Sponsorship is a relationship.
Social media is a conversation.
“Knowledge isn’t power: sharing knowledge is power.”
Everyone’s heard the phrase by now “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” Here’s my humble variation on that: “When the student is ready, what the teacher’s been saying over and over will suddenly make sense!”
Has that ever happened to you?
When I was in my first year of law school at UCLA I won an award called the American Jurisprudence Award in the subject area of legal research and writing. I tell you this not to impress you, but, as Tony Robbins says, to impress upon you the concept of being ready to hear what the teacher is saying.
In the beginning of the year the teacher told all of us that legal writing was different than any writing we had ever done. She told us that we needed to do away with frilly prose and extended metaphors and focus on the facts. She told us that the judges had no time for our opinions, they only wanted the truth about the case. She told us EXACTLY how to lay out our argument and she even gave us a model to follow. She told us that we had to get rid of all of our phrases and clauses and compound sentences. She even told us that we had to get rid of ALL of our adjectives. We could only use nouns and verbs.
In the first half of the year all of us failed to understand that what she was telling us was not only important, but essential, if we wanted to get an A and if we wanted, more importantly, to win our case in the courtroom.
We ALL knew better. We were ALL great writers. We were ALL “A” students. We were ALL going to show her what great writing truly looked like . . . We ALL got B’s and C’s.
Fortunately for me, I had an epiphany. I’m not sure how or why it happened, but somewhere toward the end of the first semester I realized that the professor was spoon feeding us a model of success and that ALL I had to do was follow the model in order to succeed. But more importantly, all I had to do was let go of what was stopping me from succeeding. I had to let go of my pre-conceived notions of what a legal brief should look like or what legal prose should sound like, taste like, smell like. I had to open my mind to something new that was being delivered up on a platter for me.
I spent this past weekend with an amazing group of people at an event put on by Roberto Candelaria (@humanreturns) called Sponsorship Boot Camp®. This isn’t a pitch or an ad for Roberto but it is a pitch and an ad for opening your mind to someone else’s successful working model. Roberto’s true talent up until now has been building relationships with corporations that lead to successful sponsorships for for-profit and, of particular importance to me, non-profit organizations. But now, Roberto is emerging as a new talent in the realm of sharing knowledge to empower others, a professor, if you will, serving up a model for how to go about building sponsorship relationships with corporations so that you can fund your for-profit or not-for-profit enterprise and achieve all of the hopes and dreams and goals that you have for serving your clients, constituents and populations in need.
Roberto introduced another individual at the event and gave some great airtime to Mr. Raphael Love (@raphaellove). Raphael’s expertise is as a social media business strategist. He’s an overflowing fountain of knowledge willingly sharing how to connect with your target audience in today’s digital, social world. Whether you are running a fortune 500 company, a small business, the United Way® or a local lemonade stand to benefit a local charity, social media is the new driving force that is making the difference for these organizations and helping them grow and spread their message both domestically and internationally in real time, and at speeds never before imagined, due to the viral nature of the internet and the global connectivity of social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, to name two.
Another rising talent showcased by Roberto was a man named Michael Hunter (@akaJett). Michael is a young, successful marketing strategist who understands the value of strategic planning and how marketing, sponsorship and social media are inexorably intertwined with the fundamentals of your business/ organizational strategy. According to Michael, to put anything ahead of strategy is in essence to put the cart before the horse and guarantee a fast track really to nowhere, spinning the wheels of your company or non-profit.
All of these individuals were serving up a message and a model that we could use to increase the success of our endeavors. So many more successful leaders, speakers, authors, business owners and non-profit visionaries were in the audience hoping to learn, wanting to learn, wanting to improve some aspect of what they themselves were offering or hoping to offer to their own clientele. But like so many who have come to learn before at events like these, or even through books and CD’s in the comfort of their own home, the true success that we have depends less on the message of the teacher than on the willingness and readiness of the student to listen and to be open to the ideas that are being offered up, sometimes eloquently and magnificently, on a silver platter.
And so, when I had the following recent (meaning yesterday) epiphany, I simply wanted to share it with those in attendance and those in future attendance and those who will attend similar events or seek similar guidance from other sources:
What I awakened to in the presence of Roberto was that a corporate sponsorship is a relationship. Throw away all of your pre-conceived notions and think “Friendship (real people, long term) with a mutual, tangible business/organizational benefit.”
What I awakened to in the presence of Raphael was that social media is a conversation. Think “Friendship, listening, talking, sharing, caring, adding value to the relationship.”
What I awakened to in the presence of Michael was that “knowledge isn’t power: sharing knowledge is power.” Think “Friendship, giving, adding value, differentiating yourself by your willingness to share and the credibility and authority you create and true generosity you demonstrate by sharing.”
All of these individuals probably delivered up more messages that maybe I didn’t awaken to, but that someone else did. Even though I’ve spent the past few paragraphs emphasizing the common thread of friendship, sharing and conversation that is woven throughout the specific world of business and non-profit corporate sponsorship, social media and strategic planning, the purpose of this particular blog isn’t just to share the specifics about yesterday’s epiphany or what I learned at any particular continuing education conference.
The purpose of this blog post is to share with you the moment of “meta-awareness” that I experienced 20 years ago in law school and how I’ve tried to apply that memorable and momentous original epiphany to every other aspect of personal and professional growth in my life. The knowledge is all around you. Sometimes it’s overwhelming; but sometimes you are truly blessed and fortunate enough to have it served up on a platter. What are the triggers? How can we know? How can we awaken from our trance-like state to accept when a model or a step by step guide or “how to” is being delivered to us? How can we get out of our own way, get out of our own thought patterns that prevent us from seeing? Why was I able to see more quickly 20 years ago what others couldn’t see or hadn’t yet seen?
How does the student become ready?
To a Zen practitioner, the answer comes as a parable. And I will paraphrase horribly whatever original form the story took:
Once there was a man who came to a Buddhist monk to seek a path to enlightenment. The monk offered the man some tea. Of course the man accepted and the monk began filling his cup with tea. As the cup became full to the brim the tea began to spill over but the monk continued pouring. This went on for some time and the man clearly was becoming perplexed, frustrated and then angry. Finally he couldn’t contain his anger any longer and he exclaimed “STOP! What are you doing foolish monk. Can’t you see that the cup is already full.” To which the monk replied, “ Ah, and so it is with the mind. How can you expect to find wisdom and a path to enlightenment when your mind is already full of preconceptions and false ideas. To become enlightened you must first empty your mind.”
And so I leave you with a quote from Lao Tzu from the Tao Te Ching:
In the pursuit of knowledge, every day something is added.
In the pursuit of wisdom, every day something is dropped.
What can you let go of that will help you see the gifts that are lying before you?
R. Kali Woodward (@YouthLit21E) is the Founder and Executive Director of the American Youth Literacy Foundation, a 501 (c) (3) charitable non-profit dedicated to creating a literate America and a literate world in the 21st century. www.YouthLit.org. www.Facebook.com/YouthLit.org. He is the author of Meta: The New Intelligence for All Human Potential (A book for teens and young adults), and Happy Plaid Cats Stack Black Hats. (Both available on Amazon.com.) Photo by permission: Elyssa F., http://whollyart.com, with special thanks to Elayna Fernandez, the Positive Mom Foundation, and Abby Clemence (@sponsorgoddess), infinitysponsorship.com.au.