Humanity, Empathy, Compassion and Volunteerism…How to Pay it Forward and Get Immediately Paid Back



This last weekend, I had a great experience that I wanted to share with those of you reading here. DallasGiveCamp is a philanthropic event in which non-profits are selected to acquire technical assistance from teams of volunteer developers, project managers, UX designers, business analysts and technical gurus. Every year, a mass DallasGiveCamp event is held that brings all the charities and all the volunteers together to knock out some serious hours, product and good will. Before I use this as a platform to further write this post, I encourage you to visit to see what this is about. The experience was very eye-opening, both from a giving and a receiving perspective. I also need to call out the tremendous job the organizers did to pull in teams of volunteers, facility and support logistics, and all around great people to make it all happen.

I’m writing this, because of some things that I recognized I was experiencing as part of what started as a volunteer undertaking. I’m writing this, Continue reading “Humanity, Empathy, Compassion and Volunteerism…How to Pay it Forward and Get Immediately Paid Back”

because in my mentoring of other business analysts, it’s common that I will guide a person to seek volunteer opportunities to help an organization succeed while also practicing the craft of business analysis. Trust me, I’m no stranger to volunteerism, but I realized this weekend that the practice of volunteering is more than just honing a BA technique on a company desperate for help. I realized that the exposure to the struggles of people allowed me to also work on my empathy and compassion in how I form, refine and interact in relationships with others.

Hear. Better yet, Listen.

The representative charity that I work with had its story, but it’s not atypical, I’m sure, from what the other charity leads were sharing with the other teams. Across town from where I live, another world has children struggling not just with family dysfunction, not just with hunger, not just with poverty, not just with existence vs education…but all of this at once. There are brave people leading efforts to do better in their goals to assist these families and individuals with what they need by having the guts to stand up and ask for help from those like myself who have something to give. I heard a few stories that slapped me aware hard enough to realize that I really needed to listen to my customer, because her customers were counting on her for their own existence. I asked uncomfortable questions about another culture, race, lifestyle, etc. at a time when asking these things has powerful consequences if not handled properly. So I practiced hard, and on the spot, my empathetic listening, vocalizing, and body-language presentation that ensured my questions were understood as a means to help through comprehension of the needed answers. I wanted my understanding to translate into benefit for this charity.

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” 
— Mahatma Gandhi

Compassionate Will Breeds Action

The people that formed these teams came together en masse out of compassion for others and a willingness to give something to another person. I haven’t mentioned that the DallasGiveCamp 2017 event lasted from 5pm Friday night thru late late Sunday afternoon. Many people worked over 15 hours both Saturday and Sunday (I cannot claim that myself) to churn out analyzed, managed, coded and tested solutions to help the various charities achieve their own goals. I learned by participating that while I had something to offer, as well, I selfishly absorbed the lessons in humanity that showed huge positive effects on the charities and on each other, as we worked together. I learned that no matter how much I work to do better work in the workplace, it’s rare that those efforts can readily translate to have the kind of direct impact I witnessed, until I get out of the workplace.

I am so glad that I did. Give volunteerism a try. There are so many types and so many needs, we can’t possibly go wrong helping one another….and in doing that, you just might help yourself.


Please! Go Screw Something Up!

I was asked this week to provide a statement to the broader community of participants in a mentoring program I am involved in (not mine). In thinking about what I wished to say, I accidentally reminded myself of a thought I haven't uttered in some time, yet it's ingrained in the mentoring I do....and it happens to be the title of this post.

We're terrified to fail, you know, and it's a shame.

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Failing is one of the best learning mechanisms we can have, yet we do everything we can to avoid it like the plague. Often, we learn best when fall the hardest, because those situations have the most vivid, longest lasting memories.

Atychiphobia is the abnormal, unwarranted, and persistent fear of failure, a type of specific phobia. As with many phobias, atychiphobia often leads to a constricted lifestyle, and is particularly devastating for its effects on a person's willingness to attempt certain activities.

What about fear of trying?

Neophobia, cainotophobia or cainophobia is the fear of anything new, especially a persistent and abnormal fear. In its milder form, it can manifest as the unwillingness to try new things or break from routine.

I would just like to reiterate our thought for the day. Our Edict! I give you permission to...

Go screw something up!

By the time you are done screwing something up, you will have tried. I applaud you for trying! You have tested the waters, failed in your endeavor, admonished yourself harder than anyone else could, and learned both the steps to performing the task incorrectly AND potentially the avoidance path for the next time. If you are reading this after making a mistake, you will also by now realize that you are alive and life has NOT ended. Not to minimize the significance of some failures, nor debilitating conditions described above, but we often are so hard on ourselves anticipating the failure that hasn't happened yet, we actually talk ourselves right out of adding to discourse, changing behavior, attempting a new activity or completing a task. We do this so well and so fast that we sometimes don't even realize that we are doing it, and it takes over before we are even close to being aware of it. If you fave failed, you made it through to the other side! Most importantly, if you have failed, you have started the process of conquering your fears. Why am I talking about this? As business analysts, we're on the front line of discovery and engagement with our customers during some of the earliest and toughest stages of projects. As you know, we interact with everyone from helpful SMEs to Type A Executives with lots of power (and they know it). Allowing our fears to manifest can be a huge problem, because we're expected to actively deliver information, analysis, identified risk, and dialog that helps customers make decisions. Any of this sound familiar....? I can't. I shouldn't. What if they don't like what I say? That's stupid. They'd hate that. I'd lose my job. You idiot! I could never...That's not my job. That's his problem. I have no idea. I wouldn't know. She hates me. He thinks I'm a moron. My opinion has no value......and on and on and on....  
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Here are a few steps to help turn it around....

  1. Have a conversation....with yourself. If your fears can get the better of you, make it a practice to make you tell yourself what you are afraid of. Say it in your head and out loud. Hear it. Then ask what could happen if your fear becomes a reality. What are the true consequences and are they as severe as those your mind envisions? The internal dialog provides you a forum to safely talk things out and safely validate that you have a fear.
  2. Really listen to yourself respond. Being mindful of your own voice and the emotions that lock you up and out of being able to be your best is extremely powerful and can lead you through resolving anger, calming fears and making hard decisions with confidence. There must be something to all this.....Take a run through the links above, and notice that there is attention to and teachings in this subject from bloggers; journalists; professionals; educators and spiritualists.
  3. Grant permission for your fear and/or to fail. Encourage it. The acknowledgement that you CAN fail and it's OK takes the power away from it. The next step puts you into control.
  4. Make your failure plan in writing. When the time comes that you realize you've screwed something up, plan out what you will say to yourself, what you will say to others who point it out, what steps (generic) you will take to rectify AND how you will capture the learning experience. No matter the outcome, you will have something to take away from the experience.
  5. Finally, take a look around. The rest of us are right there with you with the same fears and struggles to look good and not show weakness. Ugh! It's exhausting, too.
Learning about how to empower yourself to fail and conquer your fears is a great opportunity to grow, but with it comes responsibility and consequences....good and bad. Your new found empowerment isn't an open door to confidently burst into a meeting and point out the fallacies of the company's mission statement or the courage to tell your boss what you think of her. It's a way to allow yourself the confidence and courage to have a voice and opinion that has meaning when used properly and respectfully. Mentoring often highlights situations in which completely competent, capable people/professionals have every means to accomplish what they seek to do, yet they are stuck. We stand in our own way far more than we imagine others standing before us. Move aside! You have places to go! If you are open to sharing your fears and how you conquered them, special advice from others that has stuck, and how you felt when you beat the beast off your would provide great encouragement through your story!