August 12, 2014
Let’s Be Legendary
Recently I spoke at JoomlaDay Chicago and delivered the closing keynote with the topic ‘Let’s Be Legendary’. I was hoping to inspire, motivate, and challenge first myself and also everyone else who had attended. I’ve embedded the slides below in case there are others interested. Obviously something is missing when it’s not heard but hopefully the concepts will still carry through.
Let’s Be Legendary
We looked at 5 individuals who we would all agree are legendary figures. Each displayed a particular trait which we then focused on and discussed.
Mother Theresa: Be Caring
Our first case study was Mother Theresa. One of her defining character qualities was the way in which she cared for others. The characteristic to be caring was clearly evident throughout her life. We also noticed she focused on a humanitarian approach to improving society.
Steve Jobs: Be Passionate
Our second case study was Steve Jobs. Of course this talk was given at a tech event so most everyone in the room would agree he is indeed a legendary figure. One of Steve’s most recognized character qualities was his passion. It’s quite easy to watch his talks and recognize the importance of being passionate. Steve Jobs was focused on using technology to improve society, or as he put it, “make a dent in the universe.”
Helen Keller: Be Consistent
This third case study was a bit trickier to recognize from the photograph instantly however the individual is immediately recognized by name. Helen Keller demonstrated an incredible level of consistency in her advocacy for disabled people. Helen spent her entire life devoted to this cause and consistently focused on helping the disabled and improving society.
Bill Gates: Be Generous
Our fourth case study returned to a familiar face with Bill Gates. One of Bill’s most well-known character qualities and the focus of our fourth legendary trait is his generosity. Bill has begun a foundation (The Gates Foundation) dedicated to serving and assisting the underprivileged in society. He’s shown incredibly generosity in the amount of wealth he has freely donated and generously given to others. He has focused on improving society by generously helping the underprivileged.
Jackie Robinson: Be Courageous
The last of our case studies which we focused on looked at the life and legendary qualities of Jackie Robinson. Jackie demonstrated incredible courage in the face of extreme conflict as he fought for equality in the world of baseball. He is well-known for breaking the color barrier on the baseball field. Jackie’s strong advocacy for minorities greatly helped improve society.
Of course there are other legendary figures and role models and certainly other aspects of these 5 individuals which served to make them legendary. We’re merely focusing on 5 aspects. The next thing we discussed was how we could apply these legendary qualities to ourselves. This is a bit more difficult because we feel quite small and helpless as a single individual sometimes and question whether we can truly do any good as one person.
“A life is not important except for the impact it has on other’s lives.”
– Jackie Robinson
But we determined there is value in starting small. We must (as they say) grow where we’re planted to a degree and use our small, local sphere of influence to do our part in our quest to be legendary.
As we saw demonstrated by several of the individuals above the idea of staying strong, being consistent, being courageous all speak to the importance of staying strong. If we stay strong we will continue to grow towards our goal of being legendary.
One thing we see along the way is that if we are starting small and attempting to stay strong there will of course be trials and obstacles and difficulties we will face. Each of the 5 individuals we studied faced hardships. The key is to savor the successes. The small victories along the way. Then we are able to stay encouraged, stay positive and stay motivated.
The last step in our path to being legendary is to serve society. Find a way in which we can benefit others. As we progress in our talk this becomes something of an interesting point. We should stop and revisit the 5 legendary individuals we looked at in-depth. All of them focused on this aspect. Every single one was in some way focused on improving society. Changing the world.
This led to a revelation….
Their goal was never to be legendary. Their goal was to change the world. To focus on a particular area where they could impact people which ultimately impacted the world. Suddenly it becomes clear that perhaps the focus of our talk should be different. Rather than the goal to “be legendary” perhaps something else is more important. Perhaps our focus should be shifted slightly.
Let’s be something else. Let’s be leaders. But not just any leaders, leadership can take a variety of forms. The type of leader that we looked at in our case study focused on a particular goal. Perhaps a better title for our talk today would be the following:
Let’s Be Leaders for Social Good.
July 14, 2014
A Four Million Dollar Cooler & Potato Salad
I recently observed an incredible phenomenon. I watched as a small orange chest designed to keep cold things cold broke all types of fundraising records. Ironically at this same time a bowl of potato salad has also reached absurd support levels. Does this show of an underlying cultural shift? Where is the social good? Do we have the right focus in our lives and in our investments? What can we learn from these fundraisers and what does it tell us about our world values and priorities?
I believe we can see several priorities of this culture which raise some cause for alarm and would do us well to think on. I don’t say these projects shouldn’t exist and I certainly am not against having a good time. But clearly there comes a time when focus is lost and our priorities become skewed. I list four wrong questions that are asked.
What Does It Do For Me?
Clearly based on these and other recently funded projects we as humans are focused on those items which will benefit us personally. We’re looking for conveniences and humor. Those fundraisers which give us something. The “me” culture which has become so pervasive in our world continues to thrive. We look for those things which will do something for us. We focus our time and give our hard-earned money towards those things which will make us happy. I mentioned humor a second ago, that leads directly into the next human value we find in our world today. Of course it’s human nature, survival instinct, to protect and support ourselves. But what about our neighbor?
Does It Amuse Me?
We want to be entertained. We want to laugh and be happy. There is of course nothing wrong with being happy. I enjoy being entertained as much as the next person. But the problem comes when we focus more on those things which will amuse us rather than improve us. When we spend all our time seeking ways in which we can entertain ourselves we fail to help others. We fail to acknowledge the struggles, the hurt, the pain others are experiencing. There is a time and place for everything. We must be cautious to not become out of balance in seeking to be entertained.
What Is Everyone Else Doing?
These types of fundraising efforts very clearly demonstrates the human nature to follow a crowd. No one likes to be alone and no one wants to be the one on the outside of a group. We follow the crowd. Suddenly supporting these projects become nothing more than joining the crowd. When a tipping point occurs in a project and enough people have backed the venture it becomes almost a necessity to be a part of the movement rather than risk being the outsider. We as a culture fear being left out of something. And yet, we don’t fear being left out of everything, it seems a strange sort of dichotomy the areas where the power of the crowd influences people.
Does It Make Me Feel Uncomfortable?
I believe we can draw from these rather frivolous campaigns the concept that we have a culture of ignorance towards the uncomfortable. Almost in a sense that if we don’t see or hear about those things which make us uncomfortable then they don’t exist or are not happening. We deny their existence and act like a little child who covers their eyes and disappears from the world.
The world is full of people suffering, hurting, and in need of help. You don’t have to look very far to find worthy organizations in desperate need of funding. But this is not pleasant to think on. These organizations make us uncomfortable and do not entertain us; nor do they provide any direct benefit to us. Therefore it is easier to ignore them then to do something about the problem.
The Right Questions
The harsh reality unfortunately shows a culture which lacks empathy for its fellow human. I’m not denouncing every fun and whimsical fundraising effort. I love the excitement and the entertainment involved with them. What I notice however is when these humorous projects are taken to an extreme. When they reach absurd levels and continue to grow while many far more worthwhile and beneficial organizations struggle to make ends meet. I’ve said it before. The key is moderation. When things are in balance there is room for both.
Who does this help?
When evaluating a project this is a great question to lead the way. Who is benefited from the fund raising attempt and in what way. How great is the need and how dire the situation. There’s certainly room for both the fun and the serious projects, but they should be moderated. If you’re only backing projects which do something for yourself, take a moment and look at the other projects which are seeking to do social good. Are there any you can support and improve the life of someone else? Does your backing allow for children to receive medical help, food to eat or a bed to sleep in?
How does this help?
The next great question to ask yourself when evaluating an organization or a fundraising project is how does this help? This often goes hand in hand with who does this help. The next step once you’ve identified who is helped is determining what good comes from it. Even as a single person you can make a difference. When we join together we can do powerful things. We can impact our world and we can implement changes for social good. How does the donation you’re about to make help? Do you save a life, change a village, or even change your world?
What can I do?
This is a powerful question. Ask yourself what you can do. This means acknowledging a need, recognizing a problem and looking to actively be involved in the solution. Don’t be discouraged or think you have little to no impact. Every person counts. Every bit helps no matter how small. What can you do? Maybe you can go further, beyond just a button click and a monetary donation. Can you do more? Take the idea of backing something farther than just virtual backing. Lace up your work boots, pick up a tool belt, a medical bag, or just your passport. What are your skills, what are your talents and what can you do?
Stay In Balance
Our current culture is out of balance. Let’s slow down and focus a bit more on how we can do good. Ask the right questions and we’ll find the right answers. We can find ways to be involved in social good and help others. When we do that we’ll find we are much happier and far more rewarded then any cooler or potato salad could ever make us. Next time you’re about to back a project ask yourself, are you balanced?
If you need help getting started here’s just a few worthy organizations for you (there are of course hundreds more):
St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital http://stjude.org
Doctors Without Borders http://doctorswithoutborders.org
Charity : Water http://charitywater.org
No Kid Hungry http://nokidhungry.org
Habitat for Humanity http://habitatgsf.org
Bring Love In http://bringlove.in
Great Ormond Street Hospital Charity https://donate.gosh.org/