Lately I’ve been reading a book by Robert Greene called Mastery. Throughout this book there are stories about how people overcame incredible odds to attain mastery. They did it in a variety of ways. They did it by seeking out mentors, by learning about human nature, by devoting themselves to one area of research, and taking risks. And failing, a LOT.
Did you know Buckminster Fuller wanted to commit suicide when so many things did not work out for him?
Did you know Zora Neale Hurston worked as a housekeeper and stole snatches of reading time by reading in her clients libraries? Did you know she never had formal schooling and at 25 decided to pass herself off as a 15 year old to go back to high school, and then to college?
Did you know that Benjamin Franklin was going to be apprenticed to be a candlemaker until he threatened to run away? Then after being fired from his brother’s printshop, he was working to build up a business in Philadelphia, then was stranded in London at a young age without a job based on the lies of a mayor of Philadelphia and had to find a job to earn enough money to get back?
Reading about their stories and how they overcame overwhelming odds to succeed in engineering, in writing, and in politics, makes me want to share my story with you, about how I overcame the odds to make a living with writing and teaching.
Do you ever feel that you’re trying to overcome overwhelming odds in fundraising or in your life?
That was true for me.
I felt like no matter what I did in my last job, there was never any way to make true progress, because I always had more to do than any one human being could handle, the financial demands kept increasing because I had no power to help shape the organizational budget, and I wasn’t given any training or guidance to actually do the jobs I was asked to do. So I felt like I was being set up for failure, and there was nowhere to rise in the organization.
What did I do with this overwhelm?
So I tried to distract myself. I turned to dating. To making art. To yoga classes. To writing poetry. To watching movies. To thrift shopping. To complaining to anyone who would listen about my job. To applying to other jobs.
Deep down I think I knew I didn’t really want other jobs. I wanted to be free to do exactly as I pleased.
Taking responsibility, even if you have no direction.
But the trouble was, I was putting the responsibility for this outside of myself. I thought, well, maybe if I meet a rich person to be with- or maybe try another field, or run away to Korea for another year, that will give me some savings to be free with. Or maybe if I just find the right mentor, they can give me the magic formula to succeed. I bought Ramit Sethi’s Earn 1K on the side course. It didn’t work for me. I tried reading other books. But what I really needed to realize was that the real book was inside of me.
Letting your work speak for itself
I wanted to write something interesting enough that would make a LOT of people realize how easy and fun fundraising could be. I didn’t see that book out there, so I knew I needed to write my book. I needed to distill everything I had been learning about fundraising at the time into one place.
I did that. So I sold a few of these books but it wasn’t enough for rent, for sure. So I learned how to do public speaking, how to do webinars, how to market my products and services. Then, after I felt confident in this skill, in another couple years, I wrote another book about online marketing. And I got clearer and clearer about how to connect with my passion in the sector. It was about showing up, every day, writing, reading, making connections, teaching, and getting closer to what really fired me up about the sector.
Going beyond where most people stop
I figured out that nonprofiteers getting treated badly made me really angry. I read Dan Pallotta’s books and felt like these covered the tip of the iceberg, but there is so much more to do. Then I wrote another book on fundraising careers. I sold a few of these books, and made an e-course but I didn’t feel like it was reaching enough people.
So I did something I didn’t feel ready to do. And that’s one of the keys, do something big before you feel ready to do it.
I created the Fundraising Career Conference earlier this year. And it got big. Bigger than I expected! After selling out twice with 550 attendees, getting sponsorships and creating relationships with tons of highly intelligent fundraisers and presenters, that felt like we were making progress. Maybe through my presenters, and the affordability of the conference, people would be able to create better boundaries around work, and demand better treatment no matter where they worked.
Then I got to thinking. Is there a way I could teach nonprofit leaders how to get more out of their fundraising teams, keep them longer, and make exponentially more money? Would they listen?
There’s just one way to find out. So April 4th-5th 2016 I’m creating a two day virtual conference called the Next Level conference for nonprofit leaders. I’m also putting on the Fundraising Career Conference in April 2016 and making it even better, and more comprehensive. Want to get notified about the conference? Go here and put in your email and you’ll be the first to know when the cheapest tickets are on sale.
How can you apply my story to your life?
Here’s the big question. If you want to attain mastery in fundraising or something else, how do you do it? It’s more than determination. It’s more than just luck. What does it take to master this?
Like everything with fundraising, it’s about relationships. In Robert Greene’s book, Mastery, he talks about how your social relationships can make or break your success in your life, and you will have to learn to read people if you want to be successful.
You have to ask yourself, which of these 7 deadly realities can you see around you in your life right now?
Did these hold me back in my pursuit of mastery of business and fundraising? YEP.
How did I get over them? I don’t know, I think I’m still working on Laziness.
But how can you attain mastery? By figuring out what you can’t stop thinking about, and sticking with that and working hard at it.
I’m not smarter than anyone else working in fundraising. I would say I was an average student in school.
I’m not richer than others working in fundraising. I started this business on unemployment.
What I do that is different is that I got lucky. I was able to devote my intellectual energy to practicing fundraising, to writing and reading and teaching about fundraising for 10 years, to the exclusion of other things. According to Robert Greene’s book, Mastery, this single-minded focus can help you succeed in one area, and then you can expand this mastery to focus on other fields.
Should you read this book, Mastery, by Robert Greene?
100% YES. It will inspire you.