Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Give back.

Life is a gift, and it offers us the privilege, opportunity, and responsibility to give something back by becoming more. Anthony Robbins
In Double Lives, author, David Heenan interviews 10 outstanding individuals who have switched professions to recreate themselves in another career. Sony Chairman Norio Ohga (an orchestra conductor). Astronaut Sally Ride (previous president of website World Bank president Sir James Wolfensohn (former member of the Australian fencing team). Best-selling author Tess Gerritsen (former doctor who writes medical thrillers).

He investigates what makes them tick. What made them change. What gives them courage. He presents 20 key themes he discovered in his interviews to living a successful life, They include:

Listen to Your Heart
Take one step at a time
Define Success In Your Own Terms
Deliver Daily
Focus, Focus, Focus
Cultivate being a Maverick
Never Stop Learning
Reinvent yourself
Build a Brain Trust (surround yourself with allies and people of wisdom)
Start Now.

"Don't let procrastination, excuses, or regrets steal your dreams," Heenan writes.

On Monday, I interviewed a former client of the homeless shelter where I work who is now living independently in an apartment building we own and working on the maintenance team of the shelter.

I first met Brent at Project Forward, a 12 week financial intelligence and life-skills program I run with an outside volunteer every Tuesday night. Brent, as he would tell me later, didn't want to come to the program.

"I only came to the first session because I figured I had to make it look like I was doing something to change my life if I wanted to move into the apartment building," he said. "And going to the course would look good on my file."

He came to the first session and stayed for the entire 12 weeks. At graduation he approached me and asked, "Is there anything I can do to help with others in the course? I'd like to give back."

Give back.

I want to add it to Heenan's list Give Back.

For Brent, giving back has lead to a sense of fulfillment, a realization he is more than 'just some guy with a job who has no purpose'.

"Are you dreaming again?" I asked him in the interview.

"Oh yeah. I'm dreaming big," he replied. "I've got plans."

He'd quit dreaming for a long time. Quit believing there was more for him in life than the daily drudge. When he'd first encountered homelessness four years ago it was terrifying. "I remember walking away from my apartment. Broken. Scared. I had no idea where I'd sleep that night but I knew of this place (the shelter) and finally, after spending the day walking the streets, came into it that night. I was terrified."

For three years Brent struggled to make sense of his losses and his life. He moved from the Emergency shelter floor to a Transitional floor (a secure bed in a quieter environment with locker space and extra privileges). It was there he stuck, quietly going about his day, doing temp work when he could find it, frittering away what money he earned on cigarettes, gambling, booze and junk food.

"I had no direction. No motivation. No plan," he said.

And then, the prospect of moving out appeared on the horizon and he started to think about what could happen if...

"I began to realize I had to change," he said. "And I discovered the things that had tripped me up in the past didn't have to keep tripping me up in the future if I just gave myself a chance to start learning something new."

Budgeting, money management, lack of planning had all been issues for Brent. He came to Project Forward and started to engage his thinking in the possibilities of life beyond homelessness -- if he gave himself permission to dream, to set goals and to start moving towards them.

He's got dreams. Big ones.

Once upon a time he was homeless. Today, he has an apartment to call home. A job and a plan. Today, he gives back because, "It's the least I can do to repay how much I've been given."

Give back.

Give room for gratitude in your heart and discover ways to grow it where ever you go.

Be curious. Be persistent. Be confident -- you have something to give. It's in you.

For Brent, giving back means turning up every Tuesday night to spend an hour with 'the guys' (and the occasional woman who turns up) talking about his experience of being homeless and now housed. He recently suggested he start running little mini info sessions on our transitional housing floors, "So I can help people get over the fear and their resistance to change," he said.

For all of us, giving back means taking the time to discover what people around us are struggling to do, and what we can do to make what they're doing different, less frightening, less nerve-wracking, more enjoyable, more fulfilling.

Give back.

And fill your heart with gratitude.

You'll be richer for the experience.


Anonymous said...


this was the inspiration I needed this morning




p.s. call me, lets schedule that dog-walk ....also, I used your piece COURAGE IS PART OF ADVENTURE on 360boom the other day

Maureen said...

The stories of people such as Brent hold a lot of power. Thank you for sharing his with us.

Brandi said...

Just lovely...thanks, as always, for sharing!

Joyce Wycoff said...

Louise ... you can't know how inspirational and timely this piece was. Bless Brent. Bless you!

Anonymous said...

good addition to the list!

S. Etole said...

It's often in giving that we receive even more to give away ... said...

Wonderful post. Loved yesterday's, too.

and how is your daughter doing?