Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Live to Give

Pedro had an unusual childhood. His father died when he was ten, and as the oldest son, he assumed the responsibility to provide for his family. He dropped out of school and began looking for work. In his country, it was not uncommon for a child to find work in a factory. Wages were low and the hours were long, but Pedro was ambitious and he had a family to feed. After a long day at the factory, Pedro would walk the city streets with a rag and shine shoes for tips. When he saved enough money he purchased some shoe polish and his tips increased. After several years Pedro was able to acquire a small kiosk with a permanent location. Every evening after working in the factory Pedro would shine shoes and people came to respect him for his hard work and punctuality. Life was a struggle but he always wore a smile.

By his late teens, Pedro had become known as a master apprentice. He would regularly teach kids how to survive on the streets by shining shoes. He was sort of a big brother and mentor to dozens of youth living in challenging situations.

In time, Pedro came to have a family of his own, a wife and four children. Six people living in a one-bedroom shanty would have been unbearable if not for the love they felt for one another. Still, Pedro wanted more for his family, and this led to one of the most difficult decisions of his life.

Pedro asked his wife, Maria, to leave the country and find a higher paying job in America. She arrived in New York and was hired to work in a factory. She worked for two years to save enough money to buy a plane ticket for Pedro to join her. Then Pedro made another big sacrifice and left his four children with relatives so he could come to America and begin saving to bring them all together again. Pedro found work in a shoe factory, where his skill and experience with shoes allowed him to excel. He moved into manufacturing, where he made shoes for unique people and events. His shoes were worn by the famous Radio City Music Hall Rockettes, ballet dancers, and even the Smallest Man in the World in the Ringling Brothers Circus. Within two years, Pedro had saved enough money to bring his children to New York for a permanent family reunion.

JP was Pedro’s youngest son, and at age four, he had hardly spent any time with his parents. Pedro made up for this by teaching JP important life lessons about working hard and not forgetting where you come from. JP recalls numerous family trips back to his home country of the Dominican Republic. He never understood why his family traveled with so many suitcases on those trips. He often complained how heavy they were and found it curious that they were so light on the way back to NY. As a teenager, he learned that his father would pack the bags with clothes and supplies for people in his hometown less fortunate than him. This taught JP one of his dad’s favorite lessons firsthand: giving back unconditionally.

Pedro died in the summer of 2000 but his legacy lives on. JP, better known as Juan Casimiro, grew to be one of the world’s leading experts on youth empowerment. He is a Big Brother and mentor to over 100 youth. Juan travels the world, having visited over 30 countries, and never arrives empty-handed. In 2002, Juan started a toy drive to personally deliver toys to deserving children in developing countries. That first year he provided 50 toys to kids, and he knows from experience that one toy often gets shared and passed down to three younger children. Ten years later, the Casimiro Global Foundation has donated over thirty-thousand toys to children all over the world. This year they have a goal of 10,000 toys to benefit 10,000 children in 10 countries.

Remember that everything you do matters. Pedro’s life and lessons impacted his son Juan, who in turn has impacted hundreds of thousands of children all over the world. Their story inspired me to donate to their charity, and I hope you will consider donating toys or funds too:

Many people are looking to attract abundance into their life. Just remember that giving always precedes receiving.  This Holiday season, I give you the gift of the Live to Give Mindset.

Until next week...

Live Your Dreams 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

A Doubtful Christmas

As the holidays get into full swing, I decided to offer a different kind of story this week.  It’s the story of a young boy whose mother showed him what staying strong and being resourceful in the face of adversity really means, and it’s presented here in his own words:

“During one summer when I was young, my father sold everything we owned, took all the money and disappeared from our lives.  My mother suddenly found herself alone to care for five boys.  I was the oldest, barely ten years old.  My youngest brother still wore diapers.

“My grandparents welcomed us to their place – eighty acres of rocky hill country, twenty miles from the nearest town.  Grandpa butchered an extra hog that year, and we planted a field of turnips to mature in the cool fall weather.  My mother worked in the fields and cared for us kids while I started fifth grade at school.

“Changes in our lives couldn’t be avoided.  My father had been abusive at times, but he’d always provided for us.  Now, I worried about what might happen, but my mother stayed positive, and assured us that she would keep us together as a family and safe from harm.

“I milked cows before catching the school bus, and did chores after I got home each day.  The younger boys washed dishes, fed chickens and pigs, and carried in firewood.  Six-year-old Jerry was paired with me on a crosscut saw, and we regularly cut wood to heat the house during the winter.

“Our efforts paled in comparison to what our mother did, however.  At one hundred-five pounds, she could swing an axe, manhandle heavy horse-drawn plows, haul hay for the cattle, and harvest crops.  Still, she found time to help us with homework and say prayers with the younger boys.

“As Christmas approached, my mother didn’t seem to smile as much.  She hinted that Santa might have trouble bringing us presents this year.  I considered myself practically grown, so I hid my disappointment.

“One day, my mother took a saw into the forest and returned with a stack of tree limbs.  She left them in the harness room in the barn and refused to tell her curious children what they were for.

“She worked on her project while I was in school, but I peeked when I had a chance. Pieces of wood had been cut into different shapes, then planed and sanded smooth.  Later I found a stack of discs cut from a round oak limb.  She also had started to carve a long piece of hickory, but I couldn’t figure out its purpose.

“She hid everything from us and frustrated my attempts to snoop.  But I saw that she had used nails, glue, and paint from grandpa’s workshop.  I concluded that she had to be making presents.

“When school let out for the holiday, my brothers and I cut a Christmas tree in the forest and dragged it home through the early snow.  The whole family helped decorate it with ornaments, pinecones, and strings of popcorn.  We gathered mistletoe and holly boughs and hung them throughout the house.

“On Christmas morning, we hurried into the living room, and saw that a stack of packages had magically appeared overnight under the tree.  My mother handed out the presents, and my brothers opened packages stuffed with brightly colored trucks, tractors and trains.  Those odd pieces of wood she had handled in secret were assembled and painted to form toys.  The round discs made wheels that rolled, and the trucks and trains carried tiny logs and blocks.  The toys were beautifully crafted, and my siblings were thrilled.  When I tore off the newspaper wrapping my present, I found a hand carved bow and a quiver of arrows.

“Many winters have come and gone since that special holiday – that doubtful Christmas. My mother’s determination and perseverance transformed our poverty into a memorable day filled with delight, and foretold her ability to provide for us.  We were never hungry, and she made sure we got an education.  She taught us faith in our own abilities, and that faith sustains me still.”

The author of this story, Doyle Suit, published his first book this autumn, a novel for young adults called Baker Mountain.  Doyle’s stories are filled with hardships and challenges, but remind us that showing gratitude in the face of adversity will lead to a rewarding life.  This holiday, remember to focus on being grateful for the things you have, and there will be no time to think about what you don’t have!

Until next week...

Live Your Dreams 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Most Likely to Succeed

Kay grew up in a working class neighborhood of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and was a go-getter from day one.  At the age of five, she learned that her family was moving to a new house three miles away (which meant changing schools mid-year), and undertook her first serious negotiation.

Kay told her father how nice it was that they’d have a new home, but explained that she couldn’t move with them, because she needed to finish the year and graduate with her kindergarten class.  She first suggested staying with her grandmother in a neighborhood near her school, to which her father’s answer was, “you’re moving, and that’s that.”  Kay acquiesced, and then responded by asking for an increase in her allowance to cover the fare for her to take the city bus back to her old school.  Kay’s father was stunned by the audacity of his five-year-old daughter’s request, but ultimately said yes. 

The trust that her parents showed by letting her make decisions about her life at a young age helped Kay grow up independent and confident.  She was a competitive student, graduated valedictorian of her high school, and was voted “Most Likely to Succeed.”  

During college, Kay attended a compelling lecture on the world of geosynchronous orbiting satellites.  A few years later, she got a job in a TV studio while working her way through graduate school.  She became increasingly interested in the potential implications of satellite communications on television, and wrote her Master's thesis on the impact programming delivered via satellite could have on governments, cultures, and human rights.

Following a stint as a freelance writer, Kay went to work for UA-Columbia, one of the many small cable television companies attempting to establish itself in America.  At the time, cable television was something of a backwater industry, because the average viewer had no interest in paying for more programming when they already got three networks for free.  Nevertheless, Kay was young, ambitious, and believed in cable’s potential.  She also felt that the capabilities of satellite communications would open up the sharing of knowledge and information around the world, and that cable TV would be the perfect place for it to do so.  Soon, she would have the chance to prove it.

After a few years, Kay’s division was eliminated.  As she considered her next move, Kay came upon the small HBO cable network.  HBO had been a client of Kay’s, and was still sending programs out to regional stations on physical video tapes.  However, the network was advocating loudly for government approval to begin using satellites to transmit their programming.  That same year, the President of The Philippines successfully petitioned to host the third boxing match between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier in his capital city.  It was one of the most anticipated sporting events ever, and given its location on the other side of the world, it would be the perfect chance to show the power of satellite broadcasting.

In 1975, Kay and HBO transmitted “The Thrilla in Manila” more than 90,000 miles via satellite to a broadcast station in Vero Beach, Florida.  It was the first such broadcast ever, and it was shown to more than 200 senators and congressmen to demonstrate, beyond any doubt, that satellite transmission was the future of television.  The assembled group instantly understood the impact of being able to bring any program into the homes of cable subscribers from anywhere in the world instantaneously, and soon after, the use of satellites for commercial broadcasting was officially sanctioned.

Kay Koplovitz moved forward to co-found the Madison Square Garden Sports Network, becoming the first female network president in television history.  Prior to this, professional sports had only been televised locally, but Kay acquired the rights to broadcast all sporting events from Madison Square Garden, then negotiated contracts with Major League Baseball, the NBA, and the NHL  Gradually, she also introduced other non-sports programming, ultimately re-branding the company as The USA Network.  She was so successful that, twenty years after she started the network, she sold it for over 4 billion dollars!

I had the privilege of meeting Kay two weeks ago when she was inducted into the Entrepreneurship Hall of Fame.  When I asked her to share some advice with my readers, she said, “Set your sights high and pursue your dreams with enthusiasm and boundless energy!”  So take Kay’s advice and aim for the moon, because even if you fall short, you’ll still land among the stars.

Until next week...

Live Your Dreams

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Lights, Camera, Action!

Jamal grew up in South Acton Estate, a housing project west of London.  The area suffered from a bad reputation, due largely to high levels of crime associated with drug use and drug dealing. Coming of age in such a place was tough on Jamal, who also never knew his father.

Expectations were low that kids from his neighborhood would do much with their lives.  Jamal’s grades were nothing special, and school closures related to violence were a common sign of the times.  His teachers even went so far as to tell Jamal that all he would ever do was work in a grocery store or a fast food chain.  He was determined to prove them wrong. 

At age fifteen, Jamal’s parents got him a cheap video camera for Christmas.  He quickly learned to use it, and started off by filming foxes poking around the outside of his home.  When Jamal put the video online, it racked up close to 1,000 views.  There was just something about his filmmaking style that made ordinary situations interesting to watch.

All Jamal knew for certain was that he wanted to be successful, but he wasn’t sure how.  He loved rapping and felt he understood music, so he hoped to do something in that world. He also watched a lot of behind the scenes programs about the filming of videos.  Thinking about the success of his amateur wildlife video, and noticing that everyone in his local rap scene wanted to be the next rap star in front of the camera, Jamal came up with a plan:  He decided to make music videos.

Jamal and his camera became inseparable as he filmed local rappers in his neighborhood and in nearby communities.  He wasn’t thinking of the commercial potential of what he was doing, he was simply putting his videos online to make it easier for his friends to see them.  Initially, the reviews were mixed.  Some people didn’t appreciate the videos, but many others loved them. 

Leaving school, Jamal got a job at a local clothing store, and continued to film videos when he wasn’t at work.  He would sneak his camera into raves in order to shoot bigger acts, and reached out via email to record labels to try to get interview time with their artists.  At first, his requests were ignored or declined because he was an amateur.  But Jamal loved filming, so he persisted anyway. 

The quality of his work improved, and Jamal began building a reputation.  He continued to film up-and-coming rappers and singers, while also targeting established stars outside nightclubs, hotels and radio stations.  Soon, many of the local acts he captured grew to national awareness.  Word of mouth about Jamal’s online video channel spread, and it started to get hundreds of thousands of views.

Jamal hadn’t started out thinking of himself as an entrepreneur.  But as interest in his videos grew, he realized he might have a business on his hands.  He contacted YouTube, the site that hosted his video channel, to see if he was eligible for a share of advertising revenues.  He was turned down three times, but traffic from his videos continued to increase, so he kept trying.  Finally, after he was able to prove that the videos he was uploading were his original work, YouTube agreed.  Their first check to Jamal was for two hundred British pounds (approximately $350 dollars at the time).  And as he worked harder and put up more videos, the checks got bigger.

Billed as “the UK’s leading online youth broadcaster,” SB.TV is the name of Jamal Edwards’ company, a phenomenally successful media network which has generated more than 100 million online views and has hundreds of thousands of subscribers.  Jamal himself, who named SB.TV after his rapping name, “Smokey Barz," has a net worth today of over 10 million dollars.  At only 23 years old, something tells me Jamal is just getting warmed up.

Jamal’s story demonstrates that success is not just about pursuing your passion, but about having high expectations for your life.  Even when you think you’re dreaming big, stretch yourself even further, and visualize your success. And even when others don’t support or encourage you, find it within yourself to persevere, and you can reach the heights you dream of.  All you need to decide is whether you want to be the star in front of the camera or the genius behind it! 

Until next week...

Live Your Dreams