With Gratitude and Much Good Luck

Editor’s note: Listen to the audio version of this column.

This issue of Leap Update closes a wonderful 11-year run for Lowell and me in writing this monthly newsletter. This decision is part of my bigger life decision as I’m currently scaling back and then likely refocusing the work I’ve done in the social sector since I “retired” from business in 1992. Thanks to many wonderful and talented people, these three decades have been a roller-coaster ride of learning and relationships, spanning innovation and entrepreneurship, public policy, technology, philanthropy, equity and social justice, workforce, healthcare, and the world of nonprofit leaders and organizations. And, while there’s so much to share from this web of incredible people, relationships, and lived experiences, that’s for another time as I determine whether my narrative would be of value to others or simply an indulgent self-reflection.

For this last issue, I’ll take a quick walk down memory lane and respectfully try to make the case that things could be better if we let humility guide and temper our bold aspirations, expansive claims, and, for some, a boundless sense of self-importance. I close with deep and heartfelt thanks and share some personal aspirations.

In the Beginning. . .

Leap Update started in June 2011 in response to the interest created by Leap of Reason: Managing to Outcomes in an Era of Scarcity which was self-published on May 19, 2011, thanks to contributions from a score of leaders and the excellent efforts of co-editors Lowell Weiss and Cheryl Collins. To our pleasant surprise, Leap Update now reaches almost 20,000 readers in 54 countries. Over this stretch, Lowell and I have regularly assumed the personalities of Sesame Street characters Bert and Ernie. I’m the curmudgeonly Bert with hard messages of brutal truth, and Lowell brings positivity and credible hope as Ernie.

Over the past 11 years, the roller-coaster ride has been on steroids—from the aftermath of the 2008 Great Recession to the lingering COVID pandemic that served as an accelerant to severely worsen the multiple existential crises facing the world, our nation, our sector, and, most certainly, the people our sector serves. And now, incredulously, add the tragedy of war, loss of lives in the European theater, and a changing world order.

Moving Forward With Humility

When I came into the field in the early 90s, I did so, unfortunately, with an abundance of hubris and arrogance. I may have been less strident than some who followed, but that’s a pretty low bar for judging myself! Now 30 years wiser, I see that my lived experiences, missteps, engagement, and deep listening helped me better appreciate those who walked before me and on whose shoulders I stand. That realization made clear I had no right to be arrogant. While I’m still not exactly a wall flower, I’ve gained an even deeper respect for the talented, committed servant leaders who have dedicated their lives to face incredibly difficult challenges every single day—often at insurmountable odds. These learnings and leaders showed me the importance of humility: “Humility is considered as the act of lowering oneself in relation to others or having a clear perspective and respect for one’s place in the world. It also involves knowing your limits and having appreciation for the intentions, strength, and perspectives of others.”

These days, I have deep respect and great admiration for those who bring humility to their vision, courage and adaptiveness to their leadership, honesty to their bold aspirations, drive and discipline to their service or advocacy delivery, and a confident sense of self that allows them to sublimate their egos to achieve a greater good.

Giving Thanks

I constantly remind myself of the remarkable good fortune I have in my life and hope I stay grounded by my family, true to their roots, and loyal to my closest, most trusted friends and mentors. Over these years, I’ve easily been involved in a score or two of initiatives. I’m grateful to all the people who were a part of them and thankful for their sage advice, tolerance with me, and the invaluable life lessons they taught me. The many leaders and efforts that I’ve followed and admired would make a list too long to include here, but I hope you’ll realize who you are and the deep respect I have for you and your work.

I’m deeply grateful to the Morino Ventures team who are the backbone support for our work and so much more. This team constantly evolves depending on the initiative. From only five of us in early 1993 to 40+ team members in the late 90s to just under 20 today, they’ve never gotten the full credit they deserve. Over this span, more than 200 individuals have been with me at some point in this journey—a remarkable group who have been and still are wonderful colleagues; highly talented, consummate professionals; and individuals who care greatly for each other, the issues we take on, and those we serve. They encourage and inspire me in ways they’ll never begin to understand.

My greatest inspiration comes from and my deepest thanks go to my core family—my better half and our three adult children and their nascent families—and our extended family and close friends. They are my primary life purpose.

Closing Thoughts

While I’m truly grateful, I also return to the reality that we’re in very difficult times. The impact of the pandemic and other existential crises, now including Russia’s threat to the world order, is profound and very real. I seldom refer to prayer, but I hope you’ll join me to appeal to a higher power and our better selves to pray for the lives lost and disrupted and families torn asunder and that the world finds a way to navigate out of the global crisis we face.

These crises hang over us like dark clouds with lightning indicating that worse storms are still to come. And, even with all the good fortune in my life, I find it dampens my spirit, threatens my mental well being, and can even create a sense of fatalism or hopelessness as we envision the world our children and their children are inheriting. Just one day of media headlines can be enough to encourage even the most ardent of us to hang it up and hope we can find a way to escape these insane times. I’m finding that I need to look for encouraging, hopeful things to get centered and stay positive, while focusing on efforts that have a chance of succeeding. Here’s what I’m trying to do. Perhaps some of them may be useful to you.

  • Be intentional to find big or small rays of hope to buoy my spirit.
  • Even with the CDC’s relaxed guidelines, which I fear will prove premature, continue to apply reasonable COVID safety protocols out of respect for those around me and my communities.
  • Be there for my family and others I care about. Although I realized this need many years ago, this importance only grows and I’ll be doing more to reach out to good friends, thank them for all they’ve given me over the years, and, for some, let them know I love them.
  • Have empathy for those who’ve been adversely impacted and do something to help, without fanfare and in my own way and time.
  • Show special compassion and respect for frontline “essential workers” who have heroically confronted the pandemic head on and are now villainized as they continue serving others—first and foremost, our healthcare workers, but also teachers, first responders, grocery workers, and any others who are put at risk in this way.
  • Reflect on events occurring before and after May 2020 to better accept, believe, and truly demonstrate the “rightness” of equity to make me a better person and help me “walk the talk” on equity.
  • Be thankful—whatever it is, enjoy and celebrate what I have and avoid dwelling on what no longer is.
  • Respect, honor, and commend the great work of others who are making a meaningful, lasting difference in people’s lives and the future of our communities.
  • Practice kindness as an antidote to negativity. An extra thank you to a bag packer at the grocery store or, if you have the luxury of doing so, a tip to the person at the carryout stand goes a long way for them and me.

Lowell and I can’t thank you enough for following our work over the years. And I can’t thank Lowell enough for joining me to bring you the Leap Update and for being there for me over the past 20+ years. We also want you to know how much we value everything you’ve taught us. With each issue, we were often pleasantly surprised and always heartened by your connections, suggestions, compliments, pushbacks, and critiques. We’ll certainly miss the monthly interactions with you.

While I’m stepping back, I’m not disappearing. As we’ve always said from the days of Morino Associates in the 1970-80s to Morino Ventures today, “It’s never goodbye, just good luck.”

With much gratitude and good luck,

Signatures: Mario and Lowell

Mario Morino is chairman of the Morino Institute, co-founder and founding chair of Venture Philanthropy Partners, and author of the lead essay in Leap of Reason.