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.

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