There’s no one in Richmond, Virginia who knows how to command a room and motivate people to meaningful action better than Becky Crump. In 2016, Becky launched Mindful Mornings, a free monthly interactive speaker series that brings do-gooders together to connect, learn, be inspired, and collaborate. Because of the Richmond chapter’s success, they’re expanding into cities throughout the country. We caught up with Becky to learn more about her journey of building this scaleable community.
Why do you care so much about changing the world?
I use emotion-packed language when talking about the work of Mindful Mornings. I tell new Chapter Founders that they’re going to “change the world in under 15-hours.” I refer to those who attend this social good forum in cities across the country as compassionate, gutsy, hard-working do-gooders who shoulder the unwavering mission to give to the world more than they take from it. And when I dream about what Mindful Mornings can be (and I have spent countless hours dreaming), I imagine a worldwide brigade of do-gooders in cities across the globe who want nothing more than to leave a positive mark on the world — and who are willing to put in the heart, mind, and time to make it happen. Part of the reason our messaging is so impassioned is because I believe our Mindful Mornings community lives it — and part of the reason it’s so intense is because I want to empower people to live it, even though they may not quite yet. But, to answer your question — I care so deeply about changing the world, because we’re in a time of wicked problems (a term I cannot claim as original — I borrowed it from a Stanford Social Innovation Review podcast) and those problems are going to require a mighty consortium of people with the heart and the soul to drive change.
What do you mean by wicked problems?
I think this term is up for grabs and interpretation. Say this to some and they’ll call to mind and mouth violent, cruel, moments, months, and years in our collective worldwide history. They’ll use these moments as proof points that we’ve always experienced wicked problems — and they’re not incorrect. I believe the way wicked problems was used on that SSIR podcast speaks directly to the uniqueness of the issues we now face. There are humans in this world who are trying to figure out how we save the planet from destruction — and others thinking of ways we can live on Mars, while many are trying to eradicate cancer and heart disease — whilst also combatting elusive and debilitating diseases of the brain like Alzheimer’s. These problems are wicked ones because of their scale, because of their complexity, and because of the difficulty in reversing them. But please don’t mistake my use of this term as my signing the petition that says these issues cannot be overcome — together we can — and that’s why I believe so desperately in uniting, connecting, and teaching the people who are incapable of standing idly by while there is much work to be done.
What made you recognize the need for a place for like-missioned community to gather in support of the social good?
It was November 2016 and there was a big national announcement that kind of rocked my world. More than it being against what I believed was right, it catapulted me into the stark and harsh reality that we were (we are) more divided than I knew — and that I was guilty of spending too much time with people who believed and lived like I did. At the same time, I was coming off of a failed attempt at a nutrition summit that caused me to eat thousands of dollars in speaker fees and travel. And I was tuning into issues in the community that required a collective to solve for them — yet I wasn’t seeing enough of a collective, only a smattering of well-intended people in invisible silos. The convergence of these three moments merged to create one life-changing, a-ha! moment. Why had the nutrition summit failed? I had assumed there was a community of people who deeply cared to engage in conversations about nutrition as much as I did. Why were folks working in silos, and where was the community in support of their efforts and their causes? There was no agenda-less (this is key) place for “do-gooders” to unite, share, collaborate, learn, teach, and leave inspired to continue on their tough, righteous journeys. What could I do about my own silo that I was living in? Start paying true, deep attention to the nooks, crannies, and crevices of my community — with the intention to show up in support. I’m hard-working and gutsy myself — following my instinct into all kinds of fun and terrifying life journeys. I’m also slightly risk-averse. So I sat with myself over several moments across several days and thought about what it would look like to align my skills, my passions, and the needs of the community in a way that would be low risk, and also extraordinary. The manifestation of those efforts was Mindful Mornings. It would be a free monthly one-hour speaker series for do-gooders who wanted to create a more well-world. Easy. Impactful. Perhaps life-changing — only time would tell.
When did you know it was time to grow past Richmond, Virginia?
When people started calling me and asking to start one in their town!
But seriously, when I started Mindful Mornings in Richmond I built it to scale. I wasn’t hell-bent on it growing — but I was going to prepare for it and drive that growth. Now we’re in 10 cities and are actively recruiting weekly. My goal is to have 35 chapters by the year’s end and to have 70 by the end of 2019. I know it’s a big goal, but I’m not one to shy away from a challenge — never have been, never will be. (My loving, patient parents can confirm that as painfully true.)
What’s been your greatest challenge as you’ve worked to grow the Mindful Mornings community of do-gooders?
I could tell you the made-for-blogs answer here, or I could tell you the truth. Let’s go truth; it’s always my default. The grandest challenge for me has been the loneliness. I hate the term, self-made. Nothing is self-made. No one did anything alone. There are generations and generations that have come before each of us that have provided moments of opportunity and access. And then there are the small interactions along our current journey that will mightily push us down our path, or onto an unexpected one. So when I say it’s been lonely — I don’t mean to say that I’ve done this alone. I’ve relied on the ideas, insights, critiques, strength (literally talking about muscles here) to grow Mindful Mornings. I’ve had in-kind sponsor after in-kind sponsor who has provided design support, shirts, space, food, and more. I have a husband who lets me bend his ear in the wee hours of the morning before the cortisol has even started working. I have a four-year-old daughter who asks me how Mindful Mornings is going — and who tells her friends about it. I have a raft of supporters. But there’s no one there by my side day in and day out. I’m mostly alone in building this, and that loneliness can breed insecurity and overwhelming self-doubt if you let it sneak into your soul.
So what’s the made-for-blogs answer?
Something that glamorizes the struggle. Oooh! I’ve got a good one. My biggest challenge is the outpouring of inquiries to start new chapters in cities throughout the country. Whereas it is a blessing because it means we’re doing something (maybe a lot of somethings) right, it’s also really tough for me to keep up with that growth as a solo entrepreneur. It means it’s time to expand the team.
It’s a solid and true answer, but it’s not really my biggest struggle — I look at the above as a ridiculously awesome blessing.
What is the purpose of Mindful Morning and how you want do-gooders to feel after they leave each meeting?
Oh, right, the purpose! That would probably help readers! The purpose of Mindful Mornings is to connect the people with the heart and souls to change the world, with the content and community they need to make it happen. We do that by uniting, teaching, inspiring and moving a collective community in support of the social good during monthly first-Friday one-hour forums in communities across the country. But that’s not where it stops, only where it has begun. We want to support this growing community of do-gooders in ways beyond holding space and curating compelling speakers; we want to provide the tools, teach the skills, and curate the content, change-makers need to, well… make change. Said more simply, we help those who do good do better, together.
What leadership skills did you have to develop/didn’t come naturally to you that you knew you needed to develop in order to make your community what you wanted it to be?
Certainly, leadership skills play a role — but they can often be slightly top-down, and community engagement moves in the exact opposite direction.
- You have to give a shit. Said another way, you have to compassionately attend to all members of your community, and the issues your community faces. There is no head-in-sand method that will lead you to effective and efficient community organizing.
- You have to take lots of meetings. This used to seem terribly counterproductive to me, as a list maker and list crosser-offer. Meetings seemed a waste of time. Not. True. They have been the biggest asset to me in creating Mindful Mornings, and in my work as a consultant. Feel like you need to know someone? Feel like you need to learn more about a cause or an initiative? Schedule a meeting. And in that meeting ask who else you should meet — and make that happen too. My only word of caution here is to stick to 45-minutes and be clear about your hard stop time. You can spend countless hours chatting, and that’s not often a productive use of your time.
- Wonder in every interpersonal moment. Wonder what people are hopeful for, what they’re fearful of, how you can help, how they can help, and more. Wonderment will bring you very quickly to compassion. And compassion will change the world.
- Align your skills, with your passion, with the needs of your community. Too often I see people creating a nonprofit, business, initiative or program because they’re passionate about it and see a need in the community. And it just so happens that the thing they’ve created has already been created three times over and now it’s just an annoying redundancy. What they should have done was join the already existing effort. I’ve also seen folks follow their skills and market needs without the passion. The passion is what sustains you when the nights get long, the mornings too early, and the injustices too heartbreaking. Without the passion, you’ll burn out.
- Be courageous and be kind. I have five daughters (it’s a blended family), and I tell them they have to worry about being these two things and these two things alone. Have courage and be kind. They’re not always easy, they are always necessary.
- Hug more people. Look more people in the eye. Hold a handshake a second or two longer than seems reasonable.
If you’d like to learn more, Becky is available for keynotes, webinars and workshops. Visit the site to learn more, www.mindfulmornings.org/
How did you build your team?
We’re in the early stages of building the Mindful Mornings leadership team. But we’re actively building our team of Chapter Founders in cities across the globe. If you feel called to become a Chapter Founder, or know someone who might be, learn more here.
There are currently Mindful Mornings chapters in the following cities:
Photography by Beth Furgurson, Mindful Mornings Volunteer and Executive Director of Real Local RVA.