Real dreams never die

leap-of-faith

So there’s this thing. I’ve had it for quite sometime.

It’s a dream that I – we – started as an experiment. A product to see if there was a market for it. A business started out of a felt need.

Question was, did anyone else feel the need like we did?

No market research existed for our target market. Heck, even today there is great debate over market findings.

But we did it. We dove into the “experiment,” knowing we could be throwing money in a black hole, likely with no return.

We were wrong.

We did break even. It took three or four years, but it happened. Our experiment had worked, better than we could have imagined.

So why didn’t we keep going? Right about then, one of us ran out of time, the other out of money. We kind of got stuck. For an experiment, though, it wasn’t bad.

Still, it was hard to shutter the business. Looking back, we were going against the grain – way against the grain. Market awareness wasn’t yet there. We couldn’t get shelf space where we needed it. Besides, there were no distribution channels – yet.

Now, nearly 20 years later, all that has changed. Funny thing is, the market is still there. In fact, it’s bigger – much bigger. Could the demand still follow?

I think it’s time to see if there’s still life in that dream. I’ve been exploring how to revive it, and I think it can be done.

We’ll have to wedge it back in via the margins – the way most small businesses start. And we may have to bootstrap it – again.

It was successful before in a less promising environment. It could be successful now, right?

There’s only one way to find out.

To board or not to board? That is the question

Woman dressed in suit talking in meeting

A few years ago, I joined my first board. As a strategist, I looked forward to contributing to the success of a nonprofit.

Like with anything new, I had questions about “how this works” and what I should expect. Most of those surfaced as I served and learned the ropes. Along the way, I asked people I knew whose board experience I could learn from.

Based on their experience and mine, I decided to share a few pointers – especially for people looking to give back to their community and beyond. It’s not an exhaustive list, but good food for thought. I’d love to hear yours, too, in the comments.

Dos and Don’ts of joining a board
If you’re considering joining a board, it’s good to go in with eyes wide open. Because engaging in this kind of work really should come with a clear understanding of commitments and the real needs of the organization from its trustees.

  • DO join a board if the organization’s mission is something close to your heart. It helps if you’re knowledgeable in the space it serves, too.
  • DO join a board if you have specific skills or a network that can be helpful to its advancement. Are you networked with like-minded people? They might be able to support the org or even be committee or board candidates themselves.
  • DO, in most cases, expect to do some fundraising. That means at some point, you’ll need to pound the proverbial pavement with your contacts and others, in hopes of helping your organization reach its revenue* goals. It means asking for money. Lots of folks are very uncomfortable with this, but let me tell you – if you have the right potential donor, they want to be asked. I’m a pastor’s kid, so I grew up hearing calls for offerings. And apparently the “ask” rubbed off on me, so I’m not at all shy about it – especially if I know someone has demonstrated interest in lending financial support before.
  • DON’T join a board without a clear idea of what your time commitment will be. If you only have 2 hours per month that you can devote to it, make sure it will fit into your schedule so you can maximize your time and make the best contribution possible. Nothing breeds resentment like demands that exceed your availability or don’t consider your time.
  • DON’T join a board that has not clearly outlined and agreed to domains and responsibilities of staff and board members.

What would you add to this list if someone asked you whether they should join a board?

*Don’t be fooled by the word “nonprofit.” Like any for-profit, a nonprofit needs income (revenue) to meet expenses like payroll, program administration, marketing and donor development. Many parallels are clear, too: Donors = customers; program development = product development. At a high level, the needs are basically the same.

Photo credit: UN Ebola Task Force meeting on 19 September 2014 via photopin (license). No derivatives.

Aaaand we’re back – back to Braulio

Marriage record for Mariano Cavello and Ambrosia Lesa

Ay, ay, ay.

I think I could be doing this for a long time – this one family member.

It’s OK though. In a month of Aha! moments, I’ll take any clarity on my ancestors I can get.

And whoa is me, I’ve been running down the wrong trail for quite sometime. U-turn!

So why didn’t I think of this before? My paternal great-grandfather Braulio Cabello remains a mystery, but there are two big (I think) hints that have stared me in the face for sometime:

  1. His marriage record cites a Mariano Cavello (Cabello) as his father and Ambrosia Lesa his mother.
  2. His death record, however, cites an Anastacio Cabello as his father and, again, Ambrosia Lesa as his mother. Anastacio (Anastasio), more often than not, goes down in the record books as his dad.

Braulio’s birth/christening record is still AWOL, but now I’m motivated to give it another go by (re)starting with what I already “know.” Even if there’s a discrepancy around his father, it’s one I know about.

This critical link, after all, means we might – juuuuust might – tie back to the founders of San Antonio. There’s lots of cool stuff in that. Maybe we also founded Mi Tierra restaurant. A girl can dream.

Right under my nose

For too long I assumed Braulio’s different father names was just a discrepancy. (What?! Silly me.) Aside from seeing the other side of my family (my mom’s side) and the drama that can happen in the name of love, I also know marriage customs then weren’t what they are now.

For example, when a woman was widowed, often she would marry her brother-in-law. Not sure that’s what happened here (other way around), but now I know exactly where to go and what to do next. I am determined to find out.

And I. Can’t. Wait!

Three years to unwind

fashion-hand-person-4956

I’ve had two big “aha” moments in the last couple of weeks — three years in the making, apparently. (Slow learner, I guess.)

Turns out, up until three years ago, I was pretty tightly wound.

Like a lot of people, I worked my butt off for a lot of years before hitting the proverbial wall. And like many people, I burned out. And then I got laid off, taking it hard and going through the requisite grieving process, making sure to excel at the anger part.

It wasn’t long before I was again in the same position … without a full-time job.

Tough times? Well, yes. Freelance work was coming in, so that was good. But it wasn’t the point. The point was, I was angry and hurt all over again. I thought I’d “done my time” first time around, only to be subjected to it a second time, in rapid succession no less.

That was then, this is now

Fast forward to two days ago.

Well. The first round wasn’t “all there was,” apparently. It wasn’t the only lesson I needed to learn – that work or career wasn’t everything there is to life. The second “break” was for deflating, for finding ways to “come down” and appreciate the life I’d been blessed with.

I wasn’t thrilled about the solitude again, even though it’s exactly what I needed. I’d been accustomed not only to being around people, but being there for people. This time, the only people around were me, myself and I.

Now, I have had time to discover new things I enjoy spending time on. In fact, I can’t imagine my life without them. And I can’t imagine not spending the quality time I’ve found with old friends, my family and especially my husband.

Three was the magic number

I couldn’t be more thankful now for a season I thought was a lost one, a wasted one. In retrospect, one year less would have made the process incomplete. And if there’s another year to go, I guess that’s what it will take.

But by God’s grace, I feel like I’m nearly back in one piece. My head is clear, my heart is pure[r] and I’m ready for service again.

I could’ve sworn there was no haystack there this morning

Field under a cloudy sky

Photo by OeilDeNuit

When it rains, it pours.

Such is the life of the freelancer. When not thinking about revenue streams several months out, they’re slamming project on top of project, usually to make up for possible gaps and often at the expense of personal margin and quality of life.

It comes with the territory.

After spending the last two-to-three years in that mode, I sense something’s about to happen that will force a significant choice – one that favors quality of life and doesn’t look anything like what I would have expected at this point.

Today, a whole lot of work-like “needles” piled up, almost in real time. Tonight, I’m sorting through the resulting haystack, in search of one or two “keepers” and some peace of mind.

I love how scary things often end up being good things. But for the moment, I’m still on the scary part.

Coming out: The Maverick Leader

Embed from Getty Images

Not that anyone needs another assessment. But if you know me, you know I am quite fond of them.

I’ve taken a bunch of assessments over the years, but the ones that stick with me are Myers Briggs and StrengthsFinder, which show how you respond to or interact with the world.

But one that, until last year was unknown to me, the Fascination Report, tells how others perceive and respond to you — how you uniquely fascinate them. I got my report while job-hunting, a season that challenged my sense of self, in hopes of getting a good idea of how I come across to others.

The results of my report: I’m a Maverick Leader. (Kind of feels like I should go out panning for gold and stake my land claim.)

In most ways, it nailed me. Unconventional thinker, pioneering, irreverent, entrepreneurial. While I ideate in non-linear ways, I then use a linear approach to implement my ideas.

By the way, it’s not lost on me that assessments – heck, comparison with others – is an all-out American sport, one that can doom us to not ever become what we were designed to be, if we’re not careful.

And granted, assessments like Myers Briggs, StrengthsFinder and others are not always spot on. Worse, they can be used as weapons in the workplace. On the upside, however, they are helpful in identifying our strengths and weaknesses – enough to inform where and how we do our best work, what arrangements make us happiest, etc. That’s what I look for, anyway.

Does it run in the genes?
So I was reading up again on my family, namely my dad’s father, the career grocer and occasional bootlegger.

One aunt tells me he had a little bit of a wild streak in him, shutting down his and my grandmother’s businesses so they could move north to work in the fields.

Picking up and moving like that was typically a necessity for most Mexican families in the U.S. during 1930s and 1940s, not an option. But he needed to get out and see other places,and this was his way to wander — with the entire family, 13 kids in tow.

I’ve always wondered where I get my nonconformist gene. Maybe I’m onto something by looking at my family’s history. Maybe I’ve found it.

Need to get something done? Visualize it that way.

The outdoor tennis season is finally upon us, and I’m anticipating my competitive season. For the record, the word “competitive” is relative. I still pay to play, unlike pros such as Spain’s Rafael Nadal, Japan’s Kei Nishikori, Simona Halep of Romania and Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark.

I’ve been warming up indoors, and now outdoors, the last several weeks – drilling and just hitting with other players.

Embed from Getty Images

I find myself practicing as much in my head as on the court, envisioning points in singles or doubles – mostly singles, since the match is all on me.

  • Will I be able to negotiate the court with good footwork?
  • Will my serve hold up and be a reliable tool?
  • Are my knees up to all the running, stopping and pivoting?
  • What about my down-the-line forehand – can I get it around a player who’s 6″ taller than me and has the wing span of a 747?

In my head, I can.

And that’s what really matters. Regardless what the activity is – a tennis match, presentation, project or learning a new skill: when it’s showtime, having visualized it is half the work. If I’m going to try it at all, I need to be able to see it in my mind.

By then, enough of me will be convinced that it can be done, and that I am the one who can do it.

The rest – it’s just execution.