ZGAGA

About me, non-profit projects and fundraising

I used to be a proud owner of two ducklings. There were Indian Runners. I kept them near my house. It is widely known that these ducks are the best red slug exterminators, and they indeed were.
Of course, you have to keep them from the dangers, like the other animals that would probably prefer having them for dinner, the most common being martens, foxes and dogs.
During our family vacation I took them to a farm. They got a five star treatment – a plastic pool with fresh water, corn, lots of slugs, snails, worms and beetles on their menu. They enjoyed it a lot.
Until they disappeared. Nobody was sure what in fact happened. Until an older lady explained how the nature took its toll. She was sure it was a fox. And what startled me was the fact that the fox was planning to take my ducklings from the first day they arrived to the farm. Foxes plan the attack days ahead. This is how they get what they want. They first observe, plan and tactically attack. And the prize in this case was surely delicious.
Can we learn a lesson from nature that would help our business? Don’t you think it’s funny that an animal instinctively does what we should as well, but don’t?
We,  higher developed creatures, always think to ourselves, why should we repeat after an animal? Animals don’t think, there is nothing to copy for our own good. Well, this is not exactly true. Think only about inventing the plane – we copied the flight of animals. What about the different styles of swimming – if we resemble the style of an animal, we are quicker. There are many more examples on that.
We, the civilized, have become too spoiled to think like animals do, even though we still use expressions attributing some animal characteristics to those we know. He is a cunning fox, she is hungry like a wolf and the child sings like a canary. Many among us are night owls, are quick as a bunny when we are in a hurry and can be quiet as a mouse.
Sometimes I get the feeling that not only we don’t want to think what to learn from nature, but also that we actually don’t want to think at all. In the nature the living creatures focus on preserving their breed and therefore reproduction. They will do everything to feed the little and survive.
We invented money, which in most cases takes off these heavy chores for us. It is much easier to buy kindergarten, schools, doctors to take care. In return we only give them money. Simple. We also buy food with money. Most of us don’t have an idea of how the food is actually produced to once have it on our plates. But it doesn’t really matter to us, as long as we are full.
The money spoils everything. With the money we are not forced to think how things are done, how things should be done and how we could make them better. We just buy them. Why bother thinking all those things? We have come to the point to think that the money could buy us also someone who would think instead of us, who would tell us what the purpose of our life is, who would bring a meaning to it. Think about the consultants, advisers and other people of making a living with helping you think.
Guess what. Money can’t help you with that. Thinking is a task we have to do on our own. The fox didn’t count on anyone to help it with catching and killing my ducklings. It knew she had to find food. It prepared as it was seen many times before observing that part of the farm and succeed to find a hearty meal for it and its family.
We don’t prepare, we don’t observe, we don’t act. Actually we see others prepare, observe and act, but rather envy them and turn away from them. And invent a lame excuse why we are not like them.
Wouldn’t it be better to learn from them and take care of ourselves for a change?
Let us lie in wait for opportunities and make a plan how we will take advantage of it. Let’s do this for our organization, let it flourish like a green bay tree. Let others see you grow and succeed.
Therefore, stop running around like a headless chicken. Observe, prepare and act.
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Did you know that the mother octopus lays up to half a million eggs, takes care of them and then dies? OK. It has taken care of the reproduction of its breed, but does it really have to die from it. Apparently yes.

This made me think about non-profit leaders and the so called paternalism. You know when you treat your organization or your project as a child. You don’t let anything hurt it or do anything so it would grow into a responsible adult, taking care of you in the future.

Many theoreticians claim this is a major drawback in the development of an organization as you as a “parent” don’t let anyone near it. I agree to some point. But, isn’t the organization in best hands if somebody cares so much?

If organization doesn’t have a parent, then there is a board who decides what will happen to it. It is like we gave our child in the hands of several people sitting and discussing what would be good for him. Please note, discussing is not doing. If someone is eager to help, the others probably aren’t. Let’s pray to get a board full of those who care and not only discuss, but act. It happens rarely, but it happens.

Imagine an octopus giving its 500 thousand eggs to a board of other 5-7 grown-up octopuses. The job would be much easier to do and probably wouldn’t have to pay this extra attentive care that would force her to die out of exhaustion.

But the nature tells us another story. There is always the one who takes charge, the one who leads the others, the one who in all circumstances doesn’t dare not to give a damn. In this case it is an octopus. In our case it is the leader of the organization who continues and walks on despite/aware of the fact he might burn out. The leader knows his tasks, the leader knows where to go next and his destination. He will reach it no questions asked and all obstacles overcome. 

The octopus follows its instinct, the leader follows his mission. The mission is what he is here for.

Nowadays we see so many people burn out. Those who are prone to this really unpleasant state of body and mind usually work with people, providing some service to them. Mostly for people in need. We work in stressful situations and cannot deny emotions arising with it. 

What I have learned from this experience three years ago is that if the whole team doesn’t follow the same path, you get burned out. You must understand the interests of people working for your organization are different – some are there only for the money (no mission), some just want fame (no mission), some are there because of lack of knowledge and because they have no where else to go and they rather hide their incompetence by following your instructions (no mission). I burned out as with too much work I didn’t take the time to realize what was going on. Once the organization is a success many manipulative people try to join it and suck the best out of it. Their best is money, my best was its worthy mission. I was naive that non-profits are immune to such people. 

My colleague once said that only 1 % of people are philanthropic, meaning that they really want to help others. All the others help to get some personal gain. He was right. I had to learn this the hard way.

It is sad. It is a disappointment. But we have to accept it. Money really makes the world go round for the majority of people.

The octopus probably knows that half of its offspring will be eaten in the first days of their life, but takes care of them anyway. It is worth to it, as some will survive and that is exactly what it dies for. The non-profit leader knows that most of the people lead by him are probably not going to follow his mission as he has nothing to offer in return. Some will seemingly act like they support him just to gain reputation, favours, PR and, of course, money.  But some do find his work worthy.

And the leader knows these are the ones worth his persisting.

Should he continue? Of course.

Will he burn out? Only if he lets near the people that are there for their personal gain. And these have a remarkable power to complicate our life.

Beware of who you get into the team. If the mission is great and you believe in it, nobody and nothing should or could stand in your way.

Don’t stop looking for people who understand. In the long run they will be your greatest asset and the best preventive vaccination for possible future burnouts.

I used to be a teenager once, you know. With all the usual teenage problems. Not getting along with anyone telling you what to do, occasional laziness, having constant crushes on my boyfriend (these have not passed yet), body changes and skin problems.

The latter I overcame with an effective cosmetic product. It was some kind of a cleaning lotion. I do not know its name anymore. I remember it was light blue and I could not buy it anywhere. Only the biggest shops had it.

Once I went to buy one and the lady at the counter holds it in front of me, looks at me, at my face, the lotion again, and once again my face.

– Girl, why are you buying this lotion if you have no acne and no pimples? 

That is the exact reason I am buying it, madam.

She sells me the lotion, probably thinking to herself that I am mad to buy things I do not really need. I leave the store and think this was really weird of her to ask. However, don’t they say that every seller should sell the client, what s/he wants? Everybody knows the rule about the client being the king. There are some exceptions, of course, like selling cigarettes to a minor.

And again, did she ask herself, why am I not having problems with my skin? Probably not. She didn’t realize that I am probably buying the blue lotion because I have seen it work and prevented me from getting the acne and pimples.

This short story has several lessons.

  1. What the client is buying is probably none of your business if s/he doesn’t ask for your opinion. And even if s/he does ask you, be frank and don’t nod to your bosses and lie to your client (f.e. how good she looks in that pink blazer) to generate more sales. If the client finds out you’re, lying this probably the last time he shops in your shop.
  2. Could it be that the current state (in my case my skin, in other cases it maybe education, wealth, even good figure) is the result of a persistent and continuous effort of individuals, who at some time in the past have decided to make a step forward, set a goal and now still follow their path? Yes. Many times it is and we are not aware of it.
  3. The outside is the result of the inside. The outside is many times the first thing we notice. We take it for granted that our neighbour is rich, because he has been rich for ever. We do not see it as the result of his hard work. Our colleague has a great figure. Again, we are not aware (or don’t want to be aware) that she exercises every day and counts the calories of every meal. Moreover, the cousin who did the faculty at one go, was born smart, not trying hard at all. Come on. Stop with thinking that if we are not prepared to work hard, nobody else is. There is a catch. If we never worked hard, we do not know how much work and time it takes. In addition, we cannot imagine ourselves putting that indefinite quantity of effort into a state we want to be in? Is it better to find excuses like, she has it all, I can’t compete with that? The outside marks what is inside and this is hard to understand for those who focus only on superficial, outside things.
  4. Even if we manage to push ourselves to get better is some things, we often expect only good results. Bad results are a disappointment. This hurts. Actually, many times the bad results seem bad only at first. If we put some thoughts to it and extract all the valuable learnings from it, we find out they are actually good results. Therefore, it is impossible that trying, putting effort into matter is bad for us. We learn a lot and are better prepared next time.
  5. If you see that something works, don’t stop doing it. That would be silly. Don’t lose your passion. Stay persistent and continue, until you reach the desired goal.

If you think the five lessons above are true only for your personal life, you are wrong. Think of your work environment, organisation you work for and the development of it. Constantly checking what others do and finding excuses why we are not there yet, does not bring any results.

I think my lotion lessons provide some answers. Dig into work and do not stop.

If I had stopped back then, many would have still remembered me as a pimply teenager, squeezing the zits.

Although I again tried to find that lotion, I wasn’t really successful. Anyway, I did find some interesting products to buy to wash away the pest of zits. Did you know they existed? I didn’t.

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