Category Archives: Be the Change

We Think, We Feel, We Act

lamp-1456125_1920_idea_lightbulbI love a challenge. One of my favorite challenges was during the early days of my time with ESPN when the invention of the 24-hour sports cycle came to be. I was asked, “Do you really think people are going to watch a 24 hour sports network?” from the leadership team.  I remember responding with, “Why not? We will not know until we put it out there so let’s put it out there.”  That was my first step into the entrepreneurial corporate world of telecommunications with ESPN.  The challenge required a leap of faith based on little knowledge. And as they say, look where ESPN is now.

Spending over a dozen years in a corporate career with new and emerging cable networks, I immersed myself in the passion for bringing athletics (ESPN and The Golf Channel), breaking news (Satellite News Channel), country music (The Nashville Network and Country Music Television), and more many genres into the living rooms of hundreds of thousands of people.  There was much research to be done, focus groups to be had, spreadsheets to be created, budgets to be monitored and strategic plans to follow step by step to bring these viewers to the screen.  While passionate about the mission, in corporate settings, the mind has to rule the heart with professional wisdom, accountability and proof before, during and after the launch of an idea.  In order to take the next step oftentimes in a corporate entity, data and analysis has to be presented to obtain financial and leadership backing.  When rolling out the new 24-hour sports cycle for ESPN, we were always counting and reporting the subscriber numbers to encourage advertisers to support our network and prove that people were indeed watching to continue with our efforts.

Now, when working in the non-profit sector, I suggested an idea to bring foster kids to camp each year to be with their siblings. I was told, “I have never heard of that, but it’s a great idea!” I then remember thinking to myself, “Well okay then, let’s do this.” There was not much research to be done, no time for focus groups, the spreadsheets would invent themselves, who knew what the budget was, and the only strategic plan was to take the first step to bring campers to CampToBelong.  While passionate about the mission, in non-profits, the heart often has to rule in what is perceived as common sense, responsibility and outcomes before, during and after the launch of an idea. In order to take the next step oftentimes in a non-profit entity, you have to present the outcomes and impacts on society.  For our new camp, we presented the love letters from past participants and the concept that if we help just one, we have made a difference.  And as they say, look where CampToBelong is now.

In both cases, it is the entrepreneurial spirit that is needed to take an idea into a movement….we think, we feel, we act.  The foundation for corporate settings and non- profit programs are both truly steeped in the optimism and positive attitude that something can be different.  Strategy before or strategy after – subscriber numbers or love letters – mind or heart leadership – the risk is often the same. The main difference is the key performance indicators that are presented to move forward with a vision.

Assume the Permission

I once worked in an agency helping kids in foster care. One day, I mentioned to my main constituent that we should have the youth in foster care from Nevada travel to Colorado to camp. He replied ‘that’s a great idea!’ I thanked him and left his office. I knew what would follow would be a conversation about the challenges of taking these youth across state lines. The next exchange I had with him was from the airport in Denver just after the campers arrived. ‘The kids are here,’ I said. He replied, ‘Where?’ I excitedly shared, ‘in Colorado!  You said it was a great idea!’

the-biggest-risk-is-not-taking-any-risk-in-a-world-that-is-changing-really-quickly-the-onlHave courage and confidence to take a risk.  In your mind, your vision is common sense. You begin to share your vision with others who agree, pause, then provide a string of reasons to come to your senses.  You can sit in silence while they ponder, then listen to the doubts  – or you can excuse yourself after your audience says, “That’s a great idea!” and before the ‘but’ comes in. Then say “Yes!” to the idea that lives within you.

There is good reason in any business to have rules, safeguards and limits in place. However, what must happen within our organizations to move the proverbial needle to bend, stretch, and test what is possible? We often offer up justifications like, ‘If it could have been done, it would have been done already.’  Or, ‘Didn’t think to think about that.’ Or, ‘I know nothing, but go try it, and tell me about it later.’  Instead, what could happen if we jump in with, ‘Let’s do it!’?

While, of course more safeguards, processes and limits had to be put in place after the risky but successful ‘trial run’ of campers in Colorado, the leap of faith provided enlightenment into what should and could be done to bring a sense of normalcy into the lives of these children.  At one time, with Colorado as the training ground for Camp To Belong Member Camps, the organization had 80 brothers and sisters fly into Colorado from 8 states and Canada – to join 29 other youth from Colorado.    Now, CampToBelong has camps across the US and Australia, serving siblings placed in separate foster homes and allowing travel far and wide and across borders to be with one another.

Silence is indeed golden – especially when you hang up the phone or walk out of the room!  Then, confidently say yes.

It’s all about the YES!

What are the personal dreams you put on hold, defend the tardiness, excuse the incompletion, perpetually move down on your list, figure ‘no’ would be the best course of action because the time is just not right?

yes-593833_1280How about saying YES, now?

You are a person on a mission – an entrepreneur with a method to the madness – a force to be reckoned with. You just have a heart and a gut intuition that ‘something’s got to change’ or maybe just shift. You realize it is not about everything, it is about preserving the best and enhancing the rest. It’s not about big, it is about one small step…..

What is the change, the shift, you want to see and experience in your world, our world?

Say YES now. Consider the following:

  • Keep your circles small. Avoid the tendency to ask an army for their opinions. Most have grand advice for what won’t work. Whether ‘it’s been done before,’ or ‘you can’t do that,’ negative opinions tend to stall your momentum. Initially, I asked five friends and colleagues not only about the vision, but to join it. My sister said, ‘never heard of it, but if you say it is going to happen, it will.’ All jumped in the trenches including a friend as treasurer who didn’t even know how to balance her own check book?!
  • Delay the business plan. Strategic business calls for a business plan. And, that plan takes analysis and long range insight. What if you just do it, and then plan based on the outcomes? From the time I had the vision, to our first program, was three months!
  • Think small and one program at a time! Dreamers tend to think big. What if you just make a difference in one person’s life? Or in my case minimally two? The vision was to reunite a minimum of two siblings from a family. Our first Camp hosted 32 siblings from many families. When the last camper departed, the volunteers looked to me for what was next? ‘I don’t know, I replied, but I just fell in love with 32 kids, let’s do it again!’ Annual Camps and year-round programs flourished.
  • Assume the permission. Know when to hang up the phone or walk out the door. Sales people know that sometimes closing a deal is based on silence. However, with that pause comes body language, and, a skirmish opportunity for the person listening to say no. What if you hang up or walk out the door with confidence and go forward assuming a yes? When my main constituent said, ‘that’s a great idea,’ to have youth in foster care from Nevada travel to Colorado to Camp, I said thank you and left his office. I knew what would follow would be a conversation about the challenges of taking these youth across state lines. The next exchange I had with him was from the airport in Denver when the campers arrived. “The kids are here, I said.” He replied, ‘Where?’ I excitedly shared, ‘in Colorado, you said it was a great idea!’
  • Replicate without ego. It takes one person to have a vision, skipping the stone across the water. Once you prove the model, it takes a village to bring it to fruition, the ripple. Invite people to collaborate, not only by telling them about your vision taking place, but inviting them to experience it and then replicate it. Your volunteers will be chomping at the bit to share the vision where it hits home for them. That ‘do it again’, and ‘power of the ripple’ has resulted in reuniting over 10,000 siblings in 10 states and Australia – with partners and volunteers who live the journey in many meaningful ways.

So, as we head into the end of…today…say YES to your dream. I welcome presenting a keynote or passioning with you one-on-one to take your vision from do it now, to do it again!

It’s all about … your … YES to change or shift … NOW! One small step!
Lynn Price
Social Entrepreneur – ChangeMaker – Ripple Creator
Ashoka Fellow; Founder and President Emeritus, Camp To Belong