I carry this on a piece of paper in my wallet: “More than anything, the art of living is about recognizing our power to make a difference in someone else’s life.” This insight has been a beacon. This fundamental truth is a refreshing reminder when I feel burned out or cynical.
What I have only recently begun to discover, though, is how the art of living is equally tied to allowing others to make a difference in my own life. As fundraisers or CEOs, we are often very good at being present for others, listening to them fully, guiding them on their philanthropic journey. But we are not always equally good at letting ourselves be open to the same growth through the relationship. I suppose it is in part a power dynamic and in part because we are afraid if we let our guard down we will somehow appear weak and consequently be less effective.
The most important, deepest partnerships in my life are the ones that also hold up a mirror to me so that I can learn more about myself – my vulnerabilities and my strengths – and understand what I have to offer to both the relationship and the world around me.
This sounds obvious and easy, but take a moment and reflect on some of your recent conversations with your board members or others. Because we are so focused on our philanthropic partner’s journey, we miss that this work is also about our own growth and discovery. When we bring our full selves to the relationship there is the possibility for real transformation.