Update: I just laughed a Build a School Fundraiser through Pencils of Promise. To make a donation go here!
“Joel taught me that my assumptions about the nature of charity had been wrong. When we give handouts to those in poverty , we do them a disservice . We create a cruel cycle of dependence. After three days with Joel in his remote village, I left knowing that he now had tools to self-educate. By listening to that portable tape recorder each night, he would learn to speak a new language. More important, he could share his English skills with his family in the years ahead without relying on the assistance of others. My experience with Joel sparked a new curiosity within me. As I traveled on twelve-hour overnight buses through Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, Argentina, Chile, and several other countries during the next three months of backpacking, the pencils I handed to children allowed me to ask their parents what they would want most in the world if they could have anything as well. Though I expected to hear “less corrupt government,” “new roads,” or “a better job,” I was met with the same answer nearly every time: “An education for my child.” It was the same dream Joel had doggedly pursued and the same one Apu had before him.”
-Adam Braun, The Promise of a Pencil: How an Ordinary Person Can Create Extraordinary Change
I’m starting a nonprofit.
I’ve had the idea to do a nonprofit for awhile now, but it was a recent book that spurred me to doing it now instead of later. The book is, “The Promise of a Pencil: How an Ordinary Person Can Create Extradorinaiy Change.”
It’s a great read and I highly recommend it to everyone.
For awhile now, my idea for a nonprofit was to go to areas of need around the world and build outdoor playgrounds using recycled and cheap materials from the local community and local labor. My idea was to do start with one in the Philippines, which is where Rigel, our fill time virtual employee who works for The Training Box, lives.
Now, I plan to do this and much more.
Using the same methodology—and the 10% rule borrowed from the book above—I will be able to build schools, hospitals, wells, agriculture systems and much more. I also want to focus on getting books, pens, pencils and chalk to children to help them learn to read and write and create—again, inspired by the book above.
I will probably start out working with PoP to get the first project done, then, as I learn more, I’ll venture into my own projects through my organization.
I have yet to come up with a full plan and a name, but I have decided to partner the nonprofit with Wild Foods, my new food and supplement company. 15% of all profits will go directly into the nonprofit, with plans to commit more as both each grows and receives more support.
Something I’ve always believed in with philanthropy work is the idea of building self-sufficient systems that give those in need the ability to take care of themselves. PoP does this in which they require 10% of schools be funded by local community. This ensures that parents will be encouraged to send their kids, and that local officials will be invested in wanting the school to be staffed and maintained.
I was first introduced to this idea when I read,“Titan,” the biography of John D. Rockefeller. Rockefeller donated enormous sums to various charities and organizations during his lifetime. He did have guidelines, however, for how the money was spent. He would not invest in any organization that was not self-sufficient, and he demanded that money be used resourcefully and to always be in an interest-bearing account.
This always stuck with me. I realized that just giving money wasn’t the answer. How the funds are used plays an important role in getting real results—which is why transparency and trust for a nonprofit are of paramount importance.
My experience is in building businesses to be self-sufficient systems that create value and generate cash flow without my need to run the machine. This is why I think the for-profit business is the prefect catalyst for funding a nonprofit—and is my idea behind connecting the nonprofit to Wild Foods. As Wild Foods grows, so does the nonprofit. And what’s great about this marriage is the nonprofit won’t have to rely only on a constant supply of donors, which can be inconsistent. If I am able fully fund the nonprofit through the company, I have a self-sustaining organization that can do good no matter what. Then, any donations of fund-raising efforts can go fully into the projects, as they should.
This excites the hell out of me.
Of course, coming to this point in my life was not an easy or short path. We are all natural self-interested individuals that pursue the things we want in life. There’s nothing wrong with this, it is what it is. The problem I have with it is, we are groomed to believe that money, fame and power are the keys to happiness. So we grow up spending our entire lives going to school, building a business or starting a career so we can attain money, fame or power under the impression that these will make us happy.
Of course, this is sooooo flawed.
I’ve been thinking about these things for awhile now; probably 10 years or so since I’ve been working for myself. The more I think about money and success and life, the more I see the signs pointing to the fact that money isn’t the answer.
After moving to a new city where I know no one (Austin, TX), I’ve been doing even more thinking about life and what makes me happy. Here’s what I’ve come to realize….
1. My greatest pleasure in life is spending time with friends and family.
2. The second thing that brings me happiness is helping others.
3. Third on the list of what makes me happy is building things.
These are the main things that bring me fulfillment and happiness. If you look closely, you’ll see that hordes of money isn’t required for any of them. Now, that said, having the freedom to spend time doing these three things does cost money. But it doesn’t cost that much, which is my point and fundamental realization compared to what I thought when I was younger (that money was necessary to be happy). Plus, if I’m able to get paid while doing the three, then that’s a dream scenario.
That’s where the nonprofit comes in—and the for-profit that will be closely aligned with it.
By building a nonprofit I get to do all three things: build an organization and build schools and hospitals and other things through that organization, spend time with friends and family while doing that building and help others.
I see this as a golden opportunity to do something great and live the life I want to life. I’ll be able to scratch my travel itch, be around amazing people, experience new cultures, and build things, all of which make me happy.
There are a few more things I want to say on these topics, so I’m going to say them. Thank you for spending your valued time to read about my story. I hope it inspires you to do something positive in your life!
First, I want to talk about the grass is greener syndrome. We all succumb to this dangerous pitfall from time to time. As human beings, we are slaves to our deceitful brains that can play all kinds of tricks on us, which ultimately sap our happiness and breed discontent. I’m going to show an example by sharing my story.
I don’t have a big family. Though I wish I did. I take my responsibility of building a family and continuing my name and legacy very seriously.
I don’t have a group of friends geographically located around me. Where I grew up, all my friends moved away while I was still there running my two businesses. This means that I have to travel around Florida to see my closest friends, which I don’t get to do as often as I’d like. For those of you that don’t have this problem, I will tell you that it sucks. Having a “tribe” of friends has been scientifically proven to be necessary for living a long, happy and healthy life.
This has been a major gap in my life, and one of the primary reasons I moved to Austin, TX—to build a tribe. The thing is, if I already had a tribe of friends, this wouldn’t be a problem for me, and as a result, I might fall into chasing other shinny things while taking for granted this aspect of my life. And this is exactly what many do.
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: We always want what we don’t have. It’s the most common pitfalls that we fall into when pursuing happiness. It’s the reason that you see people that seemingly have everything yet make crazy and illogical mistakes like cheating on their spouse or having some other mid-life crisis that destroys their career and family life. Why is this so? Well, there are obviously many reasons but overall I would say that they failed to be grateful for what they had. Because they were so focused on what they didn’t have, they were inclined to find something else that they thought would be “better,” or that would fulfill them. Obviously this never works.
Tony Robbins has an answer for this problem and it’s called “Gratitude.” (I highly recommend his Personal Power program.) Since I’ve started incorporating more gratitude into my life (via a gratitude practice), I’ve noticed myself feeling much happier. I also think it’s helped me on my path to finding my purpose and what I want to do with my life—a la nonprofit and Wild Foods.
Lesson: express gratitude.
The second thing that has led me on this path is what I do for a living, namely my businesses. I own two businesses that provide for my source of income. While they do require work, they don’t require what I called “scheduled work.” This means that I can work from anywhere in the world, anytime I want. The common buzzword for this is, “location independence.”
It’s always been my dream to make my income from the Internet in some way. I kind of do that now even though my businesses are brick and mortar business. Technology has given me the ability to live a lifestyle in which I can live in Austin, Texas, while still running businesses in Florida.
For those of you with a “scheduled work” type of job or career, this might sound like heaven to you. (Remember: we always want what we don’t have.) But let me tell you, it can be lonely and not always easy.
I miss having a “workplace” where I am around people. This might sound backwards to you, but it’s the truth. Of course, I have the Entrepreneur sickness where I have to work for myself, so a job is just out to the question, but being around people is a part of living a healthy life, as science and our ancestors have shown us.
The nonprofit will solve this problem in more ways than one. First, philanthropy will allow me to meet many successful, creative and intelligent people (which I want to do). Second, I will be able to build an organization with volunteers, and eventually, a full staff all working together to do great things. This is exactly the type of environment I want to be in.
When I think of making lost of money, and the countless (literally countless) number of people in Western society that live their entire lives completely for themselves, I feel sad. I see this as missing the point. I don’t think people choose this life, it just kind of happens as a byproduct of our society. But I think it is a live that is mostly unfulfilled. Listen, I’m not being judgmental. I’ve lived this life plenty myself. The standard of living in our society is very hard to maintain even when it’s our full-time focus. I totally get it. It’s Maslow hierarchy of needs: No human being has time or energy to spare helping others when they are struggling to put food on the table or pay rent. The problem is with those that continually chase hollow fulfillment and spend money in a way that they think will make them happy—like wasting money at clubs, drinking, going to bars, etc. It’s fine to do these things in moderation—I do myself—but what if you gave up one of these nights every week to volunteer or do something to help others? It doesn’t take much.
This is why the Pencils of Promise message is so inspiring—it shows us that through the Internet and crowdsourcing, anyone, regardless of financial means, can make a difference. The old ways of making millions of dollars and then donating it to select organizations is a thing of the past. Philanthropy can be an integral part of everyone’s life. You don’t have to quit your day job or fly across the world; You can volunteer your time, skills or dollars. You can help spread the word of causes you believe in. You can take one night out a week to make a difference. As PoP has proven, the effect that the individual can have in his or her spare time adds up to an enormous effect.
Now you have an idea of how I ended up at this point in my life and where I am headed. 2015 is going to be an exciting year, and I hope it will be for you as well!
I highly recommend the book by Adam Braun. Buy it here on Amazon. If you want to support them directly, go to the site: PenclsofPromise.org
If you want to support Wild Foods and the nonprofit soon to be formed, you can visit us here: WildFoods.co.
As always, I appreciate any feedback or comments. If you know anyone I should connect with in the Austin area, please let me know!