Is everything okay?
Well, do you mean in my house? My neighborhood? The home office of my company? The entire industry?
Thanks to airplanes, television and the internet, the scope of our experience continues to widen. Now, we're concerned about wildfires in Australia or failing banks in the UK. Now, we celebrate when conjoined twins are saved a few continents away, and join in the search for a missing adventurer in a place we've never been.
But, there's a difference between being aware of the emergency of the day and having firsthand experience and firsthand empathy for different people in different places.
My friend Jacqueline Novogratz, founder of the Acumen Fund, is at the forefront of making the world smaller. She has the unique ability to combine the financial and the spiritual in a way that does justice to both.
Her new book, The Blue Sweater, publishes in the United States this week. It's the work of a passionate amateur, an honest memoir of someone who has lived a life most of us can only dream of. When you read of Jacqueline's experiences as a naive banker newly arrived in Africa, or her extraordinary efforts to connect people of similar spirit but different cultures, you can't help but become emotionally involved in the positive energy that's spreading everywhere.
It may seem like this book has little to do with what I write about all day, or what you focus on in your work, but nothing could be further from the truth. No matter what you do, the smaller world is coming to your doorstep. No matter how you spend your day, the living, breathing, interacting big world is going to touch your private one.
An anonymous donor has put up $75,000 in a matching grant–if you buy the book this week, $15 will be donated to Acumen (for each of the first 5,000 copies sold). I hope you'll take advantage and order a copy today. Thanks.
UPDATE: The book is officially a New York Times bestseller. Thank you. It means a lot that you helped spread the word.
I hate going to the post office in the town next to mine. Every time I go, they look for a reason not to ship my package. "Too much tape!" "Not enough tape!" "There's a logo!"
On the other hand, I really enjoy the few times I have something weird to ship fast… and I bring it to Fedex. The guy at the desk has a totally different approach. He's not looking for a reason to say no, he's looking for an opportunity to say yes. "Here's some tape, we'll just add it right here…"
The obvious reason is that the person at this post office has no incentive to make a sale. Okay, fine. But why doesn't she? Why is it okay to have employees in any organization who look for a no? It turns out that the post office in my little town has a few yes men, people who look for a reason to ship my package even though they work for a big government bureaucracy.
The same thing happens with the tech crew before I give a speech. About 75% of the time, the lead tech guy (it always seems to be a guy) explains why it's impossible. Impossible to use a Mac, impossible to use the kind of microphone I like, impossible to use my own clicker, etc. And then, the rest of the time, using the same technology, the producer asks, "how can I help make this work for us?" and everything is about yes, not no.
I don't think it should matter whether or not you're trying to make a profit. If you're out to provide a service, or organized to deliver a product, then look for a yes. At every interaction.
I am not a member of the Author's Guild.
Please don't blame me for their ludicrous positions. They have spoken out against public libraries, against used book stores online and now, against the Kindle reading books aloud.
I used to have a record label, but I never joined the RIAA. You know, the guys that under Hilary Rosen made the multi-billion dollar mistake of trying to maintain the status quo by suing their users as a way of stopping file sharing. It's hard to overestimate how damaging relying on this single action was to an entire industry.
I've eaten in restaurants, but I don't support the New York State Restaurant Association, which has spoken out against banning smoking in restaurants (it will wipe us out!) and now are giving the New York City health department a hard time for wanting to post easy-to-understand ratings of restaurant cleanliness.
I drive a car, but I deplore the lobbying the car companies did to fight fuel efficiency rules–the very rules that would have transformed their industry and raised their profits.
Whenever a trade association raises the barricades and tries to lobby their way into maintaining the status quo, they are doing their members a disservice. Instead of spending time and insight and effort reinventing what they do and organizing for a better future, the members are lulled into a sense of security that somehow, somehow, the future will be just like today.
The key takeaway isn't that the lobbying doesn't work (though it usually doesn't). The problem is that the lobbying takes your attention away from the changes you can actually control and implement. Simple example: why doesn't the NYSRA have a staff of unofficial inspectors who help their members get an A when the real inspector comes around? Why didn't the RIAA help the record industry figure out how to transform into an industry that would embrace and leverage file sharing?
You don't have to like change to take advantage of it.