It’s not what you do that matters

It’s the benefit it provides.

It’s time to stop talking about activities, effort, or money spent.

People buy results.

(Also, sorry about the massive typos in yesterday’s post. Here’s a corrected version if you wanted to share it.)

More what?

Read or attend any report or gathering in impact investing and you’ll be told that the impact investing market is growing fast. At last week’s Global Steering Group on Impact Investing Summit, for example, we heard a lot about the market reaching a “tipping point.”

How do we know whether or not this is a good thing?

We cannot answer that question by counting dollars, or by tracking how many philanthropists, foundations, and banks talk about the impact investing funds they are deploying and the impact they intend to have.

All that tells us is about changes in language and norms for product packaging.

The only “mores” that matter are more capital going to more initiatives and companies that make more of a positive difference in more peoples’ lives.

Until we are tracking that accurately, we have no way to know that we are making progress, or even if we are headed in the right direction.

Diagnosis, Effort, and Capability

My six-year old daughter was moving nicely through her 7-minute piano practice session the other day when we opened up the music to a piece called Toy Soldiers. This piece breaks new ground for her by having not one but two Gs in it (up until that point she’d only played between the A and F around Middle C).

She instantly burst into tears, poor thing. “It’s too hard, I can’t do it!”

Needless to say she absolutely can do it, and did do it almost immediately after she calmed down. But even after that, this piece is still resolutely in the “too hard” category in her mind.

It’s more obvious when it’s a six-year-old who’s decided she can’t play a G, but we all do this: decide that we have some sort of limitation of our own capability when really what we’ve gotten wrong is the diagnosis.

Diagnosis of how big the problem is.

Diagnosis of what it will take to overcome it.

And most of all, mis-diagnosis of the fact that what’s keeping us from doing it is the decision that we can’t do it.

Diagnosis is our fundamental leverage point, on problems big and small. It’s the step we rush through too quickly when we think we have the solution, the step we get wrong when we’re comfortable with the way things are, and the step that is the beginning of the breakthrough when we allow ourselves the space to see clearly.

After good diagnosis comes effort, and it’s true that that bit can be hard: sustained effort, emotional effort, these things require both commitment and endurance.

But capability? The actual lack of capacity to do something? That is almost never the real problem.

Angela Duckworth: A superpower you can learn

Amy Ahearn on the +Acumen team has built more than 20 online courses, and she describes Angela Duckworth’s new course as “the first course I’ve ever recommended to my mom, who has been an elementary school teacher for the past 30 years.”

That’s pretty high praise. So maybe this course is for you too.

If you don’t know Angela Duckworth, she is an award-winning psychologist from the University Pennsylvania and a former classroom teacher. Angela got the idea of “grit” into the mainstream, she’s the author of the bestselling book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, and her TED Talk brought these ideas to life.

I’ve taken Angela’s course and it is excellent: clear, motivating, and actionable. For all of us working on long-haul problems of social change, we probably know we need to be more gritty but we might not know exactly how to do that.

So, if you’ve ever struggled to find the passions that animate you, if you’d be interested in creating a 4-step plan that will help you master a new “hard thing,” if you’d like tips on how to develop a growth mindset by reframing challenges, or if you’d just like to understand the connection between optimism and grit, this course is for you.

And here’s a bonus: because we believe in and love teachers so much, +Acumen is giving an 82% discount on Angela’s course to educators until July 7th.

That’s right.

Anyone working in education can get the course, which normally sells for $100, for just $18 by using the coupon code TEACHERSROCK.

Feel free to forward this message to a teacher you love.

 

Expectations

So much of how we experience each other bounces off everything that is left unsaid.

Expectations about how good the movie would be.

Expectations about what was meant when you were told “the meeting will start at 10:00.”

Expectations about how we will dress.

Expectations about what it means to do this job.

Expectations about what it means to work for you.

Expectations about who gets to have good ideas.

Expectations about who gets to say yes, and no.

Expectations about who gets to speak when.

Expectations about how, and how much, to agree and disagree.

Expectations about where we do our best work.

Expectations about whether showing up in person matters.

Expectations about how much care we put into saying “thank you.”

Expectations about what it means to listen, and the relative importance of listening and speaking.

Expectations about how a President is supposed to act.

Expectations about who can and cannot leave the office first.

Expectations about what silence means (in a meeting, when I don’t hear back from you).

Expectations about what you mean when you say “I’ll take it from here.”

 

It turns out that most of how we experience in the world comes from sense-making, and sense-making is a comparison between what happened and the sum total of everyone’s unspoken expectations.

Think for a moment about what this means if you’re working across…anything really: geography, culture, class, religion, age, gender, or even just two groups within the same organization.

More often than not, misunderstandings come from forgetting how different each of our expectations are, and from the mental shortcuts we all take as we fill in blanks (“what did that really mean?”) based all of our unconscious biases.

 

Clues

Always be sniffing for clues that you are doing real and important work.

A nice cocktail to look out for is the mixture of fear that “this might be a total waste of time” mingling with moments (minutes, maybe hours) flying by because you are totally engrossed in something.

This fear you’re feeling comes because there aren’t clear external markers for what you’re working on, or because some people you trust are telling you that this won’t work, or because you can sense that you’re further out on a limb than you ever have been before.

When this sort of nagging doubt comes together with a project that completely engrosses you, one that sometimes grabs you and won’t let go because you’re so in sync with the work…that’s a great time to keep going for it.

That kind of synchronicity doesn’t come along often, and the fear and doubt you’re feeling is the worry that you might do something big and important.

You might. Which means that when you pull it off, you won’t be able to walk away from it.

That’s scary too. But it’s just this kind of work that we need from you.

How are you?

Notice how grooved we get in our reply to this question.

Either we respond with an anodyne “Fine thanks. And you?”

Or we use it as a chance to vent about the last three things that went wrong in our day.

Here’s an idea: use this as a moment to consciously, genuinely share the most positive thing that’s happened recently, or one thing you’re looking forward to.

By sharing that emotion and that energy, the person who was kind enough to ask can feel that and pay it forward.