2015 has been a very full and blessed year: new job, new house, new wife, world travels, and more. Along with some of the amazingness, there has been more than a measure of challenges, too. In addition to some personal challenges, my family faced a pretty severe crisis when my father had to undergo some emergency heart procedures which eventually led to a quadruple bypass surgery. While the surgery has proved successful and his recovery is progressing swimmingly, at the time we as a family had to circle the wagons and pool a lot of resources we didn’t even know we had.
As the dust was settling these experiences led to some moments of deep reflection. For my part, one of the determinations I made as a result of that was to begin to find a way to put more positivity back into the world in a more structured and focused way. Since moving on from my social impact work I had felt a need to reconnect. So, what I meant by finding a more structured and focused way to contribute is this: I was determined to commit myself to an impact endeavor that might find some benefit from my experiences, skills, passions.
It didn’t take long for me to find that impact endeavor. Or, rather, for that endeavor to find me. Going back a few years, it may be that this finding was years in the making.
In the winter of 2010 I met a newly minted entrepreneur who was starting a cancer charity. More specifically, she had founded an organization that would remove the travel burdens of families whose children needed to get cancer treatment. We were at Flourish Studios, a now-shuttered store-front that provided a rich space for young entrepreneurs, artists, therapists, educators, parents, and the community to come together. Michelle, the founder of Compass to Care, and I were attending a book signing and networking event. The event itself was interesting, but otherwise wasn’t a great use of our time – except for the fact that the seeds of a great friendship had been planted. It was a formative moment, obviously (because I remember it still so vividly). Over the years, as I was growing my business and Michelle was growing hers, we leaned on each other for advice, lessons learned, sympathetic shoulders, how to recruit employees and investors, and any manor of other startup-related challenges that we faced on a daily basis. And, of course, we each contributed to the others endeavors.
My business at the time went on to fundamentally alter the way early childhood organizations approached parent communications. And I have since gone on to join a fast-growing, unicorn company. Michelle has stayed the course with Compass to Care and has continued to grow the Compass to Care care mission and operations, and she has almost single-handedly helped scores and scores of families over the past half decade. It is an organization that is unique to the world of non-profits (especially in the cancer charity world). Michelle and her family are themselves inspirations. The work Michelle has done over the past five years is the stuff of Ted videos.
Fast forward to about three or four months ago. I get a call from Michelle. After a small bit of catching up she hits me with a question: Would you be interested in joining the Compass to Care board? It’s not a question I ever expected to hear. The timing was incredible. In part as a result of some of the personal and family health challenges alluded to above, I had been going through this process of assessing the way I use my time: What am I doing with the moments of my life? Part of the answer that I wanted to be able to give is that I’m using some of those hours and days to contribute to a mission that has a positive impact in the quality of my neighbors’ lives.
Michelle’s organization is one of the most impactful organizations I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing. Michelle is making a material and measurable difference for families. Will I be able to help? When she called, our conversation was in part about her asking me a question, and in part it was to issue me a challenge: Will you be able to make time and use your time to help our team grow our impact? For, while it is indeed an honor, it is also a challenge. Being on the board of a startup is no spectator sport. There are crucial responsibilities. In saying yes to Michelle’s question, will I be able to contribute to contribute to making the difference I’ve said I want to be able to make?
I raised my hand to the universe. I asked to be called on to make a contribution. And the universe called me out. Will I be able to step up and deliver? This is one of the questions that will be answered in 2016.