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WISDOM MEETS PASSIONWhen Generations Collide and Collaborate
By Dan Miller Jared Angaza
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2012 48 Days LLC
All right reserved.
Chapter OneI Just Want to Make a Difference
My earliest recollection of having and acting on a dream happened when I was a ten-year-old farm kid in Ohio. My mom had canned and frozen all the sweet corn needed to provide for our family of seven for the coming year. But I saw the remaining ears of corn in that big garden and those that were continuing to fill out. With Dad's permission I got up early one morning and began picking those big, juicy ears of corn. I filled the little red trailer I had connected behind our Ford tractor. With the trailer bursting with those ears still covered by the morning dew, I drove the two miles up the dirt road to where it intersected with the paved road that headed into town. I parked so all traffic could easily see me, and I set up my little sign: "Fresh Sweet Corn—$.30 Dozen." And thus I was introduced to the world of providing a product and expecting a fair exchange of money.
I was captured by the adrenaline rush of running my own business. People loved my sweet corn, and I loved getting their money. That thrill of providing something of value in exchange for a few coins has never diminished. But I realized even then that money by itself has no value—only when the exchange continues does the process of commerce have meaning. And very early on I wanted to do something that made a difference.
Do you remember your childhood dreams? All ten-year-olds know how to dream. You know the typical fantasies. They can dream of becoming a firefighter, astronaut, ship captain, artist, or rock star. But then life happens. Some of those kids were told their dreams were unrealistic. You may have been one of those kids. Somewhere along the way you were taught to be realistic, to stay inside the lines and recognize that growing up means you need to show up at eight o'clock and go home to a dreary existence at five o'clock.
Have you allowed your dreams to be washed away by the big wave called Life? Is it really too late to create a plan of action to bring your dreams to reality? What can you do today to act on a dream that's been languishing in those precious childlike recesses of your mind?
There are two great days in our lives—the day we are born and the day we discover why. —WILLIAM BARCLAY
Can you identify both of those days in your life?
So what are you doing with your dreams? Did the dreams you had two years ago change the life you have today?
The old American Dream defined success as a stable job, a great paycheck with benefits, a house in the suburbs, and a secure retirement plan. With all of those items now in jeopardy, the search has become more philosophical and spiritual. Today I hear people saying, "I just want to do something noble, humanitarian, or socially responsible. I just want to make a difference."
To dream alone is fantasy if it doesn't move the heart to act. —DAN ALLENDER
Fortunately I was raised in a family that encouraged me to dream big and follow that dream. We were taught that anything is possible. With that belief, I've traveled all over the united States and spent the last six years living in East Africa.
I started my first business at thirteen years old. At that point I'd spent my life racing BMX bikes with my father and brother. We were at the top of our game, and we absolutely loved racing. Consequently, I knew a lot about the mechanics of a bike.
So I started my own neighborhood bicycle repair company. I put flyers on mailboxes and offered free pickup and delivery (by foot). Over the course of a summer, I made my first five hundred dollars. I used that to put toward my first car.
I had been enthralled with Africa since I was six years old, directly after seeing the first We Are the World music video hosted by Michael Jackson. My love of Africa grew exponentially from that day.
When I was sixteen, I started studying Mombasa, Kenya. I wanted so badly to be in Africa, where the life is raw and so much of the landscape is untainted by the need for mass consumption. I wanted to live on the Swahili Coast, where the primary concern is fostering relationships and appreciating the earth and the life that God created for us.
People thought my little dream was cute. But I studied, believed, and worked hard for it. Now I'm here, living with my wife and our adopted Rwandan son; our first baby is on the way.
Climbing the Pyramid or Skipping to the Top
Remember the pyramid on the opposite page from your introductory psychology class? Abraham Maslow determined that we can track people through a logical progression from the bottom to the top of the pyramid. People are concerned about their physiological needs first. If someone is hungry, he isn't concerned about saving the world—that person is going to be looking for something to eat. If someone doesn't have a safe place to stay, that will be her primary concern. It's only after basic needs have been taken care of that anyone can climb up to the top of the pyramid—self-actualization or even transcendence, wanting to be part of something that goes beyond himself or herself. But wait a minute. Is that really the way it always happens? Do you know anyone who has seemingly ignored his own needs with a higher desire to help someone else?
Ever heard of Mother Teresa? How about these people?
Maggie Gobran is a Coptic Christian from Egypt, who founded the charity organization Stephen's Children Ministry in Mokattam, outside Cairo, Egypt. She said, "When I touch a poor child, I'm touching Jesus. When I listen to a poor child, I'm listening to God's heart for all of humanity."
Somaly Mam is a Cambodian author and human rights advocate, focusing primarily on needs of victims of human sex trafficking. She has garnered official and media acclaim for her efforts.
Nelson Mandela is one of the greatest examples of bucking the concepts that Maslow put forth. Mandela spent twenty-seven years in prison, just to prove a point!
When Jared was a teenager, we, as parents, would make him empty his pockets before going to downtown Nashville with his friends for the evening. We knew whatever he had he would give away before coming home. Not that it would be spent on candy or trinkets for himself. Rather he would give it to people who obviously needed it more than he did. One Christmas I carefully selected a really cool leather jacket I knew he would love. A couple nights later I noticed he came home without it. Upon questioning, Jared simply shared that he saw a guy with no coat. He knew he had several more at home, so why wouldn't he give it to someone who had none?
Many, especially in the younger generation today, seem to ignore Maslow's carefully defined pyramid. They ignore their basic needs to move up the pyramid all the way to transcendence (being involved in something that goes beyond the created world). The desire to make a difference is a stronger pull than having another bag of Doritos or even a BMW.
We'll find this to be an ongoing issue in those who blend passion and wisdom. Regardless of where they are on the chronological timeline, they seem to ignore the natural progression of securing one's own needs before being drawn into serving others.
So many people in my generation were raised to believe that Maslow's hierarchy of needs was the only formula for success. While I certainly believe he had some valid points for the masses, I also believe he neglected to incorporate people who govern their lives from a more altruistic foundation.
There are a lot of rules that the Western world has created in order to maintain control and order. Time and money tend to be the premise for most of them. But I view time, money, and dogmatic religion as coping mechanisms created by man. In the short term it's easier to create hierarchies and controlling mechanisms. However, historically, those systems have never been sustainable, nor do they tend to incite true happiness.
I never really cared about having nice things or even having food on my table. I have always chosen relationships over comfort or material things. Consequently, I've lived a life of deep, meaningful relationships. People often comment on the fact that I am still so close to the boys I grew up with. Now that we're all grown up, we're still like brothers, and I've been friends with most of them for nearly twenty years. They are family that I chose.
Those relationships mean more to me than anything I could ever achieve on my own. I'd rather be hungry with a friend than have a full belly on my own. That will never change.
I don't remember to whom I gave that jacket, but I do remember giving it away. I remember how I felt after having done it. I've carried that feeling with me ever since. It has nothing to do with my comfort levels, money, or the status quo. It has everything to do with true human connection. It can't be bought, traded, or leveraged. It's as pure as you get.
To each there comes in their lifetime a special moment when they are figuratively tapped on the shoulder and offered the chance to do a very special thing, unique to them and fitted to their talents. What a tragedy if that moment finds them unprepared or unqualified for that which could have been their finest hour. —WINSTON S. CHURCHILL
Can you identify your special moment when you were "tapped on the shoulder," or are you still waiting?
Are you prepared and qualified for that moment?
If Brad Can Do It, I Can Too
At the beginning of each year, we all think about setting big goals. And rightfully so. I encourage you to think big. But don't get stuck hoping to be the next Taylor Swift when you're not willing to play tonight's gig down at the local pizza shop. Most famous people started with not-so-famous work experiences.
Check these out:
Donald Trump, now an ultrarich real estate investor, got his start collecting soda bottles for the deposit money.
Michael Dell, founder of Dell Computers, washed dishes at a Chinese restaurant before hitting it big with his computers.
Johnny Depp donned makeup for his gig in a KISS tribute band as a young performer. Back then he often made about $25 a night; today he makes much more than $25 million a year.
Chris Rock started his career as a busboy at a Red Lobster in Queens, New York. His first jokes included, "The thing about Red Lobster is that if you work there, you can't afford to eat there. You're making minimum wage. A shrimp cost minimum wage."
Lucille Ball was reportedly fired from an ice-cream shop for not remembering to add bananas to banana splits. Her famous skit in which she struggled to wrap candies from the conveyor belt that kept speeding up came out of those early days in food service.
Tom Hanks started out as a popcorn-and-peanuts vendor at the Oakland Coliseum in California. Then he worked his way up to a hotel bellhop, carrying bags for the stars.
Madonna worked at Dunkin' Donuts as a teenager. Today, as one of the richest celebrities in the world, she could buy all the doughnuts she wants.
Brad Pitt drove limos, moved refrigerators, and dressed up as a chicken trying to convince customers to visit a Mexican restaurant.
Mariah Carey was a beauty school dropout. Then she was fired from her job as a hat checker. Today she's one of the most successful female vocalists of all time.
Embrace the work opportunity you have today. It may be the stepping-stone you need on your way to success. No one goes from having a dream to fame and fortune overnight. As I've already mentioned, when I was a ten-year-old, I sold sweet corn on the side of the road for thirty cents a dozen. In high school I earned extra money cleaning out chicken coops on the weekends. The chicken waste I was shoveling created an ammonia smell that burned my eyes and nose. It was nasty, stinky, backbreaking work. But those jobs taught me the value of hard work and provided the incentive to look for better options.
What's the one job that sticks out in your journey of getting to where you are today? And what was the lesson you learned?
Steven Spielberg reportedly once warned, "Good ideas are only given to you for a limited amount of time. If you don't act on them, they belong to someone else."
Wow! Do you think you've missed an idea by not acting on it?
And speaking of celebrities who want to make a difference:
WHO NEEDS CELEBRITY PHILANTHROPY?
The masses continuously lambast the likes of Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, and Bono, complaining about their incessant philanthropic focus and how it only bolsters their careers.
Why are these celebrities using their star power to generate millions of dollars for charity and garner backing from influential political leaders when they could just keep buying Ferraris and houses in the Hamptons? It's madness!
When was the last time you dedicated even a fraction of your time, money, or influence toward a philanthropic endeavor, much less countless hours and millions of dollars?
What are you doing right now to make the world a better, more peaceful, and loving place?
When was the last time you honed your musical talent, created a successful rock band, and dropped $32 billion in debt from eighteen African countries or raised more money and awareness for eradicating HIV in Africa than any other human on the planet? Bono does that in his spare time. Literally.
George Clooney recently launched the Satellite Sentinel Project, designed to deter mass atrocities and crimes against humanity in Sudan and South Sudan. I've been volunteering and lobbying for this kind of effort in that region for almost ten years. Clooney put this together in less than a year, and it's one of the most effective philanthropic initiatives I've ever witnessed. Phenomenal.
Pitt and Jolie have given millions of dollars to philanthropy. Jolie has spent serious amounts of time in more than twenty-two poverty-stricken countries, purchased fleets of airplanes, acted as a UNHCR ambassador, flown into extreme threat zones when others wouldn't, and much more. Pitt and Jolie donated $8 million in 2006 alone.
In December 2001, Perry Farrell, who is the front man for Jane's Addiction and creator of Lollapalooza, flew into politically troubled Sudan with other members of Christian Solidarity International to negotiate the release of Sudanese slaves. Jane's Addiction donated its earnings from one concert for the redemption of more than twenty-three hundred people. Most parents wouldn't let their kids listen to this rock star.
I could go on and on. The list of philanthropic celebrities is endless. I've only touched on a few, largely because they are the ones most criticized.
Is there anyone who can look at this list, along with thousands of other instances, and say that this work shouldn't have been done? Is their work irrelevant because they are famous?
Do these celebrities gain more power and money because of their good deeds? They sure do. Why shouldn't they? It just gives them more power and more money to do more good.
There are plenty of celebs out there just using their power for personal gain. If you want to gripe about celebrities, how about putting the negative focus on the self-centered ones?
How hypocritical and dichotomous is it for people to criticize celebs for doing good around the world? Who cares what they gain from it? What I care about is the fact that so much good is being done in such a public manner that it's creating a new standard and trend. Can you think of a better trend to foster?
Seriously. Why would you fight a trend of famous, influential rich people donating their time and money to philanthropy? really?
Who needs celebrity philanthropy? The world does. In fact, we could use a little philanthropy from anyone willing to do it well, don't you think?
When You Have Nothing ...
Every year my wife, Joanne, and I go to Chicago for our annual pre-Christmas excursion. The weather is often bitterly cold, and the streets are bustling with the usual last-minute shoppers. And as usual, the sidewalks typically have all too many people with quickly constructed cardboard signs, hoping to capture the sympathy of passing shoppers.
I saw one sign that said:
Lost my Job
Lost my Home
Lost my Hope
What's the next step? Is this really an inevitable sequence? Does our hope disappear if we don't have a job or a home? Are we that dependent on favorable circumstances?
I was reading about the inventions that are coming out of the slums of Nairobi, Kenya. The tagline on the story said, "When you have nothing, anything is possible."
If circumstances control our hope, we are most vulnerable. Hope or optimism is not about denying reality; it's about seeing the possibilities for creating a better reality than you currently have. Yes, I've always been accused of being a glass-half-full kind of guy because I really do believe that every problem brings with it the seed of a solution, and I believe that the search for a solution can itself be inspiring and hopeful. If you lose hope, you
Excerpted from WISDOM MEETS PASSION by Dan Miller Jared Angaza Copyright © 2012 by 48 Days LLC. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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