1. A Changed Generation
Scott Harrison is the founder of Charity Water, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing clean and safe drinking water to people in developing nations. As of January 15th, Charity Water has raised over $40 million to benefit 6,185 projects in 19 countries (that’s over 2,545,000 people).
“For me, charity is practical. It’s sometimes easy, more often inconvenient, but always necessary. It’s the ability to use one’s position of influence, relative wealth and power to affect lives for the better. Charity is singular and achievable.”
What’s interesting about Scott’s story is that he went from an NYC nightclub and fashion promoter to a West African photojournalist. He traded in his admittedly selfish, arrogant lifestyle to volunteer aboard a floating hospital that serviced the world’s poorest nations. Facing unhappiness and spiritual bankruptcy in the Big Apple, he headed for poverty in Liberia.
Lesson: You will discover true happiness in delivering it to others. Find out what truly inspires and motivates the people around you. Then, make the investment (time or money) and deliver it to them.
2. The Mother of Revolution
Tawakkul Karman is the youngest woman and the first Arab woman to have won a Nobel Peace Prize. Following in the footsteps of leaders like Mahatma Gandhi and Babu Jagjivan Ram, she inspired millions of people around the Arab world to peacefully fight against the dictatorship and discrimination of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
“Women are capable and have the right to be empowered and recognized. I am the first Arab woman to win a Nobel Prize for Peace, and I feel this is an achievement not only for me, but for all Arab and Muslim women.”
Tawakkul has given a face to women’s rights, children’s rights and peaceful revolution in the Arab nation. Instead of allowing the government to destroy the economy and personal security, she stood up and presented a solution. After successfully leading the charge against the dictatorship, she was asked to lead the country through the transitional period, but she refused in order to remain an unbiased advocate.
Lesson: Know when to go with the flow, but be prepared to change the tides. Develop strategic plans as a guide for business and personal development, but be willing to recognize the need to pivot when plans change.
3. Filling a Crack
Jonny Imerman is the founder of Imerman Angels, a non-profit organization that connects people battling cancer with survivors just like them. The network introduces cancer patients to survivors of the same gender who battled the same type of cancer at around the same age. Currently, Imerman Angels provides support to hundreds of people battling cancer.
“There was a crack in the system that I saw along the way during my treatment. I think every survivor lucky enough to live has an obligation of the cured to give back and find a crack. To either join someone else who is working on a crack. Or if it’s not being done, fill that crack. To make it better for people that follow. For me, that crack in the system was isolation.”
The idea came to Jonny when he was diagnosed with testicular cancer at 26. While his family and friends were supportive, he met a number of fellow cancer fighters who did not have a support system. He also struggled to connect with someone his age that had beaten the same type of cancer. With that, he founded an organization that would support cancer fighters around the world.
Lesson: Empower others to succeed where they fear they might fail. Lead by example (or find someone who can). Highlight someone who has been in the exact same position and succeeded (even if it was after failing initially).
4. A Slow Passion
Carlo Petrini is the founder of Slow Food International, an organization dedicated to countering the rise of fast food and fast life by promoting small-scale and sustainable production of quality foods. Over 100,000 people across 1,300 chapters and 2,000 food communities have adopted the movement to date.
“The network of small local economies is stronger than the multinationals because it has its feet in the soil. The global market economy is destroying the Earth. We give more strength to local economies and we have better sustainability, better human relations and no need to fly food halfway around the world.”
The movement first started in the 1980s, when Carlo took part in a campaign against a McDonald’s opening in Rome. Despite the campaign’s failure, his desire to lead the crusade against the homogeneity, globalization and environmental unsustainability that the McDonald’s restaurant represented only grew.
Lesson: Small failures are the building blocks of magnificent success. When you talk about your story, embrace the failed attempts that led to the big success. Be clear about the fact that everyone fails and empower others to try again.
5. Attitude is Altitude
Nick Vujicic was born with a rare disease known as tetra-amelia, which left him without arms or legs. After struggling both mentally and physically with his disability, he found strength in faith and transformed his life “from limbless to limitless”.
“I have the choice to either be angry at God for what I don’t have or be thankful for what I do have. That’s when I started seeing that there is no point in being complete on the outside when you’re broken on the inside. I knew arms and legs wouldn’t give me peace anyway. I need to know the truth of who I am, why I’m here and where I’m going when I’m not here. It’s so hard to be strong when people constantly say you’re not good enough. Go away! In life, if you don’t know the truth, you can’t be free.”
Nick founded Life Without Limbs, a non-profit organization that encourages and supports positive transformations through faith in Jesus Christ, at 17. He has been traveling the world since the age of 19, inspiring millions with his talks on personal revolution.
Lesson: You are not limited by your situation, but by your attitude. Optimism can be the difference between failure and success. To change a bad situation, change your bad attitude with a new perspective.
6. Investing in Youth
“Battled Child Labor, Boy, 12, Murdered” was the Toronto Star headline that caught 12-year-old Craig Kielburger’s eye while looking for the comics. He gathered eleven of his friends to fight against the global child labor practices that killed Iqbal, the young boy murdered after speaking out about his six years of slavery. That same year, Craig started an organization that would amplify their small efforts.
“Today, we need the three C’s to raise young people: compassion, courage, and community. We often neglect a caring, compassionate young person and we shouldn’t.”
Craig founded Free The Children, a non-profit that enables children to help less fortunate children from around the world, at age 12. He grew the effort from his friends to over one million youth volunteers in 45 different countries. The organization has won both the Children’s Nobel Prize and the Human Rights Award.
Lesson: Success is not about individual achievement, but communal progress. Find a way to turn your individual success into global success. Donate, start an international movement, volunteer your time – just make a difference.
7. The Art of Non-Conformity
Chris Guillebeau, a man who has been “challenging authority since 1978”, has created the method for achieving an outside of the box lifestyle. He learned more from four years as a volunteer executive for a medical charity in West Africa than he ever did in college. Chris has avoided “a real job” for over a decade, and spends his time traveling (150 countries so far) and encouraging the rest of the world to make independent decisions too.
“You don’t have to live your life the way other people expect you to. You can do good things for yourself and make the world a better place at the same time.”
He’s the inspiring author of The Art of Non-Conformity and The $100 Startup. Still, Chris makes less than $50,000 a year doing what he’s passionate about. As an entrepreneur and world traveler, he lives an unconventional lifestyle and truly believes he “has it all”.
Lesson: If you choose to do things the way everyone else does, expect the same results as everyone else. Stray from the tried and true processes and practices if you think you have a better idea. No one ever changed the world by doing what everyone else was doing.