Five Things I Learned from Starting my own Non-Profit

  1. Everyone is Clueless
    When I first started out, I used to keep wondering what the secret was. I truly believed that there had to be some structure, some laid out path of how things are done that I was supposed to follow. But there wasn’t. The more I worked with different organisations, the more I realised that more often that not, everyone was just as clueless as I was.
    I learned that I had to stop comparing myself to all the successful people I saw around me and focus on the path that I was creating for myself. Trying to follow in someone’s footsteps doesn’t work when you don’t have the same shoe size. Most people that I have come to idolise usually make it up as they go, they learn to trust their instinct and then put in the work needed to make that a reality. In order to create something truly unique, I would have to stop fearing the unknown. Stop fearing the fact that sometimes I don’t know where I am going as long as I don’t lose sight of the larger goal I set out to achieve. How I was to get there would be path I would have to make for myself.
  2. Imposter Syndrome is Real
    I am yet to become confident in introducing myself as a Founder and Director because I never truly internalised it. It always felt like I was saying something that wasn’t true or wrong. That’s when I learned about imposter syndrome which is basically when you are so plagued by self-doubt that you begin to feel like, well, an imposter. You begin to attribute your achievements to sheer luck and feel undeserving of applause. Yes, it is real and it happens more often that I would’ve thought.
    When my organisation began gaining a traction in my community, it often felt strange because I couldn’t believe so many people believed in my vision. While I am still learning how exactly to overcome this, I have found that it is important to take a moment and remind myself that every drop counts. I may not be reaching a hundred thousand people today, but maybe it is alright to reach twenty people and there is no reason not to celebrate that. There is no reason to not be proud of yourself and to underplay your achievements. It may be strange but I needed to learn to pat my own back once in a while.
  3. You are Your Best Friend 
    This was probably one of the hardest lessons I learned. Most people that I used to call my best friends did not say one word to me about my initiative. Majority of them refused to acknowledge it except for when it received media attention. I learned that sometimes people don’t have your best interests at heart, they will take any chance to ignore your milestones and amplify your setbacks. I learned that that was something I had to make my peace with. I would have to rely only on myself for any form of validation and start trusting myself and my abilities whether anyone else saw them or not (except for my parents, for them I basically rule the world at this point.)
  4. Failure is Okay 
    At Pratisandhi, we had to change the way we do things multiple times, in fact we spent over six months just trying to sort out our team. But I learned that that’s okay because if I was going to create something of my own, I would have to learn through failure and self-doubt. There have been so many times that I have broken down, doubted my ability to lead and create, and felt like I should just give up. I had to learn to get used to failure and not take it as a reflection on myself, because if there’s any Facebook quote I have ever believed in (or remembered) it is that anything worth doing, is worth doing badly. I was going to have to learn that it is about progress and not perfection.
  5. Be Practical 
    I have always had ten different ideas pulling me in ten different directions but at some point you have to stop imagining a fantasy world and start building it. When I started out, I had no idea a small initiative would snowball into a non-profit organisation that had hundreds of people wanting to join and contribute. I don’t mean that you have beat your head at something till it becomes a masterpiece but you do have to pick up the tools and start somewhere. It won’t be perfect, but it’ll be real.

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