Time for real talk.
When you start something, especially when you begin something that is for others it becomes a regular temptation to make it about you.
Last year, we started the Global Youth Leadership Institute. It's been amazing. We've watched young people come alive. Nothing tops that. I've yet to find something more igniting than watching a soul, a heart, a mind, begin to realize that there's more - and they can touch it!
But there's something else that happens when stuff works - when lives are changed. People notice. And then they start telling you things. True things like, "The work you're doing is just so inspiring" or "It's amazing to watch all of this unfold." And if you're not careful, you start to forget what the impetus was for the comment. It becomes the equivalent of a self-indulgent facebook selfie, and you begin to depend on it.
My friend, Andy, puts all of his social media apps in one category that he calls "fake wins". I love how real that is. Posting a photo, video or piece of content CAN be adding to the story I'm sharing with the connected world, yes. But sometimes, if I'm being honest, I like the number of likes I'll get or comments people write. It makes me feel good.
It takes fight, accountability and resolve to not let the Institute become my "do-good fake win". I have to consistently place myself around people who remind me of a few critical truths that keep the main point the main point:
1) My identity is not found in the work we do. If the Institute completely bombed, if we weren't able to engage students, I would still be me. I would still have my community around me.
2) Check yourself when you tell your story. Telling your story is not a bad thing. Obviously! Millions of people share their stories, struggles, dreams and it impacts others. But really ask yourself - what is the purpose of sharing this part of me? Especially as it's linked to thew ork you do
3) Be authentic with people. I can't tell you how many people I've met in the social good space that have no idea how to do this. It's heart breaking. You'll sit down with them and it really doesn't matter if it's you or someone else - they're story is the same. It makes me question the impact of their work. So, don't be that person. Ask questions, care for others. And if you need help, be real about that too. But realize that on your death bed, you won't be wishing you were able to close that large donation. You'll be thinking about the treasure that is the people in your life.
4) You're not a lobbyist, you're an advocate. Semantics, perhaps? Bear with me. We launched the Institute not because of a study on horrible graduation rates in rural areas in Mexico. We started it because we love individuals. I want Gener to know peace in his life. I want Meri to graduate and become a doctor. I wanted Edgar to live into his full potential as a leader. I cannot remove myself -even in my daily life - from the flesh, blood, soul that are these people. The second this becomes about systemic change and NOT about hearts, I've lost it. I have to keep coming back to the point - the youth. I do this through looking at photos, sending a text message. Staying connected.
I write all of this because I have to remind myself regularly what it's all about. We do have big mountains to climb. We have to find the right people to come and invest in our youth. We have to raise $80,000 this year to build out our vision. These are not small things. BUT they are not bigger than the call to love, be present and authentic in each step.
Thanks for sharing in the journey.