, substantial organization, or does the smaller, less well-known organization appeal to you?

How much personal impact and leverage do you seek?

Are you a browser, jumping from issue to issue, or are you more excited about a long arc of a relationship?

Is this donation anonymous? If it's not, who will you choose to tell? Does their reaction matter?

How much of your donation activity is the result of opportunities and outreach from the organization, and how much from unprompted giving? (Hint: organizations do a lot of outreach because it works on their donors, not because it's fun. You will get more of what you respond to.)

What story do you tell yourself about you and your giving?

Are you focused on published numbers of organizational efficiency (how much goes into fundraising and admin)? Or does it make more sense to focus on the organization's impact as it goes about its mission? How will you decide to measure that impact, or does it not matter to you?

[Worth a second to note that every question I just asked could be asked about just about any marketed product you buy on a regular basis, whether it's coffee, cars or a consulting firm.]

There are no perfect charities, just as there are no perfect cars. But the imperfection of cars doesn't keep us from buying one--we pick the model (and the story that goes with it) that best serves our needs.

What an extraordinary opportunity to support something that matters to you.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Legacy of Mandela

Courtesy of Seth Godin:

A legacy of Mandela
Others can better write about Nelson Mandela's impact on the world stage, on how he stood up for the dignity of all people and on how he changed our world.
For those that seek to make a change in the world, whether global or local, one lesson of his life is this:
You can.

You can make a difference.

You can stand up to insurmountable forces.

You can put up with far more than you think you can.

Your lever is far longer than you imagine it is, if you choose to use it.

If you don't require the journey to be easy or comfortable or safe, you can change the world.

Monday, December 2, 2013


The weather description for Milwaukee the other day was:  "Partly cloudy and pretty nice."  The day was, in fact, quite pleasant for this time of year- with light wind and a high around 40 degrees.  However, "pretty nice" is still a relative term. 

Expectations play a huge role in how we frame things. A late November day in the neighborhood of 40 degrees, with some sun and light wind, is about as good as it's going to get around here.  Veteran Midwesterners know this, and we set our expectations accordingly.  

The same weather in late April would not be met with the same level of enthusiasm.  Even though we know April weather can be miserable, we have higher expectations by then.

How often do we fall into this 'expectation trap' in other areas of our lives?  At work, in our business transactions, in relationships, as sports fans, at family gatherings?  The list is endless.  How often do we allow unrealistic expectations to mar an otherwise perfectly reasonable situation, event, or gathering?

I think we'd be happier more often if we accepted a standard that was the equivalent of a 40 degree day being defined as "pretty nice."

Or, at least, if we were brutally honest with ourselves at all times and made sure we weren't settling for "pretty nice" from ourselves while demanding much more out of others.