Hate the Weeds, but Love the Flowers

Jun 29, 2022

Simon Sinek said, ‘Intelligence uses what is known to solve problems. Creativity uses what is unknown to discover possibilities.’ There’s nothing more left brain marketing methods and right brain marketing moxie than that! It’s why I write this blog on my weekends in my free time. I truly believe there is a place in this world, and our offices, for both. 

Last week I had the privilege to speak at a local conference called Bloom. It’s a women’s conference filled with some of the best and brightest in my hometown. So, there I was speaking about leadership in a room filled with ah-mazing leaders. That’s always daunting because they could all teach me a thing or two or three or four. But those women are my people. Like you, they work hard and love hard. They’re passionate and have grit. They’re feisty and fabulous, dedicated and determined. Seriously, we all need to hang out with people like that more often in case the awesomeness rubs off through osmosis or something.

I spoke about Leadership, Creativity, and the Medici Effect with the theme: It’s not enough just to hate the weeds, you have to love the flowers. Ponder that one for a moment, won’t you? 

As nonprofit leaders, we likely all hate the weeds that are causing problems for the audiences we serve—fair. But that’s not enough, we have to love the flowers.  Imagine a wide open Indiana corn field freshly plowed for planting. Not a weed in sight.  We’ve all seen one—likely recently—it’s rather majestic.  A pristine, organized weed-free field where anything feels possible.  Yet, continuing to ensure that field remains weed free is fruitless if we don’t ever plant any corn…or flowers. It does take systems to be in place to manage those weeds but it takes leadership to visioneer a bountiful harvest—and a little faith and hope, too. Nonprofit work isn’t altogether different. We need some of that left brain intelligence and right brain creativity that Sinek’s speaks of. Just hating the weeds is management. Loving the flowers is leadership.

Left Brain Marketing Methods: You can recreate Einstein’s definition of insanity and keep doing the same things over and over again, expecting different results or you can try something new. We spend for too much time trying to prove ourselves instead of improve ourselves. Kodak will give us a case and point as to why we should be innovative in our marketing approach. 

Right Brain Marketing Moxie: In the book Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert writes, “Fear and creativity shared a womb; they were born at the same time and they still share some vital organs”. Wowza! If we really want donors to open and read our mail we have to stand out. But how do we add that right brain marketing moxie without being afraid. Well, I’m about to tell you.

It' s time to activate some leadership and creativity in your office. Let’s do this!

Left Brain Marketing Methods:  If you know me, you know I will always advocate for a healthy balance of left brain marketing methods and right brain marketing moxie However, what all-too-often happens in the workplace is that the left brain methods are over-used and end up suffocating any chance for creativity and innovation.  A great example of this is the Kodak Company, which kept making the process of manufacturing and distributing chemical-based film more efficient instead of devoting attention to making the shift to digital photography.

They spent all their time intellectually getting better and better at distributing chemical-based film making—which turned out to be the wrong thing because digital photography was about to leave them in the dust. Sure, once upon a time the invention of chemical-based film was innovative—true leadership. It was revolutionary. Making it more efficient added some life to their invention. Then something really bad happened. That innovative idea became something they efficiently managed over time, so long that it wasn’t innovative anymore. Nonprofits do that. We have an asset development plan or a marketing and communications plan that was crafted so long ago that our methods aren’t relevant anymore. It’s an intellectual left brain approach, to be sure, but it’s lacking the creativity that donors in 2022 are craving. And you should be craving creativity, too, if you want donors to open your mail.

Constant honing of a tired process from days gone by is why Hemingway was quoted to say, “Never mistake motion for action”.  Many so-called leaders try to fool us with action.  But you can experience a full hours-worth of action on a treadmill and even feel very tired when you step off , and quickly realize that your scenery hasn’t changed because you haven’t gone anywhere. Motion and action are far different things make no mistake about it.

All this to say, left brain marketing methods are vital, but shouldn’t be overused.  Don’t spend your time getting really good at the wrong thing. Innovation, change, and variety are important. We’re a far different world than we were even 5 years ago. Heck, even your mom has social media now!  Don’t overuse your left brain strategies or you might lose the attention of your very best donors—the ones you have an affinity for what you do and that capacity to do something about it.

Right Brain Marketing Moxie:  If you haven’t ventured out to the creative side when your marketing materials yet, have you asked yourself why? I think I know.  Fear. You see, in Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert teaches that “Fear and creativity shared a womb; they were born at the same time and they still share some vital organs.  This is why we have to be careful of how we handle our fear—because I’ve noticed that when people try to kill off their fear, they often end up inadvertently murdering their creativity in the process.”  Holy cow, don’t murder your creativity, you could up on Dateline! 

And that’s how we get stuck with dull marketing materials that donors don’t want to read or respond to.  Admit it, you’re probably even bored with some of the stuff you have to write and produce.  If you’re bored, how will your inspire and motivate your donors to take action?  Leaders get in the rut of motion instead of action because creatively solving problems is scary. When things have never been done before, there’s no job description or employee manual.  There’s no instruction guide or rule book.  You’re writing the rule book. And that’s scary. But good leaders are bold enough to do it scared.  That’s it. That’s that tweet. You just have to do it scared. In the Disney movies they call it bravery. Bravery is when you commit to doing something that’s scary. Without bravery, your life will remain small, probably smaller than you want it to be.  Smaller than your nonprofit mission deserves it to be and smaller than your clients can afford it to be.

Keep in mind now that I’m not talking about fearlessness here—not leadership through reckless abandon.  I’m talking bravery, doing it scared, and committing yourself to a life of creative living. Gilbert defines this as, “living a life that is driven more strongly by curiosity than by fear”.  You’re more interested in how a new, innovative, idea might solve a problem, help a person, or improve the quality of life than you are about failure. Because failure is scary. And often condemned.  But nothing new ever was without failures before it.

These creatives failed forward and experienced their fear showing up because they were doing something innovative.  And they didn’t try to kill their fear because they would have murdered their creativity in the process. But the less you fight the fear, the less it fights back. 

Instead, Author Elizabeth Gilbert actually reads a welcoming speech to fear every time she embarks upon something new, novel, or never been done.  It goes like this.

Nonprofit work is the terrifying but marvelous terrain of the unknown where fear should be forbidden to drive. Do it scared. Do it with your left brain marketing methods. And do it with your right brain marketing moxie. But for best results, do it scared.

And I'm here to help!  Keep reading, keep stealing borrowing ideas, and keep fighting for your cause because your community needs you and they need you to do it scared.

All My Best,

[email protected]
dawn brown creative, llc.

P.S. Fundraising is hard, even though you make it look
oh-so easy! ♥

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