This was my first post. It remains one of my favorite messages to share. At his TED talk this year, David Brooks said over 90% of what we hear doesn’t come through words. Yet another reason why that whole ‘behind a desk’ just doesn’t work.
My first job out of college, 23 years ago, was as a fundraiser. I was excited to work for my liberal arts alma mater. The college president, himself a former fundraiser, told me on my first day on the job that money can’t be raised sitting behind a desk. He said this sitting behind his desk.
I was expected to make 300 face-to-face visits that year for the college.
So I dutifully hurled myself out into the field and started to call on people. 6 months later, following what was probably my 100th visit – and I can remember the moment with utter clarity – I was walking down 5th avenue in New York City telling myself that I had made a terrible mistake and picked the wrong profession. This was awful, difficult work. A miserable slog.
I remember my legs and arms felt like lead weights as I dragged myself back to my nonprofit-sized Manhattan hotel room. I sat on the bed, completely deflated.
And even more so, I was confused. Confused because I knew that everything important and meaningful that needed to be done – improving health, caring for children, easing poverty, educating the leaders of tomorrow – needed the resources and energy and passion of people who cared deeply about these things.
I mean, who didn’t care about these things? Who didn’t want to put their energy, resources and passion behind these things? And so why was this so hard?
I made a decision, that night in my little room. I was going to try something different. The next day, at my breakfast meeting, instead of selling what we were doing at the college … instead of hauling out the blue prints for the new science building … instead of trotting out all the important statistics about why a liberal arts education is so important, I sat there in that meeting with complete awareness that the person who was sitting across from me, a banker named Peter, truly wanted to make a difference with his life. Just like I did.
Suddenly, it wasn’t about me selling him. The meeting became more of an open-ended, unfolding journey. I wanted to find out what he cared about. And in the process, he learned some things about himself. The meeting was alive and creative and more joyful than I had experienced before. It lead to many more meetings and a co-creative partnership that made a big difference in the life of the college and in both of our lives.
That call was a game changer for me.