Stuck Leaders and Navigating Hurdles

OK, I admit it. I have had a cynical view of the millennial generation, the 20-somethings. But a couple of weeks ago, I got a glimpse of a couple hundred millennials that seriously restored my faith in this generation. I was invited to attend a Hive Gathering. In a nutshell, it is a group of a couple hundred people coming together to discuss what their dreams are, and to support them and help them move forward with their endeavor. When I began talking with some of the attendees, I quickly realized that there are a lot of people in this age range that are passionate about improving their communities and their world which was refreshing and encouraging. When I told them about Feed Forsyth, they all seemed to get excited about what we were doing and eager to find how they could help.

The other big discovery for me was that so many of them had great ideas and ambitions but were stuck somewhere in the process. And, for many the sticking point was something on the horizon. I found myself asking, "What can you do today or this week that would move you in the direction you want to go?" On the drive home and over the next few days, the more I thought about those discussions, the more I began to realize that there are many people walking around with a great ambition to make a difference in the world, but stick somewhere along the way. For many of us, we perceive that there is a hurdle on the path of accomplishing a dream or ambition and we are paralyzed by it. But we do not have to throw the dream down and walk away. Instead we need to figure out what we can accomplish that gets us moving towards accomplishing the dream and not concentrate on the upcoming hurdle.

I knew when we launched Feed Forsyth that we would need a refrigerated truck. We did not have the money to go out and buy one. But we did not throw up our hands and say "If only" or "We cannot pursue this". Instead, I created a list of what would need to be accomplished. Things like writing a business plan, writing a case of support, writing a mission statement, writing a purpose, interviewing food pantry managers to determine the best way we could help, assembling a board of directors, filing for incorporation with the state, securing an EIN from the IRS, applying for 501c3 nonprofit status, deciding on a name for the organization, designing a logo, securing a domain name, creating a website, creating a Facebook page, creating a Twitter account, developing my elevator pitch, applying for a business license, etc.

A lot of the items on my list had no related costs. Some did. Some required more money than we had available. So every chance I had some free time, I looked at the list and asked, "What can I accomplish before we have to have a 501c3?", "What can I accomplish before we have to pay to register with the State?", and "What can I accomplish without a refrigerated truck?"

Do you have a dream rattling around in your head, but you have not moved forward do to an impending hurdle? What can you do to move forward before arriving at the hurdle? If the hurdle is at position 26, why not start working through positions 1-25? We started all of the organizing pieces of the puzzle in January of our first year. In May, I found a sandwich restaurant that wanted to donate bread, and I knew of two church food pantries that could use bread. So, I found two volunteers who were willing to pick up bread one day a week from the restaurant and deliver it to one of the two pantries. BOOM! We were doing something. Albeit small, we were collecting and distributing perfectly good bread that would otherwise be thrown in the garbage and delivering it to food pantries that were working to try and meet the demands of struggling families showing up weekly at their doors.

Did we have a refrigerated truck that could haul a couple thousand pounds of food? Nope. Were we accomplishing something worthwhile? You bet! When we got word of a pantry needing frozen turkey and knew where some was that could meet the need, I grabbed a cooler, tossed it in my SUV and made the pickup and delivery. The cost of filing for the 501c3 and the cost of purchasing a refrigerated truck were hurdles. And, I did not have an answer for immediately clearing those hurdles, but there was no reason that we could not move some food.

At the same time, we began volunteering with some of the food pantries we eventually wanted to supply rescued food. By volunteering with the pantries, we saw things first hand and recognized needs we could eventually fill, and we were able to help prepare meals and distribute them. At the same time, the food pantries got to know us and understand our heart for families struggling with hunger. They began to realize that we genuinely wanted to help them accomplish their mission and goal, and that we believed in working together as partners not competitors.

I strongly encourage you to begin considering that dream that has been rattling around in your head and develop a list of things that would need to be accomplished to make it a reality. And then, review the list weekly and ask, "What can I do this week that will move me down the path?" If you are in Atlanta, I strongly recommend attending a Hive Gathering and meet some other leaders. Share your visions and goals and ask, "How can I help?" You just might find a web designer, a graphical artist to design your logo, someone that has filed their own 501c3 application, or someone that can advise you on writing a business plan.

Do NOT stay stuck. Start making forward progress and concentrate of maintaining forward momentum. In racing, as a driver, you quickly learn when you come up on a slower car, your first reaction is NOT to go to the brakes. You instead look for an open lane to move around them while keeping your foot firmly pressed on the accelerator. Maintaining momentum is essential. Do not step on the brake of progress for that hurdle you see coming up in the future. Keep your foot firmly planted on the accelerator and begin looking for an open lane to bypass that hurdle.

Doing SOMETHING, no matter how small, is always better than doing nothing. You might not be able to change the world, this nation, your state, or your city. But you can change your neighborhood. You can help one neighbor. Get started. Do something!

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