Figure out what matters to you. Stop.

The simple life

A year ago, I came back from Costa Rica with their mantra of “pura vida!” or the “pure life” in my mind and heart. A few days ago I returned from Italy with much of the same feeling, but in their own words. I learned so much about the slow food movement in Italy, and all about making wine and olive oil and other amazing foods, but that is for another blog post. (Some of you may have already seen my photos.) But out of the food and the culture and the scenery came one concept: that life can be fulfilling and content in the simplest means possible, if you just let it be so, and embrace it with open arms.

When you make apple juice, Stefano, the owner of the agriturismo we stayed at in Southern Tuscany, says it’s like this: “Apples….stop.” When you make meat, it’s “Pig. Salt. Stop.” His simple directions became a recurring theme for our G Adventures tour group, and one that we laughed at, but all took seriously. We all wanted to work for Stefano and live on a farm by the end of the trip. We all wanted the simple life.

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It’s not personal

I don’t know if it’s more common for folks working in the nonprofit sector or not, but I know that I have a really hard time keeping work and personal life separate. And I don’t mean the work-life balance like not checking email at night or talking about work with friends. I mean more like taking your work personally.

Raise your hand if you’ve ever written something that you think is awesome and then someone else (whether or not they know what they’re doing) completely rewrites it, with no context. Cough if you’ve busted your butt to launch a website on time, and as soon as it goes live, requests for changes come in. Maybe you’ve put together the best freaking statistics report the world has ever seen, and you are told it needs a few more numbers. Nod your head if you do everything you’re asked to do — and sometimes, it’s just not enough.

I think we’ve all been there, whether we work for a nonprofit, a corporation, you name it. And when you’re doing something you like/love/are passionate about, be it the issue, or the work itself, it’s even harder to separate yourself from the everyday doldrums and frustrations that come with a job.

It’s really hard to step back and acknowledge that you don’t have control over everything. And boy, do I know about the need for control.

Some days, I have to remind myself that my work is good and that I’m valuable and doing a great job, and that the needs and wants of others are not a reflection of me and my efforts. Some days, I have to remember that I don’t have the title of President or Executive Director or CEO next to my name, and even if I think my advice and strategy are the most awesome things to have ever been uttered, that I may not get my way, and that’s how things go.

Sometimes, I need my boss telling me I’m amazing but that I need to not take everything on myself — that it’s not personal, and I can only do what I can do. Sometimes, I need more than one boss telling me that.

The bottom line is that when you care about what you’re striving toward, and you have dreams and goals and ideas of how you would run the world, it’s easy to take the daily office challenges and hiccups to heart — because we care so darn much. But the bottom line is that it’s also a job. And in every job, and every office, this stuff happens. If you want to avoid it, go live alone in a forest by yourself. And unless you’re just a really big jerk, it’s not personal. It’s not personal. It’s not personal.


Full disclosure: plugs for my work & colleagues

Wow. A kickoff to an annual day of recognition for one campaign, a dedicated fundraising effort on a primetime TV show watched by nearly 40 million people, and the beginnings of a new flagship campaign — all in one week — all the combined efforts of the wonderful people I work with.

My About page says it: that anything I say on this blog is from me and by me only, and not endorsed by my employer – and that’s true. Usually I am subtle when giving kudos to the issues I work on, and use banners or buried links to show what I’m focused on 9-10 hours every day, but today is different. Today – it deserves a real mention.

This is a shoutout to the great work of the United Nations Foundation. To the great work of my teammates and my department, Public Affairs, and all of the other staff involved in these amazing and impactful projects. This is to say that even on the days when we want to tear our hair out, go hide in the corner, close out our emails, and say “no,” that the power of  saying “yes” to inspirational and innovative ideas is so worth it in the end. It’s so worth reading emails or tweets from our supporters, giving us props for our shoutout on American Idol, for pledging to end malaria, for empowering girls around the world. It’s worth the emails that our team shares immediately after a win, full of pride and virtual pats on the back and sighs of relief that the hard part is done.

Sometimes in our daily work, we get caught up in the negative moments and the frustrating times – but in the last three days, I can truly say that I have been able to come home and still say that I feel so honored and fortunate to work at a place like the UN Foundation, and with such amazing, passionate, hard-working people.

And with that:

-Sign up to Sleep Out to End Malaria on April 24, the Eve of World Malaria Day at

-Visit to donate to help the UN help Haiti rebuild and recover.

What is it that makes you YOU?

We’ve all heard this question over the years, or variations of it. What makes you different from everyone else? What makes you most you? Write an acrostic with each letter of your name starting a word that describes you…and so forth.

Well tonight I was reminded of that question. It wasn’t from a teacher or a counselor or even a prospective employer. It was from a friend, but it was right on. I’m at a point where I’m learning my way around in my profession, at my place of work, in this city, in my relationships. There are plenty of people just a few years older than me that are the “go-to” for a particular subject – because they own it and know it inside out and they have really made a name for themselves on it. I can say I know a lot about corgis, or Cajun cooking, or Jane Austen books or Frank Sinatra, but I’m still trying to figure out what that one interest area is that I want to work on for years and years as a job, as a passion – that people will come to me for. We all want to be recognized for something we know, right?

What is the area you feel you want to be the go-to for? What will you do to get to that point?