Tuesday, September 28, 2010


It doesn't have to be complicated! Really...really!

Often the resolutions to our challenges are right in front of us. It would appear--especially for those of us affiliated with the work of non-profit organizations--that it is our belief the resolutions, in order to be effective, have to be more complex, detailed, tested, expensive, debated, focus-group approved, consensus made, stakeholder engaged, consultant-driven. We have convinced ourselves that reaching out to the problem solving industry is better than accessing our own common sense and intuition. Think about it!

Now, it is true, some challenges we face require additional support. Big support. And, sometimes the resolution to what feels like a major institutional problem is just plain and simple:
  • Offering a contract to the new hire may help them to stay longer and alleviate your fear of an abrupt departure.
  • Hiring an electrician to relocate the electric outlet which will enable the computer to be moved so that the greeters' backs are not facing guests as they enter the building.
  • Adjusting or amending your strategic plan (or Bylaws, for that matter) when it fails to inspire or organize people toward goal achievement.
  • Requesting that a disengaged board member step down prior to the completion of a term.
  • Replacing meeting mechanics (i.e. Robert's Rules of Order) with a dose of healthy facilitation skills, hearty discussion, and a clock to keep time.
  • Treating anyone in your midst as a potential donor and using every gathering of people as a cultivation opportunity.
  • Keeping it real...simple...real simple.
It is pretty typical that the biggest challenges are resolved with the simplest solution, the solution that is intuitive and readily accessible. It is our belief that the resolution has to be bigger (smarter? expert? expensive?) that keeps us from actually resolving what ails us. We fall into a cycle of avoidance, overwhelm, fear, perfectionism, procrastination when we know--in our hearts--that the solution we seek is right in front of us. This does not have to be complicated.

Think about your challenges for a moment. Give them some order, biggest to not biggest (rarely are our challenges viewed as small). Now consider the biggest challenge and what you know is the resolution. Go deep. You probably know the ways to address the challenge. Now think about what you are actually doing to address the big challenge. What is the gap between what you know/intuit and what you are actually doing? What would alignment between the two look like to you? What are the barriers in the way of your intuition coming forth and resolving the matter? When you say "yes" to an overly-processed solution, what are you saying "no" to? What would simplicity look like?

Take the biggest challenge on your list and resolve to resolve it...today!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Word for the Day

What are you grateful for? What does gratitude feel like for you? For me, gratitude is more than offering "thank you"...yet that is a start. What does an expression of gratitude look like to you? What gets in the way of offering gratitude? Or acknowledging gratitude? Or receiving gratitude?

Think of a gratitude that you wish to offer. Got it?

Now go do it!

Monday, September 6, 2010


I am my family's historian. It is a self-appointed position that I love. I am the keeper of the family tree database, a process that began over 35 years ago on scraps of paper and index cards and is now tracked on an elaborate database. I scan old photos that are then appended to individual records. I get mysterious documents and photos translated from their original languages (usually handwritten Yiddish or Old Russian). I search for vital documents on web sites and in libraries and court houses. This past summer I spent two weeks in Poland on a genealogical trip of a grand scale visiting the villages of my ancestors. I track down distant cousins on the Internet and make visits and telephone calls to collect information and solve mysteries. I am really serious about this project. My hobby is my passion.

And what I am deeply aware of when indulging this passion (almost daily!) is the depth of my passion for this hobby. I am totally committed. I am in it! When I am in pursuit of a genealogical fact, I can get lost in my effort for hours...the world is blocked out...I am in pursuit of something important...a resolution...mystery solved. I notice my focus is clear and directed. I also notice, depending upon the fact-chase I am on that my heart begins to race and I my body speeds up (I type faster on the computer keyboard). It feels very "hunter"-like, as if being in pursuit of big game. Adrenaline. Hunger. Goal.

This project has been a powerful metaphor for many aspects of (my) life. And today I am aware of how my individual efforts (daily research, collaborations, dedicated pursuits) have created a body of work. Years of research tasks have begun to show a full picture of a family. There is something very individual, singular about the work with something very collective in the result. In the same way, there is something very individual about life in a family while also being a very collective, group experience. Big picture. Goal. Eye on the prize.

So, the learning for me today is to remember the small pursuits--tasks, efforts, achievements, ideas--can add up to something bigger, richer, more complete. Research becomes a body of work. Raising many small donations becomes a new facility at a wildlife sanctuary. Making multiple employment inquiries leads to a new job. Falling repeatedly on the snow leads to mastery of jumps, grinding rails, and a half-pipe on a snowboard. Attending years of school leads to high school (and college) graduation. With each birthday, there is wisdom (hopefully) and some gray hair. The challenge is to execute the individual efforts with a conscious nod to the collective goal.

What are you passionate about, so passionate that you get lost in it? What do you notice about your body when you are indulging this passion (heart racing? focus?)? Think about your individual or daily efforts and how they contribute to a larger collective goal. What is easy, familiar to you? What is difficult? What motivates you when the goal seems so far away or incredibly difficult to achieve? It isn't only the successes that leads to the goal; what does it take to be okay with the collective failures that lead to growth and learning? What are your doing today, or this year, or for years in service to tomorrow?

Enjoy the day!