Ages ago, when I was Director of Development at a very Hollywood-heavy organization, there was a staff person who secured our organization’s annual appointment with a m.a.j.o.r. celebrity to discuss this famous person’s ongoing support of our programs. Leading up to the appointment there would several internal strategy sessions with key participants to develop and plan for this year’s “ask” of this celebrity. The celebrity was completely on board with the cause, willing to lend her fame and connections to our cause, and she wrote a big check!
I recall an early meeting with the lead staff person who outlined for me the first draft of requests that would be made of the celebrity super star. What followed was a list of small and ordinary requests. What? I, along with the celebrity, was expecting big and bold ideas. There is a difference between getting an autographed 8 x 10 glossy photograph and having a private meeting backstage and watching the concert from the wings, isn’t there? The requests were a waste of time.
I wondered out loud to this staff person how when you have a single golden opportunity–in any aspect of your life–what is it like to put everything into it and what is it like to play small? An image came to me then that I used to illustrate my point and it has always stayed with me. It works! I said to staff person “If you have 100 units of something…anything…that are not replaceable and cannot be loaned, given, or borrowed, how many units would you use for any given thing, wish, thought, activity?” For example, If I have 100 major, over-the-top, once- in-a-lifetime donation opportunities in my career (particularly a face-t0-face meeting with a major celebrity who is willing to do anything I need) is an autographed photo the best I can do? Deeper engagement between celebrity and organization doesn’t only happen by the “yeses” I get; it comes from the conversations, the negotiations, the brainstorming, and going back after getting a “no” to my request. My job is to be big and bold and work from there. I get nowhere starting from small.
100 units…100 days of summer vacation and my son chooses to spend some whining about boredom. 100 days of peace and a client spends five of them embroiled in a mess with a board chair. 100 breaths of life remaining, and a friend chooses not to spend one arguing the small stuff. 100 dollars and I don’t want to spend five of them on parking at the train station. 100 hours of a board member’s time and a shame to waste any of them on clearing up bad feelings from making a mistake. A simple and useful structure for measuring how we approach our outlook and output in the world.
What are your 100 units today? What do you notice when you waste them? What do you notice when you spend them wisely? What would getting more units look like? Or loaning some to someone else? Maybe 100 units is too many; make it 10. You have 10 units of peace today…how much value will you get from spending even one of them doing what you are doing right now?
How will you spend your 100 units today?
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