Was on the phone today with the doctor who the movie “Patch Adams” was based on.
He’s working on an event called the Global Health & Humanitarian Summit at Emory University– which is intended to rival the Global Economic Summit. 🙂
Here is a short video where he talks about contemplating suicide, and what he decided to do with his life instead…
?”I made a decision to be a Scientist of Joy for the rest of my life, and then out of my science background, I decided to be a doctor for the poor. And the other decision had to do with myself, and how I could design myself into the best possible instrument of peace.” ~Patch Adams
Joensuu, Finland, recently seemed to double its size with visitors — in hosting the 33rd annual European Juggling Convention. Some incredible shows (the fire juggling was my favorite), but what was most interesting to me was the jugglers themselves.
Walking on the street, it was fun to see the visitors with baggy pants and dreadlocks, or top hats and vests on. It was interesting to see how many there were, and to observe how even though they spoke all different languages (French, German, Spanish, etc), they had developed at least somewhat of a shared look & identity.
I started to wonder more about how people come to think about themselves and their identity (e.g. “I am a juggler”).
So just for fun — give your First few answers to this, without thinking too much:
— Who are you?
— And why do you think so?
Are there any women in your life that inspire you?
This is created in honor of You…
As I mentioned on FaceBook, it surprised me how much came out of me while creating this video! Thinking about my own mother, and all the mothers who might struggle at times, wondering if they’ve done OK…
I’m so grateful to my sister, Marie, for creating this new website (http://www.TheEverydayMother.com) and consequently inviting me to think more deeply about how to more freely love & be loved.
Thank you all my friends, family, and colleagues who have wished me a happy birthday, or simply been a happy part of my life!
I’m feeling blessed to know you.
On the airplane to Orlando today I created this short 1 minute video clip for you:
If things like countries are inventions of the human mind, what other kinds of things could we as humans envision and create together?
What reality can we imagine which could lead to a healthier more sustainable world?
What kind of a reality would you like to believe that we could imagine? (funny or real) 🙂
Or even better, as we are still enough to listen deeply, what kind of different reality and dreams do we allow to come through us?
(As my friend Dr. Naram beautifully pointed out to me, when the water is still, we can see our reflection in it — and as we are still, we get a better sense for who we really are and what we are here to do, as well as being given the power to do it. Not for our own ego, but out of a place of love and gratitude.)
As a part of the larger AXIS LIVE movement, this course represents a different way to think of and experience university education and university courses than is common – a course in which there are no clear answers to begin with, in which some of the most intelligent students from around the world join to become friends in discovering solutions together…
What a great way to start the new decade!
To join the conversation and experience the journey with us, please enter your name and email at http://www.axislive.org or here:
In any area of life, what would you like to see become a reality in the new decade?
In the book he discusses his way of framing a design problem, “How might we . . .” Often the problem statement also includes the verb improve, as in “how might we improve the experience of buying a car?” or “how might we improve the quality of schools in rural districts?” (these type of questions will hereafter be referred to as HMWI questions)
The value of of HMWI questions, according to Brown, is they have “enough flexibility to release the imagination of the [design] team, while providing enough specificity to ground its ideas in the lives of their intended beneficiaries” (pp. 217-218). In other words, they don’t predefine the solution the designer team should come up with, and they also keep the design team focused on the value proposition the innovation is intended to create (particularly the value proposition for real people like you and me).
The thought occurred to me that there might be a contrast between a HMWI question, and a twin question I hear a lot, Wouldn’t It Be Cool If . . . (WIBCI). “Wouldn’t it be cool if you could wear a computer in your clothing?” “Wouldn’t be cool if your eyes could change color based on your mood?”
At the risk of oversimplifying, I wonder if the type of innovation sparked by a WIBCI question more easily loses sight of the endgame the one asking the question originally had in mind, than does a HMWI question. Certainly someone asking a WIBCI question is trying to do something important, and I’m sure many useful parts of modern society started with WIBCI questions. But read the words in each of these two question very slowly. Maybe even read them aloud. Doesn’t How Might We Improve feel better to you? Doesn’t it seem that starting with Wouldn’t It Be Cool If is more likely to run afoul of innovation for its own sake, rather than innovation designed to actually help someone?
Before I get to the post, I’d like you to watch this video. Don’t worry. It’s short. And I think it sets the tone for what follows. I’d love to embed the video, but the computer is smarter than me right now. So you can watch it here.
One of the things I can count on when talking with Clint is his insistence on asking me two questions. What would I do with my life if money were not a concern? and What do I most need to accomplish my greatest passion? These are both tough for me to answer. But here’s an attempt.
What would I do with my life?
I’m lucky to have a job that gives me a lot of freedom, both in what I do and how I do it. But, shooting for the moon, I would love to spread a certain philosophy to everyone, in every line of work, through every venue possible, throughout the world. That philosophy is, what if we all saw our purpose as how to best help others discover the joy and wonder that exists in the world? And, how can we best help others express the passion and enthusiasm they feel about their discoveries?
Along with this philosophy I believe there is a creative spirit that can accompany our attempts to help others. We’re constantly creating. It’s part of being human, and every conviction I hold tells me our creativity is a divine heritage we’re given as children of God. No matter our expertise, no matter our jobs, no matter our interests, we can approach even the most mundane activities with a creative spirit that elevates our actions to the miraculous.
People need to believe what I described above. If people believe this their lives will be infused with a passion and a commitment that will carry them through any trial, any discouragement.
What do I need?
I need help in spreading this message. I need help in organizing any effort to get it out in meaningful, personalized, inspirational ways. I need you, and any contribution you have to make. Does this mean spreading the word in your circles of influence? Why not? Does it mean discussing this exciting, enthusiastic philosophy, both with me or with anyone else you know? Why not? Does it mean joining institutions, companies, societies, or other organizations who want to spread this message? Why not? Does it mean creating these organizations ourselves if we find a niche? Why not? And personally, this is what I am looking to do. I don’t know what that means. I don’t even know what I don’t know to get something like that off the ground. But I’m ready to try. If you believe you have anything to contribute, big or small, I’d love your comments.
I just listened to an episode of NPR’s This American Life, that told the story of Harlem’s Children Zone. Founded by Geoffrey Canada, HCZ has the stated goal to eliminate poverty in Harlem for all children. Not a reasonable percentage – but all of them.
He starts with “Baby College,” where he teaches parents of infants and toddlers to say encouraging things to their children, and to not hit them.
He has developed a system of charter schools taking children from pre-K to high school graduation.
Combine this with community programs, outreach, social activism, he does it all.
Canada’s approach isn’t without controversy. Basically he has decided that he will help the children in Harlem but his programs will only indirectly help their parents. Contrary to many social programs, he is not assuming that he needs to raise families out of poverty before he can improve the children’s circumstances. Instead he assumes that giving the children a chance – even as they experience poverty now – will eliminate hardships for the generation that follows.
Part of me wonders if there isn’t a lesson in that. Does meaningful change require hard choices? If you are unwilling to take risks, even risks that might tear your heart out, are you also closing the door to the reward you’re hoping for?
There is so much to write about from the time here in Nepal; investigating local ICT4D projects, visiting various microfranchises, and co-coordinating the workshop on Technology, Creativity and Entrepreneurship.
Perhaps the most valuable thing for me personally, however, was meeting this great teacher who reminded me of a cross between the wisdom of Yoda, the persevering integrity of Gandhi, and the playfulness of Rafiki (from the Lion King).
Prof. Dr. Radha Krishna Kherwar is 72, but says he feels like he has the energy of a 16 year old. He could have had government positions, but instead dedicated his life to teaching — feeling that was the best thing he could do for his community and country. So he has produced for over 40 years engineers and doctors, government and civic leaders, students who go against the grain of corruption here in Nepal.
It was so refreshing to see his work, as so many of the countries I visit are stiffled in growth (regardless of amount of aid or natural resources) because of corruption.
Dr. Kherwar and I quickly bonded, and I wanted to share a little of this wonderful man’s words and philosophy with you here in this video. (please forgive the video work, I was multitasking as I was recording:)
As I was at the airport and getting ready to leave, he told me that although it was hard for us to separate, with love we are always connected.
– What are your thoughts about Dr. Radha Krishna’s philosophy on teaching and life?
– Of all your teachers, which one(s) was your favorite, and why?
This blog post is brought to you by the letters J, A, S, O, and N.
There is an old screenwriter’s rule-of-thumb:
If someone reading your script tells you it has a problem, they’re probably right.
If they try to tell you exactly what’s wrong, they’re right half the time.
If they try to tell you how to fix it, they’re almost always wrong.
Think about it – even the most casual consumer of stories has literally spent thousands of hours listening to them – in the movies, on television, or even sitting around the living room with Mom and Dad. All of us are experts at listening to stories, so when we hear a story that doesn’t work our expertise let’s us know. But fewer of us are experts at analyzing stories, and even fewer are expert at creating them. So our success at giving advice is those areas is more hit-and-miss. Not that we aren’t capable – just that we haven’t paid the price to learn how.
So the wise screenwriter listens with both ears to people’s reactions to a script, but ignores most suggestions on how to fix the problem, instead relying on his or her instincts.
Do these screenwriting tips translate into taking feedback in other areas of life?
A small company in Utah recently went through a few rounds of layoffs. I bet you can repeat along with me how they announced it to employees.
It’s nothing personal, but . . .
Well, in these tough times sometimes you just have to . . .
The reality of 21st century business means we can’t be loyal for loyalty’s sake . . .
I’m sure you’ve heard it before. And I don’t want to come across as hard on them. Of course, sometimes these things are unavoidable.
But a friend of mine, between the second and third rounds of downsizing, decided he wanted to leave on his own terms. He found a great opportunity, and tendered his resignation.
Can you predict how the company reacted?
How could you?!?!?!
What ever happened to loyalty?!?!?!
You have no idea how tough it will be for us to deal with this!!!!
Is it really ethical to leave in this economic climate?!?!?
Again, so I don’t come across harsher than I intend, I’m sure they did consider my friend an invaluable asset, and were legitimately scared about what they would do without him. But yes, you read it right. When the company was the one being affected, out came the language of honor, dependability, and fidelity. When they were affecting others, the language was that of formality, neutrality, and everyone-for-themselves. It seems like a law of modern business.
But is it a law that we want to drive our economy? What is it that should drive our economy? Let me postulate that it isn’t the business need, but the human need that should be given priority. After all, weren’t the employees let go also counting on company loyalty? Won’t it be tough for them to deal with being laid off? And (dare I say it?) shouldn’t we think deeply about how ethical it is to let employees go in this economic climate?
This approach to business relations is not only evident in the employer/employee relationship. I’ve also noticed it in the field I’m most familiar with – education. Many schools, including the most prestigious universities, are starting to see themselves as little more than training institutes for big business (Businesses need well-trained employees, don’t they?). But we don’t ask about the consequences for the educational system, or ultimately the students who are being short-changed for life while they are being trained for jobs that might not exist when they graduate. I’ve even heard administrators who are reluctant to try innovative educational practices for fear of how their business partners would react (won’t it make it harder for them to select the most qualified employees?), rather than considering whether the innovation will help students develop into kinder, gentler, more compassionate people.
I want to live in a world where businesses value their employees not because of what those employees can do, but because of who those employees are. I believe that if employees trusted corporations to take care of them, they would take care of the corporation. After all, that’s what good relationships are about, aren’t they? Taking care of each other?
But I also believe there are virtues and behaviors that should be admired for their own merits, and not only when they are instrumental in achieving other, business-driven ends. Treating people right is just the right thing to do, even when it isn’t measurable by the latest Six Sigma Whatever. Aren’t we really interested in developing people who are capable of discovering and expressing the passion, wonder, and joy of the world? Shouldn’t we be?
Of course, it’s almost heresy to suggest this, isn’t it?
There are so many good people right now that are swimming in debt, losing their homes, or just feeling a ton of fear and uncertainty regarding their own financial situation as well as the financial security of their country and the world.
The old plan — study hard, get a good job, work hard, and save what you earn — does not work anymore.
The current education system does not prepare students to understand money or the financial system, and sadly many academics fail to even emphasize its importance or impact on almost everything we do.
* In 1913 the Federal Reserve was created, even though the Founding Fathers were very much against a national bank that controlled the money supply. It is not federal or American, it has no reserves, and it is not a bank. This is a bold statement, but there is a good argument that it basically creates a way for the rich to continue to print money, when needed, to stay in power.
* In 1971, without authorization from congress, President Nixon sealed the deal when he severed the relationship between the US Dollar and Gold. This led to the largest economic boon in the history of the world (and today, in 2009, that boom has busted). Basically, instead of raising taxes, the government can borrow money. And when the dollar is not tied to gold or anything of concrete value, it is simply valued based on the perception of the ability of the lender to repay the amount. The ability for the printing of money without tie to gold, and in order to cover the debts we owe, etc — is where the concerns regarding inflation become disconcerting.
* In August 2007, after one of the largets home mortgage providers in America declared bankruptcy, and problems with sub-prime loans became more evident, global credit started to freeze. To attempt to mitigate the problem, in the span of 3 working days the European Central Bank pumped almost 204 billion Euros into the system (to try and stimulate lending and liquidity).
* On October 9, 2007, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at a historic high of 14,164. Things looked good on the surface, so the US presidential campaign virtually glossed over the issue of the economy.
* On Sept 29, 2008, less than a year later, the Dow plunged the single largest amount in its history, dropping 777 points in one day. In the first week of October, 2008, the Dow dropped another 2,380 points.
* June 2009 – the US Government announced it had spent a $94.32 billion budget deficit in the month of June alone, totaling $1.086 trillion deficit in the first 9 months of 2009 alone.
* July 2009 – Being 18 months into the recession, the national US unemployment rate now is standing at 9.5% (with most analysts expect it to grow past 10%). In Michigan, unemployment has reached 15%, the largest unemploment rate in a state for over three decades.
* By September 2009, 650,000 Americans will have used up all of their unemployment benefits (which last a standard of 26 weeks) — with a total of 4.4 million people expected to eventually find this same fate. Other parts of the world are in a catch 22, frightened by how dependent they have become on such a flawed system and at the same time wanting the US economy to succeed because so much of their economy is based on US consumers, etc.
Following the old rules of money (e.g. get a stable job, save, live off of retirement funds, etc) — especially when the entire financial system has changed so much – is simply not going to work. In the Agrarian Age, and even the Industrial Age, financial literacy was not as important, as working hard and saving were usually enough.
Today it is not enough.
Understanding rules of money regarding 1. taxes, 2. debt (good uses and bad uses), and 3. inflation, are key in avoiding a lot of the pain that comes when intelligent people feel helpless in the current financial situation.
Can politicians save us?
In September 2008, President Bush passed a bill for $700 billion in bailout money, promising to fix a system that was broken. His father did a similar thing, requesting $66 billion to bailout the Savings and Loan Industry, which shortly went under, and the “rescue” package ended up costing tax payers more like $150 billion. Why would we think that bailout money was going to fix the system? Makes it hard to trust.
President Obama’s slogan is Change We Can Believe In, yet why does he have so many of the same economic advisers as the Clinton administration?
Robert Rubin, Larry Summers, and Timothy Geithner all contributed to the repeal of the Glass-Steagal Act of 1933, which was put in place after the last great depression to protect us against the risky banking investments (e.g. the derivative investments) that brought the collapse. Why would they repeal it in the first place, and then why would we want them to lead the financial future of our country now?
Why would Obama employ the same men who contributed so much to the current problem? Because politicians are usually in place to maintain the system, not to change it. Perhaps he will be able to change it, but how with the current system and players in place is that possible? It seems unlikely.
In mid-December 2008, USA Today asked the banks what they were doing with the bailout money.
* JP Morgan Chase (received $25 billion) said “We have not disclosed that to the public. We are declining to.”
* Morgan Stanley (received $10 billion) said “We are going to decline to comment on your story.”
* The Bank of New York Mellon responded “We’re choosing not to disclose that.”
The truth is that it seems the “bailout” is really a bailout for the rich. It is a way whereby taxpayers can pay for the mistakes, and protect the system of supporting the wealthiest individuals and organizations.
Some of the proof lies in trying to find out what happened to the money ($148 billion) that was intended to stimulate lending? The Wall Street Journal reported that there was a decrease in lending by 10 of the top 13 bank recipients of the TARP program.
If any of this seems controversial and confusing to you, join the crowd. Assuming even a portion of it is true, then the question is what can we do?
One of the first steps is becoming more educated about money (and the system behind it). This will help you to be in control of it, instead of letting it control you.
I know this is a ramble which is seemingly not aligned with my typical blog entries, but it is just so important to talk more about, especially when so many people are in such a vulnerable situation.
I could keep on spew out info, but the essence of what I am trying to say is that financial knowledge (including wise approaches to taxes, debt, and inflation) are so important. Knowledge is power.
What’s your thoughts:
* Do you feel becoming financially literate is important? Why or why not?
* If so, where have been your best sources for educating yourself financially?
If you are concerned about the current state of the economy at all, here are some thoughts that might help…
So I was invited a couple months ago, by the turn-around expert Tony Robbins, to join a small international Business Mastermind Group led by himself and the business guru Chet Holmes — an idea Tony had to get a certain group of people together to talk about how to not just endure this economy, but how to really utilize this unique time for massive growth.
It has been a fascinating experience that I really should blog more about. In addition to sharing his own insights, he is inviting intelligent and talented people in different sectors of society to speak to the group via conference calls about once every two weeks. And the quality of the other members of the group has impressed me.
While trying not to be too long winded, here are just a couple thoughts which might be of interest (and of course are open to discussion – I’m always interested in your thoughts too).
Two analogies Seasons – One flaw most of us humans have is that we often think if something is headed a certain direction that it will always head that direction (when it is bad we fear it will just get worse). The truth is that every year goes through seasons, and every economy does too. Although we are headed into the winter of the economic cycle, even winters can have some benefits. The darker it gets as you head into the night, the more sure you are that you are getting closer to the morning.
Forrest fires – Just as winter can be beneficial, even forest fires serve a purpose. They help to clear away a lot of the waste in the old, and provide the nourishment and light for the new growth to appear. The winter in the economic cycle can also do precisely that same thing.
What NOT to do!
You know you are headed in the wrong direction if you are doing any one of these three things:
1. Believing your problems are permanent – when you start to think any problem is permanent, you get into a state of “learned helplessness”, and will not be resourceful. Remember, no problem is permanent — don’t let this thought ever get into your mind or the mind (of people on your team, if you have one). Who do you know without any problems? All problems do is show you where there is an area where there is room for some more perspective, feedback, creativity, etc. (see below)
2. Believing your problems are pervasive – if there is a problem in one area of your life or business, it does not mean your whole life or business is doomed.Pervasiveness is almost always a lie. It usually comes from fear and hijacks our minds. There are most likely several areas where you are kick-butt awesome. What you focus on expands, so while it is wise to know where the problem areas are, do not lose sight of the strengths you can rightly claim.
3. Believing your problems are personal – this is one of the most easy and destructive things you could do. Thinking things like: “It is about me. If only I wasn’t __” “I just don’t have the skill, etc.” – Well, no one has all the skill. You have certain talents which you can focus on. As you grow, you will need talent with others who are talented in different areas in order to really do something together that you can’t do on your own. If you think any problem is personal, it is because you are being too dependent on yourself, too hard on yourself, not seeing what you are good at, and not allowing others to be good at what they do too.
What to do
Utilize this time to rediscover the world and your place in it – to tap into the resourceful, innovative side of yourself. There absolutely is a purpose for your existence on this earth (with family, and also likely something that you will contribute to your community or the world). Similar to the seasons, the larger economy will shift even if you just wait and do nothing.
But why not utilize this time to your benefit? In order to see a shift in your work, you probably need to first have a shift in you — in your own sense of innovation and resourcefulness.
Here are 5 innovation ideas…With any problem or opportunity (personal or professional) you need to get:
– New voices– Ask yourself, what are the new voices I need? What are criteria I need in these new voices? (someone to model, someone with a skill set, someone with resources, perspectives, etc) Who could help innovate? Who would be on the cutting edge here? In having these new conversations, talk to the people, engage them, don’t judge them, go back and forth, brainstorm all ideas out there first, don’t kill ideas too early.
– New Questions (and ask these questions to yourself as well as to the new voices) – Bill Gates, richest man in the world, asked this question: “How do I become the intelligence that runs all computers?” He didn’t even develop the Microsoft software. He bought MS dos for 50K, then he innovated it, which saved a lot of time. Now his focus is more how to make a difference in non-profit area. What questions do you ask yourself? What are some new questions you need to ask right now? (if you can’t think of any, get new voices and they will come with new questions)
– New Perspectives – Go to new places to stimulate new perspectives. Your life is different when you experience these things. For example, Nokia – they keep their market share by innovating all the time, getting to know perspective of customer – they actually go to where their customer is. Nokia sent tech people out all over, and the idea that they came back with was to have phones with different colors – and gave customers the ability to design their own color on Internet. Business exploded by 20% in a way no technical innovation could ever have done. Go to new homes, new companies, new communities – don’t just talk to people on phone or online – get in these new environments, and it will spark new ideas.
–New Passions – When you have new people and they open up and feel ready to share, it provides new passions. If you don’t quite know what you are passionate about – do the first three and usually passions appear. Especially if those in leadership positions reinforce and encourage themselves and others to do things that are exciting to them – things that they can feel passionate about.
– New Experiments – Try strategic innovation experiments. Google gives people 25% of time to work on something not directly related to core business, a “skunk works”. Give yourself (and team if you have one) an opportunity to tap into passion and run with it. Take risks, break rules, be a bit of maverick – this is often critical to taking your life to the next level.
How does the economic situation influences Developing Countries (and ICT4D)?
Here’s a video I created for my ICT4D class about the effect of the economy on developing countries, and one reason why ICT4D is attractive. I filmed it while here in Washington D.C., after recently being in Trinidad and Guyana where I presented progress on our Consortium to the ACP Secretariat and European Union PMU.
Some questions to discuss:
* Why are the economies of developing countries more vulnerable and influenced with fluctuations in the global economy?
* Why are they open to getting hit so much harder than developed regions?
* What role might ICT4D play in providing more stability for developing countries?
* What obstacles would need to be overcome in order to utilize ICT4D for these benefits?
I recently watched as a man cared so passionately about those around him that their lives were transformed into something so much more beautiful, healthy and alive.
I saw with my own eyes how this man took one person after another – people that were in so much visible pain, even to the point that they thought they wanted to take their lives – and with this pure, powerful and joyful love (full of blunt honesty, humor, and heart) they saw truths in themselves which shifted their view of everything!
Even when they were mean and cruel to him, through the questions he asked and comments he made, he discovered and saw past their mask to the core of them, and helped them see it too.
He guided them to discover for themselves where the suffering in their lives really came from, and assisted them in uncovering where those beliefs came from. He then invited them to consciously decide whether to keep the old beliefs they unconsciously developed over time or to see a different picture which is more true to the core of what they really want and who they really are.
In realizing the meaning they attached to the past in a new light, they could see an opening, an awakening of a compelling future, and their whole physiology and focus changed. It was obvious there was not pretense or pretending in their change – it was real and deep.
He did the same with people in relationships where couples had become so blinded to who they were and who their partner is that they were either simply complacent through losing the joy and passion in their relationship, or they were actually vicious to each other. In a few hours, relationships that seemed hopelessly lost to me were revived with passion, hope, meaning and excitement.
It is amazing how frequently all of us tell ourselves disempowering stories about ourselves, others and the world which just aren’t true. Ironically we usually do to protect ourselves from our two greatest human fears: 1. that we are not enough, and 2. that because we are not enough, we will not be loved.
There is so much power when someone can be bold and honest from a place of love (a love which we can not deny if we are being honest) and help us see how the map we have been using to see the world has elements in it that do not serve the core of who we really are and who we are really meant to be. The result can be instantaneous in how new, colorful, and alive everything seems, how it even breaths life and excitement into things that we once thought were dead (our passion, our relationships, our emotions, our purpose, our life).
So, what is a miracle?
Perhaps one of the most beautiful and powerful miracles is each time a human being sees, feels, and knows a bit more of who they really are – instead of who they think they have to be – and through living that truth they lift and inspire us all to want to do the same.
Life really is meant to be lived and experienced with passion – as human beings we are meant to dream, grow, and love others so completely that we forget about ourselves in a pursuit to give them (especially the woman or man of our dreams) what they need most – love, growth, excitement, absolute trust and dedication, honesty, laughter, and joy.
I just finished participating in an interesting seminar in Las Vegas and a shorter seminar in Toronto. One of the most memorable events was in Las Vegas when we were separated into groups to do something that seemed unlikely to accomplish. I was put into a group that was given the assignment to put on a “Hug Clinic” where in a period of only a few hours we needed to raise $1000 to be donated to a charity of our choice – and not using any money from our own team. At the same time, each of us had a personal challenge – to do something or act in a role that would help us overcome a personal fear.
So we wrote on our t-shirts, made some signs, and went out on the streets to start hugging people and asking for donations.
With only 1 and a half hours left, we still only had just over one hundred dollars.
This motivated us to engage a couple of new strategies. I was totally surprised that when our time limit had ended and we had collected $1049 for the Las Vegas children’s hospital!!!
One of our new strategies was to try and get my friend Neil on stage in front of a crowd somehow. After talking to the M.C. of a big outdoor stage show he gave recognition to us and our cause – and then we were able to go around the audience (with a beautiful girl helping us) giving hugs and collecting over $500 in about an hour!
I hugged one woman, told them about our cause to raise money for the Las Vegas children’s hospital, and her husband gave me $10. Out of gratitude I gave her another hug. Then her husband paid me $20 more dollars to stop hugging his wife. 🙂
There were a ton of other funny, meaningful, and life-changing memories from the event (gathering a crowd pretending like we won on the slot machines, trying to get a ‘Siamese twin discount’ with my brother, McDonald’s moment of uniting the whole restaurant in a few moments, karaoke dancing, “power hugs”, people guessing my brother, friend, and I were Mormon because we seemed pure and were having “way too much fun for guys who have not been drinking”, etc.) – but here are just a few of my favorite quotes from the seminar itself:
“If things are difficult to do, sometimes it takes a little while to accomplish them. If things are ‘impossible’ to do, it just takes a little longer.”
“Never trust an ‘enlightened being’ that does not dance… You are invited to the party of loving life – so start showing it.”
“Something that often stops people from moving forward is fear (e.g. fear of rejection).”
“Fear does not necessarily mean STOP. It just means PAY ATTENTION.”
“The world is going to be the way the world is going to be. The question is – how are YOU going to be in the world.”
“Ask the powerful questions.”
“Don’t worry about what you can’t do. Decide what you can do. As you take the step you can take, the next one will emerge.”
I have just been in Florida for the last 4 days, where I saw how powerful this principle is. My brother, Gerald Rogers, had an idea about two months ago to put together a multi-speaker event, which he invited me to, but I had no idea what to expect. Well, in that short period of time he lined up some of the most powerful speakers (people like Tony Robbins‘ son Jairek, the business guru an NY times best selling author Chet Holmes, Than Merrill and other TV personalities, former sports stars and incredibly successful entrepreneurs), over a thousand people signed up to come, and for the hundreds of people who actually attended – it is quite possible everyone left with their lives dramatically changed for the better (including me)!
Gerald Rogers with Than Merrill
Testimonial Video (after just the first day)
Gerald had really never done anything like this before! But perhaps being driven by a passion to make other people’s lives better invites the universe to conspired with you — as it did with helping Gerald succeed in creating a world-class event! In addition to the speakers, I was impressed so much by the quality of the other friends I met there too. It seemed impossible to walk out of the experience we just had without being inspired and recognizing how this might indeed be one of the best times ever in the history of the world – and being motivated to take advantage of opportunities which are present and to really make a difference.
When I think about my brother, there are few people in my life that can make me laugh as hard or feel as loved as he does. Now there are few people who have done as much to inspire me to believe more in myself and think bigger. And it makes me so happy to see how Gerald is now thinking bigger in a way that allows hundreds (and no doubt thousands) more to benefit from the gifts and talents that God gave him.
What if I told you that in two months from now you could help do something that would forever improve the lives of hundreds of people (both those you know and love as well as those you have never met)? Would you believe me that you could – and then have the courage to make it happen?
How much more could you do to make this world a better place, if only you had the courage to think bigger, focus, and follow through?
What are the strengths and talents that God has given you, so that you can make this world a better place?
What is it that is holding you back from doing that — and what could help you to eliminate the fear or mediocrity in your life so that you could increase your belief in yourself and your ability to think bigger?
Several times in my life I’ve heard a saying that goes
“The past is history; The future is a mystery. This moment is a gift — that’s why it is called the present.”
To be honest, previously I just saw it as a clever little saying and then didn’t think much more about it.
It has only been in the last year that I have really been struck with the idea of how powerful it is to live in the moment. (Appreciating the idea, however, is very different from actually living the application of it, which is still difficult for me). I watched a movie called “The Peaceful Warrior” (that I would highly recommend) which helped me see the importance of letting go of some control (or illusion of control) and the value of living in this moment, right now. Most of the time our minds are worried about something in the future which we can’t control or contemplating something in the past, for better or worse – but rarely do we stop and enjoy or even just experience right now, which is really the only thing we have.
I’ve now talked to 4 friends (two from the US – one of which was in India, one from Germany living in Finland, and one from France living in China) who have attended a Vipassana meditation course (absolutely free of charge) where you try to apply this principle through 10 days of total silence and Buddhist meditation – just trying to focus your mind on the experience of now. Each has said that for most people the first days are way more difficult than they would imagine, and even painful (being left with nothing but your thoughts, fears, doubts, regrets, uncertainties and trying to focus on the moment, without talking for the entire time – one of my friends could only last a few days). The three that were able to make it all 10 days said that by the end of the experience their life was changed – one of the most powerful experiences they have ever had.
It is more personal than I usually get on my blog, but over the last two weeks I’ve been experiencing some pretty intense “soul pain” (the kind of emotional grief which can seem at times worse than physical pain). I read some scriptures in The Book of Mormon which talk about the value of “today”, and I thought about my friends who have attended this Vipassana course. While feeling a deep sadness, I started to ask the questions: How is it possible to value this moment when I am in pain now?
How can I focus on now and not think of past joy and/or hope somehow for a better future than the present moment?
What is there to see of value in this very moment, even when the moment is one filled with pain, sadness, and/or uncertainty?
I had a few experiences (which I might or might not share later) where I came to understand some of the answers to these questions for my situation, helping to provide meaning for being in the moment, even if it was hard and regardless of what happened in the past or what the future held.
One friend of mine shared with me some stories of others in her life who are going through some pretty severe trials, and it reminded me of hearing a poignant thing from President Henry B. Eyring when he indicated that you could go up to almost anyone and instead of asking “How are you doing?” – you could ask “Where does it hurt?”
So that makes me curious for anyone reading this: How would you answer those questions (e.g. for the hard times you have gone through)?
Do you think it is possible to treasure (or at least value) a moment even when that moment is filled with sadness, pain, and uncertainty? Why and How?
Even when unpleasant, how can you want to experience and be in this moment, as opposed to any other ones that you could imagine?
Taking the ideas from the last two entries (about mistakes in development/ aid – wanting to help but making things worse) – I wanted to share a coule specific examples that are representative of many of the mistakes I have seen here in Uganda with ICT4D projects (Information and Communication Technology for Development).
About 4 hours outside of Kampala, I drove with two friends to an area that was nick-named the “wireless village”. Essentially, in the middle of nowhere Africa, some people from the US (Inveneo) had spent a ton of money to create a way for 5 remote huts (in an area without even electricity) to receive wireless Internet access that the community could use for free.
The roads got so bad that we had to park the car and walk to the first “kiosk” location – actually a man’s home. Everything is powered by solar panels that the man of the house maintains, and works through high-powered antennae and satellites. And people from the community or rural areas come to access everything from market prices for goods to new farming practices to email access (email surprisingly was the least utilized, because most of the people they knew were in the villages). It was such a big deal that I was told even CNN came out to do a story on it, and (to my surprise), the people I talked with actually used it and really appreciated having it – at least for two years until about 6 months ago when one part broke and the whole system crashed. The part can not be found in Africa, and it seems like the American partners are less than responsive about coming to fix it any time soon. The village people now blame the local staff who were left in charge. The one person taught to maintain it has now moved on to a different city and job, the people continue to wonder if it will ever work again, and in the mean time the technology collects dust.
At the same time, children in a near-by refugee camp are dying at an alarming rate because of a lack of food, water, and inexpensive anti-malaria medication.
I visited a similar telecenter and community radio project (with initial funding by UNESCO and other big boys), powered by huge solar conductors – and once it was set up the partners pulled out. Now the simple costs of Internet access (which are way more than rent) are forcing the operation to raise and sell pigs and produce on the side to try desperately to stay operational. And in the mean time, they also have a part that broke which they need someone to come out and fix before the Internet is up and running again.
Similar to the famous anthropologist Margaret Mead’s observation regarding development in the 1950s – people brought tractors to developing countries to increase their productivity, but quickly fuel would run out, or part breaks and no one could fix it – so this wasted technology cluttered the ground like an elephant graveyard.
The main problem
As I see it, perhaps this is because most of development (especially in ICT4D) seems to come because people develop a pet project (and/or technology) and in order to make themselves feel good (and sometimes in order to capture an untapped market) they try to find poor places in the world to inflict it upon. It isn’t really done for the people, but for the donor or volunteers (to feel good). They literally want to help in the worst way.
It is easy for us all to see the world (and the lives of the people we are intervening in) through the lens of our discipline, or academia, or our business industry, etc… & asking what we can do to “help” these “poor people” who are “less fortunate” than us through those myopic lenses.
Any better ideas?
In trying to think of better ways to be involved in the lives of other people, here is what I have come up with – but I am interested in what you think about it.
Instead of what I described above — why not try as much as possible to take off your predisposed lenses, and just see people in developing countries as humans first (not potential recipients of your specific pre-determined project/research – but humans, with hopes and fears and dreams as real as your own). If you want to be involved in their lives, before predetermining a project or specific outcome, why not first discover what their most pressing needs are (in light of your own as well) and see if there can be some synergy. Instead of you being the benefactor and them the beneficiary – why not try to build relationships where you try to listen more than speak and you each work together (a two-way flow) in order to synergistically create something better than either could on your own!
After all, what is the most valuable use of our brainpower, resources, time, network, energy? And at the very least, how can we do more good than harm?
I liked coming across this sign on the main street in Kampala city-center (click on it to see the full image). Maybe it is symbolic of what happens to people when they come to Uganda.
Well, in reference to my last blog entry, I knew I could do better if I had more time. So I went back yesterday (my first free day) and decided to spend as much time as I could with these kids – to find out more about who they really are, what their life is like, and what their real needs are.
Finding the boys
After making the 2 hour journey from Kampala to Jinja I figured I would start by going to the “American Super Market”. Only I did not see a single kid there – and it started to rain, so I was afraid I wouldn’t see any.
Well, on my way to the taxi park one kid popped out of nowhere with his hand outstretched.
I tried to talk to him, but he did not understand either English or the little of Lugandan that I have learned. A parking guard came over and tried to help me speak with him. Within a short period of time, three more of the kids came over.
We walked to a little table under an overhang where we could get out of the rain and I could talk a more with them. The guard and a man at the next table over tried to help translate my questions and explain to me more about what they knew of who these kids were and where they came from. The man who was helping me ended up being a teacher at a local primary school – a school with 600 children attending, 300 of which are orphans.
Learning more about who they are
These particular kids I was speaking with (whose names I found out were Mio, Moru, Ocuro, Abra, and Shira) actually came from the northern part of Uganda and didn’t speak much Lugandan or English at all, so even these men had difficulty communicating with them. But slowly we were able to get more information. They are from the Karamajou tribe, and came to Jinja either because of the insurgency (where their fathers had been killed) or simply because it was too dry and they could not grow any food. I asked the kids where they stayed and they told me “Masese” – a little squatter camp area out away from town for refugees. I asked them if they would take me to see it, and they agreed to.
The teacher walked with us to help translate. As we walked through town it seemed like more and more boys kept joining us until everyone in town was looking at our little parade. Many of the boys followed us to the edge of town, but did not want to go with me to Masese. Later as we were walking the little ones that came with said in Lugandan “The other ones had fear.” I asked why, but they did not give much of an answer, other than that they did not want me to see where they lived.
But five boys walked with us the whole way, playing with their “toys” (an old tire and used CDs they found on the street) as we walked. And it was a long walk – through a little squatter camp area, over a railroad track, through a huge field of corn – and during our walking we talked. The teacher found out that not all of them were orphans, as they still had at least one parent, and that some had already been helped by one NGO to be able to start going to school.
Without mentioning that I was the one who was the mzungu (white person), I told the teacher about the M&M story from last week and asked him to see if any of these boys had been there and what they did after the car drove away. I was touched to find out I was wrong about what happened. One of the boys explained that there were not enough M&Ms for everyone, so they broke some of them in half in order to give some to each boy.
Visiting where they live
Finally we reached near the place that they lived. I smelled it before I could see it – as there was a stench from a waste area which we had to walk past.
Shortly after passing it, we came to a crowd of a few adults standing and helping feed a couple dozen dirty little children who were seated on the ground. As soon as they saw me many of them gave surprised cries of “mzungu.”
In this house, someone had just passed away, and so they were in morning. It is tradition when this happens for visitors to come, sign the guest notebook, and leave some money – which I did. I then asked them if it would be OK if I took a picture, and they actually loved the idea. They wanted me to take as many as possible, in each place of Masese that I visited (one woman even requesting that I hold her baby for the picture).
We went one by one to each of the homes of the boys and heard a little more of their story. As one example, the boy in this picture lost his father recently, killed while fighting in the army, and his mother was left with 8 kids – some of which are pictured here. Everywhere we passed, kids (and some adults) would say excitedly “mzungu” and wave to me from their houses or alleys. We met the living members of the families of each of these five boys, and each wanted a picture taken. Each of them was in a difficult situation. I found the names of organizations that were already helping them. I gave the mothers just a small amount of money, and also this time had a lot more M&Ms – to make sure that each child could have at least one.
After talking for quite a while with them, it became time to go.
As we walked out of the settlement to the main road, the kids who walked with us kept asking when they would see me again?
“Anytime,” the teacher said – which he told me means you are not committing to anything.
As we climbed onto the back of a “boda boda” (a motorcycle that acts as a taxi) the teacher told me that they were going to miss their new friend.
The boda motorcycle had a hard time getting started with our weight (the driver, the teacher, and me) so the driver asked the kids to help push – and soon we had enough momentum that they waved to me as we drove away.
It is still a sad situation, however you look at it. But I guess at least this time I did not leave feeling like I had made the situation even worse.
– I took a little more time to find out some more about who they really were and what their needs were.
– I acted much more out of concern than guilt or expediency.
– I went into the situation knowing I needed a lot more M&Ms and with a better distribution method (I made them line up one by one).
– I gave money directly to the mothers and the teacher, who would hopefully get them things the kids need the most.
– I asked the teacher to also give me the names of the organizations that seem to be doing the most to help them already – which I can now contribute to.
– I also got the address for the primary school, as one of my friends who is a teacher in the US (VeNicia) wanted to get her kids to put together a package for them. I emphasized to the teacher that it should be a two-way thing and the kids in Africa should also give something to the kids in the US, even if it was just pictures they drew.
– [Here is a link to comments from the previous entry with some initial ideas about how the specific experience might be analogous to development/aid in general]
Still, my heart goes out to them. I realize that my impact may not be great or transformative for them, but I can at least feel some peace in believing there are actually some things we can do to make the situation a little better for them. And, conversely, that their kindness, noble spirit, and hospitality, regardless of their situation, has also made my life situation better too.
Maybe it is strange, but just looking at the pictures again and hearing their voices in my head makes me miss those kids (my “new friends”) already.