Yesterday I had the opportunity to go back to my highschool and give a keynote address in the schools main auditorium in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King’s Birthday.
If I told you I’d be back at my HS giving a keynote presentation on anything, especially service and impact when I was a student, I would have laughed in your face.
I told the students, as much when I began my presentation sitting in the audience, hoping that they would see that I wasn’t another adult talking “at them” but more as a peer telling them my story and how I was able to use some of Dr. King’s lasting lessons to find, pursue and manifest my passion and purpose.
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
When I was 18 and getting ready to graduate from college, I had no job, no plan and zero purpose…my outlook was pretty bleak.
A friend of mine named Tyler gave me some simple advice as we sat on the roof talking about what we were going to do with our lives and noticed me getting frustrated and upset…”getting mad isn’t going to change anything” he said.
In that moment, I realized that while it is natural to feel frustrated and overwhelmed it wasn’t going to move me out of this rut…those simple words drove me to action and gave me the willpower to take off and figure out what I was passionate about in life.
“Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.”
I told the students about the smartest decision I ever made…selling my T.V. and how often times we will need to sacrifice or “replace” some of the activities that we fall into but that don’t bring us happiness for those that do when we want to follow our passion.
“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”
I told the students about the moment that I decided to start my own non-profit and realization that I had never “started” anything before. I then shared one of my favorite pieces of advice from a friend named Adam Braun (The Founder of www.pencilsofpromise.org) on “GTS” (Google That Shit) and how I literally Googled “how to start a non-profit” to get Dreams For Kids DC started.
I talked about setting up our first ever event, an adaptive water skiing clinic in VA without any idea what we were doing and the simple fact that any one who ever created anything worthwhile, started by believing in themselves and taking the first step. We talked about how failure and real life experience are the quickest and most effective way to learn and grow.
“Everybody can be great… because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”
I sat on the stage and told the students about how I would have laughed off this quote when I was in highschool.. I literally hadn’t volunteered a day in my life before graduating.
I also told them that along the way, one universal truth I’ve uncovered is that the most fulfilling thing a human can do is simply help another.
True service doesn’t need to take the form of volunteering, it simply means giving all of ourselves and our energy to something greater than ourselves, whether that is a team, person, community, cause or organization doesn’t matter.
What do you know about service or helping others now, that you wish you knew when you were in highschool?