You Are Not a Unicorn (and you don’t want to be)

u·ni·corn: /yoona korn/

noun

  1. a mythical animal typically represented as a horse with a single straight horn projecting from its forehead.
  2. something that is highly desirable but difficult to find or obtain.

There’s a lot of talk of unicorns in the nonprofit sector lately. Nonprofit professionals often refer to themselves and each other as Unicorns because they are doing something rare.

They are eschewing a higher paycheck; they have chosen to do good over being a corporate minion. They don’t work long extra hours for the money – they do it for a noble cause.

Unicorns are amazing.

  • Unicorns are Gentle (but Ferocious when challenged)
  • Unicorns are Strong and Powerful
  • Unicorns are Rare

Here’s something to consider:

Unicorns are not and were not ever REAL.

Casting yourself as a mythical, magical and rare creature is an insult to your abilities and strength as an individual. You are not a mythical creature. You do not need to rely on magical abilities to be unique and exceptional.

I argue this:

You are a rhinoceros.

Rhinoceroses are ‘perissodactls’, which means ‘odd toed ungulates’.  Horses are also members of this species. The word ‘rhinoceros’ means ‘nose-horn’. (a member of the same species as a horse and has a horn…unicorn?!)

Rhinoceros are amazing.

  • Rhinos are Gentle (but Ferocious when challenged)
  • Rhinos are Strong and Powerful
  • Rhinos are Rare
  • Rhinos are also
    • Tough
    • Stubborn
    • Fearless

And unlike a Unicorn, Rhinoceros are REAL.

You are not a Unicorn (and you don’t want to be). Embrace your Rhino self and charge ahead with changing the world as the strong, powerful, tough, fearless and REAL beast you are.

With affection from a fellow Rhinoceros,

Aimee

In The Between

Twenty years ago I wrote  an essay on my son Alex’s birthday. He’s 28 today and in honor of his birthday I’m posting that essay. It’s a reminder to be present and breathe in the between.

January 23, 1999

Snapshot

I am sitting here with a latte. I made it first thing this morning, blurry eyed and clutching baby precariously in one arm, I steamed milk for the latte with the other. It sits rapidly cooling as I juggle kid and animal needs all morning.

Then, for a brief heartbeat, a single exhaled breath I find myself in quiet observation of the moment. Everyone is content and a second has slowed enough for me to experience it.

I breathe. Softly, as not to disrupt it.

I feel the need to record this piece of time before it spins away. Even now, in searching for something on which to write, the living snapshot that enthralled me has powered up and raced forward.

Do I continue to describe the moment that crept in between the ordered chaos? It is in the past even as I try to hold it in the present. Isn’t life itself made up of second after second of this stuff? There was nothing special about that moment, only the complete observation of it.

The cat may have been the cause. Stepping gingerly onto my lap, knowing full well that it is a place that moves suddenly from rest to motion, taking the risk. She purred. Heavy and mesmerizing, maybe that was the catalyst.

Or, could it have been the dog? Being dog-like, he sat himself weightily next to the baby. An important job, protective, watchful as the baby happily played with cardboard Lego box.

Should that moment be captured because my oldest son, eight years old today sat at my side building a Lego spaceship? Hundreds of pieces coming together by his hand into a recognizable form. Enthralled in the creation of it.

 Almost grown up. Still a baby.

The music was playing. A woman’s voice. My favorite song. The one we like to belt out at the top of our beautiful off-key voices.

The moment paused.

I breathe. Softly

Happy Birthday Alexander.

Selfies – it’s a matter of survival

Last week I was the passenger in a car traveling on Highway 2 in Washington State. We were in Tumwater Canyon on a narrow, winding stretch of road between Stevens Pass and Leavenworth. It was icy and the river that runs alongside looked cold and unforgiving.

As we rounded a corner, I saw three middle-aged men standing on the river side pointing across the road and up the steep hill. I looked up, what could it be? There had to be something very interesting for them to stand in such a dangerous spot at the side of the road.

I didn’t see anything but trees and brush and snow.

As we passed them, I saw that one of them had his phone held up; in the hand that I thought had been pointing at something.

They were taking a selfie.

As a human species, we’ve always had a fascination with documenting our experiences with pictures – from cave paintings to the family vacation slide show, to social media posts.

I’ve spent a great deal of the last six months thinking, learning and acting on the impact of storytelling – from how it connects and drives us, as you can read about in this post; to its practical application in fundraising as I shared in my blog post here.

In the past, the sight of three grown men risking injury on the side of the road to take a smiling selfie with the river and snow behind them would have flabbergasted me. “WTF are they thinking?!” I would have said to myself.

This time, it really struck home that the selfie is  another tool we use in our need to tell stories. As a Gen-Xer with millennial and Gen-Z children, I used to get annoyed and shake my head with all the selfies (so many selfies).

However, after more thought, rather than admonish or judge the “young people” (and the middle aged men) who are taking selfies; we need to start understanding that this behavior is driven by a far more ancient and meaningful need – the need to tell our stories.

When we tell out stories, we learn, we teach, we grow and we share so that we belong. It’s survival folks.

So, take those selfies and feel confident in the knowledge that you are doing something you are wired to do to survive. Also, for the sake of survival, please don’t stand on the side of a dangerous stretch of highway when you do it.

Click,

Aimee

 

 

 

Start – Commit – Trust – Iterate (and don’t forget to breathe)

It’s ski season. The Pacific Northwest is not seeing the kind of snowfall we got last year, but there’s still enough to make  turns (and as my snowboarding daughter says, “shred some gnar”).

Skiing last weekend made me remember a post I did awhile back on my other (now defunct) blog.

When I reread it I realized it fit this week’s theme of “Plan – Do – Check – Adjust”. If those are the main points, then this fills in some of the gaps, like Start – Commit – Trust – Iterate.

Here is that post, recycled for #WednesdayWisdom

A good ski turn. Simple enough in concept that a beginner can learn it, and hard enough to get exactly right that an expert is still always working on improving it.

Everyone falls down sometimes. The key is to get up, recognize what you did and fix it on the next turn. It takes practice. And perseverance.

External conditions change from day to day, sometimes hour to hour, and even on the same run. Snow, sleet, rain, sun, powder, packed groomers, ice, hero snow.

Internal conditions change too; muscle strength, mental acuity, flexibility, rested, exhausted.

The basics of a good ski turn can be applied to every situation in life. And each turn sets up and links to the next. As you get better and better, you move to even tougher terrain and challenges.

What’s in a good ski turn, and each turn in life?

Pick a line and have a plan. Initiate action (start) at the top of the turn and commit. Stay in balance. Dive in, and trust yourself. Stay committed through the scary part in the fall line.

Breathe.

Stay centered, and know the rest of the turn will take care of itself as you prepare for the next turn.

Repeat

Check out my favorite ski areas in the Pacific Northwest to make turns (in order of my current preference):

Whistler Blackcomb

Schweitzer

Mt. Bachelor

Stevens Pass

Mission Ridge

 

Blog Schedule

Sometimes,

you just have to start

Welcome to Our Fundraising Plan blog!I’ll focus on storytelling (the secret sauce for nonprofits) and will provide as much background material as I can gather. I’ll also post an ongoing series on writing plans. I’m starting with the tools to write and execute on a fundraising plan, but expect more on strategic planning, business planning and whatever other kind of planning you would like to see covered (let me know). Thank you for making the world a better place, Aimee