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.

This message originally appeared in our biweekly newsletter. Sign up here to receive it

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Check Out the Smiles on These Kids’ Faces

October 16, 2018

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Here’s something that will make your day brighter.

Two Special Spectators on the field with Ohio State’s Cheer Squad. (Photo: Angelo Merendino)
Special Spectators cheer on the Buckeyes. (Photo: Angelo Merendino)
A Special Spectator shows off the gear he got to wear inside the Sooners’ locker room. (Photo: Joshua Gateley)

 

09/29/2018 Oklahoma v Baylor football. Photo by Joshua R. Gateley

Those are just some of the smiles to come from our campaign so far. The pictures are from games this season at Oklahoma and Ohio State, which hosted 10 kids and their caretakers.

Those families attended at no cost, thanks to those of you who’ve signed up for our #CrazyGoodForKids Gameday campaign.

While sports may seem like just fun and games to some, but the experiences you’ve provided to these kids and their families is a big deal.

Earlier this season, we introduced you to Terry Davis, who’s son Taylor had been diagnosed with leukemia. Terry described what a day as a Special Spectator is like. Now we’d like to share what he said about the lasting impact of that experience:

Listen to what Terry said about the moment he met Blake Rockwell — and what happened to Taylor afterward.

When you check out the full episode, you can hear the emotional and inspiring story of how Special Spectators came about. You’ll also learn the incredible lengths that Blake goes to in order to give these incredible experiences to more than 10,000 kids — and counting.

Here’s one more picture you help make possible when you sign up for our campaign:

(Photo: Angelo Merendino)

Thanks for being part of something special! 

(And if you haven’t signed up yet, join in here — it’s free!)

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Marginalia: A Better Way to Read
Handwritten notes in the margin of a book atop a wooden table.

October 8, 2018

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My father left me a wonderful collection of books. Even better, he left me books that contained his written comments in the margins.

His comments make the book live for me. Those books are far more important to me because of his comments. I learn from, and connect to, his presence — even from simple underlining.

Marking up a book in this way is known as marginalia. The practice is at least as old as mechanical book printing. Cambridge University has an exhibit that catalogs notes left in books printed from 1450-1550. (Curators selected that period because Johannes Gutenberg’s printing press came online by 1450.)

Far more recently, author and artist Austin Kleon wrote about the importance of “Reading with a Pencil” on his blog.

I’d like to share my margin notes from Kleon’s post with you. The entry contains a great quote from a friend of his:

Every piece of art I’ve ever made was because I saw bad and could do better, or saw great and needed to catch up.

This is a quote I would underline.

Substitute “crazy good turn” for “piece of art” in that quote, and you have one of the dominant forces at work in the stories featured in our podcasts.

The people we highlight may set out to do good because they saw something bad and wanted to fix it. (Georgie Smith launching A Sense of Home in response to a shortcoming in the Foster Care system is a great example of this.)  

Or they draw inspiration from someone who’s done something great, and try to emulate it. (Here you could look to Frank Siller and his family’s work with the Tunnel to Towers Foundation, carrying on the legacy of NYC Firefighter Stephen Siller.)  

In either case, they aren’t just bearing witness to the world. They’re seeing what’s there, then inserting themselves into the action — just as a reader armed with a pencil can shape the story into something entirely new on their own.

In our increasingly digital world — a universe of widely distributed photos and podcasts — what is our equivalent of ‘reading with a pencil’?

It is writing comments, or making the effort to like or share content. And the step forward in the digital world is that our marginalia can be seen by others and enrich their experience.

As I write that, it seems like a wildly optimistic view of digital commentary. We’ve all seen how dialog online can spiral into hateful and divisive words.  

But it doesn’t seem too optimistic for the Crazy Good Turns community. Your comments and observations — whether on our Facebook wall, @ me on Twitter, or to my personal email — have been consistently thoughtful, and often enrich my view of the stories we’ve told.

To everyone who has taken the time to write something after one of our episodes — or simply to “like” it or share it — many thanks for listening with your digital pencil!

-Frank

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