The book that sent me into orbit

Orbiting
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.

You can get a copy of Orbiting the Giant Hairball at Amazon or at Powell’s.


Comments

8 responses to “The book that sent me into orbit”

  1. I made this book required reading for every advertising class I taught at SPU. Though 14-years old, it is still one of my favorite business books.

  2. I made this book required reading for every advertising class I taught at SPU. Though 14-years old, it is still one of my favorite business books.

  3. Karen Graham Avatar
    Karen Graham

    You had me at the title. I’m on the waiting list for this at the library. (Yes, it may be 14 years old, but there’s a waiting list.)
    A personal favorite: The Heart Aroused, Poetry and the Preservation of the Soul in Corporate America, by David Whyte

  4. Karen Graham Avatar
    Karen Graham

    You had me at the title. I’m on the waiting list for this at the library. (Yes, it may be 14 years old, but there’s a waiting list.)
    A personal favorite: The Heart Aroused, Poetry and the Preservation of the Soul in Corporate America, by David Whyte

  5. Jeff, thanks for a terrific recommendation. I’ve NEVER heard of this one and even if I had would probably not have gone for it. Now I will!

  6. Jeff, thanks for a terrific recommendation. I’ve NEVER heard of this one and even if I had would probably not have gone for it. Now I will!

  7. Jill Perry Avatar
    Jill Perry

    Jeff, thank you for recommending this book. I just started reading it and absolutely love it!

  8. Jill Perry Avatar
    Jill Perry

    Jeff, thank you for recommending this book. I just started reading it and absolutely love it!

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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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