Friday, I delivered a keynote at the Nonprofit 2.0 unconference in Washington, DC. I’m so grateful to Allyson Kapin, Geoff Livingston & Shireen Mitchell – and sponsors Razoo & Care2 – for the invitation. As a girl who lives in a tiny little beach town, it was a refreshing, welcome opportunity to have face-to-face conversations with so many people who are thinking deeply about giving, philanthropy and harnessing the power of technology to create radical good in the world. It made me miss DC & San Francisco where so many of my peers have built their friendships, careers & networks.
Truthfully, I fear public speaking. I’ve worked up to the point I no longer cry myself to sleep the night before. But I still stay up to the wee hours of the morning filled with dread and the terrifying suspicion I’m woefully underprepared. I call Sanjay after midnight asking him to whisper words of reassurance so my nerves will calm enough that I can find a few hours of sleep. I’m always afraid I’ll blank. Or forget salient points. Or let down my hosts or my audience. This talk, though, provided a moment of growth: with every word, I felt myself letting go of self-doubt. I had to. To be present. In a room filled with so much wisdom and warmth, I realized I that to be fully present, I’d have to surrender the fear I was nursing.
Recently, I’ve been paralyzed by fear. About a week ago, I posted on Facebook “sobbed my guts out last night from pure fear of not being good enough.”
By some random path I took on the interwebs this weekend inspired, I think, by 5 seconds of an NPR program I heard while parking the car, I landed on a wikipedia article about the Japanese value wabi sabi. I’d never heard the term – but essentially, as best as I can tell, it’s an appreciation of the beauty that is “imperfect, impermanent and incomplete.” It seems to be a sort of reverence for authenticity – for the fact that true beauty is always flawed – that its flaws make it unique and, therefore beautiful – like handmade items as opposed to those wrought by machine. Perhaps perfection isn’t truly beautiful at all, and perhaps our fear of being imperfect is misplaced. Maybe true beauty is always imperfect. Like me. And you. And our work at Epic Change.
During my talk at Nonprofit 2.0, I recited the first line from Kahlil Gibran’s poem On Pain in the context of sharing the loss that precipitated my finding Mama Lucy and founding Epic Change. As I read these words again, I am reminded that fear & pain often lie at the brink of growth…
Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses
Even as the stone of the fruit must break, that its
heart may stand in the sun, so must you know pain.
And could you keep your heart in wonder at the
daily miracles of your life, your pain would not seem
less wondrous than your joy;
And you would accept the seasons of your heart,
even as you have always accepted the seasons that
pass over your fields.
And you would watch with serenity through the
winters of your grief.
Much of your pain is self-chosen.
It is the bitter potion by which the physician within
you heals your sick self.
Therefore trust the physician, and drink his remedy
in silence and tranquillity:
For his hand, though heavy and hard, is guided by
the tender hand of the Unseen,
And the cup he brings, though it burn your lips, has
been fashioned of the clay which the Potter has
moistened with His own sacred tears.
Video of the conversation at Nonprofit 2.0 should be available soon. Until then, if you’d like to know more about what I shared, check out Ami Neiberger-Miller’s post that captured her insights & takeaways.
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