Handling Rejection

I hear no quite a bit.

I work for a charity and I ask people to give generously to that charity. If I am doing my job then people will say ‘no’ to me on a regular basis, to either meeting with me, coming to an event, or being generous financially. I get ‘no’ on a much more regular basis than I get a ‘yes’, and it can hurt. It can create doubt and fear and a sense of rejection. To not go crazy, I choose to approach this ‘rejection’ with a particular mindset.

A while ago I spent some time working in radio and at the time (things may have shifted a little now) the adage was that someone needed to hear an advertisement 7 times before they decided to engage with it. Essentially, on average, it takes time for people to get comfortable with a message or product before they start to build trust and get to the point where they look at buying or connecting.

I now take the same approach with every conversation I have with someone or when I speak at an event. I talk proudly about Opportunity International and how we are ending poverty but at the same time I recognise that it could be the first time that someone has heard of the organisation and what we do, or the first time they have heard about giving to charity. I can’t expect them to jump on board straight away, but this is the first important step. It could also be the third or fourth time, or it could be the seventh time and they say yes and support generously. It just depends on the person and their journey.

I can’t tell you the amount of times I have had people tell me that they have heard me speak a few times before and now they are ready to support.

If people say no to me, that’s okay, it’s not the ‘seventh’ time for them yet. My job is to keep the relationship going so they can get to that point.

I also know that some people will never come around, that’s okay too. They are on their own journey and whilst I believe being generous is good for everyone, we all have to come to that place in our own time and on our own terms.

Bad and Better

There is no doubt that if you look around at the world today it can make you very sad. Death, destruction, poverty, hatred and ignorance.

Sure things are bad but they are not as bad as we think. Not even close. In fact the entire world appears to be ignorant of just how great things are in comparison to how they were.

I have written about some of this before, highlighting child mortality has dropped by 70% since 1970, even though the global population has grown by 30% in that time. 2 billion more people, 16 million less deaths of children under the age of 5. Phenomenal.

But that just scratches the surface. Over the last 100 years global incomes per person have sky rocketed and the average life span across the world has improved over the last 50 years. The average lifespan globally today is 70. Almost everything is better including the amount of people who own guitars and this is what I wanted to focus on.

There are a number of different ways to measure improvement, through income levels, life expectancy, population growth, babies born per women and culture. The last one is a little complex to measure, but music is a good place to start.

Hans Rosling (my new hero) has data on playable guitars per capita (who thinks of these things?), and back in 1962 there was 200 playable guitars for every 1 million people, in 2014 that had grown to 11,000 playable guitars for every 1 million people. The increase in income globally has allowed more people to engage in cultural activities like music, being a sign that things are improving.

Things are bad in our world, but they are a heck of a lot better than they used to be, they continue to get better, and we are not finished yet.

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The Generous Life

“You will not be satisfied until you step into a life of generosity” Jason Jaggard

I find it most difficult on Monday mornings. Not every one, but generally it’s a Monday. The day brings with it a sense of longing, questioning and searching. Is what I am doing really worthwhile? What if I am just wasting my time? What if no one else gets it? Is this really what I want to be doing for the rest of my life?

Perhaps you know these questions and the driving force behind them, which is what I would call the search for purpose. What motivates my behaviours? Why do I do what I do?

Some will suggest that we all have a calling – something specific that we are placed on this earth to do and if we don’t find what that is we can miss our calling and then ultimately miss our purpose in life.

Others think that we don’t have a specific task or calling but we are to be the best that we can be wherever we end up. It’s more about the attitude than the action.

If you spend enough time with me you will discover that I don’t go to many extremes, but I like to find somewhere in between. (Why don’t we have both?)

I think we all have certain things that we are called to do, they may turn into our vocation or they may be specific actions along the journey. At the same time the attitude is fundamental, perhaps even more important.

If we, as people are able to act out in generosity, then that attitude will take any action that we do and make it amazing.

Charity Begins at Home

I’ve heard it so often. From so many people. Different types of people.

Amazing, thoughtful, loving people.

Angry, selfish, arrogant people.

Some are unwilling to even contemplate a different point of view and others almost make the statement as a question. ‘Charity begins at home…doesn’t it?’.

I don’t disagree with the statement. I’ve been a proponent for international aid and development for 15 years. I think we have a huge responsibility to our world for a number of reasons. But I’m not heartless. I care about those who suffer here in Australia. I care about those who are sick, hurting, homeless and living in poverty. And so, yes, charity does begin at home. But it does not end there and it certainly doesn’t mean that we can’t provide assistance for those suffering internationally at the same time. The two are not mutually exclusive.

I often forget just how amazing life is here in Australia, just how great certain parts are. I was having a conversation with someone who migrated here over 10 years ago and when they visited their home country recently they were shocked by how unsafe they felt. Life in Australia had dulled their senses and they forgot that going about life without looking over their shoulder or trying to spot danger at every turn, isn’t normal. But it should be.

I’m not saying that every other country is unsafe, nor am I saying that Australia is perfect and nothing bad ever happens, but what we have here is a gift. A gift that we have done nothing to deserve, and one that I believe comes with a responsibility. Let’s support charity at home and everywhere else.

Cat Swinging

You know the phrase, ‘there’s not enough room to swing a cat’ – it doesn’t get used much any more but it was a colloquial way to say that an area or room was very small.

One reason that we don’t hear that phrase today is that, thanks to the internet, the world has fallen deeply in love with cats and no one in their right mind would think about swinging one around, even though the original meaning of the cat referred to was a type of whip – which carries with it its own set of issues.

Another reason that we don’t hear it much anymore, is that in Australia and our homes are so big, we have literally run out of opportunities to use it.

You see, Australia has the largest homes per square metre in the world and Western Australia has the largest houses in the country with the largest houses.

Out of every nation on the planet, out of the billions of homes from New Zealand to Fiji, Greenland to USA, Italy to South Africa, homes in Australia are, on average, bigger than all other opponents. Not that it’s a competition but we are winning – if winning was creating more space to put stuff in that we don’t use nor need. 1st place Australia. Something to be proud of…or not.

Normally I discourage people from comparing themselves to others, but in this situation I think it is important for us as a nation to take stock of what we have. In this case, we have enough room to swing a cat and enough money to build walls around that room so that we have somewhere to come to at the end of every day. Nobody else in the world has what we have. Nobody.

Now, don’t feel guilty about that (it’s too late anyway, it’s built, set in stone/brick so to speak), but instead use what you have (wealth) to make this world a better place (by donating to Opportunity International). It’s not about getting everyone in the world a big house, but it is about providing every person with an Opportunity to reach their full potential and provide for their family.

Gratitude Breeds Generosity

‘From the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.’

Have you ever wondered how some people just seem to be so happy all the time? It can be quite disconcerting as you go about your day, struggling through your afternoon slump, stressing about your upcoming deadline, cursing how quickly your last coffee was consumed, and then Mr. or Mrs. Happy pop up and share their joy of life with you, offer you a helpful suggestion with your deadline and source another coffee for you. I mean, who do they think they are? Even if you can’t think of someone you know who is like this, believe me, they are out there.

The most amazing thing is that when you find out more about these people and hear their story, you usually discover that they have had to endure, and possibly still are enduring, some incredibly difficult life circumstances, tragedy and loss. It is most often unfair and sad, yet there they stand with a smile on their face. Not a fake one either (I thought that was their trick for a while, but it is real happiness).

It turns out that, whilst not everyone who goes through hardship surfaces with a happy demeanour, those that do manage to find something in life that they are grateful for. It is a conscious effort, every day to find the good things they have and over time, that sense of gratitude overflows into generosity towards others. Gratitude breeds generosity, in all areas of life. You cannot stop it.

All action that we take is motivated by something internal.

Equality…and cake.

Have you ever been given the responsibility of cutting a birthday cake for children?

The need to get each piece the exact same size has never been so great, and when you can’t do that, each child knows who has the biggest piece and who’s piece is smallest. Of course, in that situation the easiest thing to do is to take some from the biggest piece and give it to the child with the smallest piece, so things are equal.

But you know that things are not that simple. It doesn’t matter how much you explain it with logic, and even though each child gets the same amount, the saddest child in the room is always the one who has had something taken from them. They are unable to focus on anything else except for their cake – even if it ended up being distributed with equality, they can only see what they lost.

We know what inequality is; when people are oppressed, there is injustice, parts of the community are unable to reach their full potential, and society is at odds with itself. We notice it acutely when we feel it ourselves. When, for us as individuals, life is not fair, we are not getting what we deserve, what we have worked so hard for. Somebody has taken our cake.

But there is another side to inequality and that is privilege. If there was no privilege, then inequality would not exist. From a place of privilege, it is a little difficult to notice when someone else is oppressed. It requires a courageous ability to empathise with those who are different from us; different in the way they think and approach life – it is an act of generosity to assist those who are living in the oppressed side of inequality to bring about equality. It sounds great, but the difficulty when part of our community begins to move from inequality towards equality is it usually creates a disturbance. The power that those in privilege are used to experiencing, begins to shift. When you are accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression so moves towards equality are hindered by those in privilege, even if they want equality in theory.

We live in a world of inequality. More often than not in Australia, our experience of inequality is through privilege. We’ve been handed a very big piece of cake*. There is no one to take it off us and redistribute it to others who are oppressed so it is up to us to do that individually. But it is going to cost us. It will disrupt the power that we have.

The good news is that it doesn’t take much to get started – a gift of $100 is enough to create a small loan for a mother living in poverty in Asia so she can start a business and begin the journey out of the poverty cycle. A small, but important step in the journey of equality – giving up some of our financial power to empower someone else.

*Metaphorical cake.

Too Many Options

In our home, Friday night is take out night. Usually when my wife asks me what I feel like for take out night, I say ‘I don’t know’. Then she say she doesn’t know either and then we enter this downward spiral of indecision that lasts until we get desperate and choose the first thing that comes to mind which can turn out to be something I didn’t want in the first place.

I have discovered that the reason that we find it hard to decide is that there are so many options available that it just seems impossible to choose one. What if I choose one that I’m not happy with and I’m faced with take out regret? It’s a tough life.

I was travelling in India speaking to an Opportunity International loan client about growing her business over a few years and working her way out of poverty. She had put her two eldest daughters through tertiary education. The youngest was about to complete high school and when she was asked what do you want to do when you finish? She said, ‘I don’t know’.

It sounds like a typical teenage response, but the real reason for that answer is profound.

Put yourself in her shoes for a moment. A young women, living in a slum in India, not only being in a position to complete her high school education, but then to be in a place with so many options available to her she had trouble picking just one. She didn’t need to think about finding the highest paying career to support her family, she could choose to do what she wanted. She could dream. Try something new. Create.

That is what empowerment looks like, to have a choice. It’s the catalyst to see people reaching their full, God given potential. It’s the catalyst that creates a better world.

Look How Far You Have Come!

Riding a bike is easy, once you know how. When you know how, it’s almost impossible to remember what it was like to not be able to ride a bike. It’s something that you never forget how to do, it’s like, well, riding a bike.

It’s not until someone points out to you that there was a time that you didn’t know how, that you can stop and see just how far you have come.

It’s the same with anything in life. Each day we learn and grow and it’s not until someone creates a space for us to stop and reflect on where we have come from and what we have achieved that we begin to understand how far we really have come. I’m not the same person I was 30 years ago, or 20 years ago, or 10, or 5. I’m not the same person I was 12 months ago. My hope is that my life will always be like that as I continue to grow and learn.

If it’s true for me, it’s true for you and for our world. In relation to some of the big issues in our world we have come such a long way. Take poverty for example: since 1990 over 1 billion people have moved out of extreme poverty, a larger percentage of girls are in school, about 50,000 less children under the age of 5 are dying every single day because of hunger and easily curable diseases. We have made some incredible progress.

The journey is far from over though, with much work to do (jump on board and help us out!), but we have great reason to hope and to take time to stop and say, look how far we have come.

What Does it Mean to Be Australian?

I don’t know. I seriously don’t know anymore.

I used to think we were a laidback country that gave everyone a fair go, supported the underdog, and were amazing at cricket that we watched on Channel 9.

It turns out that most of these things are not true, or are less true than they used to be. Aussie cricket and the channel swap fiasco aside, it certainly feels that as a country, we are not as laidback as we once were. In fact, we are becoming increasingly un-laidback, or stressed and anxious. I feel it myself, most days as I go about my general life, I sense that there is a communal angst. If you don’t believe me, head to Google and type in “Australian Outrage” and scroll through the results. Sure there are some links that are things that we should be genuinely outraged by but they are side by side with stories on sport, comedians saying un-funny things, and other subjective opinions.

Perhaps the problem is do to with the word “Outrage”. Maybe it is getting overused, or maybe we can make some changes to it to give differing levels of angst. Perhaps we can try (in order of severity):

Outannoyance

Outdisappointment

Outslightlyput

Outsocialmediaworthyanger

Outtempertantrum

Outfurioustodaybutnotcaringtomorrow

Outraging

Outofcontrol

OutAngryAnderson

But, if finding new words doesn’t solve the problem, then perhaps we can change some actions. Our journey from laidback into outrage requires that we find an enemy, someone that is truly against us and everything we do. Honestly, most of our “enemies” don’t live up to that definition and we have to fudge over those parts that we have in common to make it all the way to outrage. To overcome that and find our way back to being laidback requires an act of generosity. A conscious effort of listening to hear rather than listening to judge and condemn. It needs a wisdom that says “Agree to disagree”, meaning that we don’t have to agree with everything a person says or does to share a country of residence with them. It’s a knowledge that understands that we have more in common with people than we have differences and chooses to focus on the common ground. It is a life not borne out of fear. That is what generosity looks like and that is how we claim back our laidback mantle. Generosity overcomes outrage.

Happy Australia Day!