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Ideas

The red spot in the yard.

The red spot in the yard.

As we grow up we learn how to pick out what's wrong. Which one of these kids is different? Which one doesn't belong?

A few weeks ago I was standing on our deck looking through the trees in our back yard. Our house borders a small plot of land owned by the town. Most days, the town parks its leaf truck on the gravel driveway there. The leaf truck is large and bright red. It is ugly and impossible to miss.

As I looked at the stain parked next door and contemplated a painting commando mission, my daughter walked up to me.

"What are you looking at Daddy?" she asked. 

"The big red thing over there. See it?" I said. 

She looked around for a minute and then lit up. "Oh! Daddy, a cardinal! How pretty!"

I had completely missed the bird a few feet in front of us. 

It is easy to pick out what's wrong. It is harder, and much more valuable, to see what's right. 

Killed by cancer.

Killed by cancer.

ribbon.jpg

Today would have been my friend Bridget's 30th birthday. Bridget was a team member of mine at Event 360. She died several months ago, and I was honored to deliver a eulogy at her funeral.

I have thought about Bridget a lot these last two months because I have been asked to speak about her often. At her funeral, at several conferences, and most recently at the Komen Leadership Conference a few weeks ago. I wanted to share a short experience.

During my presentation, I said something to the effect of “Like my mother, Bridget was killed by cancer.” Through the bright stage lights I could see the first few rows of the audience. Everyone stiffened when I said the word “killed.” I wasn’t going to make much of it but I saw that I had made everyone in the audience uncomfortable, so I paused for a moment.

I said, I use the word “killed” deliberately. I believe language is powerful; that language dictates our actions, and our actions shape the world. When we say someone “died of cancer” we are basically admitting that “dying of cancer” is an acceptable, normal state of affairs. We are saying, in essence, “people die for many reasons, and cancer is one of them.”

I disagree to the core of my soul. Cancer kills people. No one should die of it. If we harnessed enough of our money and technology and talent, we could make it preventable. I do not accept the worldview that it is a natural form of demise, and neither should you, because it isn’t true. 

Thank you Bridget, and thanks Mom, and thanks to my family friend Nick, and thanks to everyone out there who made the ultimate sacrifice to help the rest of us get our priorities in order. Bridget, more than anything, is a reminder to me of the work we have to do. And why it is worth doing.

 

A short verse, worth reading.

A short verse, worth reading.

I'm reading the wonderful WWII history A Man Called Intrepid by William Stevenson, which details the formation and activities of the British secret service during the war.

Stevenson writes that during the war Eleanor Roosevelt carried in her purse this prayer:

Dear Lord
Lest I continue
My complacent way
Help me to remember
Somewhere out there
A man died for me today
-- As long as there be war
I then must
Ask and answer
Am I worth dying for?

Worthing reflecting on. 

A great summer.

A great summer.

A quick post for all parents of teens 14 years or older: If you are trying to help your teen come up with a constructive, positive, career-building, memorable answer to the question "How did you spend your summer?" then look no further than the 4th Estate Leadership Summit, this August in Los Angeles. $495 includes food, lodging, and three days of curriculum from over 30 nonprofits. 

It is going to be fantastic, and a lot more exciting than day camp, intramural softball, or tending the fry cooker. 

More information here.

The direction of the unexpected.

The direction of the unexpected.

I am currently reading The Black Swan by Nassim Taleb, which had been recommended to me so often in the last four years that for a while I became irrationally opposed to reading it. But after two quarters of intense study of predictive analytics and econometrics, this seemed to be a good antidote.

An antidote to statistics it certainly is. Taleb systematically dismantles most of the suppositions underlying finance and statistics. A dense and sometimes rambling read, it is also practical and thought-provoking and utterly fascinating. I'm only halfway through and already the pages sit well-notated and dog-eared. This is a book I will read several times in a row, and -- friends, be warned -- one I will gift many times. I can't wait to hear what my professors think of this...

Buy it.

There's lots to say about this book, and I'll never fit it all into one post. But let me pass along this succinct bit of planning wisdom I read tonight: "The unexpected almost always pushes in a single direction: higher costs and longer time to completion." 

I've written about this idea before, and we've probably all experienced it. The bill at Costco is always larger than you think it is going to be; it takes twenty minutes longer to find a parking spot than you anticipate. And in the case of fundraising, a program always takes longer to get off the ground than you hope it will. 

Sadly, the counter-measure is not a tighter timeline and fewer resources. It makes sense to plan for things to be a bit more expensive than you'd like them to be. Because, they will be.