There's a great question for this month's Nonprofit Blog Carnival: What Book Has Changed Your (Professional) Life?
Orbiting the Giant Hairball: A Corporate Fool's Guide to Surviving with Grace by Gordon MacKenzie
This book changed my professional life. It's the only "business" book I ever recommend to people.
Don't get me wrong -- there are some truly excellent books about fundraising that have helped me in a big way, and you should read them. Anything by Tom Ahern or Mal Warwick is well worth your time, and will make you a better fundraiser. There are others too.
But Orbiting the Giant Hairball transformed the way I approach life as creative professional who wants to make a difference.
Here are the main points:
- For most of us, we're going to make a lot more positive impact as part of a community than alone. That means working within an organization.
- The problem is, every organization has a "hairball" -- a mass of policies, procedures, rules, and bureaucracy. These things can strangle your ability to do great things.
- All organizations have hairballs. Some are worse than others, but a hairball-free organization does not exist. Trying to conquer the hairball is pointless.
- But if you let yourself be trapped in the hairball, you will while away all your time on triviality. You'll accomplish little that matters. On the other hand, if you completely escape the hairball, you are no longer part of a community.
- The solution is to "orbit" the hairball. Stay just within its gravitational force, but never tangled up in it.
The book is full of inspiring examples of orbiters and hints for how to orbit. It has probably helped me solve more conundrums and deal with frustrations than anything else I've read.
It's not a "normal" book. It's filled with sketchy drawings and weird design. But it makes its point well.
Maybe it can change your professional life too. I highly recommend it.