01 Jan 7 Transformative Lessons We Learned in 2015
These days, it seems everyone is writing a top 10 list of what they’ve learned over the last year. I’d be remiss not to include mine, but it’s only seven, so hooray-you only have to read seven things.
A year is a long time, and to take note of it is to acknowledge that it happened, that the days were not wasted. Last January, I wrote a similar post. That was a big year for us, the beginning, and the lessons came fast and furious.
I can only describe 2015 as a steep hill, a learning curve ascending into the heavens. I’ve yet to reach the summit, nor can I see it, for whenever I look up the future is cloudy. But along the way, on a trail rocky and winding, altars remain, symbols of the gratitude I feel now as I write this tribute to 2015.
- The strength I have is enough. There’s a story in Judges about a man named Gideon who God called to save Israel out of Midian. In the story, Gideon asks God to prove his presence three times. He doesn’t understand why God called him, the “least in his family,” to strike down the Midianites. Gideon feels weak, inadequate, unqualified, and ill equipped. In the midst of this crisis of character, “The Lord turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?” –Judges 6:14 (emphasis mine). Like Gideon, I have often felt weak, inadequate, unqualified, and ill equipped. And when I do, this is the verse I replay over and over in my head. “Go in the strength you have…” That’s all I can do.
- Tom Morkes teaches us that “that doing anything well takes time…A lot of time…And a lot of sacrifice…And a lot of struggle…And a lot of small or insignificant progress…And a lot of time failing…and the rest of the time feeling like a failure.” Isn’t this the truth! Ginny and I are committed to Forever We for the next five years. Experience is a priceless teacher. We are continuing to learn–from books, from mentors, from doing–and in so doing, will continue to make decisions that propel Forever We forward. Not everything we do is going to work out. We will not give up.
- People don’t purchase our product because it supports a good cause. They buy it because of how it makes them feel. I wish that a compelling cause were enough to drive people to action, but it’s simply not true. Until we can answer the question, “What’s in it for me?” we will never be able to sell enough Forever We dolls to make a real difference. The cause is important. It matters to us. We think it should matter to everyone. But the reality is that we cannot be generous toward others until we are generous toward ourselves. Here, I am not talking about money. I’m referring to the idea that personal resources aren’t finite. Our attitude toward them and gratitude for them multiplies when we choose to give them away.
- How we describe our product influences how people evaluate our product. Brian and Kerri Fosse of Lalabu taught me this lesson. Their product, an infant soothe shirt, was first marketed as a baby carrier. When people began rating it poorly, they changed the way they described it. The company is wildly successful because it does what they say it’ll do–soothe a baby. It’s designed for making an infant feel warm and safe with his mom. And it does that job very well. Our doll was originally designed to help kids understand compassion and kindness by giving them a tangible way to make a difference for kids like them facing cancer treatment. But then somehow we became known as “the cancer doll” and healthy kids didn’t want to play with it as much. We are working hard to steer the conversation back toward it’s original intention–a doll that promotes friendship AND helps bring awareness and funding to childhood cancer, a disease affecting thousands of kids in America every year. While we love that kids with cancer find our doll to be a snuggly companion, we also want to invite their friends at home to be a part of the story.
- We have the responsibility to lead the conversation, even if it is a hard one. This year, we’ve had the opportunity to share the Forever We story with bloggers, social entrepreneurs, and schools. My prayer is that our words inspired them to see the world a little differently. Some of the children who received our dolls have died, and with them a little piece of us died, too. When I write or speak, I don’t just want to touch people’s hearts. I want to move them to action. Just as my little daughter asked more than two years ago, “Mom, how can we help?” I want a new generation of doers to beg the question, “What can we do?” and then go do it.
- The only way to live is open-handed. There’s an iron paperweight that rests on the table in my foyer. It’s a small altar that reminds me I am but a steward of all that’s been entrusted to me. An open hand can give as well as it can receive.
- If 2015 was defined by purpose, my prayer is that 2016 will be directed by refinement. At first I rejected this word. It felt church-y and prideful. Plus, the process of refinement is often painful. When church people talk about being refined, they often talk about their suffering. And who wants that? But the more I thought about it, the more I knew that yes, refinement just had to be my 2016 word. I’ll keep you posted on my progress.
What did you learn last year? And what are your dreams for 2016? Please share them with us, so we can cheer you on!