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The Strangest Secret

Here’s a wonderful ‘nugget’ to get your week started.

“You Are What You Think About.” – Earl Nightingale

This is one of the most profound ‘thoughts’ (pun intended) ever recorded.

Earl Nightingale is the father of personal development. Written in1956, his book, The Strangest Secret, was the seed from which the personal development industry grew.

When Earl was 35 years old, he recorded this short message for a small group of salesmen one Saturday morning. The message had such a positive IMPACT that everyone wanted copies to share with their friends and family. Earl arranged with Columbia Records to duplicate this record and ultimately received a Gold Record for sale of a million copies. (This is in the 1950’s!)

Here is the Strangest Secret:


This book/message is only 19 small pages and takes less than 30 minutes to read or to listen to the audio. Just order your own copy.

SPECIAL NOTE: Earl actually also says IMPACT = INCOME!! He calls it the ‘Law of Mutual Exchange.’

As a FOR IMPACT Leader and Social Entrepreneur…

What If…

All you Think about Is:

  • ‘Survival?’
  • ‘Woe Is Us’
  • ‘The Economy?’
  • ‘Meetings To Set Up The Next Meeting?’
  • ‘Cuts in Staffing?’
  • ‘Can’t Make Payroll?’
  • ‘People Won’t Pay For The Staff’s Salaries?’
  • ‘A 5% Increase In The Budget?’ (Which, of course, will have absolutely NO impact on your IMPACT!)

What if…

You actually Think about:

  • Your VISION
  • Your MISSION
  • Your MESSAGE
  • Your MEANING
  • Your IMPACT
  • Your PURPOSE
  • Your PLAN

Any difference?

Note: Same way with LIFE.

If all we think about is the ‘bad stuff’… there’s no room left to focus on the ‘good stuff.’


The Manager and Leader As Two Different Job Functions

One big challenge we see with organizations and individuals is the lack of intention around the role of a manager or a leader.

Marcus Buckingham provides the clearest distinction I’ve seen:

  • Job of a Manager: Turn talent into performance. To make other people more productive.
  • Job of a Leader: Rally people to a better future.

Separating the two jobs is not to say that one person can’t perform both jobs (although, most strong leaders don’t have management as a strength).

Separating the two jobs does more to help senior staff or board members identify and be intentional about each function.

In the field we often see:

  • Great leaders who are poor managers. Often, they don’t understand the distinction between the two and don’t address a management weakness – perhaps because they think that as a leader they must also be great managers.

    Management is not my core strength but I manage every day. Acknowledging the weakness either forces me to find others to manage, or to be more focused (deliberate) in my execution while wearing the ‘manager hat’.

  • People in leadership positions that could lead but don’t – mostly because they’re not aware of the leader’s role. Leaders make decisions. Leaders hold a clear image (the vision) for the future. They see and relate the image of the finish line, not the obstacles.

    In the words of our great friend and leader Bob W, “Leaders Lead!”

  • So called managers who are ‘drained by dealing with other people’. If this describes you, try to get out of managing. If that’s not feasible (due to size, for instance) at least acknowledge the difference and manage your energy accordingly.
  • Uncertainty about leadership – who is it? A leader MUST step up to assume a leadership role. No such thing as passive leadership. One easy question to ask of a team is, “Who is the leader?” Bill Gates once said that a vision must ultimately live in ONE person’s head. Who is that person within your organization? Does that person know it? Do others?

Book recommendation: The One Thing You Need to Know: … About Great Managing, Great Leading, and Sustained Individual Success. One of my top five biz books of all time.


On Simplicity

Midweek. ‘Simple’ thought.


Simplicity is not just a major factor in your organizations success. It literally changes our lives.

Simplicity helps us with our priorities —

Simplicity allows us to focus on (and enjoy) the moment —

Simplicity creates opportunities to be the best at what we do.

Attached is a page of quotes on SIMPLICITY. Enjoy.

Coaching Thought: ‘Books’ have provided me an amazing ROR (Return-On-Reading). Here are 6 great books ON SIMPLICITY.

  1. The Laws of Simplicity by John Maeda. (Design, Technology, Business, Life). One of my favorite books on the whole idea of simplicity. Wonderful frameworks.
  2. Simplicity (The New Competitive Advantage in a World of More, Better, Faster) by Bill Jensen. Another great, great book on simplicity/enough is enough.
  3. The Paradox of Choice (Why More is Less) by Barry Schwartz. Top 10 Book of the Year. One of those ‘must reads’. Reinforces the 3 Circles!
  4. Simple Art of Greatness by James Mullen. Older book, but good stuff.
  5. The Power of Less (The Fine Art of Limiting Yourself to the Essential… in Business and in Life) by Leo Babauta. Do Less. Get More Done. Simple steps on productivity.
  6. The One Decision: Make the Single Choice that Will Lead to a Life of More by Judith Wright. Judith Wright explains there is one decision you can make that will positively affect the quality of your life.

3 Stories on Simplicity

To help you with this week’s theme of SIMPLICITY, here are 3 simple stories:

    1. A PENCIL.

    When NASA first started sending up astronauts, they quickly discovered that ballpoint pens would not work in zero gravity.

    To combat the problem, NASA scientists spent ten years and $12 billion to develop a pen that writes in zero gravity, upside down, underwater, on almost any surface including glass and at temperatures ranging from below freezing to 300 centigrade.

    The Russians used a pencil.

    Moral of the Story:

      • Define the Problem.
      • Identify Simple Solution.
      • Act/Execute/Deliver (on a Solution).




– Henry David Thoreau, American Philosopher

I’m in my 8th decade. (Granted, I was only in the 40’s for 9 months.) I’ve done a lot, seen a lot, experienced a lot.

There is one thing that continually amazes me… and one big thing you need to remember:



  • SIMPLICITY is POWER. (‘Knowledge’ doesn’t mean anything.)
  • SIMPLICITY exponentially increases UNDERSTANDING. (Complexity obfuscates understanding, much like using the word ‘obfuscates’.)
  • SIMPLICITY is about CLARITY. (The clearer your ideas, directions, goals… the better.)

SIMPLICITY is actually a way of life for great For Impact organizations!



Coaching Thought: Albert Einstein conveyed the entire Theory of Relativity in 3 written pages. Then, he reduced it to 3 words. Then, he simplified again into 3 letters!!!

If E=MC2 can convey the Theory of Relativity, I’m urging you to reconsider your own messaging and funding requests!

For example, a typical not-for-profit grant proposal has a 1,000-word opening paragraph, 20 pages of numerous financials, all text, in the smallest possible typeface, 60 pages of “We need money”, and one small paragraph on IMPACT (maybe).

P.S. Washington’s 2nd Inaugural Address was only 134 words! Lincoln’s famous Gettysburg Address was only 272 words!


Badwater: Do Something Ultra

Do you know about the Badwater Ultra Marathon?

Considered to be the most difficult foot-race on the planet, it’s a 135-mile ultramarathon held each summer. It starts in Death Valley, crosses three mountain ranges, and finishes at the summit of Mt. Whitney – 8300′ above the start. Daily temperatures soar above 110F. It’s so hot that participants run along the painted lines on the road to keep their shoes from melting. Runners battle countless mental and physical obstacles — wildly swinging high’s and low’s — pushing beyond what we are told is possible. They do all this and must finish in under 60 hours.

Crazy? What’s your definition of crazy?

The first Badwater run was not a race. It was a challenge. Al Arnold covered the distance in 1977 (on his third attempt), primarily because people said it wasn’t possible. In 1987 it became a race. Now several hundred runners apply each year for limited spots. Of the 80 runners last year, 73 completed the course! Astonishing.

As I’m typing this, the first of the runners is crossing the finish line, 25 hours after he started. Also at this time, 69 year old Art Webb is only ten miles from the finish!


Each year I mark Badwater on my calendar. I’m a runner but I’m not aiming to run this one… just be inspired… just be in awe… just be reminded of what the human body and mind can do when it refuses to accept limits.

Note: Some GREAT videos on this. Here and here.


Change Your Vocabulary

Training in Ireland the week of June 27th. Junior Achievement National Conference this week, along with Social Entrepreneur’s ‘Boot Camp’ for Unreasonable Institute.

ALL got/get one of our Guiding Principles on CHANGE YOUR VOCABULARY.

Here are my thoughts on vocabulary. I wanted to share this with our entire For Impact world.


“ACT  as  if  what  you  do  makes  a  DIFFERENCE.    IT  DOES!”   William  James


Sustainability vs. Transformation

An absolutely ‘brilliant’ line that Stuart McLaughlin, Head of Business to Arts in Ireland and a true For Impact leader, shared with me late in the day after our trainings.

“I have no absolutely no interest in ‘SUSTAINABILITY’. I’m looking for TRANSFORMATION.”

It certainly fit into the whole theme last week in Ireland. The sustainability word is on everybody’s agenda, but I firmly believe it’s for all the wrong reasons.

Special Note: Stuart and I had a great conversation about one of the biggest differences between the For Profit/Business World and ‘Not-For-Profits’. In the real world, businesses and organizations go out of business all the time. The number of new businesses who don’t make it to the third year is staggering.

However, in the world of ‘Charity’ and ‘Not-For-Profit’… rarely, if ever, does one of these organizations actually go out of business. They don’t pay their people. Executive Director takes minimal, if any, salary. Can always find people to give them enough money to ‘survive’.

There’s just something inherently wrong with this.

Ridiculous duplication of effort. (6,000 organizations with ‘cancer’ in their name!)

Little, if any, collaboration.

No concept of ‘M & A’ (‘Mergers & Acquisitions’).

Either make a true IMPACT… or move on to other things.


Ask Google to ‘Google’!

Got to do something last week in Ireland that I imagine few people have done.

I was looking to meet up with the wonderful leadership of Social Entrepreneurs Ireland. 35 Barrows Street. “By the canal.” Great 25-minute walk. Found Barrows Street. However, in Ireland, there are no numbers/street addresses on the buildings.

After stumbling around, looked up and saw the GOOGLE logo on a building. It was their European Headquarters!

Walked into the lobby and asked the receptionist to do me a favor… could she ‘google‘ something for me. Thankfully, she laughed. Then she not only pulled up the address and the building but put the picture of the building up on their giant screen!

While I’m not exactly a ‘tech guy’, I finally figured out how to use Google.


How many visits should we make? It depends. Focus on your top 10.

Recently a board member with an organization asked:

“Based on your experience in working with hundreds of organizations, how many visits should we make? How many requests should we shoot for? Then, how many yes’s and no’s should we plan to receive?”

I gave that great ‘outside expert answer’: It depends.

I then shared some thoughts that I hoped would offer more guidance.

I’ve never seen an organization commit itself to visiting with its top ten prospects… doing whatever it takes to make these relationships a top priority… maximizing each relationship… in a given year… and not be totally transformed financially.

A lot of clauses in that but the big point is: most organizations don’t focus on their top 10 prospects.

    First, most organizations don’t take the time to really determine what their top 10 prospect list looks like.

    If they do, they typically decide (without cause) that 3-4 prospects will be impossible to visit with. They put energy into other areas (like events) because its easier (not simpler) to do so.

    They make decisions for other top prospects. For example, I heard someone say last week, “She made a three-year pledge two years ago so we can’t go talk to her.” Huh?

    They drop-the-ball on follow-up when they do visit. It’s as if the organization puts so much energy into securing visits that it completely forgets about follow-up and closing. Often we will see organizations trying to go out and find/develop new relationships instead of following up with best prospects that have already been asked.

    Finally there is a tendency to AVOID visiting with the prospect for fear of messing things up. You don’t visit… you don’t ask… you can’t maximize.


9 Big Board Questions (republished)

Today wanted to re-share a popular post from a few years ago: 9 Big Board Questions


I’ve been a part of dozens of board retreats (leader/observer/participant), meetings and planning sessions in the lasts few years. A traditional strategic planning session lays out goals and actions but often fails to ask some really big driving questions.

What if we asked these questions?

  1. What is our purpose or raison d’etre? This is different from mission – which should be the same thing but usually ends up being more about ‘place in the world’ vs. purpose. Raison d’etre literally means REASON FOR EXISTENCE. It’s the WHY question. If you can’t answer WHY then WHAT and HOW are irrelevant.

  2. How can we (intentionally) go out of business? As this for the short term (1000 days) or long term (50+ years). You exist to change lives, save lives or transform lives. How often do we re-examine our activities and ask, “Can we find a SOLUTION?” I started to qualify this question — to say that it might not apply to some organizations such as schools. Then, I withdrew my qualification. Ask it anyway; see where the conversation takes you. Education is changing.

  3. What would you do with $100M? Or pick a number that is a factor of 10x higher than anything you’re thinking about now. I attended a board retreat last weekend as a board member for Road of Life Cancer Prevention for Kids. With $100M one board member said she would get laws changed to make health education mandatory at an earlier age and another said we should invest in longitudinal studies to understand how health prevention impacts kids. Those are two VERY DIFFERENT priorities and we aren’t doing either right now. Ultimately, the question helped to build consensus around focusing on EDUCATION.Until the question was asked, every debate was about incremental tactics, not vision or even, I would argue, strategy.

  4. What strategic partnerships can we pursue? You have finance committees, development committees, marketing committees, campaign committees. If anything, I would like to see a partnership committee. Better yet, just a commitment to partnerships as a core priority (DNA) of the organization. I haven’t seen the numbers in a while but we’re somewhere in excess of 2million nonprofits and many more socially focused businesses (all For Impact). Current structures and strategic planning questions focus on bloat, not partnerships. We’re all trying to make a difference so let’s make a commitment (financial resources) to exploring this full time.

  5. How can we maximize our impact? Simple and open-ended… but not asked enough.

  6. What are we best in the world at? Jim Collins has made this conversation prevalent in the last few years (revisiting the Hedgehog Concept). It’s ultimately a question of priorities and focus. Consider finding the one thing you do very well and FOCUS on that. I can’t tell you how important this discussion is for your staff. It helps them make decisions about grants, programs, staffing, etc. Equally important is identifying those things that you’re not good at. Side note: I am a big Marcus Buckingham disciple. He tells you to focus on your strengths.

  7. Should we grow ‘wider’ or ‘deeper’? It’s a scope of services question. Ultimately a lot of ‘strategic planning’ comes down to this question. Do we add more depth to our current programs (make them longer, more available, etc)? Or, do we expand our scope of services (diverse offerings, expanded continuum, etc.)? Refer back to question six to help you frame this debate.

  8. How much money do we need to achieve our vision? What usually happens: we spend time tweaking funding goals based on last year’s results. It would be of huge value [to everyone] if we knew how much money we really needed to accomplish our vision (annually or over time via a campaign initiative). Reflecting on this, I would say that this question is often asked in preparation for a campaign but it is not asked in relation to our operation (annual). Why not? Instead, we set a number and then allocate it (budget)… every year.

  9. What is our business model? Or, what business are we in?

    I think this goes along with several other questions and relates to strengths, focus and priorities. It also adds clarity and could even become part of your message.

I think these questions would also SOLVE a lot of the problems I hear about every day:

  1. Board engagement / Staff communication: It works both ways.

  2. Board meetings: If we’re on board about the big stuff it raises the level of the conversation. I think a lot of the comments I hear about board members being too detail focused or staff members seeming unfocused is resolved when we can communicate about and focus on the big picture.

  3. The proverbial rat race: Incremental thinking gets incremental results (some times).


Don’t Make Decisions for your Prospects

We held our annual For Impact Funding Boot Camp last week here at Eagle Creek. This is our capstone training where we spend two days covering the practical nuts and bolts of sales and the sales process.

We’re constantly asking the group for feedback / takeaways. This is often a good reminder to us about important points (to reinforce here). Malik, from a college advancement team, called out an important lesson: DON’T MAKE DECISIONS FOR YOUR PROSPECTS.

How often do WE decide???

  • It’s not the right time to ask… or the prospect isn’t ready
  • We can’t ask for THAT much
  • The prospect probably isn’t interested in that program

You don’t know until you ASK.

  • “Could we talk about ways for you to support a program?”
  • “Would it be possible for you to help underwrite this program?”
  • “I know this is the first time we’re together and talking about this but… with your permission… I would love to show you where we’re going and ask for your help.”

So many ways to ask. Just ASK. Let the prospect make the decision.