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IWhen I immigrated to Canada on 13 July 2010, I had two suitcases and a big Balikbayan box (used to send goods home for families who stayed behind). At the immigration desk, I was asked about my show money- a money you guarantee that you have with you at the time of landing that you will survive in the next few days or weeks, or maybe if you have a lot, a few months to stave away destitution.
Where is your show money? To prove you can survive in Canada on a shoe-string budget and still feel happy with your decision to uproot yourself, your career, and your life for no apparent life-threatening reason but to improve your chances of greater success- whatever that is, a house mortgage, better education, fresher air and food, elevated status-The Great Canadian Dream.
Us, immigrants we all had it. The grim determination that we will no matter what it takes, overcome and will get that coveted Canadian passport, identity, language, and social ties under our belts at last. The folks back home will be super proud of what we have done and will say, better in Canada struggling than back home.
As I eased into the new Canadian living, the show money transformed in a different way.
Where is your Canadian experience? It's like saying that you will never make it here as a landed immigrant if you don't have the Canadian experience which is synonymous to "killing the immigrants softly." How exactly will you get the Canadian experience if nobody will take the risk of hiring you? In order to survive, they have to take survival jobs which is like a penance of choosing Canada as their home.
In my last successful job interview, I told them, " I am fresh off the boat and with no Canadian work experience at all yet but I have travelled the world-world-weary and worldly enough to be flexible and adaptable." I got the job! They sure can't believe that I have just arrived and now competing against 500 work applicants in that city. The rest is history.
The next show money question is different. It is all about in their heads, "what are your credentials that will allow us to respect you and believe that you can help?" This one is tough to crack. But, there's always a way around it.
Of all these questions, one thing is for sure, not all will be pleased and will accept who you are and what you're here for in this country, this city, this small town, and neighborhood. There will also be people like that. But as immigrants who discovered a new home, a new identity that could fuse with the old, and new relations on top of the discarded ones, suggest that we can completely write our own stories with ourselves as the main protagonists, despite the odds. I guess, striving to win every time.
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There is a family member I know that walked into an equipment store and asked the store clerk, "Do you have a diarrhea? Sorry a screw instead. He was having one apparently and had to quickly check if he had the urge to go when the calamity strikes. But since, the word "D" is top of mind, that's the one that just got blurted out of the blue.
That hurt my stomach laughing at this silliest and most honest mistake. How come we can't seem to control our tongue in moments when we should be more polite or proper? Amazing, how this censorship out of our socialization gets thrown out of the window with a slip of a tongue, or in a form of a half-joke, or a sarcasm hidden behind good flattery.
Our expression is what we all have and how we use language, control it, contort it and conceal its real meaning is a trait that requires its own perfection. A sage person remarked, that "the one that can control his mouth, is the one that can control his destiny."
Except in a dire situation such as this when nature wants a release, it pays to have a complete rein in on our mouths. Less talk, less trouble.
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You must have heard many times of the term "premature success."
Well, there's also what I call premature failure.
Premature failure is when you just started to fail and not when you have failed and tried hundred of times but didn't find an ounce of success or simply an opening for a reiteration.
Premature failure is giving up way too early when in fact, the pains of any early startup or journey or first few steps are always longer, harder, and perseverance-required than in any other stages. It is just what it is. An indication of something that must be done, evaluated, and relaunched again.
Realistically our concept of failure is flawed in a sense that we always have high expectations of our initial actions. We allow this momentary discovery elude us of the benefits of the real results that come after many tries and retries.
We see a well-polished book and we thought that the author must have written it in one go while watching Netflix or a new app that we install in our tablets and phones had been imagined and developed with a matter of months just by talking to friends. We seldom see the behind the scenes of product development of many companies whose tasks is to lower customer barriers to acquiring, using, and marketing their product for them. We often don't look at how the after-office hours of business would look like when this means revamping everything that they think great about their product to build a better one. Start-ups know this by heart. But the non-profit sector doesn't, not even those who are serving a purpose-centred mission.
There is an idealistic notion that they should be successful at their campaigns because they have lofty goals. That the public should be donating more, supporting more, the government giving more budgets because the needs are greater and that squares a lot of the wrongness in society. When that didn't happen, they blame it externally rather than look within their own limitations.
Honestly, this idealism leads to regular failure. Regular failure is what we need. Regular failure is premature failure. Regular failure becomes the necessary ritual to attain the next level of competency.
The culture in the purpose sector should be stripped away from idealism to pragmatism. Regular failure is under appreciated. Premature failure is not the time to make a direction-changing course of action yet.
Ask more questions and listen attentively to market signals. Go back to the drawing board and recalibrate. Stay in the learning mode until you get it right. And when you get it right, do you really want to change course?
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TAME THE MIND
Have you tried to do nothing for a few hours?
Not even think but just stare at an object with no agenda or intention.
It's very hard. It's very frightening to some.
Emptying the mind is a challenge. There's too much thinking, mindless and intentional.
How can we tame it into total submission?
I found that the way to do that is to DISRUPT it.
Speak something and that thought pattern is cut off immediately.
You can clear the mind when you also do something else constructively and that you will enjoy.
We call it quiet time or restful time, away from distractions and mundane.
Just pacifying thoughts and refocusing to positivity, blessings and great things.
Open your mind to the possibilities every waking hour.
Let go of anything from the day that takes away your joy. It wasn't meant to be.
Maximize an abundant mind.
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SPRING CLEANING STARTS WITH YOU
When was the last time you made some spring cleaning in your organization?
Have you tried to look at your Bylaws and Letters of Incorporation lately?
Have you done some reviews of your Policies and Guidance Documents?
Have you considered reviewing your Terms of References, Procurements, and Vendor processes?
Have you made progress in your volunteer growth and advancement recently?
Are staff and Board evaluations and reviews in the pipeline?
Sometimes, the best spring cleaning begins at your desk.
What work are you trying to put off in the last few weeks and months now?
What difficult conversation must take place sooner than later?
Who needs to be informed, consulted, and engaged in your process?
The rigmarole of paper pushing in many offices is seldom questioned.
It's time to figure out what is work and what's non-work.
Spring cleaning is all about tackling the most essential and dropping the non-work.
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When all the processes of strategy formulation is completed, and now, voila, you have it in a nice two-ring binder for everyone to see. Congratulate yourself for a job well done.
After the communications campaign is launched and the implementation starts, four things can happen and you are the best judge for it as the main executive tasked with spearheading this project.
1. There are no changes to be done as everything that went into the strategy document suits the rest of reality that follows. If you believe that you have a perfect document, very well. Let' see in the next few months.
2. There are minor revisions that will need to adjusted, mainly the baseline data, the situational assessments, the analysis for which the decisions were based. These elements are ordinarily monitored, assessed, and adjusted as the strategy moves forward.
3. Major disruption that derailed or almost decapitated the strategy. There was a change in the whole landscape of the organization, internally, in terms of capacity, interests, and aspirations such as a leadership vacuum due to a leadership and management crisis, a situation where a major funder has pulled out creating a huge financial burden, and other internal stakeholder issues that would derail the implementation or compromise its chances of success. Another example of a external threat to the strategy was the COVID19 pandemic which based on many accounts, left many purpose-driven organizations without an anchor for 6-12 months just operating and surviving. Not even thinking about growth strategy or change initiatives.
4. The strategy is useless, unimplementable, a mirage in a desert. Well, this is the worst kind of realization that can happen after a 6-12 month process. It could happen to any organization without having to think too much. Say for example, you have a totally new Board, a totally new executive team, a totally new set of staff and leaders, no budget for implementation and the previous leaders who put this together bid sayonara with you nothing to work on. The new leadership could not, will not, assume accountability and responsibility, and have no will power or creativity or simply felt powerless to enact anything other what they created. Best scenario is to reduce this to a doable strategy that could work in new circumstances. Keep it real and simple.
These four scenarios are real-life hurdles neatly disguised in confused state- aka what makes you sleepless at night. Besides the initial worry about not going smoothly as planned, there are always options and alternatives. Talk to your Board. Consult the experts in this area. Read what others have done in your sector. Confer with colleagues. And lastly, the smartest way is to learn from the mistakes of others.
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BECAUSE SOMEBODY CARED
I didn't come from a well-to-do background. I came from the most humble beginning.
Way back in circa 70s, what we had was a make-shift house, with tin roof over our heads, three simple meals a day and an opportunity to go to school. Forget that the neighbor in better villages could afford a television, a fridge, a stove, a good toilet, and some eating out and vacation time.
Well, I have travelled from there to here and I can fairly say with all honesty that it was a good journey. I have learn lots in the process. Truth to be told, it is not perfect now, but comparing to those years where all you want to do is to get out of the misery, it wasn't bad after all. It was good to suffer early on in life. I learned to appreciate early little good things that I have.
What brought me here is a group of people that supported me from the start and continue to support me in every aspect of my life. They cheer me on, bring me perspective, encourage my walk, and gave me all kinds of support. I am forever indebted.
I thank them everyday during those formative years when I have no awareness of my potentials yet, they build it from within me. Because my family cared, my former teachers and mentors cared, and other kind-hearted people I met along the way cared, I am now what I am.
To the many more people that I will meet in the future, it's not my skills, expertise, and charisma after all, although they are valuable. It's not about me, it's because they are the kind of people that rises up with others along their path.
Thank you for spreading love and humanity.
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There is a level of entitlement that has totally gone berserk.
The radicals are demanding that you change your beliefs and values so that the world will be better.
Some people are demanding that you forsake any reason, logic, or common sense for a practice that is not rationale, logical, or based on humanity's sense.
Some are demanding that they get your attention because they believe that their story is better than yours, hence, the attention.
Students are demanding that they get into the honor roll just for showing up.
Parents are demanding that their kids get to enrol in prestigious institutions and will readily bribe officials just to get entry.
Politicians are seeking the truth when they themselves are complicit of using science, research, and global consensus to mask what's going on with the pandemic for example.
Non-profits are feeling entitled to use their volunteers in order to skimp on organizational support and development and avoid getting the funding for the latter.
The social media is full of hypocritical beings who are posers but not real doers, advocates of something that when push comes to shove, not very willing to forgo their convenience, lifestyle, ways of life, and the status quo.
How to deal with and navigate around these entitled individuals, organizations, and entities:
1. Reverse their argument. How they would feel if the other person or target group or beneficiaries or constituencies would demand the same?
2. Who benefits from these demands? What actors and groups and causes they are promoting and against? What are the stakes here?
3. Think systemically. How this course of action can lead to more negative impacts down the line? Is this going to be another palliative or flavor-of-the-month solution? Where is that movement is this leading to? Is this resolving an issue or using another group or issue to cover-up or devalue the persistent long-term ones?
4. Some demands and suppositions are downright illegal, unethical, and pie-in-the-sky. Learn to discern and debate well.
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The explosion in publishing has been noted to be the one of the most significant breakthroughs in recent years. Nearly practically anyone can self-publish his work and sell it online to his communities. The marketplace is very saturated with new books and materials entering every year, bumping the previous ones in terms of competition for the consumers.
To get an edge over this saturation, service-providers and purpose-aligned organization must provide more than their annual reports and publications, it's the experience with you that counts. Experiencing your capabilities, wealth of experience, and analysis is the way forward to break out from the commodification in the sector.
Purpose-driven organizations that are struggling to get the attention of your constituencies and stakeholders, here are the top four strategies to publish successfully and earn their donations, loyalty, and support.
1. Publish in areas where your target stakeholders learn, mingle, and network. That will keep your brand front-and-centre.
2. Repurpose your analysis and studies in variety of creative ways. The latest stats on digital consumption reveals an uptake on audio and video content. Make it accessible anytime, anywhere.
3. Design an experience that they will never forget. Unforgettable, relevant, and peer-to-peer exclusive atmosphere will increase your credibility in the field. You become the go-to for anything authoritative in your domain.
4. Build your defenders for the long game. In my book Provocateurs, I discussed the evolution of community, from fans to acolytes to defenders. Defenders will not only support your work, but will sponsor, evangelize, and take action for your benefit that aligns with their interests and values as well. Adapt your events, publications, and communications to build up your community.
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THE EVIL VILLAIN
Some people believe that there's always some one or something that should be blamed for world miseries.
The non-profits and social sector are rife with criticisms of the capitalist economy and government. Yet, they have to work hand-in-hand with the two.
For the conspiracy theorists, there is a global network of villains and ego-maniacal entities, ala the James Bond villains that are planning, hatching their next global destruction ventures.
For the poor and illiterate, it's the rich and ultra-wealthy that are sucking all the resources that they need to survive. And the corrupt government that's feeding this greedy landed gentry.
For the owners, it's the labor unions and their goons and strategies that keep the business from thriving and the government's bribery schemes wrapped up neatly in certain fees for here and there.
For the middle-class tired of pretending that they are more well-off, abhors the poor for creating the conditions of pallor, dirt, and insecurity in many communities. These people are considered lazy, worthless, and can't be saved.
The big business are blaming the environmentalists and climate-change crazies for wrecking their plans and making it harder to conduct business. The auditors are blaming the government for lax regulations. The consumers are blaming the government for run-away inflation for which the energy producers are caught in the quagmire. The masses are suffering and that the world is coming to an end unless climate change is addressed.
The elite, educated ones are blaming the fringe sectors and the fringe sectors are blaming the elite, educated majority.
Do you see where this is going?