Pencils of Promise doesn't just build a school in areas where they're needed then leave. They work with communities to ensure that the community takes ownership of the school. Give to Pencils of Promise to help them in their quest to get a pencil in the hands that need them.Read More
I find it really hard to believe that I started this project a month ago. It seems like I just wrote my first post. I've enjoyed the process entirely and decided to accumulate my top 5 favorite posts from the last month. If you visit the links below, just hit the back button on your browser to get back to this page.
Rowan LeCompte and the End of the Rainbow - One of my inspirations, Rowan LeCompte, is responsible for the stained-glass windows at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC. I used to live across fromt there and visit often. This piece highlights the wonderful NPR interview he did with Scott Simon.
We Are Not Alone - The Hubble Ultra Deep Field image is truly awe-inspiring. I've made it as big as I can, but there are bigger versions on the Hubble site. Thinking about all the potential that is in that shot, both terrestrial and extra-terrestrial is mind-blowing.
Detroit Boy Raises $3,600 for City Parks with A Lemonade Stand - Inspiring story of one 9-year-old kid who wants to do something about the lack of funding for the parks. Great lesson in making a difference.
Positive Change: William Kamkwamba Harnesses the Wind - Another great lesson in making a difference. The number of lives touched by William's courage and determination are immeasurable. In Malawi, during a drought, he decides to build a windmill that provides energy for light and a windmill to provide for irrigation.
A Walk in Muir Woods - This post is for my family. It was a beautiful day and one I'll not soon forget. Magical. My favorite one I've done.
Here's to another day and another month and thank you to my wife and kids who are the inspiration to try to be better and help push for a better world for them. I love you guys.
Simon Sinek asks why. Why do leaders fail? Why do people follow? Why do you care? In the TEDTalk above, he discusses what sets great leaders apart from leaders. As he says in the video above:
People don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it.
What this means is that you must clearly define and relay why you are doing what you are doing in order to inspire action. He reviews some great products and inventions and talks about who succeeded and who failed highlighting the difference between them and their competitors and each time, you see the ones who live with purpose are the ones who are successful. Sustainable success must come from purpose. If you find yourself feeling lost on a project or in your career, ask yourself why you are doing it. It has to be for more than just the money.
People who know me know that I've proposed a very similar idea to this one, and I'm really really glad to see someone put this into action. Sixth grade teacher, Robert Litt was concerned about the lack of technology access in his school. He'd been given some old pc's running older versions of Windows and found that they were not very usable. So, he did some research and found out about Linux. Linux is an alternative open-source operating system that costs nothing. It's free. One very popular version, and the version Robert used, is called Ubuntu.
With the help of a local Linux Users Group (LUG), Robert revamped the computers and had machines that were running much faster and opening up new worlds for the kids. Great work, Robert!
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;
If you can dream---and not make dreams your master;
If you can think---and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:.
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build'em up with worn-out tools;
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
And never breathe a word about your loss:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings---nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And---which is more---you'll be a Man, my son!
I've yet to read a lot of poetry to my kids, but when I do, this will be one of the first. I feel we are currently living in a culture of entitlement that causes us to forget about what's important and focus on the immediate. We are always checking to see if people are on Facebook or Twitter or all other services, yet we forget we can check in with people next door, and actually have a real conversation. When confronted with challenging issues, we tend to feel exposed and anxious. This poem helps to center me and remind me of what's important. You grow by experiencing challenge and adversity. You can only become better from it. I keep this as a reminder to focus on the journey and not the destination.
William Kamkwamba is proof that one person determined to bring change can be irresistible. At the age of 14, because he was faced with terrible famine and drought in his home country of Malawi, he had to drop out of school to help provide for his family. As William says in the video, "this is a future I cannot accept." Rather than despair and face this future, he went to the library and found a book called 'Using Energy' and decided to build a windmill so he could provide light and energy for his house.
William's family thought he was crazy. The villagers thought he was crazy as well. 'Here we are in a drought and he's building a windmill?!' This didn't stop him. Lacking materials, William gathered what he needed at the scrapyard across the street. Using the diagrams in the book as a guide, William used a tractor fan, wood scraps, and a bicycle to build the windmill and help realize his dream.
After building the windmill, William figured out how to wire his house and power 4 lights and 2 radios. Villagers were soon lining up to power their cell phones. Then reporters showed up and William started gaining attention not just in Malawi, but in Africa, then the world. By the age of 19, William was on the stage at TED Global in Tanzania talking about his creation. In that video, a very visibly nervous William says the next one he builds will be to pump water for irrigation.
William builds the second windmill and is overjoyed because it means that his family will no longer have to travel to get water. They have water at their house. All of this without the utility companies we have here, realized by a teenager who believed. He did the hard things. Having an idea is easy, but making it come to life is definitely the hard thing. You will have detractors, you will have naysayers, but they are only short-sighted and become believers because of you. William realized this.
The story of William Kamkwamba should serve to inspire any citizen in the US to action. We live in a country where resources are easily available for us to do anything. William's family was in a life or death situation, as they faced drought, starvation and a very bleek future. But, as William said, 'This is a future I cannot accept.' He was determined. He remained positive and focused even though people were dying around him. What he built was a different life, not only for himself, but for the villagers. They now have water and electricity, two things we take for granted on a daily basis.
A villager in Malawi, who knew no world outside his village, has become recognized as a thought leader and inspiration to others. Here are some of his accomplishments since first building the windmill:
- Spoke at TED Global
- Spoke at Maker Faire Africa
- Presented at classes at many colleges, including MIT
- Spoke at TED in the US
- Wrote a book about his experience
- Went back to school and finished high school
- Now attending Dartmouth College in NH, class of 2014
William's life is completely different than if he'd resigned himself to his fate. Amazing! Looking at what William has done makes it really hard for us to say, 'If only I could...' The power is in you. You just need to get out of its way. Thank you, William.
Steve Jobs is someone I admire, not for his positivity, but for his sheer determination and understanding of how the world works. In this short video, he offers some simple advice on how your perception of the world can drive you to act and make a difference in the world.
by A. E. Housman (from ‘A Shropshire Lad’)
Wake: the silver dusk returning
Up the beach of darkness brims,
And the ship of sunrise burning
Strands upon the eastern rims.
Wake: the vaulted shadow shatters,
Trampled to the floor it spanned,
And the tent of night in tatters
Straws the sky-pavilioned land.
Up, lad, up, ‘tis late for lying:
Hear the drums of morning play;
Hark, the empty highways crying
‘Who’ll beyond the hills away?’
Towns and countries woo together,
Forelands beacon, belfries call;
Never lad that trod on leather
Lived to feast his heart with all.
Up, lad: thews that lie and cumber
Sunlit pallets never thrive;
Morns abed and daylight slumber
Were not meant for man alive.
Clay lies still, but blood’s a rover;
Breath’s a ware that will not keep.
Up, lad: when the journey’s over
There’ll be time enough to sleep.
I’d first discovered this poem from a post on a site called ‘The Art of Manliness’, which I’d highly recommend for both men and women. I found it at a time when I was feeling unmotivated and needed a boost. The last stanza in particular always gets me moving.
Think about all the things you’d like to accomplish. What’s stopping you? What’s the first step you could take to get it moving forward? That’s the most challenging part. What consequences do you think your action will have? Will it cause you to lose weight? Get in better shape? Become more involved in your community?
I know one thing it will do: inspire others. This is the impact we don’t see and we don’t think about. Doing something to improve ourselves or help others inspires other people to act. It may not be every one you know, but there will be someone who will act because of your move forward. You are helping more than yourself become better.