Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Ambassador – That sounds like a great job. I want to be the US Ambassador to Bermuda or Luxembourg or Barbados.

When I was in New York, I volunteered with the Christian Mission to the United Nations and had the opportunity to meet with hundreds of Ambassadors over a 10-year period. I saw up close what characterizes a good, effective Ambassador – men and women who:

> love their country and are deeply committed to it
> have the authority to speak for their governments back home
> effectively communicate their country’s history, present-day challenges and future vision
> advocate for their national interest

So, what would it take to be an effective Ambassador for Gladney ? The same characteristics:

> love, commitment, passion for the organization
> authority from home base to speak on Gladney’s behalf (You’ve got that !)
> a desire to be an advocate – to spread the good word about adoption and Gladney

When you see a good movie, you become an Ambassador for it. You want to tell people about it. How much more compelling is it for you to be an Ambassador for the organization that helped you complete your family ?

There are a myriad of ways to be an Ambassador for Gladney, most revolving around sharing your story with others. Josh and Amy Bottomly have told their moving story in a book titled: “From Ashes to Africa”. I couldn’t put it down. It's a must-read for couples considering, or going through, the adoption process.

We’re all Ambassadors for the things that really matter to us.

Competition or Collaboration ?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

One of the challenges I have faced in the transition from the financial services world to the non-profit arena is reconsidering the appropriate balance between competition and collaboration. When I worked for Citibank and Price Waterhouse, competition was intense. It was a zero-sum game. We win; you lose, or vice versa.

Soon after I arrived at Gladney, I heard that placements had declined at another leading agency. My immediate reaction was: “Yes !” but I quickly caught myself and realized this was misguided. Fewer placements at any agency means fewer families created and fewer children helped. That’s not an outcome I or anyone would want to see. The cliché “a rising tide lifts all boats” applies.

As international adoption has become more competitive due to a shrinking market, Gladney has sought out other agencies with similar values in an effort to collaborate within legal and ethical boundaries. If well-intentioned agencies can work together to improve the practices in international adoption, everyone wins.

So, are we competitors or collaborators ? Well, both. We want to work together collegially, but I still want Gladney to be the best !


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Football teams talk about building for success around their quarterback or perhaps their defensive line or linebackers. If you could build your life around 3 or 4 key character traits, which ones would you choose ? Many of us would probably start with integrity, the basis of our reputations.

Another character trait that would be among my cornerstones is perseverance. I think people who persevere are attractive and stories of perseverance are inspirational. Examples of those who persevere abound – war heroes battling against all odds (the men at Normandy and Iwo Jima), sports teams that refuse to quit (“Remember the Titans”), people unwavering in their focus to accomplish a mission (Hilary conquering Mt Everest), families fighting together against a loved one’s illness. Even more attractive than those who persevere are those who persevere with grace, with quiet dignity, yet steely in their determination.

Sometimes the most compelling stories of perseverance are those of ordinary people struggling with the challenges of life. And that brings us to adoption. Adoptive parents persevere – usually with grace, not always quiet, but certainly determined. In most cases, adoptive parents have endured the pokes, prods and other indignities associated with infertility treatments, more often than not resulting in a devastating monthly report card. These disappointments can be compounded by pregnancies that end in miscarriages. Few things crush the spirit more than a blank sonogram. Eventually adoptive couples move on – to Plan B. They (we, since I’m an adoptive father) look back with perfect hindsight and see Plan B as Plan A.

But to be clear, the adoption process is not a picnic while you’re going through it. Even if things go as smoothly as possible, it’s still a rollercoaster of emotions – a sense that things are out of your control because they are and an excruciating wait that seems to last forever. By the time a couple has become an adoptive parent, they have undoubtedly persevered. Perseverance is a bond we share. And in a strange, unforeseen way, we are doubly blessed – we build family and we build our character. Paul’s letter to the Romans tells us: “suffering produces endurance; endurance produces character; character produces hope; and hope does not disappoint us.”

My father was not one to give a lot of advice and he was not exactly a patron of the arts. He did, however, have one poem that he liked a lot and it’s filled with advice from a father to a son – Rudyard Kipling’s “If”. It’s about level-headedness, balance, quiet confidence, humility and perseverance.

IF you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: 'Hold on!'

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!

Likes and Dislikes

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Have you ever made a list of your likes and dislikes ? Do it and let me know how your list compares to mine:

  • Dr Pepper – not Diet Dr Pepper or Mr Pibb
  • Gruene Dance Hall, Gristmill Restaurant and floating the Guadalupe
  • The fact that the greatest moment in baseball history is a 1939 speech – Lou Gehrig’s “luckiest man alive” speech (two years before he died)
  • People who are in church because they want to be
  • The Air Force motto – “Integrity First; Service Before Self; and Excellence in Everything”
  • The 20 minutes before a UT home football game, where you join with 98,000 other burnt orange-clad fanatics and sing “The Eyes of Texas”, “Texas Fight”, "Deep in the Heart of Texas”, watch ‘em roll out the huge, most recognizable state flag, and see the video clips from the Horns’ national championship seasons. The game hadn’t even kicked off and I’ve already got my money’s worth.
  • Driving with no destination, purpose and especially, no map. Willing to get lost just to have a little adventure. Like Abraham, who “went out, not knowing where he was going”.
  • The first round of the NCAA basketball tournament - the upset round
  • Humility
  • Loyalty
  • Integrity
  • Candor
  • Perseverance
  • Breakfast at a New England country inn
  • People of conviction; people who have the courage to “stand in the gap”
  • Politicians who lead with humility and a servant’s heart – I’m drawing a blank here…ok, Nelson Mandela. Let me know if you think of another one.
  • The right kind of country music – you know it when you hear it.
  • Ice cream squeezed out of a machine – it’s not ice cream
  • The BCS – I hate it
  • Partisan politics – I have voted for candidates whose positions I disagree with if they have shown the guts to vote against their party; in other words, to vote their conscience
  • Playing not to lose – don’t bother playing
  • Sloth – what a wonderfully descriptive word. It just sounds slothful.
  • Hot chocolate made with water
  • The Electoral College – almost as messed up as the BCS
  • The middle seat, with people on either side invading my space
  • Robert Mugabe – stronger emotion than mere dislike for a man who has plundered his country for his own personal gain and ignored the cries of starving children and others who are dying of preventable diseases. I’m convinced there is a just God and that Mugabe and his ilk will be the recipients of God’s justice.
To close on a positive note, I’ll toss out a few more likes:
  • An early morning ski run
  • The first crisp day of autumn
  • People who live from the inside out
  • People who run toward risk
  • People who don’t settle
So, are we on the same page or not ?