Talking GOOD at the Apocalypse


Today is widely purported to be the end of the world, so I think it's a natural moment to reflect on the last 38 weeks of Talking GOOD interviews. Back on April 26, I began posting weekly interviews with an array of individuals from the nonprofit sector. Each week the questions were exactly the same, but the responses have been as diverse and colorful as the people answering them. As I said back in April, my goal with this feature is not to promote nonprofits or causes, but to promote PEOPLE. What makes them tick? What are their hopes and fears? What are their beliefs and why do they hold them?

Since beginning this project, I've learned a great deal about myself, others, and communications in general. I've learned that people possess a fundamental need to be seen for who they are, and that we'll embrace the opportunity to honestly answer penetrating questions, even if the audience is not large. I've learned that questions which appear at a glance to be simple are often the ones that challenge us the most. And I've learned that a person's inherent wisdom and potential to inspire is not a function of age or title.

The weekly exercise of collecting, editing, and posting interviews, confirmed many of my beliefs about the practice of communications. For example, I've always thought we should each strive to identify our "personal platform;" a set of guiding beliefs that serve as our internal compass and that inform our actions. In reading the interviews from week to week, I found that I was consistently drawn to and inspired by those respondents who not only 1) articulated their core beliefs (PLATFORM) but who 2) demonstrated how personal experience forged those beliefs (STORY) and 3) and how these beliefs in turn spurred ACTION. Story --> Platform --> Action is a powerful 1-2-3 combination.

In 2013, I intend to grow the distribution, modify the questions, and evolve the content of the Talking GOOD platform. But that is a subject for a different post. What I'd prefer to do here is list my favorite 2012 responses to each of the 10 questions, and highlight some interesting factoids/trends that I uncovered by looking at all of the responses in the aggregate. And please ... if you've been inspired at all in 2012 by any of these interviews,  I would love to hear from you either in the comments section below or by direct email. Thank you!

My favorite responses AND some commentary:

1. IN JUST ONE SENTENCE, WHAT IS YOUR PURPOSE IN LIFE? Spencer Kympton, The Mission Continues: "Choose a path, walk it with humility, invite others to walk along with me, and hopefully leave some footprints in the sand along the way.

  • Lots of people talked about leaving the world in a better state than how they found it. Another common theme was empowering others.
  • The image on this post is a Tagxedo word cloud using all 38 purpose statements and the "GOOD" image from my logo (turned on its side).

2. WHAT IS SOMETHING YOU WANT TO ACCOMPLISH BEFORE YOU “EXPIRE?” Brad Nornhold, KIPP Baltimore: "I would love to teach with some of my former students.  To have former students as colleagues would be like passing the torch to the next generation. I can’t imagine better role models for young people in my community than teachers who have been exactly where they have been.

3. IF YOU COULD MEET WITH ANYONE (ALIVE), WHO WOULD IT BE AND WHAT WOULD YOU ASK THEM? Will Schneider, Slingshot Fund: "I’d like to have a catch with Sandy Koufax, a non-religious Jew who sat out game one of the 1965 World Series because it fell on Yom Kippur, the Jewish High Holy Day. I’d ask him what it’s like to become a symbol for putting values ahead of desire."

  • Top two answers for this question were Nelson Mandela and Hillary Clinton.
  • Another big theme was people listing a general category of person (e.g., "... I would meet every young girl and boy thinking of taking their life due to bullying ...")

4. WHAT WOULD THE TITLE OF YOUR BOOK BE? Steve Smith, Rolling Dog Farm: "Don’t Just Sit There, Do Something!  Not original, to be sure, but it sums up the point better than anything. We seem to have become a culture that is addicted to distractions — whether it’s entertainment, sports, video games, or social networking. Too many people spend their lives passively sitting in front of a screen — it’s the “life as a spectator sport” thing — rather than doing something productive with their free time. It’s being a passive “consumer” rather than an active “producer.” Each of us is given this amazing gift called a life, and in my view we should use it as an opportunity to do good, or to create real value, or to end suffering, or to produce useful and necessary things. So my book would be about how to live your life like that."

5. WHO WOULD PLAY YOU, IN A  MOVIE ABOUT YOUR LIFE? Corey Colwell-Lipson, Green Halloween (part of Eco Mom Alliance): "Probably Jennifer Aniston. If you squint your eyes and have a glass (or two) of wine, you might think I look like her ½ sister. We have the same hair and the same, square chin. Looks aside, I think she’s a great combo of quirk and charisma. From what I’ve seen on Oprah, she’s got a tough shell, a soft heart, and a good sense of humor. I’d like to think these are some of the qualities I possess, or perhaps they are characteristics I would like to possess. In any case, I think she’s a versatile enough actress to play me in the 182+ roles I currently play in my own life."

  • Angelina Jolie, Julia Roberts, Meryl Streep, and Susan Sarandon were all cited on more than one occasion.

6. WHAT IS A BELIEF THAT IS CORE TO YOUR BEING? John Leonard: "Collaboration trumps conflict and mindless competition. But if you do have to pick sides, pick the one with the greatest number of underdogs. That decision doesn’t make life any easier but it’s the right call to make."

7. WHO ARE YOUR HEROES? Lydia Bowers, The Roosevelt Institute: "My parents. My mother volunteers at a local soup kitchen and my father works to preserve open space that is accessible to all. But they’re not perfect. My dad snores and my mom watches House Hunters on HGTV obsessively. What they taught me is that it is possible to take time out of your life to improve our world for the better.  Also, they always supported and loved me. That makes them heroes to me."

  • Given the cohort being interviewed, I am not surprised that the person selected the most to be a hero was Martin Luther King, Jr. (selected by 4 people), with Nelson Mandela coming in second (3 people).
  • 7 people said some variation of their parents.

8. IF YOU WEREN’T DOING THIS, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING? Lee Hendler, Freedom's Feast: "I’d be an artist or an early childhood educator in a progressive school setting that sees the child as an equal partner in learning with the teacher. I absolutely adore pre-schoolers. I would rather have a tea party with toddlers than go to cocktails with adults." 

9. TELL US SOMETHING SURPRISING ABOUT YOURSELF. Deb Dawson, African Soul, American Heart: "I was my first husband’s second wife, my second husband’s third wife, and my third husband’s fourth. In some crowds it make for spicy conversation; in others, it’s poison gas. (First two lines of my memoir–know any agents?)"

10. WHAT QUESTION(s) DO YOU WISH I HAD ASKED? Andy Buerger, Jodi's Climb for Hope: "Gee, Andy, tell me about your kids. Well, we adopted two children from Ethiopia and they’re now turning two. They are the most beautiful, precious little things you’ve ever seen. Thanks for asking."

In closing, I want to thank Miriam ElKorchi, my dedicated intern and "Director of Talking GOOD." Miriam is a senior at Goucher College in Towson, MD and is volunteering with me all year long. Without her assistance, I could never have found the time to keep this spot going week after week in such a professional and consistent manner, while balancing my many other professional and family responsibilities . Thanks Miriam!!

Oh ... and one more thing ... after 38 consecutive weeks of posting weekly Talking GOOD spots, we'll be taking next week off for vacation. See you all in 2013 with a new interview ready to go. Happy Holidays!