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FOCUS: Contribution

Disciplines: Personal Mastery, Systems Thinking

“When you cease to make a contribution, you begin to die.”
—Eleanor Roosevelt

I think a lot about contributing. My favorite coaching clients are bright, gifted people who want to make big contributions. A person can contribute in so many ways, by being a thoughtful leader, a caring parent, a helpful neighbor. Contributions can come in various forms: time, ideas, support, energy, money, to name a few.

Years ago I attended a workshop on marketing and networking. The recommendation I remember is this: with each person you meet in your life, ask yourself this question: “How can I contribute to this person?”

Last week I read about volunteers who gleaned vegetables for the community food bank in our area. Fifteen people picked over harvested fields at a local farm for leftovers and in two hours yielded 2,711 pounds of zucchini. What a contribution!

The best story I’ve heard lately about making a contribution comes from Nyan Pendyala, age 9. He and his 6 year old sister Lehka started the Kids for Sight Project. They’re working with ORBIS International, a charity that has been helping prevent blindness worldwide for 25 years. I interviewed Nyan for this Fresh Views, asking first how he got involved in this project.

“Well,” he said, “I stopped my dad when he was flipping through a newsletter from ORBIS International and I saw a picture of Ronald McDonald. I wanted to know what Ronald McDonald was doing there. I found out he was helping keep kids from becoming blind by building an eye hospital in New Delhi. I said, ‘I should help with that!’”

“Try this,” Nyan said to me. “Close your eyes for 20 seconds. How does it feel? Scary? That’s how a blind kid feels. I really wanted to help, so I asked my friends to donate to ORBIS instead of bringing presents to my birthday party. My dad and I called ORBIS and told them how I’d raised money for them. Because I was the first kid they knew of to raise money at a birthday party, they invited me to visit them. Their office is in New York city so we went there, and they helped me choose the goal of a pediatric eye care center and training facility in Chennai, a poor town where my dad was born and my grandparents still live.”

To my question about what he’s done since then to raise money, Nyan said, “The ORBIS people put us on their website. We made postcards and I’ve given them to all my family and friends and my parents’ friends. I gave a speech to 80 people and it was easy. Now I’m trying to find connectors, people with lots of friends. If I can inspire connectors, they will inspire lots of other people and I can help the kids faster. Because you know what? If you can catch an eye problem early, the kid doesn’t get blind.”

As I talked with Nyan, I was struck by how animated he was, how happy. I asked him how this project made him feel. “Really good!” was his intense response.

A funny irony came to me. We all want our children to be happy. Maybe more happiness would result if we shifted from asking, “What can I give my child that will make him happy?” to asking, “How can I inspire her to contribute?”

I’m a connector for Nyan. If you’d like to donate, just go to www.orbis.org/kidsforsight.

INVITATIONS

1) Fresh Views Telegathering:

Please join me for a 45-minute telegathering to explore the topic of contribution in more depth. Call Thursday, September 13 at noon Eastern (11:00 a.m. Central, 10:00 a.m. MT, 9:00 a.m. Pacific) 1-641-678-3404 x968 No need to register…just call at that time!

2) “On Top of Your Game” presented by the Pittsburgh Coaches Association Sept. 19 Telesummit from 7:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.

Choose one or more of 15 teleclasses geared to give you both a low-cost taste of coaching and the winning edge. Because I will be traveling that day, I am not presenting this year. But I know all of these leaders and they are terrific!

For the full day’s description of teleclasses, go to: http://pittsburghcoaches.com/teleseminar_schedule_2007.htm

To register, go to:
http://pittsburghcoaches.com/teleseminar_registration_2007.htm

Sharon Eakes | 720 Maple Lane | Sewickley, PA 15143

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