I’m indebted to a new book for these thoughts.  I hope I’m not plagiarizing but here’s the thoughts I have as I read Forces for Good, by Leslie Crutchfield and Heather Grant:


One of the “big issues” that makes up my thinking as I write each week is related to the principle stated on p. 19 of this remarkable book: “greatness has more to do with how nonprofits work outside the boundaries of their organizations than how they manage their own internal operations.”

I’m concerned with how not-for-profit organizations think – not how they operate.  For the past 13 years, since 1999 when I left my last full-time job for “retirement”, I’ve been trying to think inside the box.  I’m now 70.  If I live as long as my father did, I have 20 years to go.  Thinking outside-the-box means literally starting over for me. Frankly, I ain’t got time for that kind of start over! Thinking inside the box means using all of what I’ve learned, including from all the mistakes I’ve made, to empower those who will come after me to create more efficient, effective ways of doing the work I care about.  Inside-the-box thinking lets me use what I’ve learned, what I’ve experienced, what has worked and what hasn’t, to enlarge my ability to change the things I need to change in my world.  I think that kind of thinking can change things for others as well – maybe even you, my reader.


Think about it.  As you get older, your ability to DO things diminishes.  At the same time, your ability to AFFECT what gets done after you’re gone increases.  THE THINGS THAT NEED DOING STAY THE SAME.  You and I (the older folks) have learned stuff.  We’ve had experiences – some good and helpful, some not-so-good and not-so-helpful.  We’ve discovered things about helping and doing good that we didn’t expect would have the impact we thought they would have. Some of those impacts have been results we are not particularly proud of. Agreed?


Here’s my point.  Greatness (to restate the premise of the Crutchfield/Grant research) has more to do with what nonprofit entrepreneurs do with what they’ve learn from their experiences and are able to pass on to others (including future generations) than how they actually operate their internal operations in real time. What you and I do with the last decades of our experience needs to change things for those who will succeed us.  Thinking inside the box (not outside it) allows us to pass on what we’ve learned.  It also encourages our kids – those who follow us – to see the future through the lens of the past.  The new will come.  We won’t recognize it.  The past will enlighten.  We dare not lose it.

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Forget Outside-The-Box. Draw a Bigger One!

I’ve heard it over and over.  So have you. “Think outside the box.” I guess the idea is if you don’t do something different, something “outside-the-box” from what you’re doing now, you’re going to get what you’ve always gotten. If what you’ve always gotten isn’t what you want to get, start by thinking outside the box.

The problem I have with that is that I’ve done some pretty hard thinking inside this box.  It makes me wonder if I can really afford to throw all that stuff away.  Do I really need to jump outside my box and start all over?  More than that, I don’t know anything about this world outside my box. At least my box is familiar territory. Is there really no value to what I’ve learned in my 70 plus years?  It’s actually pretty warm and cozy in my box.  I like it in here.  I admit there’s a lot of old stuff in here that I need to toss out.  I need to make room for the new stuff that someone (maybe a whole bunch of someones) have been putting into my box lately.  But there’s a lot in here that has served me really well all these years.  Why should I jump outside my box and leave it all behind.

Maybe what I need is to remodel my box – make it bigger.  Push the walls a little at a time.  Raise the roof.  Add a basement.  Build a bigger box.

If I build a bigger box (instead of jumping out into the cold) I can keep all my old lessons.  I can make room for new ideas that I can compare to what has always worked for me.  Building this bigger box will give me breathing room.  More windows.  More fresh air.  More room for all these new toys.   I need to build a bigger box!

That’s the nature of this blog.  As I plan the new box I want to build, I’ll think through the new challenges I’m facing.  I’ll try out alternative ways of evaluating the principles that have guided my life and the lives of so many others I know, and use them to make better choices.  Come to think of it, one of my new rooms will be a library!

Drive by once in a while and see the how the project is going.

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