5 Reminders for Nonprofit Leaders from Taylor Swift – Seriously…

Last month, I took my eleven year-old daughter to her first concert – Taylor Swift. I was about 11 years old when I attended my first concert. I can still remember singing Chicago’s hits from the nosebleed section of Freedom Hall with my best girlfriends. (Go ahead – take a little mental vacation and remember your first concert experience.) Attending a first concert with your child is a very different experience. Throughout the night, I kept finding myself conflicted between being a mom and getting caught up in the fun. Just as I’d get caught up in the shrieks and dancing, I’d wonder: Is this music too loud – what if I am damaging her hearing? Does she notice these male dancers rolling around shirtless on the stage (she did)? Oh gosh, does she really understand the lyrics she’s singing? And then, I really hope she understands the lyrics she’s singing…

We had a fantastic time – I survived and she loved every single minute of the experience! Thanks to Taylor Swift, here are a few reminders I received from the show that I want to share with my nonprofit colleagues:

5.  Establish priorities and stick to them. A fun twist on my Taylor Swift concert experience is that I WON our tickets – what an opportunity! To take my daughter to this show meant I was going to have to miss an important work meeting. One of the priorities I’d set for 2015 was to take advance of one-on-one time with my daughter while she was still willing to spend time with me. I decided that this commitment I’d made to myself had to take priority over a work meeting – and this was a very difficult decision for me. But looking back, when I think of my daughter’s face, her reaction to the show and the memories we made – I have no regrets for missing the meeting. Zero.

4.  Practice gratitude and kindness. Taylor made everyone in Rupp Arena, me included, feel like she sincerely appreciated us for being a fan. I left the show feeling like she was my new “BFF.” In a time when fear, ignorance, hatred, terror and intolerance seem rampant, practicing kindness and gratitude just feels good and it does good too. I’m going to remember to deliberately practice gratitude and kindness more often.

3.  Let loose every now and then. Having a good time and maybe embarrassing yourself a little is OK. Actually, it’s likely good for you. Some of you may not have issues with this, but it’s not always easy for me to “let go” and wave my LED armband along with 12,000 other fans. Whether a concert or another activity provides you with some freedom – I hope you’ll take advantage of it and enjoy it. I did.

2.  Don’t be afraid to reinvent yourself. While this was my first Taylor Swift show, I am certain her first tour didn’t include a troupe of male dancers, a 360 degree rotating catwalk and (gasp) pop music. At any age, reinventing yourself is likely scary and probably difficult.  But sometimes it’s necessary for your career – and your sanity. I needed this reminder and I’m a work in progress.

1.  Surround yourself with people you trust. Throughout Taylor’s show, friends of hers share stories on jumbo screens about their friendship. There are personal friends from high school, friends she’s met as a result of her career, friends she’s met along the road from teenage angst and stardom. Even for such a young woman, Taylor swift has got this right – a support system of people you can trust is powerful. When I think about both my career in the nonprofit sector and my personal life, I know that surrounding myself with people I can trust to support me, challenge me, shoot me straight and make me laugh when I need it most has been the most important and smartest thing I’ve ever done. I will remember to cherish these people more. And I will remember how important it is that I am a trustworthy friend and colleague.

You may never make it to a Taylor Swift show and I suspect this one will be my last, but there was much for this “maturing” nonprofit executive to learn from this soon-to-be 26 year old. As we approach Thanksgiving, I am grateful for the the memories made with my baby girl, the reminders I needed for my personal and professional life and for the opportunity to share these reflections with you – our KNN members and my nonprofit colleagues.

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