Monday, May 21, 2007

Doing more for a cool planet

To produce a treasure you need a smart and friendly system. Seth Godin rightly points out that humans have a powerful impulse to do more. So what's a smart and friendly system to get us humans to produce less carbon emissions to reduce global warming? Here's Seth's take:
  • let's figure out how to turn this into a battle to do more, not less. Example one: require all new cars to have, right next to the speedometer, a mileage meter. And put the same number on an LCD display on the rear bumper. Once there's an arms race to see who can have the highest number, we're on the right track.
Seth is on the right track. We need to put in place smart and friendly systems to achieve the treasure of a cool planet.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Riding the waves: Using the rhythms of life to be highly productive.

"How are you doing?" I asked my daughter, Hannah, in a phone call last Friday at 4:00 p.m. I knew she was is in the middle of preparing a big grant due next Wednesday. She'd been working on it all day and planned on working through the evening.

"I'm bogged down," she said in a weary voice.

"Hannah, I have a good idea. Do you want to hear it?"

"What?" she said in a flat tone that let me know that the last thing she wanted to hear was one more good idea."

"Take a 15 minute walk and when you get back you'll think much more creatively,"applying the rhythm path to her situation."

"I'll take a break in a few minutes," she said, still sounding weary.

About 8:00 in the evening I called and she sounded re-energized and was making good progress.

Later, after she was home, I asked her if she had gone on a walk. She had not only gone for a power walk but on the walk she had used her Blue Tooth to talk with her 11-month old daughter and her mother who was taking care of her baby. The exercise and connecting with two people she loves was just eneough recovery time to give her the energy to work another five productive hours.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Starting over

Since co-founding a nonprofit three years ago (Evergreen Leaders) I've been a beginner at one thing after another. Even things that I've done for other organizations have me feeling like a beginner when I do them for the first time for EGL.

I've helped other organizations raise millions but today when I e-mail the board to tell them we need to raise $15,000 to create a website that can host a complete set of plans for annual and capital campaigns for other nonprofits, and serve as part of a platform for a book on nonprofit leadership, I feel like a beginner.

Reading Michele Martin's How to be a beginner was exactly what I needed as I wrap up my day this evening. Here are two good quotes:

  • Part of learning and growing, I think, is getting comfortable with being a beginner.
  • Be willing to fail publicly. This is the hardest one for me. I prefer to fail quietly, behind the scenes, not in front of an audience. But you don't get feedback when you always fail alone, so sometimes you have to be willing to take a risk where people can see you.
You can't get to the treasure unless you go through the wilderness.

Check out Michele's "The Bamboo Project Blog."

The kindness economy

The kindness economy

As I twisted the gas cap on my Dodge Caravan a well-dressed stranger, a seventy-something lady, came around the gas pump and said, “Could you show me how to do this? My husband died and I don’t know how to fill on gas.”

“Yes,” I said, and I followed her to her car.

“I have to learn to do this,” she said, as I coached her to twist the black gas cap and then pull it free. Next I showed her how to lift the nozzle from the pump and to select a grade.

“Won’t the gas come out if I push the button?” she said pointing to the button to select a grade.

“No,” I assured her, “the gas won’t come out until you squeeze the handle on of the nozzle.” Then I showed her how to insert the nozzle and lock the handle into the on position.

“My husband died and he always filled on gas,” she said as we waited for her tank to fill. Then I showed her how to hang up the nozzle and taught her how to turn and press the gas cap to lock it back into place.

Then I drove to Chicago to pick up Sarah from the airport. An hour early, I stopped at an Aldi near Midway Airport to shop for a few groceries. At Aldi you insert a quarter in Aldi shopping carts to unlock them and to use them. When you finish with the cart, you return it, relock it in place, and get your quarter back.

I’ve always thought that was a smart and friendly system to encourage folks to return their shopping carts to the stall. Only this time when I relocked the cart, it did not release the quarter. I tugged at it but with my arthritic fingers I could not get it out. Finally I abandoned my efforts. As I turned, a thirty-something dark-haired woman approached the carts.

“Someone’s going to get a free cart,” I said. “My quarter is stuck in this one.”

“Let me look at it,” she said. As I watched she struggled with the quarter. She tried several different ways to release it. Finally she freed it and handed it to me.

“Nothing is free these days,” she said. “Not even a penny.”

Then she took a cart into the store and I returned to my van to contemplate her words, “Nothing is free.” But, as I think about teaching the new widow how to put gas in her car and the young Hispanic woman rescuing my quarter, I realize that each was given freely and received. There is an economy to kindness apart from money.

Our financial economy allows nonprofits and activist organizations to pay salaries, to purchase goods and services, and requires the tracking of funds. Yet there is a deeper economy that nonprofits depend on--the flow of strangers helping other strangers.

Wisdom for the week: At their best, nonprofits run on an economy of kindness among strangers.

Fare thee well, Rich

7 Path of Thriving Organizations, #103, March 1, 2007