Datapoints

What the wizards at the various casinos have figured out how to do is wire up the slot machines so that they’re constantly playing with your need to feel lucky.

The slots don’t work the way they used to. First of all, the slot machine knows who you are, and what your history is. They’ve given you this card that promises all sorts of bonuses and prizes, but really it’s designed to allow the slot machine to play you like a violin.

Seth Godin – Akimbo – Games Matter

Data can be a powerful tool. Don’t use it like that.

Education for the future: which kids are ours? (2)

Which kids are yours?

Which kids are “our kids”?

It’s fine to start with your own or those closest to you. If those kids aren’t your kids, it’s hard to see how any others possibly can be.

So ask yourself: what will it take for those kids closest to me to thrive – to have the kind of future I hope they’ll have?

They’ll need to love and be loved, to stay safe, to have enough to eat and drink, to have chances to learn and make mistakes. They’ll need friends, peers, juniors, seniors, neighbours, teachers, colleagues, leaders, followers, allies and possibly opponents. They’ll need people to build infrastructure and people to operate and maintain it. They’ll need medical care. They’ll need places to go and things to do and see. They’ll need clean air and water and plants and animals and natural beauty. They’ll need practical skills and art and science and wisdom and faith.

Our kids need all of these and many more to live well and, eventually, to die well too. So starting from the future-that-is-becoming-the-present – that is, starting from right now, and forever after – our kids will need other people just to live, let alone to thrive.

And not just any people – our kids need as many of the right sort of people as possible – people who can flourish, and help those around them to flourish too.

So of course, we start with the kids closest to us – of course we do. But even in the unlikely event that you only cared about yourself and those closest to you, when we’re talking about education for the future and what our kids need, we can be clear that “our kids” can’t just mean your kids.

Our kids need other kids, and the adults that those kids will become.

Even the most narrowly self-interested definition of “our kids” has got to include other people’s children too.

Start with yours, and work outwards.

Education for the future: which kids are ours? (1)

The best – the only – way to prepare our kids for any future is by showing them a vision of a flourishing life, and by equipping them with the best tools we have to achieve it, and with the wisdom to use those tools well.

Stu Patience / Driverlesscroc

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“Our kids” can mean several things.

My biological children.

The children in my extended family.

The children of my friends.

The children of my neighbours, colleagues, fellow members of groups I belong to.

All the kids in my district, city, region, country.

All the kids. Everywhere.

Which kids are yours?

Leadership: say the words

Boy: “Are we going to give something to help the people in Palu*?”
Me: “Good idea – how much do you want to give from your pocket money?”
Boy: “Hmm…”
Me: “You choose an amount, and we’ll add ten times that amount.”**
Boy: Names an amount a little over one week’s allowance
Me: “Done.”

And so at 6.30 this morning my eldest son went to school with his own donation, and 10x his own donation in an envelope to send to Palu.

If he hadn’t said anything, nothing would have happened. If I hadn’t said yes, and told him what I’d give if he went first, he might have found it harder to give. We made it easy for each other, and everyone won.

If you’re with the right people – people who share your values, people who are ready to be led – sometimes all it takes to make a change is to say the words.

Even if people might not share your values, and might not be ready, it’s often worth saying the words anyway, because they might come with you, or at least be more likely to come with you next time.

Do you want to lead? Say the words.

Want to see change happen? Be listening for the right words, and be ready to say yes.

* (see this article if you’re not sure what he was talking about)
** I knew roughly how much he had in his piggy bank

Bootstrapping the non-profit organisation Rule 8 (bonus episode)

This is the eighth-and-a-quarter post in a series applying Seth Godin’s rules of bootstrapping (see also here) to building a non-profit organisation.

Rule 8: Create Boundaries for Yourself

Finishing the last post triggered a final thought – the most important boundary you set for yourself might simply be, “How much is enough?”

This is a door that swings both ways.

Never Enough

If we’re not careful, our tendency is to always want more. There’s always someone more successful, richer. There’s a great Thomas Hobbes quote about this that’s escaping me at the moment.

Determining success – determining ‘enough’ at the outset can help keep things in perspective.

Boiling a Frog

The flipside is the danger of staying in the game when it’s time to cut our losses. Whether it’s a charity or a business, we need to ask deep questions about what’s most important to us. At what cost am I willing to succeed?

What level of financial loss am I willing to risk, and when will I write off my losses and move on?

What boundaries will I create for my social mission, which by its nature is unlikely ever to be accomplished? What values – what still-greater loves – will enable me to flourish in the face of need-without-end?

Ask yourself: to what extent am I willing to sacrifice:

  • My health?
  • My relationships?
  • The well-being of others?
  • The environment?

Count the cost, define the terms, as early as you can – and only change them very deliberately.

Now about that frog…

The saying goes that if you drop a frog into a pan of hot water, it’ll leap straight out. It knows that hot water will hurt it.

But they say – and please don’t try this at home – that if you put the same frog in a pan of cold water and turn on the heat, the frog will stay in the pan until it boils to death.

Set your boundaries in advance, and keep your eyes open to compromise.

Don’t be the frog that slowly boils to death.

Bootstrapping the non-profit organisation Rule 8 (part 3)

This is the eighth-and-a-third post in a series applying Seth Godin’s rules of bootstrapping (see also here) to building a non-profit organisation.

Rule 8: Create Boundaries for Yourself

Where should you focus?

A big part of the answer to this question is the choice we always face between now or later – the well known tension between the urgent and the important, a la Steven Covey’s Seven Habits which, incidentally, was the first real book on personal development that I ever read.

As my friend wrote, the answer is usually now and later.

If your house is on fire, put it out.

But as soon as you can, install a fire alarm, and find and eliminate the cause of the fire.

Start focusing on the important, non-urgent things that will make things easier tomorrow. Plant seeds. Enrich the soil. Give gifts to your future self and to others.

Creating the right kind of barriers for yourself and your organisation is essential to getting the deeper tasks done:

  • I choose not to answer messages about work outside working hours so that I can recharge and do better work during work hours
  • I don’t automatically take jobs with low pay or unreasonable deadlines, just because it’s a job – other people’s rush doesn’t have to become mine
  • I’m learning to give a small, early ‘nos’ to some good things so that I can say a big, enthusiastic ‘yes’ to fewer, greater things
  • My organisation has its own vision and focus. If you want us to help your teachers, let’s talk. If you want us to build schools – that’s not for us, and if that means we’re not for you, that’s fine
  • Planning less in my day so that I can deal graciously with the things that inevitably do come up – and just so that I can greet my neighbour in the street
  • Deciding in advance how much I’m prepared to commit

To finish up, Rule 8 can stay as it is. I’d just add one note: with all of these things, now is better than later, but many of the important and exciting things that happen to us just take time, or only happen at the right time. You can’t force them – so it’s worth setting boundaries in advance for how hard you’ll push.

Who’s who?

How do you talk about who’s who in your organisation, and what does it say about your values?

One Acre Fund is an organisation that spends about US$100 million per year on their program, with 8,300 staff serving  760,000 families (or more than 4 million people) in more than six countries.

They are doing excellent work, and my impression is that they have excellent leadership, and top-level leaders worth making a noise about.

But look at their leadership page. There’s no org chart with the big fish at the top, there are no job titles until you hover-over – just a set of faces that represent the organisation ordered alphabetically by first name.

Who’s who isn’t immediately clear – but we learn a lot about ‘who’ One Acre Fund is, and what’s important to them.

Bootstrapping the non-profit organisation Rule 7 (part 3)

This is the seventh-and-a-third post in a series applying Seth Godin’s rules of bootstrapping (see also here) to building a non-profit organisation.

Rule 7: Charge a lot (but be worth more than you charge)

How does this rule apply to what a charity charges its clients? Is it ethical to charge your clients a lot?

Shakespeare’s Prospero said it best:

This swift business

I must uneasy make lest too light winning

Make the prize light.

The Tempest, Act 1 Scene 2

I’m not a subscriber to the argument that free things are always un- or underappreciated, but there’s truth in the sorcerer’s words: we value what is dear.

Or perhaps we should say, we value things that cost a lot as long as long as they’re worth more than we paid.

Think about the times you’ve felt frustrated by a cheap purchase that wasn’t worth it. Or the more costly, high-quality item that brought you satisfaction each and every time you used it. Rule 7 follows this logic – just as it’s possible to be cheap and still rip people off, it’s possible to charge a lot and still be generous.

In fact, charging a lot might be what gives you the space to be generous. It’s hard to give people the time and attention they require if you’re cutting corners and pinching pennies. Rule 7 asserts that it’s fine for a charity to charge its clients for its services – even to charge ‘a lot’ – as long as the client makes the most profit from the transaction.

And the fact is, even if the service that you provide to your clients costs them nothing in financial terms, they always pay something – time, attention, the effort of showing up.

When your clients pay a bit more of those things for what you provide, they think more about whether they really want it, and take it a bit more seriously. And just as if you’d charged more money for something, when people have bought in to what you’re doing, there’s a lot more that you can do, so you open up a lot of extra ways to create value for and with them.

As another poet put it,

Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.