Sunday, January 30, 2011

New Leaders Council

I have to admit- I am a skeptic.  I am an optimist, but maybe its just experiences like living in third world countries, experiencing reality and just life that keeps at least on foot on the ground.  So, when I was nominated for a leadership council, I immediately was a bit skeptic- 5 months of leadership training, support and networking  just because someone saw that entrepreneurial glimmer in my eye?

I was also a little hesitant to give up a whole weekend a month- my weekends are filled with catch-up hours of, I was just trying to figure out where I would cram those hours....but, I walked into Turner Studios (Thanks Turner!) unaware that this council would be one of the bridges that get me to the next place, the next step.  The weekend consisted of a ton of sharing, setting goals, discussing key issues that leaders are faced with and more importantly, making new friends.
As I left the training on Sunday, I left with not only with 25 new contacts, but I left with 25 new friends.  Friends, who I know, will push me, I too, them to the next level- whatever it may be.

New Leader's Council- thank you- for providing such an important community for today's young leaders.

Conan was at NLC too! 

Friday, January 28, 2011

getting a little personal

I get excited about off the wall stuff.  Yes, I realize, I am a "dork" for not only remembering physics equations, but having that high inflection in the tone of my voice, which means only one thing: joy when reciting them.  I love learning about systems- whether it is the adrenal or Systems of a Down.  I love orthopedic and prosthetic equipment- now that is just weird.

One thing I am not too keen on is weekly planning meetings.  Yes, I see the utility in them- they are a must, but lets just face it, they are not that fun.  This Thursday, I decided to switch it up a little.  I decided to add in the end two items.  I contemplated doing so, because these two items were personal- should I, or rather, is it okay to add in too personal items into work?  I am a little sensitive about not being too down to business simply because I am a young, female leader....not to down play or up play any of the typical stereotypes that surface as a result of that comment...but just want to run an professional, respectable organization where I am respected.

So, this week, in the meeting as we finished up discusing our current professional goals, I asked for a "personal goal"...."it can be anything that you have been wanting to do in your personal life...but you have to start on it this week".  Wow.  To see the look on my director's face was priceless.  His face filled with excitement as he gushed about various goals- his passions erupted as he spoke of all these goals.  One of his goals was to improve fitness, so we both decided one way to measure this would be to time his mile run, ...which by the way, I have not done since, ummm, high school?

The other exercise I added was to come up with a motivational quote that we would recite during the week- a mantra.  Again, it was such a great team building exercise to do this.

As we finished up and I was on my way- I realized something- first, that it is so easy for small business to incorporate fun into their work place- you don't have to be some silicon valley company with fuzeball and guys traversing through company halls on skateboards to be cool (however, that does sound pretty sweet).

Secondly, as I was finishing up the day, thinking about the events and preparing to sleep, I realized our mantra this week ironically was "bring life to life".  I felt like we did that in our meeting.  We brought purpose to our meetings aside from just being centered around work.  We brought balance.  Moments after that thought surfaced at 9:30pm in the evening I received a text from my director-  "4.25=1/2 mile; 9.02= 1 mile, can't wait to hear your times....".  I smiled.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Liberia at La Parilla

Besides dental floss, my favorite thing in the whole wide world is the ability, awe and wonder when individuals share ideas and have the potential of turning those ideas into real, tangible outcomes.  I get excited just from typing that thought!

I was so flattered to meet with Amanda, who works for the government in Monrovia (Liberia).  Amanda is an Atlantan who decided that she was going to do something big with her life- something that made a social impact. I listened to her story- how she decided to leave a high end corporate position after completing a compelling volunteer internship.  How she found herself, her happiness through service.  Due to her volunteer experience, she was offered a position working for the Monrovian government.  Although reluctant to turn in her US life for a world away, she knew that this opportunity was her life story- what was going to make Amanda, Amanda.

It was so amazing to meet this inspiring woman- both for the mere fact, that I too, am a woman that shares a common interest- improving the lives of less fortunate individuals and to witness her wondrous spirit.

I will keep everyone updated on the  hospital adoptions in Monrovia.  I have absolutely no doubt (and yes, chills are going down my spine as I type this) that as a result of a simple lunch at La Parilla on Howell Mill, Embraced and more importantly, Amanda, will improve the lives of so many individuals.

Who knows...maybe we can have a soccer match in Liberia after we get done providing them with orthopedic equipment through Embraced.

Dream big because there are a lot of Amanda's out there to make it a reality.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

creating a movement versus an organization

Anyone that works for a non-profit will tell you how important their organization is to the community.  There are thousands of individuals right now dedicating countless hours to their organization.  But, is this effective?  Is that enough?  Should the focus of a non-profit leader be to build an organization?  

As the founder of Embraced, I am also creating an organization.  But, while my focus is on building an organization, my overall objective is to build and create a movement.  

But, then I am confronted with the proverbial question of chicken and egg...which comes first- the movement or the organization?

As a founder, I am left with addressing and creating both.  But, at the end of the day, I realize that movements are what will get my organization (Embraced) to the next level.  A movement implies basic quantum physics- mass, acceleration and force come to mind.

So, as life has never failed at demonstrating to me that everything happens for a reason-  I did not take two years of physics for nothing...but rather to understand how to incorporate momentum (which is the product of mass times velocity) into my organization to create a movement. 

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

What is inside of you?

There is nothing more gratifying than knowing that your work makes a positive impact in the life of someone else.  Embraced received this email today:

"We found you through Kim, my friend who also attends church. She needed some assistance with her wheelchair and someone at Embraced offered it to her.
Kim was, until recently very  marginalized and living in poverty with her sick uncle and developmentally handicapped cousin as her care givers. Embraced helped her when she grew taller and needed some help with a wheelchair. Kim has now successfully been "adopted" as a young adult into a  home and the Ormewood Park community. She lives with a loving family and their children part-time and her dear friend and adopted grandma part-time. She is no longer marginalized, and living in poverty. She lost her uncle but her cousin visits regularly. We are going to be donating her current wheel chair soon, because she is now able to afford a comfortable customized wheel chair to fit all  her needs.
Thank-you for being there for my friend Kim."

You can't help but to smile at that note.  Whether it is a few hours a week or a change of careers, we all have the capacity to give.  We all have the capacity to not only make a difference,  but to be that difference.  I encourage you to dig deep and be proactive about doing things that have a positive impact on our community.

In the words of Oliver Holmes, "What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us."

- LOB 

Monday, January 3, 2011

Embraced: Creativity comes from....a treadmill?

Embraced: Creativity comes from....a treadmill?: "A friend recently told me that I am funny because I tend to do everything backwards. Besides, putting my nouns in front of adjectives,..."

Creativity comes from....a treadmill?

A friend recently told me that I am funny because I tend to do everything backwards.  Besides, putting my nouns in front of adjectives, friend good, I tend to just do things, well, differently.  I account this, very scientifically, to my astrological sign of rebellious water bearing...its really rebellious, I tell you.
Doing things backwards, like starting a non-profit organization because it is a calling versus a way to shelter money, requires, well, quite frankly, a ton of....creativity.
But, just like any entrepreneurial endeavor, it  takes resourcefulness, a bit of endurance and a ton of creativity.

Sometimes I wish I could record all the thoughts I have on the treadmill....well, okay, not all of them.  I try so hard to not think...but the neurons keep firing.  I think about all the crazy, out of the box ideas that will get Embraced more funding, so that we can continue to grow and help provide more orthopedic and prosthetic equipment to those in need. 

However, every time I start into a new festival idea or think about Battle of the Burgers 2011...I keep remembering a non-profit training seminar where they preached about not focusing on special events as a source of funding.  I somewhat agree and understand that lesson. However, grants are few and far between right now-what in the world is a non-profit supposed to do with the fact that grants right now are so entirely competitive?

Now, I understand why special events should be taken with care and caution.  A lot of the time overhead costs  pile up and  before you know it, you need a huge turnout to even break even.

This is where creativity comes in.  It is an absolute must to make a profit.  Even though you might operate a non-profit, money is still needed.  So, here are my suggestions and things I learned,  should you be planning an event for your non-profit:

1. Get creative- do whatever you have to do- run on a treadmill :),  read the NY times, and do not be afraid to do something different.
2. Trade- with such an array of businesses in financial stress right now, it is a perfect time to trade.  I highly suggested using this when deciding to plan your next event.
3. Facebook is great-  Use it.  If you don't believe it as Goldman Sachs, they just invest $550 million.
4. Waste is bad! - Ask my interns.  I make them use the backs of every paper- yes, every square inch.  Not only is it good for the environment, but we are not hear to waste donors money.  Not even a penny.  Think like that about everything as much as you can within reason.
5. Think big- the only thing holding you back is, well, you.  Reach as far as you can imagine and then add a foot.
6.  Have fun-Attitudes are contagious.  If you are excited, people will get excited.  And, your event will be exciting.

If all else fails, just hop on a treadmill.

-O'Brien, Lauren