Used to be that if I just worked hard enough, I could tick all the things off my to-do box that needed to get done. “Perfect!”, I would exclaim at the end of the day.
That’s no longer the case. It doesn’t matter how long or hard I work, that to-do list is always there at the end of the day. It’s smug. Always growing. Always coming up with new things for me to do. It’s irksome. And existential. Infuriating, really.
Maybe you can relate? I find that nonprofits attract perfectionists. Makes some sense. Idealism and perfectionism are like two peas in a pod. I see this combo in many of my clients. In many ways, it serves them well. They get a lot done and make the world a whole lot better of a place!
But at what cost? The relentless pursuit of perfection is exhausting. It takes a toll. It’s not super healthy, what with the stress that goes along with it. This is why I’m a new-found advocate for mediocrity. Yes, that’s right mediocrity. Or if not mediocrity, at least a much bigger Good Enough Box.
I make my case for mediocrity in this podcast. Take a listen and see where you land. Is mediocre the new perfect?
When I was 19, I started doing karate. I quickly became completely and utterly obsessed. I trained 15-20 hours a week. It was fantastic. #OhToBeYoungAgain
Six years later, I moved back to Vancouver, Canada. I tried to find a dojo that felt like a good fit but nothing felt quite right. So I stopped training. Aside from the occasional back kick to close the fridge door, karate played no role in my life (save for watching Bruce Lee flicks, which isn’t quite the same thing).
Then about a month ago, I ended up with a running-related injury that was bad enough I had to stop running. I started doing some basic punching and kicking as part of my daily exercise routine because, well, punching and kicking is a good cardio workout and didn’t annoy my flamed out calf. I was instantly reminded of just how much I love karate and why.
Karate isn’t about beating people up–it’s about discipline and focus. These attributes come in really handy if you’re a marketer.
With spiffy new tools, ideas and technology coming at you faster than Jason Statham’s right hook, it’s easy to get distracted. You have to be extremely disciplined and stay focused on your goals and objectives. In karate, if you lose focus, you end up with a broken ankle and/or ribs (been there, done that). In marketing, if you lose focus you risk falling prey to Shiny Object Syndrome. Not quite as painful as a broken rib, but certainly sub-optimal.
If you’re 5’4″ (like yours truly) and your opponent is 6’4″, a roundhouse kick gets the job done better than a straight punch. Translation: If you’re not getting the results you want from your marketing efforts, take some time and make sure your actions align with your objectives. Not as fun as checking out your Facebook feed for the 47th time today, but effective.
I promise, Grasshopper, your discipline and focus will pay off.
Seth’s point was that we are all fundamentally in the business of decision-making and that the only way to get better at what we do is by doing more of it.
Although this is true of many skills, I don’t agree it’s true of decision-making. In fact, making more decisions often leads to sloppy decision-making because you’re so busy rushing along to make the next decision that you don’t allow time to be thoughtful about the current one.
For anyone faced with making decisions about which marketing strategy to adopt in 2013 and which tools to use to support that strategy, what you need to get good at is making good decisions–not more. (Of note, sometimes making a good decision means deciding a decision isn’t necessary, i.e. not worth your time.)
Often it’s a better use of your time to be assessing whether the decisions you’ve already made were good ones. Are they working? Are they delivering the results you want and need to be successful?
If Seth was lumping revisiting decisions in with making more decisions, I can maybe get on board with his advice. My advice? Make decisions about the decisions that really matter and make those well.
Setting goals is a BIG part of what we do on Day #1. Because if you’re not clear on your goals, you won’t get good results.
Raising more money is generally high on participants’ List o’ Goals. And so we always talk a lot about retention, acquisition, balancing the two, etc.
If, like them, fundraising is one of your goals, BEWARE! You’re risk of falling into a very tempting trap: believing that raising money is an end goal. It’s not. It’s a means to an end.
You raise money SO THAT…you can lessen summer learning loss.
SO THAT…struggling families can access life-changing resources.
SO THAT…we have forests to hike in and streams to play in.
SO THAT…small business owners can become financially fluent.
SO THAT…kids learn to express themselves through arts so they can thrive in school and in life.
In the day-to-day craziness of grant writing, donor stewardship, event planning and the like, it’s to forget that fundraising has a higher purpose.
Always finish the sentence: “We’re raising money SO THAT…”
I have a friend, Mrs. G, who is an incredibly gifted elementary school teacher. She subs regularly at our kids’ school. This morning, I heard her voice coming from one of the Kindergarten classrooms. It was circle time. I was intrigued to learn how she would navigate this important part of the day when kids transition from home to classroom. The teacher plays a key role in creating a sense of community and smoothing the transition. How do you create that safe space when you don’t know the kids?!
I stopped just outside the door to listen (yes, yes, I eavesdropped).
Sometimes, it’s the small stuff that really matters. Mrs. G did something that was so subtle yet so effective. She said each of their names, made sure she was saying it correctly and then said, “Hello, Jimmy.” One student’s name was Kate on the roster and the student said she preferred Katie. So Mrs. G said, “Thank you for letting me know which you prefer. Hello, Katie.” In 11 words, or 60 characters, she created a connection and welcomed the student to the community.
What’s so great about this? Her goal was to create connection and community in record time. If she had simply called off their names to make sure they were present, she would’ve been able to check something off her to-do list (attendance–check!), but wouldn’t have achieved her goal.
We can do a lot without achieving a lot. Mrs. G did a little and achieved a lot because she was clear on her goal.