mystery-list_custom-9c58a855ae7747d9f76edcebbf2c6e50d482a41d-s800-c85It’s no surprise that the “mystery” genre so often takes a dark turn, flirting with “thriller” or even “terror.”  Crimes!  Private investigators!  Double agents!  Secret identities!  Conspiracies or at least cahoots!  Perhaps our culture equates mystery with fear.  It works well in the entertainment industry.  Adrenaline!  Suspense!  Intrigue!  But what about other spheres like technology, social change, learning and pedagogy? Uh oh, that fear rapidly turns into shame, impostor syndrome and disempowerment.  Nooooooooo

Yesterday I had the unparalleled opportunity to attend NPSP Day in Philadelphia, an unconference-style event and celebration of all things nonprofity, salesforcey, opensourcey, penguiney, burritoy, and goofy learning!  The NPSP (Nonprofit Success Pack) is an open-source bundle of tools and resources that takes the Salesforce platform and turns it into a donation management system for nonprofits tracking individual donors (and some grants).  Like other Salesforce tools, it’s flexible, agile, and it can do so much that it’s confusing to know where to start!  (Sound familiar?) So events like NPSP Day are special, desperately needed, and all too rare.

Read on for more reflection about my learning style and my time at NPSP Day… but for those of you who’s first priority here is spreadsheet tips, I want to offer that early and often.  Check out this mega tutorial about Google Docs (and Sheets) sharing settings, including how to share a sheet (with editing privileges) EXCEPT the ability for your new collaborator to further share the link with others (or print or download).  It could really come in handy, especially for those naughty coalition partners… (just kidding!)

A colleague from a local nonprofit came up to me over lunch and asked, “How did you learn?”

This was one of my favorite questions of the day.  It encompasses so much of what I think about every day, why I do what I do, and what I’m trying to accomplish at work and here on my blog.  Here’s how I answered her:

Show don’t tell

  • Demo zone!  And by demo, I mean demonstrate not demolish.  When I was first getting started with Salesforce, I asked consultants to make me a to do list instead of doing the work themself.  Then, I asked them to use their time to check my work and help me grow.  It’s one of the best decisions I made early in my career!

Ask one question at a time

  • I use several complex apps like foundationConnect and Conga Composer and learning their quirks is no joke.  I work closely with support agents when I get stuck, but the secret to success is asking VERY specific questions.

Show up as a mentee

  • About a year into my Salesforce career, I found out about my local Nonprofit User Group and I became our volunteer leader’s newest shadow.  I came to every meeting with a list of questions or goals.  I stayed 10 minutes late to ask for help.  Dean was kind enough to take me under his wing, but like I said in this post, mentorship is a two way street!

Practice reflection

  • You’ve learned hard stuff before and you will again!  In fact, you’ve probably already come a long way from where you were 6 months ago.  Incorporating reflection (performance reviews at work, personal goal setting, yes, even blogging!) has helped me crystallize what I’ve been learning and see the progress I’ve made.

Say yes

  • This is my mama’s advice to new parents of twins!  “Whatever anyone offers, say yes.”  And it’s rung true in my learning journey.  NPSP Day?  Sure!  (Even though I’ve never used the NPSP!  true story!). sprints?  I’ll give it a whirl.  Amplify certification study groups?  Why not?  (Now I’ve done two and both times, I’ve earned a certification at the end.)  Trailhead?  I’ll tackle a little bit at a time.  Now I have nearly 120 badges.  Consulting gigs?  My first one was scary but I got through it.  Opportunities keep arising and it’s the least I can do to give it a shot!

I love admitting gaps in my knowledge without shame!

This comes back to how we approach mystery.  Exciting?  Fearful?  Spiritual?  Shameful?  A surprise?  An insult?  These are all entrees on the Mystery Menu.  🙂

Where can you say “I have no idea how this works?” and have someone stop what they’re doing and show you?  A classroom?  A car mechanic?  Your workplace?  Too often, we are punished for what we don’t know instead of being celebrated for asking the question.  But not at NPSP Day, where even the most experienced people learn new tricks and tidbits.  There’s truly something for everyone.

We’ll never tackle society’s biggest problems and areas of most acute suffering if we don’t get braver and more curious about unknowns.  And risk taking.

So here’s my invitation to you.  Get more curious about gaps in your knowledge and start asking questions.  Don’t just accept your spreadsheet systems as inadequate and stuck that way.  Challenge yourself to the “thrill of the chase” as you track down answers.  Let yourself harness the power of fear-induced adrenaline to fuel your learning goals.  What started out as a complete mystery might become your new specialty.  Know One Nose!


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