DSC03296Why does it take something dramatic, life-changing or frightening to shake our belief system? Some would even argue that the mere state of comfort in one’s own understanding or environmental surroundings is an inhibitor to growth. Simply, we only know what we think we know. Or worse, what we’ve been told.

There have been three times in my life where I have been at the altitude of 35,000 ft. I know this might be very common for people who travel across the globe on a regular basis, however it took two tours in a combat zone to the Middle East and East Asia and then finally again this year to South East Asia for me to understand its significance in my life. In the first two trips, I was a soldier in the US Army. The third time, I was a soldier of God on a missions trip with my church in Thailand. These experiences, two very contrasting perspectives, challenged everything I know.

By now you’re probably asking yourself how this has anything to do with nonprofits. If you consider the term in a different light, the way we invest ourselves with specific expectations, then “nonprofit” could bring about a whole new meaning. For instance, if I invest my time, talents, finances and an emotional sacrifice without an expectation of any return (profit), then the endeavor is more of a “mission” than it is a nonprofit venture. This means that the goal is no longer predetermined, but instead a trust in an outcome that is predestined. The focus now is about the doing vs the results. Try writing a business plan around that!

It was during these three times in my life, 35,000 ft, that my investments started with predetermined outcomes. All three instances resulted instead with something predestined. Meaning, the expected return on my investment didn’t result in the “profit” I had imagined. In this aspect, all cases turned out a “nonprofit”. And just to clarify, I’m not talking about financial gain. I’m talking about a new point of view.

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The terms “altruistic”, “philanthropic”, “humanitarian” and “charitable” all come to mind when we talk about nonprofit organizations that are designed to be unselfish and generous to a fault–all in the effort to better our world. But the actual meaning of each of these terms stems from a perspective that there exists something good that should be extolled. And, we are the ones who should initiate, control and protect it! I would like to challenge all of us to view this in a different light. That the “good” in everything was created by God. He alone initiates it, controls it and protects it. We are merely participants in his almighty plan–a predestined outcome. The fact that there exists things in our world that are opposite of good is because some of us choose not to participate in this point of view.

What if the investments we all make to better our world were rooted in a selfless action without any expectations of a profit? What if, in this perspective, we all wore the badge of a nonprofit? It would mean that the outcomes of our investments would result in the beauty of something we can’t even imagine. Something bigger than ourselves, a “good” that can only come from doing hands that expect nothing in return. I wager that the results would lead us to the next thing, then the next and so on. A predestined path to peace with ourselves, with God and with others.

Hello, my name is Bruce. And I’m a nonprofit!

Creative horsepower.

February 21, 2010

In most cases, what you do in your creative career won’t and can’t be your creative outlet. Only 1% of people find their dream job and still I argue that these people will need an alternate creative interest. There’s one reason why – balance. Find that outlet and you’ll have unmeasurable horsepower fueling your daily job. Without this balance, you’ll crumble emotionally little by little.


Creative outlet – 1977 camaro project. Best part of the build was this 550 horsepower motor.

For example, communication arts mixed with the business world is a paradox. Creativity was never meant to be controlled. For someone to create with purpose they must execute without undue influence, which is almost always impossible in the business world, mostly due to the sway of who’s controlling the process.

Industries that require you to be innovative, creative and think of unique ideas on a daily basis can also influence your creativity in negative ways – where there’s a client or need to create for reasons other than your own desired outcome, there will be conflict. You must find a balance with your creative career by introducing other interests where you can control the process and end result. Once in place, harmony will occur and your career will find focus and your emotions will be controlled.

Creative people are emotional and passionate. Passion leads to purpose. People who define themselves by purpose need confidence that they have the power to create something meaningful, without being tainted by decisions that lead to executions without desired results. I’m not talking about creativity void of collaboration and not having failures along the journey to success. I’m talking about the frustrations that come with false input and controlled decisions that cause brilliant ideas to go south. You all know what I’m talking about.

So what is a creative outlet? It’s anything that involves creative expression without false input or control.

I have a couple of creative outlets. The first, is hotrods. I’ve been rebuilding antique cars and muscle cars into powerful street machines since I was a teenager. I enjoy using my hands and creating things that were once considered junk into beautiful metal powerhouses. Sharing stories of what 550 horsepower feels like driving down the road with other hotroders is what I relish the most. My second creative outlet is acquiring posters from stapled-up telephone poles from a city-near-you. I love collecting them because of their graphic qualities and design aesthetics. The joy is simple – their beauty and sometimes unique approach to messaging.

I encourage everyone to explore ways to be creative outside of their careers. This balance will influence your confidence as a creative person and allow for inspiration and focus in your skill-sets at work. More importantly, it will give you license to develop creative expression that will foster purpose in your life.