Over this past month, I have been exposed to many individuals who have defied the odds of creating, building, and accomplishing their dreams. It has been inspiring to watch each of them succeed. I wanted to highlight four such stories to not only spread their word and give them heightened visibility; but, at the end of this article I hope to shine a light on a few ‘lessons’ I gleaned, from their experiences. This is also a glimpse into my second book, which we hope to release later this summer, which highlights ‘late in life’ success stories which also defied reason, luck, and foreseeable opportunity when those individuals thought their lives were virtually ‘over’. More on this later!
The first inspirational person I wanted to highlight is Anna Taylor. Anna founded a innovative company named Judith and James, in 2010. Anna’s mother and father have been friends of mine for over 30 years, and I am proud to know them. While a student at the University of Arkansas, Anna founded Judith & James with the vision to use her creative abilities and experience in the fashion industry to eradicate poverty among women in Nairobi, Kenya. She first moved to Kenya with her family in 2007 and spent several years in the Nairobi slums helping widows and orphans. In 2010, a Kenyan leader in the slums introduced Anna to a skilled unemployed seamstress, Judith (the company’s namesake). Anna designed custom pieces and hired Judith to sew these designs for friends and family in the United States. Most recently, Anna’s designs were highlighted at New York Fashion Week – which is the highest honor a new designer can receive. James 1:27, the verse in the Bible which states: “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” is Anna’s guiding light and fuels her passion. Thus, the name: Judith and James. As this video shares, Anna’s vision is clear, and her passion is pure.
Mark Ewert is a man with an unrelenting philanthropic heart, whom I met while attending Georgetown University several years ago. Mark founded a company entitled Generosity Path whose primary intention is to help individuals and families to shift from being occasional and haphazard donors to being ambitious ones which will help to build and grow communities of generous people. His calling is to help transform the consciousness of our world to have cheerful hearts in our giving AND to be strategically deliberate about how we do this. He has most recently written a book entitled The Generosity Path, Finding the Richness in Giving which sheds new light on our finances–connecting money to our values, beliefs, and loves–promoting skills and strategies in charitable giving. He is shaking up financial communities, wealth managers, and even the ‘donor community’ on how to truly ‘align’ our financial lives with our values and deep-seeded beliefs. Written with no judgment, yet rather an integral and shared perspective, it truly will make you think about the ‘annual check writing’ we do AND how we can enrich and fully empower this experience.
The third entrepreneurial story I want to highlight is near and dear to my heart. Most of my readers know I have a passion for education reform, and believe it is indeed the path for our future. Two friends of mine, Ellen Wood and Rosemary Perlmeter, left their respective corporate careers and highly successful ‘first halves’ of life to co-found the highly regarded and progressively growing Teaching Trust. The Teaching Trust organization prepares educators to lead change from the “inside out” by developing the values and skills essential to transformational school and district change. The Teaching Trust programs are based on a Competency Model grounded in research-based effective practices of transformational leaders. Ellen, Rosemary, and their teams developed this model to articulate the values and skills that leaders must have to drive high achievement for all students in the complex environments that characterize most urban schools today. They ‘align’ every facet of their organization, their people and programs, with these competencies. This grass roots endeavor has grown in state and national prominence, and truly is transforming education at its core.
Finally, lest my business readers believe this account is solely written from a less ‘capitalistic’ perspective and features only social entrepreneurs, the last ‘power of one’ story I want to highlight is one who sets the bar high and motivates everyone with whom she comes in contact. Brandi Marino is the co-founder of Beyond Studios, based in Dallas, Texas. She and her dynamic co-founder Bethany Meyers, put in motion a fitness approach which has enticed many ‘knock-offs’ in the past several years. They combined their passions and experience to develop a fiercely independent, highly imaginative, determined-to-the-core concept focused on empowering and inspiring people to make changes beyond their wildest expectations. By combining talented instructors, energizing music and the drive to shake it up a bit, “The Killer” workout took the Dallas fitness world by storm back in 2010. Now, hundreds of people go to BEYOND studios every day to workout and connect with their friends. What has made them so incredibly successful and the envy of most ‘tried and true’ gyms in this area? Many aspects make up their recipe for success. They have a stalwart belief that diversity in our fitness routine is the way to reach our goals, inside and out. They keep things ‘real’ and are constantly changing to keep the ‘daily exercise followers’ interested and not bored. However, their primary secret sauce is their commitment to know each client by name and to take a sincere interest in their lives, their challenges, their pitfalls, and their successes. In a phrase I coined: “soul sells”…..and Brandi, Bethany, and their team have soul.
So, what can we learn from these four examples who are truly changing the world in which we live? Two thoughts in a nutshell:
- Passion trumps everything. When we find our passion or listen and heed our calling….all obstacles take second place. Yes, they will most certainly still be present; however, our resolve squashes the naysayers, the funding shortages, the thieves of intellectual property, and the fervent competitors. Every single person I highlighted here has a passion which is undeniable, unshakeable, and clear as a bell. That passion is their compass, their fuel, and their rudder……for all their endeavors.
- Alignment is key. When we are aligned – we are most definitely at our most powerful. And how do I define ‘alignment’? As I wrote in my first book, alignment is present when we love what we do, we are good at it, AND it is tied to something greater than ourself. When these three pillars are present, we are centered, grounded, and fueled by a Source greater than ourselves. When an aspect is missing, we will be ‘wobbly’ and our intentions – regardless of how hard we try – will not be sustainable. When we are aligned…..we are strong, convicted, and ever-fresh.
A favorite quotation of mine has never been more appropriate. As Margaret Mead so aptly stated: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” As we enter the spring season, and the opportunities for rebirth, new beginnings, and in some cases true ‘resurrection’ from hard times are at the ready……let us latch onto the power we each have to transform our lives and the lives of those around us.
Do you have a story to share? An insight to offer? Please share with our community – by simply making a comment below!