ZGAGA

About me, non-profit projects and fundraising

Travelling the island of Mallorca, I was warned about the dangerous moths, called Pine Processionary. The moths aren’t as dangerous as their caterpillars, which to survive eat almost all the leaves of pine trees and consequently the tree dies as he cannot take advantage of the energy from the light of the Sun.

The purpose of these lines is not to teach you biology, but to point out one really interesting feature these little creatures have. Namely they travel together. With the pheromones they secrete at their bottom they attract the other caterpillar that sticks its head to their bottom and so they form a long line following each other, each one sticking its head into the bottom of the caterpillar in front of it. That is why they are called processionary caterpillars.
This is how they travel long distances, slowly, to get food or to the place where they turn into cocoons and eventually become moths.

As they choose to travel up the trees, one of them sometimes falls down.
Maybe it wasn’t consistent enough in smelling the colleague’s ass. One could say it was expelled from the line for not following the rules.

When it falls down, an interesting thing happens. The caterpillar joins with other caterpillars that for some reason left the line and offers its bottom to be smelled. The caterpillar then takes charge of leading the other ‘dropout’ caterpillars and brings them to the destination.

The lesson I have learned from the behaviour of these caterpillars is that no matter how different you are from those around you, you will always find a company that will think and do the same as you. Maybe it is not you who will actually lead the movement of the new group, but it is highly probable you will feel accepted and become a better you.

So sometimes it is good to fall if we see we don’t want to climb the high tree like the others do. We will recover and follow our path a bit differently and in the company of people who are more like us.
What else is there to wish for on our important quest?
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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.

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.

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