Denver:  We’re going to play Take Five with Jim Firman, the President and CEO of NCOA. Are you ready to go, Jim? 

Jim Firman

Jim: I’m ready to go. 

Denver: What is one of your favorite documentaries or movies?  

Jim: King of Hearts. 

Denver: What should we as a society be worried about?

Jim: That we are squandering this wonderful gift of time that we have. 

Denver: Tell me something that you believe that other people think is just crazy. 

Jim: We shouldn’t retire; we should be graduating. 

Denver: What idea in philanthropy is ready for retirement?

Jim: Restricted giving, lots of rules, and not believing in people and organizations.

Denver: Name some organization or person that you have a tremendous amount of respect and admiration for.

Jim: I think the Center for Budget and Priorities does spectacular work in educating the country on issues.

Denver: In your current role, what would you say is your biggest challenge?

Jim: Restricted funding, limiting us from doing what we know should be done. 

Denver: What is the most important thing that makes for a healthy organizational culture?

Jim: Passion for the mission, and a recognition that culture eats strategy for lunch. 

Denver: What have you changed your mind about in the last 10 years and why?

Jim: That any organization can tackle a problem on its own and make a real difference. 

Denver: If you are a kitchen utensil, what would you be? 

Jim: A utility knife.

Denver: What do you wish people would be more open and honest about?

Jim: That their programs and ideas might not be the best way to get something done.

Denver: If you were to start your career all over again and do something completely different and away from this field, what do you think that might be?  

Jim: I’d probably be a social worker. 

Denver: What is your superpower? 

Jim: Seeing possibilities and learning how to go from an idea to reality. 

Denver: Give us a name of a book that you would give as a gift.

Jim:  The Gift of Years by Joan Chittister.

Denver: What is something, whether this is related to your work or not, that you are exceptionally excited about right now? 

Jim: Neuro-linguistic programming, the potential to reprogram our bodies and experiences in simple ways. 

Denver: What topic would you speak about if you were asked to give a TED talk on something outside of your main area of expertise?

Jim: The challenges of hearing loss. 

Denver: What is something about you that very few other people know?

Jim: I’m a mostly deaf, wannabe blues harp musician. 

Denver: Given the choice of anyone famous in the world, dead or alive, that you could invite over as a dinner guest, who would that be?

Jim: Leonardo da Vinci. 

Denver: What is the best constructive criticism you have ever received?

Jim: The best way to get anything done is to be invisible. 

Denver: What is something that everybody else seems to love but you really don’t like?

Jim: The idea of retirement. 

Denver: What’s the last thing you taught yourself to do?

Jim: I’ve been reading Dale Carnegie’s book, How to Win Friends and Influence People. I wish I had read it 60 years ago. 

Denver: What advice would you give to your 20-year-old self other than read Dale Carnegie?

Jim: Take the long view, and follow your heart.

Denver: And finally, do you have a quote you live your life by or think of often?

Jim: “We are as great as the cause we serve and as young as our dreams.”

Denver: Thank you very much, Jim. 

Jim: Thank you.


Share This: