Our True Calling

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June 30, 2014 by baldaufbr

I have been rediscovering how much I enjoy TED Talks recently and also why I stopped liking TED Talks.  By nature that stage is a soapbox, so if you don’t convince me that your topic is important then you’ve done your cause a disservice.  If you do, though, through any creative or academic means, I feel pleasantly educated and perfectly willing to help.  I mean, not like “take my money” willing, but like “I’ll honk when I ride past you on my bike” willing or “I’ll tell my interested friends to watch your TED Talk” willing.

Thank you, sir, it was literally nothing.

I watched one about why poetry matters that successfully made me think about how hard it must be to convince people that poetry matters, especially after they saw this talk–and I think poetry matters!  I watched another that described what makes a word “real” that, only because I already knew the answer thanks to my linguist ties, just made me want to watch Stephen Fry’s “Kinetic Typography.”  I’ll probably use both Anne Curzan’s talk and Stephen Fry’s video as a teacher, but you get my drift. Seventeen to thirty minutes is a relatively long investment if your take-away may turn out to be, “that was just the motivation I needed to get the spinach out of my teeth, what a well spent twenty-two minutes!”

Anyway, eventually I saw the name Dave Eggers.  I haven’t read his books yet, but I know that I must.  So, I thought to myself, “author’s are either very well-spoken, intelligent people or tremendously awkward people who’s brilliance comes in the time afforded by a pen.”  David Foster Wallace was the first, Dave Eggers, it seems, is the latter.  He was probably just nervous.

That clock has me!

Regardless, he spoke about a brilliant success he’s had in connecting students to free tutoring.  When he moved his small magazine into an office where writers and publishers would be working everyday, they decided to open up to local students to come and get free assistance with their writing or English homework.  The building was zoned as retail, so they had also started a pirate supply store, which may have caused some distrust in their tutoring ability.  Nobody came.

Eventually, though, with the help of a new executive director, they connected with local schools and achieved wild, far-reaching success and the format offered by 826 National has success stories across the country with storefronts such as “The Boring Store,” “The Bigfoot Research Institute,” and “The Time Travel Mart.”  Watch the talk if you’re interested–there, I’ve done my part.


Now, I’m not here to spread the good word of Dave Eggers; I’m here to praise a method he employed in his early 21st Century Success.  While I don’t deny the importance and necessity of entrepreneurial expansion, I find that it’s a lot of work redesigning and funding the invention of a new-and-improved wheel.  Often times the infrastructure and resources already exist near to one another, but nobody thought to bring them together.

In our post yesterday, we highlighted a few strong points about our generation’s ability to innovate.


Innovation is often used in the sense of invention, which I’m not upset about thanks to Anne Curzan and Stephen Fry, much in the same way that ‘peruse’ means to examine closely or read thoroughly, though it probably won’t for much longer.  To innovate does or at least used to dictate the process of making changes to something established by introducing new ideas or methods.

If entrepreneurs invent, then innovation is left to community organizers.  This is how Dave Eggers met with his success and it’s how I’d like us to focus our energy.  Effective collaboration is nearly unstoppable.  You may recall a relatively recent post in which I pondered the problematic perpetuation of taboo cycles; I praised the production of Spring Awakening for their ability to reach out to other groups and resources in order to produce a wildly successful show.  Community organizing.

Anderson Cooper’s mind is blown.

So, in order to set us off on the right foot in our newly fine-tuned goals, I have a few rules–a healthy dozen–for uniting different organizations or groups to achieve a common goal:

1. Mutually Beneficial–Make sure that every partnership has pro’s on both sides.  Community Organizing is not charity work, it’s a collaboration that should prove to be good on both sides.

2. Don’t Fight the Children–By which I mean that it is best to keep your goals in mind.  If one party decides to pull out, remind them why they’re there and then let them go if they still want to leave.

3. Plan Backwards–Imagine your victory.  What needs to happen the moment before that?  And before that?  And before that?

4. Pro-Positive, Anti-Negative–You can be both and maybe should be.  Always know what you support and what you oppose.

5. Individuals Invest Little–Volunteers, administrators, it doesn’t really matter.  Individuals burn out if they take on too much work, so don’t let them take on too much work.  In fact, everyone should take on as little work as possible, so long as the work gets done!

6. Biases, Biases Everywhere, but Not a Link in Sight–Leave your biases at the door or you’ll have trouble working with the people you need.

7. Keep it together, man!–Make sure everyone is there for the same right reason.

8. Keep it real, bro.–Don’t hide the dirt, face it and ask for help.

9. Kill It with Nice–Heavy work gets rough, try to keep everyone in good spirits, even when the going gets tough.

10. Create a Culture–Success requires planning and positivity.  If you make sure things run that way, even bumps and hurdles won’t stop you!

11. Make Sure the People Own It–The key word in this is Community. Make sure the people you serve and the people who volunteer and the people who do the work are there for the same right reason.  They need to feel ownership over the project, the work, and the result.

12. Surround Yourself with the Good Ones–It’s really easy to succeed when you have the right people at the core.

With that, I send you on your way.  Go forth and organize, generation!


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