Those that know me, know that I have both mundane and eccentric interests, base and eclectic tastes, and a perspective fueled by a belief system that is fundamentally grounded in my personal experience. This truth, coupled with my curiosity to learn new things reshapes and reforms that belief system and, not surprisingly, it is unstable, ever evolving. For better or worse, it rests on an instability and a constantly shifting center of gravity that people might call “their reality.” That is why when recently I was asked by someone I do not know what they could do right now that would be useful the rest of their life I quickly replied, “Go somewhere!”
This is pretty easy. There are a lot of things one could do, but I suggested that my unknown friend get up and go somewhere he or she have never been before. It could be anywhere, somewhere near home, but it must be somewhere s/he have never been before and a little bit out of one’s comfort zone. I do not mean it has to be dangerous, just different. Notwithstanding the notion that near to home seems mundane, what I would really propose is that people travel to a foreign country, not as a tourist, but as someone who wants to immerse oneself in the cultural diversity and beauty of a different country. Stay long enough to feel the osmosis change you. Take your time, but over time go to a variety of nations to begin to understand that diversity and cultural character informs you in a way that is impossible to do otherwise. I said this already, but it is important, take your time. Get a job wherever you go, it might help defray expenses, assuming that is necessary. It is an economical way to extend your experience. Travel overland, not by plane. This also is key. You will discover things you never imagined possible. It will change you in a good way forever.
Again, those that know me know that this advice is based upon personal experience. My reality. But, as I noted earlier, that reality is constantly shifting. Like the idiot I am, little did I realize that this fundamental belief that doing something outside my comfort zone, again, and, at my age, would change me yet again? For this I have the Greater Impact Foundation to thank.
I am no Spring chicken; more of a middle age rooster absent some tail feathers. I have spent most of my career in the corporate world. So, when I assumed my current role it was definitely stepping out of my comfort zone. It felt a little like going to a foreign country with only my wits, experience and curiosity to guide me. At a minimum, it has been an incredible adventure and has continued to inform and shape “my reality” just as my travel experiences to foreign destinations did decades ago. Some of the things I have learned have changed me once again.
The people engaged in the social impact space, most of them much younger than me have reinvigorated my faith in the future. They are incredibly smart, motivated by a goodwill many elsewhere should consider, thirsty to learn better ways to accomplish their goals and open-minded about others. They are wise enough to be wary, yet curious enough to explore new approaches to living a good life.
Equally, the people I have met in far flung places, especially those struggling just to make it through another day remind me that dignity and resilience, desire and determination are not just the purview of those more fortunate. It is a universal character and a value that we, caught up in the hubbub of the daily rat race, or the comfort of economic equanimity, sometimes forget.
No doubt, the stories in the news are distressing. Sometimes the world seems about to disassemble. So, you might imagine that my advice is unsound, maybe outright risky. Though, for me, falling prey to the sirens in the media and the fearmongering for ratings or cocooning to avoid the total reality of my existence is not an option. My alternative, as the Greater Impact Foundation has allowed is to seek out the best of what the world has to offer. It keeps me sane.
Those endeavoring to do something just, especially those more than half my age make me feel much younger than I am. They allow me to recall why I chose long ago to go abroad to learn more about myself. The people they are trying to help have an equal or even a greater impact on my psyche. Together, they reinforce my conviction and advice to the stranger who asked me what they could do right now that would be useful the rest of their life. “Go somewhere!”