Taming squirrels

Parque Zoológico Santa Fe - Medellín - Colombia - Suramerica

Photo by memoossa

Feels like so long since I’ve blogged.

The silence has been less for lack of something to say than for lack of ability to focus on something to say (hence the squirrel). Lots of transition swirling about, and I’m having to be much more intentional about how I process and manage a few moving targets. Basically, I’m having to become my own project manager.

It’s times like these that I feel less intuitive about what to do next, so I basically need a roadmap of my life – not just to-do lists – to get me to the next step and beyond.

I’m toying with tools old and new to keep things straight:

For a right-brainer like me, living strictly by lists can take the joy out of things. So using tools I love helps me get things done, even as they pile up. And as long as there’s margin for the creative, it’s all good.

Here’s to planning for crazy.

There is life after a layoff

doctor-is-inIt has been a week.

A number of my friends and former colleagues were laid off. Some saw it coming, but I think many didn’t.

And just like that, it felt like old times. Having an open door, (OK, a phone, texting and Facebook) being the sounding board, fielding lots of questions. Why? Who? When? How?

In the end, when a layoff happens to you, all that really matters is What.

Having been there not once, but three times – twice in the last few years – it’s hard not to feel their pain. And surprisingly, at first it was hard not to relive my own.

Thankfully, getting to the other side does happen. It takes time, healing, rest, resetting and, most importantly, getting back up and dusting ourselves off.

Also in there somewhere , but absolutely necessary, is re-prioritizing. Values change, focus changes and, eventually, we learn how to negotiate back into our lives the prerequisite margin we need to live life fully – preferably more fully than before.

Ultimately, though, we have to be there for each other. Not only would I never wish a layoff on someone the way they happen these days. I wouldn’t wish on anyone to go through it alone.

So close and yet so far

Screen Shot 2015-05-02 at 5.31.44 PMI felt like I was at a library of obscure books the other night when I googled “Coahuila, Mexico.” You know, so I can learn more about why, oh, why I can’t find my great-grandfather Braulio or any of his compadres.

But wow – the books I came up with, most of which are out of print or so rare you couldn’t possibly find them in any library or bookstore, are a treasure trove of (presumable) context and insight.

I’ve learned recently to search for obscure book topics or titles in Google Play, but who knew I’d come across stuff like this?

So I’m kind of overwhelmed now by what could either be a treasure trove (glass half-full) or a bunch more needles in my haystack (glass half-empty). The mind is getting weary and I might just be sucking my positive juice dry.

Now, if I could just find a book that can tell me what the heck happened to Saltillo parish records from the mid-19th century – a fire, flood, some disaster? – I might have more of a lead of what was going on in those days and whether it’s my great-grandfather who’s “missing” or just his records.

For now, a little spittle on a test strip for DNA-by-mail is going to have to do.

Can’t we all just get along?

Rodney King caricature. He speaks into a mic

A little throwback in light of the week’s events in the U.S. Painful then, painful now. No more. Image Cass Anaya via Creative Commons.

Ogilvy and great content

I need to do a better job of cleaning out my bookmarks. Found this under a pile of moth balls, so I had to dust it off and air it out.

david-ogilvy-don-draperCopyblogger’s original post was inspired by the father of all Mad Men.

No, not Don Draper (left). I’m talking about the real father of advertising, David Ogilvy — the copywriter’s copywriter and author of the creative classic, Ogilvy on Advertising.

Because before social media, there was advertising. And then social media changed everything.

Copyblogger clearly anticipated this transition, which changed one of the sexiest industries forever. (Although from experience, I can tell you: it wasn’t all that sexy. Pan Am would’ve been a lot sexier.)

Basically, good content is good content, regardless of its era or semantics. Call it advertising, blogging, whatever. It’s content no matter how you slice it.

Advertising = Information

While advertising has long been perceived as a trendsetter in pop culture, Ogilvy viewed it as content that informs.

Granted, the path to the consumer dollar today is kinder and gentler, and less linear. But the idea is the same: Make your content so useful that people want to take action.

Ogilvy summed it up like this:

I do not regard advertising as entertainment or art form, but as a medium of information. When I write an advertisement, I don’t want you to tell me that you find it ‘creative.’ I want you to find it so interesting that you buy the product. When Aeschines spoke, they said, ‘How well he speaks.’ But when Demosthenes spoke, they said, ‘Let us march against Philip.’

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.

How I met Braulio … at Trader Joe’s

Vintage Trader Joe's signI was making a quick grocery trip today to our fairly new Trader Joe’s (finally, we’re a legit mid-size city). About to part ways with my checkout guy, I spotted his name tag: BRAULIO.

Naturally, I asked him about it. I mean, the same name as my great-grandfather – what are the chances?

We chatted about where he’s from, where my great-grandfather Braulio was from, and the origins of their shared name.

I wasn’t smart enough to take a selfie with the college-y looking Braulio (although I might try in the future).

But, I can say I met a Braulio. At Trader Joe’s.

While I’d love to claim I’d found my Braulio, it’s far too early for “mission accomplished.” Maybe it was a sign of some kind. Maybe my breakthrough is coming.