Happy frozen tundra, friends! If you are reading this and it’s above 10 degrees where you live, congratulations! The rest of us are cold and miserable.
I was working on my post for last week, when I realized that it is somewhat related to my post for this week. Therefore, I’ve decided to combine the two. In the last two weeks, I’ve learned two important lessons about the consultant lifestyle. Clearly these are not unique to my experiences, or even to consultants alone, or even to anyone who travels. I’m certain we all have faced these life lessons before.
1. Last week, I learned the importance of going with the flow. In the span of one day, I confirmed a tentative trip for the following day, while simultaneously contacting our travel person to set up a trip less than one week later (as I compose this, I am on a flight returning from the second trip). I had actually packed for a one- or four-day trip when I left home last week as I had no idea how long I’d be gone.
The unexpected can really stink sometimes, like when there’s no internet on a five hour flight so I can’t get any work done, but I try to look on the bright side. Maybe I really needed a five hour nap (Or I really needed to see the inflight movie. Or I really needed to work on my PowerPoint slides. You see where I’m going with this). Sometimes life throws you some curveballs and you have to either go with the flow or spend a lot of energy getting upset about it. Personally, I think it’s important to not take yourself too seriously and try not to get too upset. In the words of Ferris Bueller, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
Anyway, going on the tentative trip ended up being a really good idea for the sake of the project and my understanding of where we need to go, so hooray for the unexpected!
Enough of the happy, puppies-and-kittens perspective. What other life lesson have I learned?
2. Getting lost is inevitable. I see how you might assume I’m being metaphorical with this one. Nope, I mean literally getting lost. I have gotten lost at least four times in the last two days. I’m pretty sure I’ll get lost at least two to three more times before the end of the week. Some are totally my fault, like when I clearly took the wrong turn on the way to BWI and ended up in a hospital parking lot (I was just supposed to merge onto another interstate), or when I almost didn’t make my flight because I was one gate away and didn’t hear the announcement (this is a stretch in the category of getting lost, but I wanted to give you ample opportunity to laugh at me. I travel for a living. You assume I’d have figured out how to make it onto a flight when I’m 200 feet from the gate).
My other getting lost stories are the fault of my mapping technology. I took a wrong turn and ended up driving the streets of East St. Louis. Twice. “Gasp!” says everyone who knows St. Louis. I could expound on the shortcomings of my mapping technology, but I’m still a fan. It makes my life so much easier, and these types of situations are mostly laughable. And mostly still my fault for failing to use my logic chip to override a map which is clearly taking me through a shady part of town. On the plus side, I snapped this photo of the Arch:
To mirror my commentary after my first life lesson, the takeaway from this lesson is to keep your cool and keep perspective. You might get to take a cool drive-by picture of the Arch, or you might discover a hospital complex in Maryland that you didn’t know existed. When you get lost, you just have to calm down and look for another route. In the words of Douglas Adams, “Don’t panic!”
Several months ago I was driving through Oklahoma City and I failed in at least three attempts to get on the highway (it was right there but I couldn’t find the entrance ramp!). Instead I took a local road to my hotel and discovered a cool part of town that looked like it had been preserved in the Seventies. While it wasn’t as exciting as the time I watched the sunset over the Santa Cruz mountains while driving over the San Mateo Bridge in San Francisco, discovering this forgotten neighborhood in Oklahoma City was a “feel good” moment for me; one that was completely accidental.
In the past few weeks, I’ve learned that the unexpected and unplanned events can sometimes end up being the best ones.
Some of you may know that I love watching NFL football. And that my beloved team, the Saints, powered through the wildcard playoffs before losing to Seattle last weekend.
Yes, Seattle. If you are a frequent reader (or if you’re my four square friend), you know that I’ve been to Seattle. A lot. My trips have coincided with some key Saints/Seahawks games (I was in town on 12/4 following the 12/2 game and on 1/14 following the 1/11 game). Normally, I’m a very sore loser, but I’m trying to be better about it (perhaps due to my client in the Seattle area). I will say that last weekend’s game was a joy to watch, and it has been fun to be in town so often and see the genuine enthusiasm among the fans as their team inches closer to the ultimate goal. To all of my Seattle friends, congratulations and enjoy your Super Bowl experience.
Since this is a blog about my work and travel experiences, not about travel and football, you had to know I was headed for some sort of wacky analogy with all the football references, right? Ok, here goes.
We were recently asked to submit a proposal to an organization to do some post-campaign analysis. It occurs to me that campaigns are like the football season. There’s a whole lot of buildup. You spend time getting all of your supporters excited until they feel committed. They are as much in this campaign as you are. You’re making the case for people to support you over any other organization. You continue to refine and adjust your strategy throughout the campaign, eventually achieving your goal (okay, I suppose this is where the metaphor is a bit thin. Not everyone wins the Super Bowl, but most organizations finish their campaigns. Maybe not the year they thought they’d be done, or at the target amount they initially envisioned, but they do finish. So maybe campaigns are like regular season football).
Anyway, you reach your goal, you celebrate, and then…what do you do? Just like how most of us feel the day after the Super Bowl, it’s back to business as usual. Instead of listening to Mike and Mike on my drive in to work, I put on NPR or Bloomberg. Football is brought up occasionally, there’s the draft, but it doesn’t get exciting again until the next season. Is this how our fundraising operations are conducted between campaigns? Are we just coasting? Are we immediately gearing up to start again? Or are we looking at what worked, what did not work, and making some between-campaign adjustments? They do this in football all the time- most of the movement happens between seasons (or immediately as post-season games start in the case of coaching changes on Black Monday). And they do it largely based on data (were you waiting for me to mention data?). Analysts break down games, players, and plays ad nauseum. They can slice and dice everything having to do with the game, some things which are tangentially related at best. I bet someone has analyzed Tom Brady’s performance in games where he has facial hair versus games when he doesn’t (if this hasn’t been done, someone should look into it).
Wins (from 9/10/2013)
Loses (from 12/15/2013)
Readers, what do you think? Are we as an industry analyzing our fundraising efforts in between campaigns? If we are analyzing, what types of changes is it leading to? Do we get more resources? Different resources? Does it lead us to reorganize our teams in a way that better allows us to be mission-focused and donor-centered? I applaud this particular potential client for deciding to take a look back. I know there are other organizations that have done this as well. What about you? Take my poll and add a comment if you’ve been a part of a post-campaign analysis:
Happy new year! By now, I’m sure you all have had a chance to enjoy your time off and are getting settled back into your regular routines. I really enjoyed the break – I didn’t travel for two full weeks! That gave me a chance to get settled into my new home even more. Like many people, I took the opportunity at the end of December to reflect on just how much has changed in my life this past year. Pardon the cheesy metaphor, but I feel like I’ve undergone a transformation. The picture at the top of this blog entry is of my adorable niece. She’s a fan of wearing animal costumes. The picture of her spreading her butterfly wings seemed appropriate for this post.
Then, while I was in mid-reflection, thinking about all the changes 2013 brought, I saw this commercial:
Guys, this is a video for tax software. Tax software! Very impressive. It makes me feel good about my life. John C. Reilly really wants me to feel special about all of the things I accomplished. Suddenly, having to locate all of the receipts from my cross-country move becomes a milestone, not a chore. In 90 seconds, TurboTax has managed to transform a universally-hated activity into a process that helps me reflect back on the previous year and see just how far I’ve come.
Did this video resonate with you, or am I the only sap that teared up over TurboTax?