Anyone can grab a pot and a wooden spoon and stand out the street clamoring for attention.
Go ahead. Set up a soapbox. Buy a spotlight. Sell tickets. Put on a show.
But just know, make sure you know down deep in the places where you hold all things important, that begging for attention is no virtue. Not on its own.
Your nonprofit got noticed. So what?
You’re a regionally influential church now? Who cares? You’ve become a sought-after speaker with a national tour? Big deal.
You’re the “go-to” in your community, the one with all
the programs, with the great music, with the people wearing jeans who welcome you as you are.
All of this is well and good, but by itself? Not all that impressive.
But we’ve got people on the edge of their seats, you protest. The world’s eyes are locked on us. We’re turning the heads of thousands…
We’re the up-and-coming new guys. We’re taking the stage in force, we’re filling the speaker slots, grabbing the retweets. We’ve got fresh faces. Fresh ideas. Fresh movements. We’ve got a new model, an innovative startup, a crisp conference idea right out of the oven. Our arsenal is packed with hot concerts, powerful CDs, popular books, flash-in-the-pan festivals. We’re sweeping the hipsters en masse.
We’re coming into our own. We’re the talk of the spiritual town!
Applause. Autographs. Introductions. Fans and Fol- lowers . . . and bam. Celebrities are born! Brands are forged! Masses are gathered!
The world is standing at attention.
Yes, yes. And all of this can and very well may be used for great good. And you sincerely deserve some admiration for working so hard to get there.
But turning heads?
Please don’t tell me that’s how you measure success. You’re turning heads? So is the accident on the side of the road.
All kinds of things turn heads. A heap of mangled metal, blood-splattered windshields, engines caught on fire, over- turned semis.
People slow down. They gawk. They tweet about it and even take photos.
Crowds gather at a corner to watch an apartment building burn. They’ll huddle on their porches as a neighbor is visited by the police.
Do the people being observed—the offending drivers, the owners of the burning house, the resident being interrogated—think their observers are looking on in admiration? Do they suspect the crowds gathering up are their new fan clubs coming together?
Do the people in the accidents deserve medals? Should we give them some sort of prize? Is this something to be celebrated?
Of course not.
Getting someone’s attention is not the same thing as creating a disciple. Turning heads isn’t the same thing as gaining the allegiance of a long-term donor or board member. Screaming in the street isn’t the same thing as being a loyal mentor or friend for the long run.
Fame! Notice! Recognition! Bah, humbug. What does the crowd know? The crowd gets fixated on anything shiny, turning their heads like a bird flocking to a piece of tinfoil.
The crowd looked at Jesus, the man who accepted the marginalized and spoke hope over the world, and picked Barabbas.
— excerpted from Sarah’s new book, The Well-Balanced World Changer: A Field Guide for Staying Sane While Doing Good. It is a book for visionaries who are sinking their lives into various faith-based and humanitarian causes, and are then likely encountering the endless to-do lists that come with big-picture, systemic societal problems. It offers a collection of 2-5 page essays, each of which presents a sticky idea or piece of wisdom that helps reframe expectations, inspire perseverance, set healthy pace and so on.
Sarah’s book is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever books are sold. You can also find great shareable content like the graphic below at her book’s Pinterest page. And you can contribute your own life lessons to an online collection of wisdom using the hashtag #worldchangerbook.
Sarah Cunningham is the author of five books, a freelance event producer, and the Chief Servant to the Emperor (her four year old) and his Chief of Staff (the one year old little brother). She proudly claims to be smitten with “the Mitten” (Michigan) where she blogs about finding extraordinary friendship in a sometimes too ordinary world at http://www.sarahcunningham.org