The Emotional Businessist

Chief Failure Officer. New Parent. Multiple Hat-Wearer. Public-Profit Warrior.

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Time For Enterprise Thinking…and Talking

Have you ever heard someone say “I work for a scrappy non-profit; our budget is always tight, our computers are old, and I’m burned out”? This statement is a constant in our sector, and I loathe the thing.

“You mean,” I think, “you work for a poorly-run business.”

Somehow the term non-profit has become synonymous with slow, ancient and fiscally irresponsible. We’re doing ourselves an extreme disservice by not taking a more honest and entrepreneurial approach with our language. If we were able to untangle non-profit from poorly-run business we could actually get somewhere.

It’s not true that non-profits are by nature poorly-run. We’ve just come to believe that it’s okay to continue a poorly-run business if it’s a non-profit.

The entrepreneurial standards of non-profits have been set exceptionally low. We need to raise them to the same level as any other business if our sector is to...

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The Fuzziness

I recently noticed an interesting pattern in my sensory experience. I call it The Fuzziness.


The Fuzziness is a sensation that overwhelms my ability to think clearly, logically or simply. All of a sudden every decision, every thought, every simple action like pouring a glass of water becomes a knotted odyssey guarded by thick, tangled vines. There is no observable way in, through or out; it’s impossible to avoid yet impossible to see. If I try to face it directly, it jumps to my periphery.

The Fuzziness usually happens after a difficult or complex situation: a conversation, an unspoken dynamic, or even an outright action that leaves me grasping for clarity.

In the land of The Fuzziness solutions are dripping Dali clocks and simplicity is the plaything of Tweedle Dum and Dee. Mundane tasks become herculean; trips from the bedroom to the bathroom become journeys; making a morning...

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Wanted: The Perfect Job

To my former and current directors, thank you. I can be hard to manage.

I’m voracious and quick. I eat things in my path and demand more. I’m still refining the subtleties of effective communication I learned in the third grade (remember “I” statements?). I have a sense of right and wrong that often leads me to strange places, like negotiating our rent higher (my partner is still confused about this one) and requiring front desk staff to use slower computers (trust me, there was a reason).

From an appetite perspective it’s funny that I’ve worked mostly in non-profits. The lethargic beasts have a bad rep for putting people like me in cages and sedating them with meetings, process and broken accoutrements. In contrast, companies like Netflix seem to offer the speed and green pastures necessary to house us hungry ones.

I recently came across Netflix’s company culture slide deck from...

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Disrupting the Organizational Chart

On a scale of 1 to 5, how sick are you of hearing about millennials changing the work force?

  • 5. Actively vomiting
  • 4. First-trimester morning sickness
  • 3. Empty stomach
  • 2. Don’t know who millennials are
  • 1. Don’t know what a work force is

Well, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s talk about millennials changing the work force.

Today I will begin a series of meetings with the Director about making our organization a Great Place to Work. Topics of interest are racing through my mind at lightning speed; the non-profit laundry list of workplace woes is never lacking.

Pretty radical disruptions in workplace culture have hit the tech world hard in the last 15 years and, as usual, non-profits are staggering like zombies ten yards behind, planning to begin a request for proposals to outline a method for discussing how we might set up an initiative to begin committing to measuring...

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Fun with Finance: Keep it Joyful and Do it Yourself

Investing can be intimidating. For one thing, money is undoubtedly serious. We protect ours with triple-encrypted cyber fortresses, passwords so complicated you need a whole separate system (with its own password) to remember them, and even physically, with bullet-proof glass and retina scans. Money itself offers zero value for food, water or warmth - unless you burn it - yet we enlist every safeguarding mechanism in our arsenal to protect these flimsy sheets of paper.

For another, the topic of finance lives at an intricate intersection of history, politics, business, technology and social science, a domain that multiple PhDs can hardly decipher.

Because of these two reasons, a third emerges: we hire other people to manage our money, someone who we believe knows more about it than we do, which further degrades our own confidence. (For more on our growing dependence on other people’s...

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In the Age of Automation, Why Not Automate Diet?

Everywhere I turn I see commentary about food.

Myriad diets are available to reverse any disease you can think of; some probably even claim to reverse aging itself. Then there are those who disdain dieters and aim to debunk these weapons of mass destruction: the Atkins diet, the 28-Days-To-Lean plan, the Lose-20-Pounds-Fast guarantee.

Some ideas attempt to discredit a singular food or type of food, like gluten-free or vegan approaches to eating. Then there are those who scoff at gluten-free and vegan menu options; “surely people who eat this way are following some sort of trend,” they postulate.

There’s fast food and slow food; there’s Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig. Eric Schlosser wrote Fast Food Nation in 2001 and Michael Pollan followed with The Omnivore’s Dilemma in 2006. Fear Factor and The Biggest Loser took food and eating into the realm of reality TV in the early 2000’s and...

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Environmentalism 3.0

Innovation is a word that gets thrown around a lot, and for good reason: it lurks like a buzzard just out of reach, coaxing us out of our comfort zone, inspiring one more click, one more watch, one more buy. We want to be the first to know what’s being innovated. We want to be innovators. We want to be around innovators. But it’s never quite in our grasp. We’re always a second too late. The pinnacle slipped out the back door moments before we arrived.

It’s comforting to posit that most innovators feel behind the eight-ball themselves. (An inside source at a large Silicon valley micro-chip engineering company recently confirmed that, in order to drive production of the hardware inside iPhones 8, 9 and 10, the CEO regularly communicates on his Razr flip phone.) In fact, innovation is constantly happening all over the world in unexpected environments, and much of it has simply been...

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I Never Thought I’d Have a Personal Brand

We just finished company layoffs this week and to spice up the bony severance packages we added career counseling. A silver lining of delivering these separation messages was reading the career counselor’s lengthy proposal, which detailed a three-meeting plan to get these newly untethered employees back on the market. Always having my own professional development top-of-mind, I eagerly scanned the plan to see how I stacked up.

I was surprised by how much she stressed the importance of one’s personal brand, so, much to my chagrin (having spent countless hours mentally battling the advertising that assaults us at every turn), I got to thinking about my own personal brand.

I’ve always loved the brute clarity of the accountant motto “Make More, Spend Less”, especially when it comes to safeguarding my organization’s financial assets as CFO, though being the @EmoBusinessist that I am, it’s...

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Missing a First

Yesterday I stood by, stunned, while my six-month-old figured out how to do a pull-up from sitting to standing, and then repeated the laborious task over and over until a series of grunts and squeals signaled total and complete exhaustion.

After my shock wore off it occurred to me that I might want to document this moment, it being one of those milestone Firsts and all. I scrambled to find my phone, knowing my partner would want to see evidence of this major accomplishment.

Chaos ensued: I tripped over god-only-knows-what strange device we call a “baby toy” (read: torture device) that has, along with it’s many friends, mobbed my house like the plague; further tweaked my already-tender lower back; and heard a dull thump as my offspring collapsed backwards, taking the standing device along, and landed with two plump legs wiggling uselessly from underneath the large oppressor.

With both...

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Mortem Anno

During our recent executive transition the board identified a new leader to make our non-profit more entrepreneurial. Because of timing around this transition, my one-year anniversary earlier this month came and went without a peep, so I requested a review from my new boss.

The new Head Honcho asked why I wanted one, and I felt the earth shudder.

I was at first deeply plagued by the idea of not being acknowledged for my accomplishments, and then I became curious. Was it only credit driving my desire to go through a cringe-worthy process the butt of editorial humor decades-over?

I have always sort-of enjoyed reviews because I can learn where to improve (don’t get me wrong - hearing criticism is extremely difficult) and be liberated from the stress of guessing about my performance. And if there is an opportunity for my supervisor and me to go through a review process multiple times...

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