Rachel Jenae

And the Pendulum Swings

Over the last week there’s been one repeated conversation that has continued to arise again and again. It’s happened organically talking with people I’ve never met, but also with friends I’ve known for years.  It’s this growing trend.  This swinging pendulum. This new generation of “Follow Fridays” and “#Trendsetting” that has taken the use of “fads” and the pull of society and found this incredibly noble, good and needed way of meeting that fad’s needs.  It started before Tom’s Shoes, but that’s where the Pendulum picked up speed. The tide started turning and the masses jumped on ship to help turn it with a large ferocious cry saying, “Send Me” or  “Use Me” or even a quiet whisper inside saying, “I think I can make a difference”.  And it began.  This incredibly noble pendulum swing that we now find ourselves in the middle of. But where will it take us?  As with every new fad, it can only last so long before the pendulum meets its peak and must come back down.  It will take us over another mountain into a new season. I just wonder where that will be.

The one thing I’ve noticed as of recent is this tenacity to find genuineness.  Real. Solid. Genuineness.  After just going out to attend Catalyst in Atlanta last week, where probably close to a couple hundred or more non-profit organizations, all with amazing causes, gathered to put themselves on display and reach at least a small percentage of the 13,000 in attendance.  Every one with their own unique call, their own vision, their own branding, style, products, pull, appeal.  Some handing out cards, some handing out bracelets, but regardless there was a natural, under the surface, unspoken… competition. What would draw people into one booth versus another.  What would appeal to the senses and sight and pull on heart strings the most.  As I walked by booth after booth, I was amazed.  I was pulled to some more than others.  Some because of the cause, others because of their presentation, their “win factor” or even what they were selling.  I was now caught up in the pendulum swing myself and my heart strings were fully engaged.

In my mind even saying the word “fad” and “christian” in the same sentence tends to put a negative connotation in my mind.  But if we’re all being honest, it exists within christian circles as much as anywhere in the world, the strange thing is this pendulum involves both.  The “#trend” and the “fad” that started with simply giving your life away or making a difference in the world for those in need, has far exceeded the pews of Sunday church.  It is no longer confined to “missionary” status, but has infiltrated the masses and the famous and the politically elite.  Not that every fad has been bad in the past, but this one just happens to be incredibly good.

So where are we now in the pendulum swing?  Have we reached the climax yet?  What will it lead us into?  Where will it cause the pendulum to swing next with the massive weight of so many pushing it forward?

I tend to think we’re nearing the top.  Not there yet, but getting close.  As with every trend, once the majority of society is emersed in it, the trendsetters must do what they do and break from the crowd to be original and trendsetting again.  There’s also this emerging sect of those who just want genuine.  They love the fad and they love what it is evoking in hearts and minds everywhere–that anyone can make a difference in a large way by just jumping in and doing something–but on the other hand, they want something that is long lasting.  They want something beyond the twitter hype and the snazzy website and blog.  They want the real deal that is going for distance, not just surface appeal. Cause right now it’s “cool” to go to Africa.  It’s “cool” to adopt.  It’s “cool” to start a non-profit. And much like the hippy era, it’s “cool” to sell everything and completely give your life away.  It’s incredibly encouraging to see in the majority of a generation, but I can’t help but wonder where it’s leading us.

I had a great conversation a few days ago with a friend who started a non-profit a couple years ago and we were discussing this exact thing.  He uses a very large amount of his energy and time doing all of these really good things from a marketing perspective.  From photo shoots to facebook and twitter updates, to meeting with well-known people, to running ragged trying to work a job supporting his family and also do what is in his heart. I have no doubts his organization is making a difference in the lives of many, but as we spoke I started to wonder what percentage of what he was spending all of his energy on would have a lasting impact.  Because under the surface was this incredibly tired and ragged man, no staff support, volunteers who are pouring out, but not poured into and a large amount of people wanting to help out because it ultimately helped them.  What kind of foundation is that to last for the long haul?  Yes, marketing is essential and much of what I’m saying has been fully accepted as part of what it takes to run a non-profit organization, but does that make it good or right?  It’s this two-fold thing that can’t succeed one without the other, but what will be its lasting impact?

I think we can get so caught up in doing all of the things that “#trendsetting” requires that we lose sight of creating organizations that are in it for the long haul.  When the pendulum starts coming back down, will the organization have enough of a firm foundation to make it through the downhill fall?  Marketing has always been about being one step in front of the crowd, leading them, telling them where to go next, but where are we leading people with this incredibly good fad or really, where are we being led?

Honestly, I don’t know. I doubt there’s really anything new under the sun, but with each new generation pushing the pendulum, it’s new to them.  This conversation just keeps arising and I see this picture of a pendulum getting closer to the peak and I wonder what is coming.  I wonder what we’re creating to build upon that is long lasting, outside of a trendy idea that just “looks good” today.

Your thoughts?