How to Set Crazy Big Goals (And Achieve Them)
Mick Ebeling (left), the founder and CEO of Not Impossible Labs, gives a high-five to a Sudanese boy wearing a prosthetic Ebeling built.

May 28, 2019

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A wonderful book I’m currently reading (and in which I’m making notes in the margins) is “Keep Going” by Austin Kleon. The subtitle of the book is: “10 Ways to Stay Creative in Good Times and Bad.“

While the book focuses on artists, its wisdom could apply to all walks of life — especially when it comes to how to set goals and achieve them. 

One of the 10 ways Kleon asks the reader to view their own art is as a gift. Very specifically, a gift to a single person.

Kleon writes: “You never know when a gift made for a single person will turn into a gift for the whole world.”

Gifts That Grow

Kleon gives the example of bestselling books which began as bedtime stories for specific children, such as A.A. Milne’s “Winnie-the-Pooh.” He also quotes Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges, who said: “What I’m really concerned about is reaching one person.”

It’s this idea — affecting one person for the better — that drives the work of two amazing people you’ll hear on our next podcast.

The episode features Mick Ebeling, the Founder and CEO of Not Impossible Labs, and his chief technology officer, Daniel Belquer.

Laughing at “Impossible”

As you might guess from the name, Not Impossible sets out to solve seemingly unchangeable problems. They make the impossible possible through groundbreaking technological solutions. For example, in just a few short years they’ve developed…

…and the list goes on. Ebeling, Belquer and their team are high-energy people who thrive on the craziest of crazy good turns.

The Power of Starting with One

Not Impossible tackles enormous problems, but not with broad goals of addressing poverty or illness or hunger worldwide. Instead, they set out to fix ONE PERSON’s issue.

As Mick explains it, if you view the problem in its entirety, it is easy to get discouraged. But if you set out to help a single person, now it’s an issue you can relate to. You won’t want to give up. You don’t want to abandon the individual. And by helping one, you can help many.

This idea has come up in other Crazy Good Turn episodes. The more that people who do crazy good things for others share their stories, the clearer the power of “doing for one what you wish to do for all” becomes.

Austin Kleon ends his discussion of this topic by saying that giving gifts to individuals is a habit all artists should have. “Making gifts puts us in touch with our gifts,” he writes.

True for all of us.

-Frank

P.S. – The episode featuring Not Impossible comes out this Sunday, June 2. If you want to hear Mick and Daniel’s story, sign up here to get the podcast as soon as it’s live.

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The Only 3 Things You Need to Live a Meaningful Life
How to live a meaningful life. A man stands in a hallway and has two directions to choose.

April 30, 2019

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There are a few people in life who seem to have it all figured out.

They have crystal clarity on their goals and dreams. They know exactly who they are, what they want to be, how they can make a difference and live a meaningful life.  

Then there’s the rest of us.

Most of us struggle with purpose. Polls show that fewer than 20 percent of Americans are working in a job they truly love and find meaningful. We wind up doing less-than-great work as a result. Less than 30% of employees are truly engaged in the workplace, according to Gallup.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Additional research shows that 9 out of 10 people would go so far as to earn less money in order to have more meaningful work.

So it’s not that we’re not willing to do work that matters. For most of us, it’s that we just don’t know what that work is, or how to go about doing it.

One Man’s Miracle

Jordan Kassalow of VisionSpring stands next to a VisionSpring van.

At a glance, Jordan Kassalow of VisionSpring would seem to be one of those fortunate few who figured it all out right away.

His story appears to start with an incredible “aha!” moment that leads him to be a hyper-successful person doing work that makes a positive difference. To date, Jordan’s work with VisionSpring has helped 4.4 million people around the globe see the world more clearly and live happier, more productive lives.

But as Jordan will tell you in the Crazy Good Turns episode coming out this Sunday, and in his new book, the truth is far more complex.

At age 23, as a first-year student at the New England College of Optometry, Jordan went on a volunteer trip to provide eye care in an impoverished region in Mexico.

Jordan’s very first patient, on the very first day, was a 7-year-old boy named Raul, who was thought to be blind. Kassalow assessed the boy and determined that was not the case.

Instead, the boy was severely nearsighted. His vision could be corrected with a simple pair of eyeglasses. Kassalow found the right prescription, placed the glasses on the boy’s face, and watched as…

“This universal smile of joy just spread across [the boy’s] face. His eyes widened and it was the most joyful smile that you could ever imagine, and it was a look of both joy and amazement at the same time,” Kassalow explains in our next show.  “I knew at that moment that if I could replicate that a bunch of times over that I would be successful.”

The Power of Purpose

Kids in India smile after opening a box of new eyeglasses.

Jordan today calls that moment “a miracle.” But it’s one he never saw coming.

“I went [on the trip] out of curiosity, not a calling,” Jordan writes in his new book, Dare to Matter: Your Path to Making a Difference Now. He says what happened in Mexico was “a miracle — not of biblical parting-of-the-seas proportions, but of the sort where the universe pointed to a future I would never have envisioned on my own.”

In that moment, Jordan discovered a way to make a difference. That discovery reaffirmed him to do work that he otherwise didn’t necessarily love.

He admits in the book feeling ambivalent about being an optometrist for decades even after that miracle moment in Mexico. He chose the career because it allowed him to lead the life he wants, one that would allow him to financially support a family and children. But, guided by purpose, that work has enabled him to meet those foundational needs in life and have a positive impact on the lives of others.

This idea — that one’s day-to-day work doesn’t have to be “the” work — is one we’ve seen come up more than once.

In our episode featuring Graham and April Tam Smith of P.S. Kitchen, April spoke about how taking long volunteer missions made her feel more motivated to go about her work on Wall Street. “Sometimes I come back from a Haiti trip and I’m like, ‘Okay. Let’s trade some derivatives. Let’s go.’” She said.

The 3 B’s Pointing You Toward a More Meaningful Life

A schoolgirl in India smiles after putting on a new set of corrective lenses.

So if we don’t have to be working in a dream job to do meaningful work, and we don’t need to give up everything to have meaning in our lives, what does it take to discover our purpose and do the things we were truly meant to do?

In Dare to Matter, Kassalow argues that in order to live a life that matters, you really only need to do three things:

  1. Believe that the future can be better than the present.
  2. Believe that you have the power to make it so.
  3. Be willing to turn that belief into behavior.

Jordan also says you don’t necessarily need to have experienced a “drop everything” miracle moment. On pages 54-55 of the book, he offers a series of questions to help you mine your past for signs that may have been pointing you toward your true purpose. Each chapter ends with exercises and challenges that can help you discover the way to make the difference you were meant to make.

Our Offer to You

As we hinted at in a previous blog post, we believe Dare to Matter is a superb — and important — book. Which is why we’d like to offer you the chance to get it free.

We’re giving away 50 copies of the book, plus one grand prize package including an autographed edition of Dare to Matter along with 10 additional books that strongly influenced Jordan and his thinking about the world.

Sign up for your chance to win here.

The front cover of Jordan Kassalow's book "Dare to Matter."

We’re confident you’ll find Dare to Matter to not only be thought-provoking and profound. But you may also find within its pages a path to the more meaningful life you want.

– Frank

P.S. – I’ve read — and re-read — Jordan’s book and can’t endorse it strongly enough. Sign up for your chance at a free copy here, and please share this post with anyone who you think might also like an opportunity to get the book.

 

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A Book Recommendation (Plus: Upcoming Giveaway!)
VisionSpring Founder Jordan Kassalow, left, fits a young boy for a set of reading glasses.

April 16, 2019

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Next month’s episode of Crazy Good Turns features an interview with Jordan Kassalow. He’s the Founder of VisionSpring, one of the biggest social impact businesses in the world.

Jordan’s story is an amazing one, and his pioneering work has enabled millions of people around the world to live a fuller and more productive life through the gift of sight.

But this note is not about the upcoming podcast. It is about the book Jordan has written.

A Profound Work About Making a Difference

When we’d originally him for the show, we had no idea that he had written a book or that it would be published roughly at the same time as the episode.

The book, which goes on sale at the end of this month, is titled Dare to Matter: Your Path to Making a Difference Now.

I received an early copy, read it and then re-read it. And I’m so impressed by this that I have decided to give away fifty copies to go along with our upcoming episode. Stay tuned for more details on that. In the meantime, I thought I’d offer a little hint as to what’s inside this great book.

I took many notes while reading. Jordan offers many profound insights about the path to making a difference — a path that I think would interest anyone tuned in to Crazy Good Turns.

A Great Question Worth Considering

For example, I’ll share just one excerpt from Dare to Matter.

It’s not at the core of the book. In fact, it’s almost a throwaway line in a longer passage. But one of the things I “collect” in life is great questions. And while discussing how to live a life that matters, Jordan poses a wonderful question — a question that can be a tool for thinking about our own lives:

What, and who, makes you laugh out loud and smile without effort, even when you don’t think you have a laugh or smile inside you?

The more episodes we do, the more people’s stories we get to hear, the more I reflect on all the different meanings embedded in the ‘crazy’ of Crazy Good Turns. Jordan’s question snapped into focus for me at how often I smile or laugh — sometimes in wonder, sometimes in joy — at the things people do to help others.

I hope you’ll read Jordan’s book, which you can pre-order here. I hope it brings you a laugh or a smile on your own path to making a difference.

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How to Make More Than a Living
April Tam Smith and Graham Smith hold hands on their wedding day.

April 2, 2019

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How can people be so cheerfully, radically generous?

That was my reaction after speaking with Graham and April Tam Smith, the guests on our upcoming episode of Crazy Good Turns.

After you hear their story, which comes out on Sunday, April 7, you may have the same reaction.  

What it Means to be Radically Generous

Graham and April aren’t two folks you’d typically tag as radicals. They are young professionals living in New York City. But they stand out through their dedication to living a lifestyle of generosity. And that is an understatement.

For example:

  • They spent their honeymoon volunteering in Haiti
  • They’ve used their salaries and their talents to launch a restaurant called P.S. Kitchen in NYC, which is remarkable because:
    • The restaurant is committed to employing people who are in need of a second chance, such as former addicts or people with criminal records
    • They donate all of the profits from the restaurant to charity
  • They give in many other ways too. In fact, when you total it all up, they do what’s called “reverse tithing.”

Reverse Tithing: Giving Away (Nearly) Everything

“Tithing” is a term with which you may already be familiar. Traditionally, to tithe means to give away 10 percent of what you earn. That’s a laudable achievement, and certainly generous from most perspectives.

But April and Graham flip that equation. They give away 90 percent of what they earn and live on the remaining 10 percent.

To me, that definitely puts the “crazy” in Crazy Good Turn — and does so on a sustaining basis. It is radically generous.

Yet when you hear Graham and April describe their lives, they are very matter-of-fact about their generosity. They are not boastful. They don’t go out of their way to draw attention to it. And they never make mention of any difficulties brought about by that lifestyle, or speak of things they’ve had to give up.

In fact, what was crystal clear in speaking with them was how much they felt their giving enriched their lives.

A Highly Provocative Idea

As I listened to April and Graham, the uppermost thought in my mind was:

These two unassuming people are living one of the most provocative lifestyles I have ever encountered.

They “provoke” because of the confident generosity with which they live their lives. The things they do call into question: Why not me? Why can’t I do that? And what could I do to approach that standard?

They are questions I am still reflecting upon. But the first part of an answer, at least for me, can be found in a quote attributed to Winston Churchill:

“We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.”

I hope that when you tune in to April and Graham’s story this Sunday, you’ll get a sense of their joy in making a life, not just a living.

– Frank

P.S. – Want to make sure you don’t miss April and Graham’s story? Sign up for our newsletter here and we’ll make sure you receive it as soon as it comes out.

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The Surprising Secret of Success
The daughter of a Home Depot associate shares why she's proud of her parent.

March 12, 2019

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My favorite video ever has never been on TV or Netflix. But you can watch it here.

We showed this clip at a Home Depot store managers meeting many years ago. It was a way to say “thank you” to our associates, who very much deserved it. But I still show it frequently today, because I think it illustrates several principles for success:

  • the value of communicating to your team the importance of what they do;
  • why purpose and vision matter within organizations;
  • most of all, the primacy of showing gratitude.

But recently, I’ve come to believe that there’s another even more profound lesson within the footage. Perhaps you noticed it.

A New Understanding of Pride

The spot ends with children saying that they are proud of their parents. Sometimes they explain why. Their statements are emotionally powerful, and reverse the usual expression of pride.

We are used to parents saying they are proud of their children. In professional settings, we are used to leaders saying they are proud of their teams.

I’ve come to think that a more important question is: Is your child proud of you? Or if you are a leader, is your team proud of you?

The video offers clues into what factors will determine the answer.

The Lesson Between the Lines

If you listen closely to what the children are saying, the source of that pride becomes clear. Their pride is in the things they see their parents do for others.

Sometimes they cite great deeds, like volunteering to help rebuild after Superstorm Sandy. But more often it’s in the actions they see their parents do every day.

“She likes to help people,” one child says of her mother.

“She tells people, ‘Good job,’” says another.

“He’ll see someone walking in and he’ll probably hold the door open for them,” a daughter says of her dad.

The most direct route in winning someone’s pride is through generosity and doing for others. But you don’t need to do something incredible to be incredible.

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Here’s Something to Look Forward to
Beautiful sunrise over the mountain.

February 26, 2019

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Good news, everybody: Season Four of Crazy Good Turns starts this Sunday, March 3. The episode features Edward Bailey, who runs an addiction treatment center outside Atlanta called No Longer Bound.

No Longer Bound’s unique and unusual approach to treatment has been remarkably successful. But Edward’s own life is also remarkable. In fact, he was once a patient in the organization he now runs.

As I look back across our CGT episodes, I realize that we began the podcast thinking that the stories would be inspirational. That they’d provide a dose of celebration and good feeling. I hope they’ve done that.

But increasingly, I look at the episodes through a different lens:

What can we learn from people who do such extraordinary things? How can we take a fraction of what they do and inject that into our daily lives?

In talking with Edward Bailey, here’s what I hoped to learn:

If I were rescued from a horrible situation, would my response be to turn back and rescue others?

Or would my response be to move on, with gratitude, of course, but still move on?

I won’t spoil the episode by giving the answers to you now. But I will say: Along the way, we’re going discuss a few things you already know, such as how pervasive drug addiction issues are in this country today.

More people now die from drugs every year than from car crashes or gun-related deaths. For the first time since World War 1, our national longevity is on the decline — and that’s directly a result of the impact of drug addiction.

So you know that most treatment centers fail. You know the rate of returning to addiction is high. Let’s imagine you know all this and you once had fought addiction yourself, but escaped. Would you turn back to help?

Edward’s answer — “Yes” — is backed by a powerful mix of courage, perseverance and faith.

His mission? To do for one what he wishes he could do for all.

The mission contains a valuable lesson in persistence: You can only learn it by maintaining your mission, minute-by-minute, day-by-day. And while many may aspire to have a big impact in life, it only happens if you’re willing to do the work of helping one person, then another, then another.

I’d like to thank Edward Bailey for an inspiring and thought-provoking conversation. And I’d like to invite you to tune in and hear it. Sign up here to receive notice when the episode comes out.

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My Weekend at Bernie’s
A Home Depot Store Managers meeting, seen from above.

February 13, 2019

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BERNIE MARCUS is one of the founders of The Home Depot. He’s also one of the most generous philanthropists in the country. We featured him on Crazy Good Turns during Season 2 — one of my favorite episodes. I think it captures some of the spark that makes him unique as an entrepreneur and person.

This past weekend, my wife and I had the privilege of staying at Bernie and Billi Marcus’s house in Florida. I could make many comments about their gracious hospitality and the wide-ranging conversations we had.

But I am going to keep this note to one important story.

 

Twelve years ago, when I became CEO of Home Depot, no one in the company knew who I was. To the extent that anyone knew anything about me, they knew:

  • I had little retail experience
  • I had worked at General Electric for over a decade, and…
  • I was a lawyer

This was not a set of qualifications to inspire confidence. My predecessor was also from GE and had little retail experience. That had not gone well.

It is fair to say that my selection as CEO did not generate a lot of enthusiasm.

 

The first call I made as CEO was to Bernie, who at that point had no formal connection with the company. Over the next eight years, he gave me invaluable advice across a range of issues.

The first thing Bernie did for me was singularly important.

I asked him to come to our annual store managers’ meeting. It’s a gathering of thousands, which is part inspirational meeting, part business event.

He could very easily have declined. But he didn’t.

Bernie came, and his appearance at the meeting was viewed as a vote of confidence. Comments from store managers after the meeting all expressed the same theme: We don’t know this guy, but if Bernie is out on the stage with him, he must be OK.

That stamp of approval made an enormous difference to me.

 

Crazy Good Turns take many forms. We can give our time, our resources, or our passion and commitment. Sometimes what we give is our approval.

Our individual reputations are our biggest assets. We leverage them when we grant our approval and trust in others. Bernie did that for me.

This weekend was a reminder of how important and meaningful that can be.

Has someone ever done a Crazy Good Turn for you at work? If so, tell me about it at hello@crazygoodturns.org.

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