Bootstrapping a non-profit is no light affair.
I remember the night like it was yesterday. Frustrated with being severely limited at my job, I needed a way to vent my insatiable need to create solutions to complex problems, and I found myself meeting with the coolest professional woman in the coolest building on campus at what was formerly known as the Blackstone Launchpad.
It was a semi-transparent glass box, smack dab in the middle of the student center, and having encountered her before, I curiously wondered how we could connect. When we met, she gave me the invitation to an All the CEO Ladies networking meeting later that week. It was after work so I went. It was there that the true connection was made.
It was there that the true connection was made.
We all had to pitch as a part of the membership. I came up with an idea to develop a social app that categorized and simplified who will be on the current political ballot. Everyone cheered, it was and still is a pretty crucial invention that we can’t quite get popularized.
Then it was her turn, Alicia Robinson. She sat and cheered everyone through their ideas and made friends pretty instantly. Like a cool older sister that you wonder where they get their je ne sais quoi. We all heard her stitch together her vision of a future where women accept our pain because it pushes toward a life of purpose and passion. Where we network together to build youth girls to dream, believe, and achieve without limits. An organization she would call Limitless Ambition, Inc.
An organization she would call Limitless Ambition, Inc.
Her ideas of the future were so grand and so big, it almost felt like one’s first visit to the late FAO Schwartz. She had the determination in her voice that made everyone feel like all the pitches we gave would pan out perfectly, just because we said it. We wanted her to succeed because we felt our own limitless ambition fueling us there in each others presence. A room full of young, emerging women hoping to craft a better future with our best ideas.
Start-Up Leadership Lessons
By this point, I had experience with growing and refining strategies for non-profits so I agreed to join the group and help create a strategic plan, while doing some marketing. that is where I learned that a start-up non-profit is a completely different canvas. This is when I learned that a start-up non-profit is a completely different canvas than the well-established organizations I was used to before starting college. Becuase it was a start-up, I was voted into the position of president, a role I was surprised to be offered. Yet, my initiative and understanding of the mission along with my comfort with strategic management fit for a startup. I agreed to take the position for three years, we the stipulation that we would spend time finding a president of a much higher-profile by the end of my term.
Alicia and I were still in school at the time, we both also worked full-time had tight millennial budgets, an untapped network, and starter experience to boot. Our passion wouldn’t let that stop us, and, thankfully, Blackstone Launchpad, now KSU Launchnet provided an excellent source of wisdom, connections, and support along the way. We had late nights, early emails, weekly and twice-weekly meetings; we devoted any minute of our free time, effort, and attention into making sure Limitless Ambition, Inc did everything as thoroughly as possible, to show we could match the pace of our peers. What we learned was that we had something that worked and that we had to keep serving those around us because they found value every time.
Our Start Up Nonprofit Grows Up
It is no easy journey and we still have a long road to walk. There were small successes, frustrating failures, arguments, and awkward moments of facing our truths, so we could improve and move on. Yet, all along the way, we knew the moments were moments of empowerment, which was exactly the point. Thus, we kept moving forward, ego bruises and all. Now, we are preparing to host our next summer program and we have grown our team from around 5 to over 20 in three years time. Our organization has had a reach of over 600 people face to face and we have a locally-targeted social media reach of 4000+, all while working our passions part time.
As our team grew our hectic schedules quelled, and now we face new leadership lessons beyond the ones of our early start-up days. How do we ensure our mission is reflected in every aspect of our work? How can we provide community transparency that builds trust amongst those we serve and support? How can we be better leaders, still?
This may be my last year serving as the president of Limitless Ambition, so I hope to leave my lessons here for those who will carry the torch forward. Take a moment below to watch me interview Alicia in my special podcast segment below.
As I get ready for the gala this week, I realize that this leadership ride I’ve been on has shaped some powerful lessons in my life. You see, when I was in grad school I was a woman seeking to take a stance of power within my life and the world around me. Thanks to connections made at Kent State University’s LaunchNet, I was fortunate enough to encounter a young startup non-profit that had a motto aimed at helping girls dream, believe, and achieve without limits. As a lover of building solutions from scratch and human empowerment, I found a home to pursue my passion of achieving long-term strategic goals, while doing good in the world.
Shortly after, I found myself to be the president-elect of Limitless Ambition, Inc. and while growing a non-profit organization that empowers women in Northeast Ohio, I’ve come to unearth many areas of growth. Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned after 2 full years in the position.
This post was originally published on LinkedIn Pulse. Read more.
I created an infographic for http://www.cultivatedvisions.com social media postings. It reminded me of how important it is to ensure you continuously seek to clarify who you are and who you will be. There are so many areas of input that can muddle up the inner voice that guides us while we fulfill our purpose. Sometimes the voice is so subtle it sounds like it’s coming from our Self.
So here’s an adapted version of the infographic to apply to any area of your life where you seek to find clarity.
The Law of Entropy. My chemistry professor used to joke entropy was to blame for his messy office.
It’s bound to happen, our persistently organized systems will break down…
Despite our best efforts to build better and better systems, there will always be room for improvement because our systems will eventually encounter a chip, glitch, or setback.
This universal pattern explains why as we try harder and harder sometimes it feels like we find more moments of failure, more than when we didn’t even try at all. Perhaps we can even give it the term the law of effort: mo’ money, mo ’problems in a sense. It’s why we entrepreneurs are always reminding each to keep hustling and to take one more risk.
You may consider to yourself: what does it take to make sure as we attain new heights of success on our journey? How can we ever continue when we feel the blows of betrayals, letdowns, and disappointments?
One key practice is making sure we are crystal clear about what moves us forward and why we choose to move forward.
It is imperative we keep crystal clear about what moves us forward and why we choose to move forward. @ZingaHart
Stepping back to unfog our vision’s lens every once in awhile is as relieving as cleaning your car’s windshield. The tension of life’s muck provides a subtle added negative stressor from the strain of trying to see as far ahead as we know we can. So we take a moment to wipe it away, and then we see what we know we have the potential to see. A brighter vision of the road ahead of us.
How do you wipe the subtle stressors that slowly attach to your success goals over time? Do you meditate? Journal? Or perhaps simply unplug? Comment below or share with me on social media somewhere 🙂
For me, my current long-term project is developing workshops to help small business owners gain social media clarity. Writing this for me takes a lot of concentration and energy, and having a clear strategy helps take the stress of thinking away. When I don’t feel like I know what to do next, I know to defer to my past notes for inspiration, and motivation. No matter what, if you are fighting through a mental fog at any point on your success path: slow down, reflect, and clarify. The next step will open up when your insight can relax on your vision again.
If you are building a social media strategy as a part of your success plan, you should sign up for the 10-day social media clarity challenge.
Go from chaos to clear in just 15 minutes a day – delivered straight to your inbox.
Sign up here for free or sign up below. This is nothing fancy, just simple action emails to keep you moving forward. Do this for your personal brand or your business. Challenge starts May 1st.
- Honesty is a winning policy: Before you embark on any ambitious journey, you need to honestly assess the progress you and your team can capably commit to weekly. If you are already in your journey and are starting to feel buried, share that with your team as well. Voicing frustrations, delays, and setbacks with everyone allows for many minds (including your own) to create a solution. Journal, set up a meeting or group chat to discuss a strategy for success that works for everyone!
- Create and celebrate easy wins in your project, early and often: *Secret Alert* I have a little happy dance EVERY TIME I release a post by the end of Monday. I started it in an effort to share what I learned helps individuals craft their own success, so they can contribute to and grow a thriving community! Although it takes some time to complete, it is still a small step towards ensuring that someone will be inspired to boldly take any small step towards building their own success journey.
- Harness the power of your tribe! Being held accountable to our goals boosts our sense of commitment. There is something special about someone else knowing about what you want to do and then checking in on you to make sure you completed it! Schedule lunch dates, send a FB msg or text, connect in a Group chat, etc. etc. Find an accountability partner/group and share your goals and progress with them. Need someone to hold you accountable?
I run social media for our graduate students on Facebook. From asking our students about their content needs I’ve discovered missing a balance between work, family, school, and other human activities can make them feel over-stressed, overworked, and under-satisfied. While, finding balance goes beyond one remedy or another, there are proactive activitiesthat take us towards our core center of being.
One activity is to balance is our active mind. We’re constantly learning, applying knowledge, and making decisions that can draw away our energy from our core being. While our purpose can fuel our passion, it requires us to expend energy, which can only be balanced out with the other end of the spectrum: rest.
Now, you may say, Zinga that’s a bit fluffy. It’s not serious enough to help me achieve success. Or…I’ll rest when I’m dead.
I get it. We feel like more stuff gets done when we’re awake. It’s like a leaders version of FOMO. Yet, if you are feeling low and groggy from a lack of rest, you may find more mistakes are made, relationships take a toll, and your zest for creativity and innovation is dulled. While we make be able to function when we are sleep deprived, we lose focus more often, which takes away our attention from essential tasks.
Finding rest keeps us focused and when we align our focus with our vision we move towards success.
What’s one way you fit rest into your routine?
As a higher ed professional, non-profit leader, entrepreneur, coach and mom, how I stay calm and rested seems like a mystery to some of my friends and colleagues. Sometimes, I’ve wondered what has sustained me for so long? Especially since at the height of my activities, I was also pursuing my master’s degree full-time. Were there days and nights when I was tired? Yes, but for the majority of the time, I was at ease.
My reliable secret: Taking a daily nap on my lunch breaks in my car. It would range from 5-20 minutes depending on my lunch activities. To wake up I set a really, loud and obnoxious rooster alarm.
It did take some practice to nap well. I did it by starting off with just napping for a minute or two and getting used to getting up and going back to work as soon as the alarm went off. Then the build up to 20 minutes, which took about a week and a half to get used to doing. Now, I nap like a pro.
For me, the obnoxious rooster alarm is a necessity.
If you can wake up to ringing fairy whispers, go for it.
So that’s one more move towards your success. Take some rest.
Building your self-definition plays a crucial role in how you lead yourself towards success. The challenge arises when you must sift through the input of others and find the wisdom nuggets you identify with, and with which others can mostly tolerate.
Trust, there is a lot of input.
We can’t help it, we want to see you take action, and so you are offered information to inspire your next moves. In addition, businesses want to envision you your ideal reality and offer you a solution to buy. While this can be useful when needs arise, it can also fill your mental chatter with clutter that distances you from the voice of your Self.
- a person’s essential being that distinguishes them from others, especially considered as the object of introspection or reflexive action.“our alienation from our true selves”
This can make communicating with your authentic self feel like the Tower of Babel when the discord first struck. Chaos and confusion as you try to build and yet somehow manage to stagnate or destroy simultaneously.
Yet, you need to envision something and you need feedback to ensure your definition can withstand the test of time.
How can you balance between external inputs and internal controls?
There are many ways, but a reliable method can be borrowed from the business world. Small businesses and enterprises alike benefit from what is called a SWOT analysis. This assessment lists the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats that a certain enterprise, team, product, or brand faces. It helps sort a wealth of information so you can turn it into actionable feedback.
To incorporate this practice into your own success path take these simple steps.
- Choose a personal goal you are pursuing.
- On your own, list what you consider to be your personal strengths that might help you achieve this goal and weaknesses that may inhibit you from achieving this goal.
- Next, consider any opportunities you could take of advantage of to reach these goals or any competition that might be in the way. Write these down as well.
- Then go around and ask people you trust or your closest circle of acquaintances and ask them the give you the observations from points one and two. What do they think your strengths and weaknesses are? What do they think of your goals and what challenges you might find along the way or what gaps they might hope you fill.
- Finally align the feedback notes you got for yourself and from your circle and see if where they align and where they don’t. Are your strengths viewed by your circle the same?
- Go over the feedback and use it to determine what you want others to know and how you can get there.
The personal SWOT assessment is a decision making tool to help you unlock possibilities for yourself as you develop her brand.
Click to download the Personal Definition SWOT Assessment
96% of adults daydream. If you are one of those adults, ask yourself: are you using this seemingly random activity to the fullest potential?
Like most successful activities, daydreaming to your favor will take practice, purpose, and persistence and, in this case, we’re going to focus on your career. How can you use daydreams to ensure you are reaching your career path’s most passionate potential? There are simple techniques to do so, but first a short overview of current thoughts around daydreams.
What are daydreams?
Daydreams were discovered when scientists notice neural network activity while participants were not participating in anything at all. This came to the formation of the phrase “stimulus-independent thought,” which are thoughts created sans interaction or engagement with the environment outside of our minds. In this sense, daydreams may seem as if they are out of your control, and they can easily be, but the truth is our mind is a muscle and we work with it as we would most functioning muscles in our body.
So how can we use daydreams to create our best career path?
We must actively practice day dream by engaging in personal discovery sessions. This type of daydreaming is called positive-constructive daydreaming, which is the active reflection on our feelings, thoughts, imaginations, and other personal facets of our life in an open manner. This activity means letting go of any urge to stop yourself from thinking a thought or dreaming a dream. Studies found this type of thinking led to an overall sense of well-being and furthermore it opens you up the possibilities of where you can apply your value.[source]
How can you use this on your career path?
The answer is there are many ways to do it and you mustn’t stop at one! Experiment and continuously reflect on your career path throughout the time that you desire to earn a living for yourself. Two simple ways to incorporate this technique into your life is by:
Take a career quiz
Taking personality quizzes, like this one, or this one, and imagining yourself in the ideal roles that they describe for you. When it comes to career construction, my old mentor, Dr. Mark Savickas, told me they’re only about half right. Yet, this is a safe and simple activity to envision a future you.
Put yourself into the position and research it. Note what excites you and what doesn’t as you explore what the role has to offer.
The closest personality test for your work preference is the Holland Code, a model developed by John Holland and used by the military. My Holland Code was IEAS, most Holland Codes are the first 3 letters, which meant my career preference would be book restorer. NO!!! Don’t let online or even legitimate quizzes decide your career path, in order to find your authentic value you must dream deeper into who you are.
Career Path Dream Land
Asking yourself probing questions and then answering them until you reach a point of profound clarity is a thing. This is what is needed to really unearth the answers of who you are and where you are meant to bring value to the world.
A safe way to do this is what I call a mini-self-retreat. Find a way to get time alone and comfortable: send the roommate or partner out, find a baby or pet sitter, or go to a hotel.
Relinquish yourself from responsibility save for your Self.
Then have a nice thoughtful internal discussion about what you want. Stay with the discussion and record your answers for later use, listen to yourself with openness and innocence, as if within you there is a great warm source of your very own personal all-knowing. It can seem different at first, but this is just a surface level way to find your authentic value from within.
Will daydreaming get you a job? No. Constructive daydreaming and self-discovery will set you on a path to a career you are confident carrying as a part of your life’s legacy. If that’s something you think is worth having, let me know!
Comment and we’ll connect 🙂
No affiliate links in this post.
Anyone who knows me, knows I love planning. While, I do a lot of business and marketing planning for others, my true passion for planning stemmed from personal development planning. It all sparked from a meeting with Sheila Palmer, Assistant to Donna Karen of DKNY, she shared with me a book called the 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens after a brief conversation on the beach of Coney Island. When I read that book, the life of discipline, value, and achievement opened up to me for the first time.
From that year (2004) and on, I began a tradition of sitting down every year and creating a personal strategy for the next. This personal strategy helped me get three degrees, start 2 businesses, and accomplish many other complicated goals over my lifetime. Now as I grow into an adult millennial, this tool is helping me manage the many balls in my life with my chill and confident attitude towards getting things done.
First a few notes
- A personal strategy is your strategy. Only you can define the desires that swell within you.
- Your strategy will get better with each pass. You have to stick with it.
- Your strategy can, will, and should change. Although, your values, goals, and beliefs will be closer to a constant, how you reach these ends will need to be adjusted as the year unfolds.
- Your higher-order mission, vision, and values should remain constant, but be refined over time.
No strategy should be set in stone; it should only serve you for as long as it helps you reach your goals.
So, here are 5 small ways to create and use a personal strategy for 2016 today
- Start with your wildest vision for your life then scale it back to achieve for the year. Be a firm believer that whatever goal you set can be accomplished, then do yourself a favor and give yourself a generous timeline to get there. No city is built in a day, but it is built eventually.
- Write 3-5 goals to achieve over the year. Try to build off the work you’ve done last year. If you are starting from scratch, make one goal something you can achieve right away to boost your efficacy in achieving annual goals.
- Schedule a time to review your goals for at least 5 minutes a day. I know an hour once a week may seem like more, but the odds of missing one week, then the next, then the next, are too high of a risk for your best you in 2016. Instead, find some way to incorporate your visions and goals in a high-frequency place throughout your day. Build it into your passwords, set up a vision board, or make it a part of your alarm clock. There are tons of ways to make your goals presence known.
- Pick one goal per day. Yes, you are a leader and have so much more to offer the world, but if you are having trouble genuinely sticking with the goals most important to you then you have to stick with tactics that work. Focusing on one goal per day will not overwhelm your schedule.
- Share what you are doing with an accountability partner. Find someone in your life that you admire for achieving their goals. Meet with them and share your goals and work towards meeting with them regularly. Do a SWOT assessment, share tips and tricks, and other successes with them. Sharing your goals makes you more accountable to yourself and others, which will build your persistence.
Simple steps, but a great start to mapping out your best 2016. Let’s get rid of resolutions and map out the business plan for your careers!
What’s wildest dream are you working on?