I’m sitting in a hotel lobby in New Jersey thinking about my “champagne problems” and feeling bad that my town got hit hard by Hurricane/Tropical Storm Isaias.
It looks like my electricity–and more importantly WiFi! (and even cell service)–will be out for the next week.
And various trees missed my house by an eyelash which could have been a disaster.
I realized that my electricity may be out…but not my power.
The power to realize that none of these first world issues would be of any significance to people around the world who never had electricity, WiFi or cell service in the first place…and they would also care less about the tree that just missed falling on my house (because they may not even have a house either).
Which took me back to my trip to Kenya two years ago this month…and those of you who are new to my online family may not have heard about it before…but there were many lessons I learned there which are worth remembering, especially when we are bummed out about all the things we don’t have.
While lamenting that I won’t get to watch the latest episode of Perry Mason on HBO because my DVR won’t be working, what if I had to be concerned with where I would be on Sunday night without a TV…or DVR…or a chair…or a bed.
And what about clean water or getting any kind of medical attention for anything?
That snapped me out of doing any more lamenting.
And that brought me back to reality. And to Kenya.
In The Lost Chapters of Overdeliver, (one of the 11 bonuses available here), there is a piece about my trip to Africa which was two years ago almost to the day.
That piece didn’t make it into Overdeliver although you may have read it already.
I wanted to send it to you today, two years later, and share two big lessons I took away from the trip:
1) To always be grateful for what you have rather than what you don’t have (temporarily or permanently), no matter how life treats you.
And that includes how hurricanes, tropical storms–or even getting soaked in the rain—really affects your life.
2) The importance of mentors, but with an entirely new spin from the perspective of the students I encountered in Kenya.
Some background on the trip which had, as its main purpose, opening up a school (and opening up a community).
I was moved to tears on more than one occasion watching the kids at the Sanimarco School in a rural area outside of Nairobi, care for each other in such profound ways—no “Mean Girls” or petty fighting among these students.
They all have a voracious appetite for education and learning…and curiosity about everything.
And how they express unconditional love and support for each other is a lesson for a lifetime and an example for all of us to follow.
They encourage each other rather than compete with each other…maybe it’s because they each have so little in terms of material goods…but nothing gets in the way of learning when the best thing you have is each other.
When water and electricity are luxuries…and a deflated soccer ball is a prized possession (see below)…pettiness, jealousy and so many other emotions many of us obsess about daily are non-existent for them.
They embrace what little they have in possessions and creature comforts…and they truly understand what it means to be appreciative.
This is my wife Robin NOT trying to take the ball away…I swear! 🙂
Titans Marketing was able to donate a classroom to the Sanimarco School in Kenya thanks to so many of you who have bought educational products from me or participated in the growth of Titans over the past 6 years.
Sanimarco was the 12th school built in Kenya by an amazing organization, Village Impact (there are even more now), the brainchild of philanthropic entrepreneurs, Amy and Stu McLaren.
It was a privilege to participate. And whether you knew it or not, you all participated too.
Please check out their site here–they do phenomenal work.
The classroom is officially dubbed, “Titans of Kenya.”
Here is one of our partners at the school putting up the sign…
…and here are the students who were the Titans of Kenya in August of 2018:
Maybe I need to invite some of these kids to one of my masterminds. Titans Xcelerator is virtual…they wouldn’t have to travel…but Sanimarco School doesn’t have Zoom…yet.
Back to the two big takeaways from this trip which I hope resonate with you in some way:
Many of you wrote to me after reading about this trip and asked:
“Why are folks who have the means to travel and make a difference in a foreign country not doing more right here in the United States where there is more poverty and deprivation than we would like to admit?”
It’s hard to argue with that point so I won’t.
I can only tell you that making a difference in as many places as we can where we can teach more (and support education)—which maximizes the number of people we can encourage to “go forth and multiply” (i.e. teach what they learn to others around the world)–is always worthwhile.
Whether you give domestically or in a foreign country, when it’s for education, it’s a way of showing gratefulness for all the opportunities we have that others don’t.
I’m sure you know this quote and it applies here:
Give a Man a Fish, and You Feed Him for a Day.
Teach a Man To Fish, and You Feed Him for a Lifetime.
In addition, the notion of building a school which becomes the focal point of any community, foreign or domestic, is an exponential contribution; and it’s one that we should always look to participate in whenever we have the opportunity.
Frankly, the U.S. has many more schools, even in rural areas, than places like Kenya.
And those kids in Kenya are well aware that it was mostly Americans and Canadians who donated that school…and I’m confident that they will all want to come to North America someday to share all they have learned.
Maybe one of those Kenyan students becomes a doctor or scientist and comes up with a cure to some dreaded disease?
And who might he or she help in addition to people in their country?
Just throwing that out there as an example of how we are all connected.
Having said that, only a few miles up the road from my house in Connecticut, is the city of Bridgeport where there is a pressing need for more volunteers to help with programs in the schools. My wife participated there which partially inspired this trip to Kenya.
I’m sure you have similar opportunities in your communities.
In Bridgeport, my wife Robin goes into the classrooms to help challenged students learn how to read—a program called “Book Buddies”; in Kenya, we went into the classrooms as well to try to make a difference anyway we could.
While I will tell you that the students in Kenya were grateful for the pencil cases, Lego pieces and nail polish we gave out (as kids in Bridgeport would be as well), I know they are far more grateful for the school itself and the long term education and stability it will supply for them.
Their gratefulness for being able to attend school every day is about two things:
1) Presence over presents
2) Learning to fish
Our gratefulness came from our presence and teaching them to fish in whatever ways we could.
One thing that was particularly striking among the children we met in Kenya was how much responsibility is put on each of them, even at a very young age.
That is, I saw numerous kids as young as 12 years old caring for younger siblings, even bringing them to school since there was no one else at home to watch them.
And these same students often need to miss school to work on behalf of the “family business” whether it’s farming, crafts or whatever brings in revenue to their households.
But it was this caring for their siblings, almost as surrogate parents, that got to me—and put a whole new meaning on a topic we talk so much about here, especially in our business community.
I always say you don’t choose your mentors, your mentors choose you…and that was apparent among these kids in Kenya (out of necessity).
When I had an opportunity to speak in front of the 12 year olds, i.e. “The Titans of Kenya 2018,” (through an interpreter, although so many of these students speak fluent English), I wanted to teach them about mentoring and the importance of passing on their wisdom to the next generation.
Then I realized that I was telling them something they already knew better than me.
The importance of mentors and mentoring was paramount in my life but only crystalized for me when I turned 40– but this is something that is part of their lives, almost from birth.
I also got to speak with students who are now in high school in some of the other schools built by Village Impact years ago, and it was clear that they all come back to the primary schools to teach and encourage…and mentor.
It’s amazing how much these kids know about mentorship without ever being taught about it.
In summary, all I can say is that I came home believing that money and time is a blessing since it is how we can do more.
First, we can live on what we need (and take good care of the “prized racehorse”—us!).
From there, we can figure out the most productive ways to give away as much as possible, in money and time, to create the most impact possible.
And I believe it starts with education and schools—which produces the maximum return in terms of gratefulness; and it is the key to creating world class mentors so everything gets paid forward into the future.
And the next time I find myself complaining about a flat tire, traffic, a blackout, or not having enough hot water…anything that has no bearing on long term happiness or is simply an inconvenience…I will think fondly on the “Titans of Kenya” and know they can power through much more than I ever will.
P.S. I’m sure you all agree, the overlap of “marketing information” and “personal development” is much more significant than meets the eye.
In fact, the publisher of Overdeliver, Hay House, is known as the premier publisher of personal development content in the world and they created a “business imprint” because they are aware of this huge overlap and wanted to address a need in the marketplace.
Hay House, like all of you, knows that everyone needs marketing knowledge.
I think I make the case in Overdeliver to marketers everywhere–and also anyone involved in the personal development space—that “marketing is not evil” and that making lots of money inside of our mission has no downside.
As I’ve said before, why share your life’s work with dozens of people when you can share it with millions?
The lesson is, I think, that to be a great marketer you need integrity, heart, congruence, conviction and of course some marketing smarts—and when you add being a great humanitarian to that formula, and you are always looking to improve, you will be a “better-than-great marketer.”
As I said in my reflections from Kenya, I encourage all of you to be rich beyond belief (with money and personal satisfaction) so you can live a glorious life–and on the money front, give away as much as possible so that others can live glorious lives too.
And thanks to many of you for pointing out that we don’t necessarily have to go to Africa (or anywhere outside of our own community or country) to do any of this great work either.
Just do it where it feels right for you.
I know I am not saying anything all that profound or something you don’t know already—consider it a reminder.
P.P.S. We went on a safari after spending time with the “Titans of Kenya” and there were some additional life lessons learned in the jungle, albeit some were a little more violent.
Seeing in real time many “circle of life moments”…how animals in the wild have to live day-to-day since they never know when they will go from a happy-go-lucky zebra grazing in the grass to becoming a full course dinner for a hungry lion, is a reminder to live in the moment and do good deeds every day.
And of course we should all eat well and only the healthiest food too!
And then there is another piece of advice I learned while on safari:
Always watch your step since you never know what might be lurking in the grass under your feet…
That’s my friend, the Rock Python, and he was only my friend because I never got out of the jeep…