Category Archives: Writings

The Impending Miami Changemaker Collapse

The Impending Miami Changemaker Collapse

I don’t really know if this should be called a #LateNightRant or just a #MondayMorning #RealDeal, but here goes. This is something I have been mulling over for quite a while now. Anyway, sit back, this is going to be a long one.

You all know I tend to overshare, and about two months ago, I overshared about my battle with anxiety and stress. I was near collapse at the time. Many people gave me much great advice, some of which I have followed and am greatly improved. However, that is not the point of this post.

Because of my propensity to share and be open about my trials, it seems that many people are willing to be open with about theirs. What I learned due to my sharing is that not only is my condition not unique, it is not even unusual. It is practically commonplace. It seems that there is an epidemic of burnout spreading throughout Miami’s changemakers and do-gooders.

When I shared my problems, other people started to share theirs with me. Once I started noticing a trend, I dug deeper. When I would run into someone I know, which happens often, of course, and we exchanged the common courtesies of, “How are you!?” and they would inevitably respond with, “I’m great!” I would ask again, “But, how are you really?” More times than not, the response was different and not near as positive Then, knowing that they knew about my fight with anxiety, I would ask if they ever dealt with the same issue. Because I had shared my problems, they felt comfortable sharing with me, as well. The majority, the vast majority of people who I asked said that they indeed were fighting the same battle as I.

Also, after co-founding an organization dedicated to supporting those changemakers, I have become much more familiar with the processes that many of them operate under. I have been researching the funding process and have spoken with many of these organizations and changemakers about their experience. I have also been studying the formula that local funders use to assign funds to refine our own processes in obtaining said funds. I have spoken with many, many changemakers and leaders regarding their experiences. I have probably spoken directly and honestly to more changemakers than almost anyone else in Miami.

Again, as an oversharer, people are much more willing to share the actual truth with me than they are with most people, especially those in power. More on that later.

So. Here is the trend I am seeing, there is an impending epidemic of changemaker collapse coming in the next few years unless we significantly improve the way things work. There are so many more people working on so many different aspects of the community than there were just 10 years ago, not to mention 20 or 30, and the support infrastructure has not kept up. We need to restructure the institutional support systems for the changemakers. There are not enough resources to support what everyone is doing, even though it is all good work. The resources we do have are significantly misallocated.

The current state of affairs is not sustainable. All of this changemaking is wonderful, but we see people drop out all the time due to inability to continue and we need to look at what changes need to take place in order to better manage our resources. These are issues that we are currently socializing to bring it into the light and really start talking about it on a large scale. Think about it for a while, and we can go into more depth later.

eastersunrise042014-020

Moderated Innovation in Philanthropy

naples017
#LateNightRamblings: So, what does it take to change the world? What does it even take to change your city or your neighborhood? People have been working at it a long time, and look where we are. It just seems like, if we want different results, we need different methodology.

As I delve more into this philanthropic business, this #changemaker world, I see a lot of good ideas, but I also see a lot of inertia, and I definitely see a LOT of bad ideas. I think the thing that upsets me the most is the funding.

I see funding going to so many projects, both new and old, that are so obviously headed for failure. I think the new ones annoy me the most. Sure, they might be some short-lived fun, but in the long run, when the funding runs out, they turn out to be unsustainable. Then, what was the point of all that money?

I see the word “innovation” bandied about quite a bit. I see money going to “innovative” projects for no other reason than they are trendy. Some work out okay, but many, the majority, do not. They are just the theme of the week, they have no substance and no real, long-term merit. But, everyone wants to hop on the hashtag-of-the-week trendwagon. It is like the funders are trying to buy their way into coolness.

On the other side, many of the old style organizations, that have not kept up with the new ideas that do work, still keep plodding along, sucking up dollars that could go to leaner, more efficient organizations. The opportunities presented my new technologies and new management styles are really amazing, but so many people just stick to the “this is the way we have always done it.”

Question everything. Do the old styles of Boards work? I know, it is blasphemy to even ask. Do the old styles of executive management work? Does the old habit of working your volunteers until they crash still work? Do the old funding models still work? If the answer is yes, definitely keep it, if the answer is no, stop holding onto it just out of fear of change.

It is a balancing act that requires moderation on both ends; too bleeding edge, and you end up wasting money on things nobody ever wanted; too tried-and-true and you lose out on the potential presented by new learning. The real magic happens in that middle-area, by taking the old methods that do work, and carefully applying new methodology to them, pushing the envelope, without ripping it.

You know, but nobody wants to talk about the middle. The bleeding edge stuff appeals to the adrenaline junkies and trend-hoppers. The tried-and-true stuff appeals to the complacent and lazy. The moderated innovation that takes place in the middle appeals to no one, but it is where the actual progress happens.

I always say we are inventing the future. We are creating things things that have not been done (e.g. PhilanthroFest), but we base them on the parts of the past that work (it’s a big family festival). If you just do new stuff that has no sustainability, then it does not become the future because it eventually dies off. If you just keep doing the same old thing, then you are not inventing anything. Inventing the future means creating things from the past that are new AND sustainable.

You do have to try new stuff. You do have to learn from the past. You can do both. Unfortunately, it seems that most people think it is one or the other.

#ProTip: Dear PR, It is Not “Highest Priority”

#ProTip: Dear PR people, we love you, but please do not send emails marked “Highest Priority.” It usually indicates one of two things. 1) You (or your client) is way behind and this is a last minute thing. To me, the recipient, that says, “This is going to create extra work for you because you have to rearrange your day to try to get it into the publication right away, so you should probably just ignore it.” Or 2) You (or your client) thinks your stuff is so much more important than anyone else’s. This says to me, “I am going to be very annoying and bothersome, and create extra work, so you should probably just ignore it.” Either way, “Highest Priority” always has a bad connotation.

If you want to indicate that something is timely, please just put the date in the subject line. It is so much more polite and it actually conveys useful knowledge to the recipient in a convenient manner. Thank you! via Facebook

Tax Day #ProTip: How to get bonus money from your income tax

#ProTip: Since it is Tax Day, today’s tip will feature how to get bonus money on your taxes. Many people take the tactic of paying in a little extra from each paycheck so they get a nice refund. Do not do this!
THIS IS A BAD, BAD IDEA!!!

This is like giving the government an interesst free loan with your money! Why would you do that??? Pay attention, this is a little complex, but I am going to tell you how to get “free money” from the government, but it does take some work.

Instead of paying in extra, you should pay in as little as you can throughout the year.
* Take as many deductions as you can off your salary, so that you pay in less each month. Get it as low as possible.
* Then, you take that extra money and put it in an interest bearing account. Call it “tax-account”.
* Do not cheat! You have to take that extra tax-money each month/week and put it into the account.
* When taxes are due, take what you owe out of your tax-account and pay that.
* Then you have the extra interest left-over! It is like you are getting money for free!!! Basically, what happened is that the government gave you an interest-free loan and you invested that and get to keep the interest.

If you want to have more left over, just put in a little extra than you would owe each month, just like you have been doing for the government.

Let me give you an example. Say that you normally owe $10,000 in taxes. Usually, you pay in $12,000 from your salary, $1000 per month, so you get $2000 back at the end of the year.

Do it my way. Instead of giving that $1,000 per month to the government, only pay in $500 per month (for a total of $6000). Take that other $500 and put it into an interest bearing account. Say you make $300 in interest throughout the year. Then, at the end of the year, you have $6300 in the account. You pay the other $4000 to the IRS (total of $10,000). You end up with $2300, instead of $2000! It’s like a free $300 and all it takes is a little effort and discipline on your part.

The more you can keep from your monthly pay-in, the more interest you can make. Just make sure you do not snitch from your tax-account throughout the year! With your extra $$$ you can buy me a drink as a thank you.

#ProTip: Put Needed Info Info Prominently on Your Website

#ProTip: for those of you producing an event, whether big or small: PUT YOUR DATES, TIME AND LOCATION AT THE TOP OF THE FRONT PAGE OF YOUR WEBSITE!

This goes right along with having enough toilet paper as something that is easy and cheap to fix that really enhances the experience of your patrons. Why make people search for this most basic of information?

You would think this kind of thing would be self-evident, but I cannot tell you the number of websites that hide this important information.

Gallery

Naples

This gallery contains 19 photos.

We went to Naples this Thanksgiving weekend. It still kind of amazes me that I have been coming here for over 40 years. My grandfather lived here and we have been visiting since I was a little kid. Now, my … Continue reading

Silly Fun

Sometimes you should just get away and have some silly fun. For Thanksgiving this year, we went on the Murder Mystery Dinner Train. The food was actually quite good, and the service was spectacular.

But, the really silly part was the dinner show. It was all about 4 ghosts who had died 70 years ago and were trying to figure out which one of them killed them all. Attendees were supposed to write down the clues and figure out who the killer was. As usual, I picked the main victim as the killer. I really suck at these things.

The thing is, it was just goofy fun, and sometimes that is all you really need. There are a lot of stresses and everyone needs a break. I know many people who are or were suffering from massive stress. It is often hard to break away from that and take a break. Paying bills always looms over your head. People are hustling and working so hard just to keep their heads above water. They are scared if they even take one day off that everything will come tumbling down.

I was like that. For about two years, I could barely breathe. Could not sleep. My waistline attests to the fact that I did not have trouble eating, but I still was ill much of the time. Finally, I had to step back and take some time off.

So take a day and go see a silly murder mystery. Or, whatever. Do something to take your mind off the stress for a little while. When you come back, you will be able to handle it better, I promise you.

#SMCSFblog 29/30

train

Happy Thanksgiving 2013!

Wishing all of my friends, fans, followers, and those soon to be, a very Happy Thanksgiving from Naples, Florida where we are visiting my parents. I hope you all are celebrating in a warm and happy way, while remembering those who may not have as much to be thankful for.

I am so very thankful of all my friends, it is only through your teamwork and support that we truly can change the world and bring a Happy Thanksgiving to Everyone!

#SMCSFblog 28/30

if

Go You!

Directly out of college, Annette and I started our own business. We purchased a pop culture retail store. Retail is, in my opinion, one of the hardest businesses available. Given that neither of us had studied business, I immediately began reading business and marketing books and magazines. I joined professionals organizations that related to our industry. I found experts and I solicited and listened to their advice. I quickly gained a decent amount of business knowledge.

After several years, when the collectibles business took a nosedive, we decided to get out and shut the store down, but the knowledge I gained was invaluable. For a time, I hung a shingle as a business coach. I helped new entrepreneurs pursue their passion. Many people who want to start their own business are content-experts, they are knowledgeable about their product or service line, but often lack basic business skills, such as financial planning, marketing or organization.

Like any business, it was different than I imagined it would be. As it turned out, what most people needed more than business advice was just plain cheerleading. Many people seem scared of doing their own thing. While they may have a passion they want to pursue, they like the security of having someone else make the tough decisions and give them a nice paycheck for successful executing their duties. And, this is fine, if they are happy with that.

I meet many, many people who (say they) want to go out on their own and do their own thing. They have a basic understanding that working for someone else only enriches their boss, but true potential lies in creating their own business. Or, they may just have a passion for something and would much rather be doing that than whatever they are doing for a paycheck.

Yet, they do not do it. They might make plan after plan and set deadline after deadline to step out on their own, yet there they are, year after year, stuck in their cubicle. There is always some excuse. Or, they just do not know where to start and are unable (unwilling) to figure out how to find out.

So, I find myself many times just saying, “you can do it!” I tell them to just go to sunbiz.org (or whatever your state’s business registry is) and register a name. It usually cost less than $100. Get their business cards and go.

Of course, there is often more to it than that, financing of equipment, acquisition of clients, hiring of staff, finding of location, etc. The thing is, all of that is doable. Thousands of people no smarter than them do that every single day. They can do it, too. I say that and I see fear in their eyes. Their breath catches in their throat. They stutter. But, but, but…

Often they tell me I make it sound so easy, and I assure them that it is. Of course, the truth is that it is harder than they can imagine, but not in the ways they think it will be, and the fact is, they can overcome all those hardships with perseverance, but they have to get started. They usually cannot even articulate what they are scared of. Failure probably. Looking like a fool in front of their peers. Monsters in the closet.

But, what they don’t seem to realize is that the only true failure is failure to start. You only fail when you give up. Until you give up, failure is only experience disguised as mistakes. As long as you continue to learn from those mistakes and continue to push forward, you have not failed. Success is always built on a mountain of failures, nobody gets it right the first time. So, get out there and start failing! The sooner you start failing, the sooner you build your mountain to success.

You CAN do it. You CAN continue to fail until you figure out all the ways not to do something, grinding it down to the only remaining way to do it right. It really isn’t that hard, but it is harder than you can imagine in ways more rewarding than you can possibly believe. So, go you!

#SMCSFblog 27/30

070303 Everglades Panther Refuge 010

Don’t Congratulate Me, Yet

So, I have been receiving a lot of congratulations on my recent move from my regular full-time job to focusing on my own businesses full-time. I appreciate the sentiment, but I keep trying to tell people this is premature. Right now, we are still in the pre-revenue stage. We are living off the money we saved up to make this move. Congratulate me in a year when (if) we haven’t starved.

The good thing is, now I will have time to monetize it. We need to find sponsors and funders to pay for the events. I have no doubt that we will, but until we do, we are living on borrowed time (money). When we land some big sponsors and grants, when the big events start rolling with thousands of attendees, then it congratulations will be appropriate. Until then, we really appreciate your support and your good wishes, but don’t congratulate me, yet!

#SMCSFblog 26/30

071207 Art Basel 07 Friday Seafair Miami Beach 001 INDUSTRIOUS