Recently, a group of young professionals and I were talking about the importance of focus.  In between beers, glasses of wine, and stories of overburdened inboxes and to-do lists, a particularly focus-challenged member of the group changed the subject.  She recounted that she was visiting NYC from out of town.  

"So many friends live here that I have to be super selective about who I tell that I'm coming," she said.  "Otherwise, I find myself running around the city trying to see as many people as I can and not really connecting with anyone."

It was a familiar sentiment and situation.  Everyone had experienced the weekend trip for work that turned into a sprint to touch base with as many friends as possible and then returning from the trip feeling exhausted and a bit resentful. 

She added.  

"When I set an agenda for myself and only tell a one or two friends I'm around, I can get a lot more done and feel good about the people I do see.  And, anyway, everything else normally falls into place."

What she meant by "everything falling into place" is that she normally would hear about the other people she didn't see from those that she did (at least the ones she was really interested in and that were close to her friend group).

And, in taking time to go deep with a few friends, she was able to process and catch up in a meaningful way instead of stressing that the 15min power lunch or coffee wasn't quick or powerful enough.  

That was it!  I thought.  That's the mindset we need to take in our professional lives when we give ourselves the it's time to focus pep talk.  Set a limited agenda.  Stick to it.  And, by going deep into the areas that we tackle, free the other things to fall into place outside of our control.

Ultimately, focus is about control, trust and what makes relationships meaningful.  

1. Control

By choosing to focus and direct our energies to only a few areas of action, we are relinquishing control on the things we can't take on.  And, that's okay. Someone else will do them, or if not, they will be there to be done once we complete whatever it is we're focused on achieving.  

2. Trust

This takes incredible trust of oneself to determine which tasks and activities merit our sharp focus and which can wait // get tossed out completely.  If we consider our professional teams, it also takes tremendous trust of ones teammates to step up and take on things as their areas of focus that we cannot. 

3. Meaningful Relationships

When we focus we free up time for spontaneity, reflection, care, and thoughtfulness.  Yes, some tasks or goals will demand quick action, but quick action has a different connotation than rushed or hurried action.  We can think and respond quickly when we need to.  No need to willfully decide to do so at all times by taking on too many things.  Our most meaningful relationships reflect this richness of speed; some things are done slowly and others quickly.  Take care to infuse your professional choices with the same dynamism by introducing and sticking to a focused agenda for your day, week, month, or year.

###

Articulating and sticking to professional focus is like visiting a city full of friends.  We won't be able to see them all at once, but that doesn't mean that they won't still be there to greet us the next time we roll through town.  

And, if they are gone when we return, that's okay, too.  Let's let go of the need to control and trust our judgement and the judgment of those who affect our greater decision making context, i.e. our friends or our teammates.  The meaning that we bring to work and life will allow us to have our cake and eat it, too.  To go deep and impact broad by doing so.

Post by Chris Chavez, YNPN-NYC Board Chair, Co-Founder of Prime Produce: A Guild for 21st Century Craft. Chris invites you to follow the conversation on twitter @mr_tumnus.


On October 23rd at Impact HUB New York, the YNPN-NYC will acknowledge the work of an outstanding nonprofit professional under the age of 40. We do so as a network of young professionals who are still finding our professional and personal paths. It's a time when a simple "How are you doing?" from a friend is met with the standard response of "I'm in transition" or the somewhat less personal "My organization is in transition."  

Even so, young nonprofit professionals as a group are not the blind leading the blind. Even as we might trip and falter ourselves, we have developed countless ways to help others up.  

This is the spirit of YNPN-NYC's community and our volunteer board. We are motivated to give a little bit extra because we know our network of peers is doing its best to give a hand, a leg, and yes, sometimes a tongue - appeal time is coming up! - to the causes we care about. At the core of our service is the belief that we can enhance our individual impacts through shared relationships.  

With this in mind, the theme of the 2014 Nonprofiteer of the Year Award recognizes the small, daily actions of our nonprofit peers who inspire big change.  We also want to celebrate the diverse, cross-sector partnerships that make rich professional development possible.

At the start of this summer, and with the help of encouragers and friends, the YNPN-NYC board issued a call for nominations. We were humbled by your response. You shared fantastic stories of your peers, colleagues, and friends crushing it big with their day-to-day commitments to their teams and mission.  

Throughout the selection process, these five women stood out. We have become big fans of their commitment to the causes they serve.

Sarah Andes :: Generation Citizen

Allison Hauser :: Girls on the Run New York City

Emily Pasnak-Lapchick :: UNICEF USA

Katie Riley :: She's the First

Becky Straw :: The Adventure Project

Learn about their organizations and read a bit about why they do what they do below.  

The eventual winner of the Nonprofiteer of the Year will deliver the keynote at our annual Leadership Conference in December and be promoted by our network during the next 12 months.

Equally important, we would also like to promote the mission and work of her organization as an honorary partner of YNPN-NYC.

As semi-finalists, they have been made celebratory members of our network, and have access to Impact HUB New York when they want to disrupt their daily routines and expand their professional networks through sharing space with entrepreneurs and enterprises.

To meet the semi-finalists, mark your calendars for the Nonprofiteer and #SOCENT Cocktail Party on October 23rd at Impact HUB New York. We could call it a networking event for professionals looking to get ahead. But, it's not. It's a cocktail party for individuals wanting to enhance their individual impact through shared relationships.  

Dress the part and come have fun with us!

Click here to RSVP. 

Meet your Nonprofiteer of the Year Semi-Finalists.

Sarah Andes :: Generation Citizen

Sarah Andes :: Generation Citizen

Sarah believes that everyone deserves the opportunity to pursue their own happiness. "My work at Generation Citizen, giving young people the tools to advocate effectively for themselves and their communities, helps make that opportunity possible - for them and in turn for me."

 

Allison Hauser :: Girls on the Run New York City

Allison's love for Girls on the Run comes from a desire to inspire other through fitness, to engage others in healthy lifestyles and to empower young girls. "I want the girls in our program, and all girls in NYC, to know they can achieve their goals.  No matter where they live or where they go to school or how fast or slow they can run, they can do anything. We teach them the life skills so that they know they CAN."

 

Emily Pasnak-Lapchick :: UNICEF USA

Emily Pasnak-Lapchick :: UNICEF USA

"Growing up I always had enough to eat, a roof over my head, and was showered with love. But I have witnessed time and time again that many people around the world are not afforded these same opportunities, and consistently have their most basic human rights violated by crimes like human trafficking." Since being exposed early on to the reality of what her life could have been, Emily has dedicated her life to creating a world where everyone can achieve their full potential.

 

Katie Riley :: She's the First

Katie Riley :: She's the First

Katie was lucky to realize as a student that being involved in something bigger than herself would have a profound impact on my future. "At She's the First, I get to spend every day interacting with passionate, driven, extraordinary student leaders who are already changing the world through girls' education. My job is to support their endeavors, but their leadership and inspiration guarantees that no day ever feels like work." 

 

Becky Straw :: The Adventure Project

Becky Straw :: The Adventure Project

Becky is the Co-Founder and CEO of The Adventure Project, a nonprofit “adding venture” capital to create jobs in developing countries. "In three years [we] have hired over 600 people in India, Haiti, Kenya, and Uganda - who are now serving close to one million people living in poverty."  Prior to The Adventure Project, Becky spent three years helping to launch charity: water, an organization bringing drinking water to people in developing countries.

Q&A with Aaron Hurst

We recently interviewed Aaron Hurst, author of the recently published The Purpose Economy: How Your Desire for Impact, Personal Growth and Community is Changing the World. Globally recognized entrepreneur and founder of Taproot Foundation, which helped create the $15 billion pro bono service market, Aaron argues in his latest book that the new driver of the American economy is to connect people to their purpose. 

How would you describe your professional purpose?

My imperative is to create communities that are empowered to realize their potential.

Thank you for providing many personal anecdotes in The Purpose Economy illustrating decisions that have shaped your career path and entrepreneurial outlook. 

What has been a prominent "butterfly decision" that you have taken, one that has unexpectedly transformed your path from one state to another by putting you through a cocoon phase of waiting so to speaking (and maybe even a bit of pain)? 

There are thousands of little butterfly decisions but the one that was perhaps most important was the decision to focus my time as an undergraduate on studying abroad and spending time volunteering in local prisons.  It helped me understand the world outside the classroom and inspired me to make an impact.

We're curious about your off the cuff reactions to each of the following buzz words.  What do you think of when you hear the word...

...transition?

constant and desirable.

...metrics?

overused and underused and rarely used the right way.

...disruption?

overused and underused and rarely used the right way.

...millennial?

greatest source of hope for the world.

Constructive feedback changes depending on a person's stage of personal and professional maturity.  

What type of feedback do you find most useful for your continued motivation and growth today, and how does it differ from the feedback you preferred at earlier stages of your career?

Not sure it has changed.  I love constructive feedback, it just needs to follow the classic outline of being specific and actionable.  Otherwise it isn't constructive.  I have also come to put feedback increasingly in context and not just jump every time I hear something.

Putting aside your goal to be a published author of a book by the time you were 40! As an entrepreneur, what motivations spurred you to write The Purpose Economy?  

Specifically, what white space did you see or what need did you identify?  What role did timing play in your decision to articulate this movement now?

The Purpose Economy is the culmination of 10 years of research and experiences around the world and across sectors.  What I observed was that the world is radically changing around us and yet people weren't connecting the dots or finding shared language.  I wrote the book to help accelerate the change by providing a framework and language.  We are at that moment now where we need to see the big picture.

If you had a battle cry, what would it be?

Enjoy the moment.  

What are you reading right now?  Or, what reading has been put on pause because of the launch of your book!?  This could be a book, blog series, newspaper column. 

Yeah, I have been a little distracted over the last few weeks.  Enjoyed The Progress Principle and A More Beautiful Question recently.  I've also become a fan of Quartz.

Thoughts from Kenny Kane

Kenny Kane, Nonprofiteer of the Year 2013, rep'ing Stupid Cancer.

Kenny Kane, Nonprofiteer of the Year 2013, rep'ing Stupid Cancer.

Being selected as the YNPN-NYC Nonprofiteer of the year was a tremendous honor and my first professional award beyond our organizational accolades. I can’t believe how quickly time has passed, and that we’re approaching May 2014! 

For those of you who may not know me, I’m a Co-Founder and EVP Mission at Stupid Cancer. We are the nation’s largest support community for young adults(15-39) affected by any type of disease. We host a weekly radio show, survivor meetups, two annual conferences, and have a TIMES best 50 website(’07) full of resources for survivors.

I’ve spent most of the past year building out our ecommerce platform into a more sustainable and robust platform within Stupid Cancer. It’s a great way for our constituents to rally around our brand and has become a viable revenue stream, along with individual donations and grants. I recently attended my second eTail West conference, which not only discusses selling online, but also email marketing best practices, as well emerging web technologies. I’ve been able to take what I’ve learned there and implement it across the board at Stupid Cancer.

Another goal for 2014 is to convert our social media followers into mailing list contacts. Through various tactics, like sweepstakes and giveaways, we’ve now able to have direct contact people who were previously at the mercy of Facebook’s algorithm.

When we think about the daily challenges we all face as non-profit professionals, it’s usually a matter of bandwidth. The task of balancing your existing responsibilities with new ideas, or micro-crises that pop up along the way is not always easy. I just wrapped up a 12-day/12-city road trip, which brings attention to our cause. The road trip leads into our annual conference in Las Vegas. At the conclusion of this trip, I will have been away from home and the office for 23 days.

Despite the long hours, the “non-profit salary,” and making the most out of limited resources, we all do this for one reason: we love it. As I approach the 4.5-year mark in the non-profit sector, I look back on successes and failures. You will have peaks and valleys of excitement, frustration, reward, and gratitude along your journey. I would encourage anyone just starting out, or established in his or her position, to keep an open mind, challenge antiquated organizational practices, and fill the needs of your mission.

We’re all ultimately working for a greater good. Some days will feel like another day at the office, but make sure to balance them out with days where you take a step back and look at the impact you are making on your constituency.