How to Become a Hero c.j. hayden
   How to Become a Hero
   You Are the Champion the World Is Waiting For

   C.J. Hayden, MCC

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Are you a positive deviant? 

postive devianceSome people are just different. And sometimes, it's exactly those differences that make them succeed where others fail. This "positive deviance" can be a clue to finding solutions for intractable social problems. At the Positive Deviance Initiative, sponsored by Tufts University, they are studying the impact of positive outliers -- people who stand out because their behavior differs from others in their community, causing improvements in health, education, living conditions, and more. The Positive Deviance (PD) approach identifies the behaviors that have helped these rebels produce positive results, and then tries to teach these behaviors to others.

For example, a PD study discovered that in hospitals with low infection rates, staff members were regularly using hand sanitizers. In hospitals with high infection rates, they were not. By spreading this behavior to other hospitals, infection rates have been lowered significantly. A simple behavior change with dramatic results.

In Vietnam, the PD approach has been used by Save the Children to combat widespread child malnutrition. At a time when 65% of Vietnamese children were malnourished, a team of PD researchers and volunteers discovered that some children of the very poorest families were not malnourished. These "deviant" children had something in common. Their caretakers were supplementing the children's rice with small shrimp or crabs collected from rice paddies and the green tops cut from sweet potatoes -- nutritious foods available for free. They were also feeding the children at least 3 times per day instead of just twice, and washing their hands before meals. These behaviors, when taught to others in the community, rehabilitated 80% of the children whose families participated.

A PD project currently being funded by the Rockefeller Foundation is seeking ways to decrease corruption in the developing world. The project is identifying the behaviors of the most ethical public officials and how they go about eliminating waste, fraud, and corruption, then trying to generalize and teach those behaviors. They believe that this type of abuse often results from lacking the skills to behave ethically, rather than a deliberate intent to hurt people.

What these inspiring examples highlight is that solving difficult problems often requires seeking out the rebels, dissenters, and independent thinkers in a community. For example, in Vietnam, many believed that the foods some families were using for additional nourishment were "inappropriate," because these foods were not traditionally fed to children. But the PD researchers showed that these deviants from normal behavior were producing results that those behaving traditionally couldn't achieve.

What the PD approach also suggests is that if you want to make an impact on solving challenging social problems, you may just need to become a rebel yourself. The key is to be not merely a dissenter, but a "positive deviant." Identify the people, places, and practices that are producing better results, determine what's being done that is outside the norm, and then copy it. If you can replicate the improved results simply by adopting the non-standard behaviors, you'll have discovered a new, unexpected solution. And even better,by teaching others to adopt the same deviant behavior, you can multiply your results on a grand scale.

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Conscious shopper's 2008 holiday guide 

gifts for a greener worldIt's time once again for my annual guide to conscious holiday shopping. In past years, I've suggested buying gift items from fair trade organizations, social enterprises, and cooperatives that support social causes. This year, I'm taking a different approach.

I love the holiday custom of exchanging gifts, but in a year when economic crisis and environmental degradation dominate the world news, it seems to me that nothing should be wasted. If you give someone a gift they will never use, precious resources are depleted. Money spent on unwanted tchotchkes could have gone to support a worthwhile cause. Shipping goods from across the country or around the world consumes fossil fuels. Many presents and their packaging quickly end up in landfills.

With those thoughts in mind, here are my suggestions for giving gifts this season that will make everyone happy, including Mother Earth.

Consider consumables. Food and beverages are often welcome and affordable gifts, especially if they will keep past the holidays when we are often surrounded by too much. Fair trade coffee, tea, and chocolate are good choices, as are soup and chili mixes, or jams and jellies. Avoid fruit baskets containing perishable products and excessive packaging. Make your purchase count even more by buying food gifts from projects like Global Exchange, SERRV International, and Greyston Bakery that support economic development in the developing world and inner cities.

Buy local. Shopping online is convenient and can save fuel when it replaces driving from store to store, but shipping your purchases adds to emissions also, and consumes more packaging. Buying gifts as close to the source as possible is an eco-friendly choice, especially for presents you'll be giving in person. Plan a trip to your local farmer's market, flea market, or crafts fair to find locally produced, inexpensive food and gift items. To find a farmer's market near you, visit Local Harvest.

Or, buy from local merchants that support your community instead of from national chains and big-box stores. For example, in San Francisco, Cole Hardware will donate 10% of your purchase to a local school or nonprofit of your choice, offers recycling for batteries, paint, and printer cartridges, and provides many other community services. They carry plenty of truly useful gift choices, including green selections like SIGG water bottles, the Garden Gourmet composter, and Goodwood® firelogs.

Give a gift that gives to others. Many of the recipients on your list may have more than enough of everything already. Consider planting a tree in their honor through Trees for the Future, adopting a marine mammal on their behalf through The Marine Mammal Center, or purchasing a dairy cow or goat in their name for a needy family in the developing world through Heifer International.

Ask people what they want. Most of us do this with our children, but we rarely ask adult relatives or business associates what they would like. If you don't know someone's preferences enough to know what sort of present would be welcome, gift cards are an environmentally friendly choice, and don't even require gift wrapping. If you purchase gift cards for major retailers through iGive, many merchants will donate a percentage of your purchase to a charity of your choice. (BTW, if you are planning to give me a gift this holiday, check my Amazon wish list, or just send chocolate.)

Donate unwanted gifts yourself. Unless you forward a copy of this article to everyone who will give you a present this season, you'll almost certainly receive some gifts you don't want. You might be pleasantly surprised at how many items can be donated. In addition to national charities like Goodwill Industries, many local churches, animal shelters, and hospital auxiliaries operate thrift shops that accept clothing and housewares. Libraries, schools, and community centers need books. Homeless shelters, children's hospitals, and day care centers can use toys and games. Women's shelters and recovery homes always need unopened bath and beauty products. Even gift cards can be donated through GiftCardDonor.

With a bit of planning and care, you and everyone on your gift list can enjoy the holiday season without depleting the earth or your pocketbook.

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Can capitalism become conscious? 

On August 7 in San Francisco, I'll be co-facilitating a discussion about Conscious Capitalism®. John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, is the champion of this project, and for the past few months, groups in San Francisco, Austin, and New York have been actively discussing the concepts behind it, sponsored by FLOW: Liberating the Entrepreneurial Spirit for Good.

Capitalism, the process whereby capital is mobilized to produce goods and services for people, can be practiced either consciously or unconsciously. The proponents of Conscious Capitalism believe that capital should be mobilized on behalf of making the world a better place, and work to support those who aspire to do so.

According to Mackey, "Businesses and corporations are seen as greedy, selfish, and evil... Business needs to become holistic and integral with deeper, more comprehensive purposes... If business owners/entrepreneurs begin to... manage their business more consciously for the well-being of all their major stakeholders while fulfilling their highest business purpose, then I believe that we would begin to see the hostility towards capitalism and business disappear."

In Mackey's white paper on Conscious Capitalism, he points out that the purpose of business is not just to maximize profits for the investors, as the economists would tell us. The entrepreneurs who found a business determine its purpose, not investors or lawyers or politicians. In Mackey's experience -- and mine -- maximizing profits is not the primary reason any entrepreneur builds a business. In fact, many of us start businesses with the express purpose of improving the world we live in. It is not only possible, but more common than you might think, to operate a business that makes the world better while earning a reasonable profit for its owners.

The key to being a fully conscious entrepreneur, according to Mackey, is to honor all the stakeholders in a business equally: owners, investors, employees, customers, suppliers, the community, and the environment. It might seem that the impact of such a holistic approach would be to depress profits, but in fact, this isn't necessarily true. Mackey cites a fascinating study of 30 publicly-traded companies managed according to this conscious, holistic paradigm. Over a period of ten years, these companies outperformed the S&P 500 by a ratio of nine to one.

The San Francisco Conscious Capitalism group this month will be discussing the topic "The Conscious Capitalism Business Plan: What is it? What goes into it? How is it different?" If you join us, expect a lively small group discussion, with plenty of time for your own contributions and questions.

Can capitalism become conscious? Here's what Mackey says: "...businesses have endless opportunities to attempt to do good in the world... if done consciously, on an ongoing basis by individuals and corporations around the world, would help push humanity into an era of accelerated progress that would be unprecedented in world history. That is what...Conscious Capitalism really means."

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So many causes, so little time 

Preparing for the Introduction to Social Entrepreneurship class I'm giving this month, I've been researching successful social entrepreneurs. What are the qualities that enable people like Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus to build an enterprise that benefits millions of people?

One essential quality that all these world-changers share is the ability to persist at solving a specific problem, regardless of roadblocks and distractions. Muhammad Yunus began his Grameen Bank with only $27 of his own money, and a staff of student volunteers. He persisted with his idea of providing microcredit to help families out of poverty despite opposition from the banking industry, political leaders who opposed his "capitalist" approach to helping the poor, and religious leaders who disapproved of his lending to women. Today the Grameen Bank has loaned money to 7 million people, reaching 80% of the poor families in Bangladesh. But what that took for Yunus was dedication to the same cause for over 30 years.

There are so many causes that one could choose to work for, and they all seem to need us. On any given day, I find myself drawn to acting on behalf of causes as varied as girls' education, global warming, Barack Obama's candidacy for president, and supporting entrepreneurship in the developing world. Working for the same cause for 30 years seems to me an unreachable ideal. Does that mean I'm not a candidate for social entrepreneurship?

In Tim Ferriss' book The 4-Hour Workweek, he has a powerful chapter on the topic "Filling the Void: Adding Life After Subtracting Work," in which he says, "Everything out there needs help... If you're improving the world -- however you define that -- consider your job well done... Find the cause or vehicle that interests you most and make no apologies."

I'd like to change one word of Tim's advice. Instead of "the cause," make it "a cause." If I, or you, or anyone can be a serial entrepreneur, we can also be serial social entrepreneurs.

For David Bornstein's book How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas, he interviewed Fabio Rosa, who has been working tirelessly to bring electricity to rural Brazil since the early 1980's. He asked Rosa why he continues to do this work, and Rosa responded, "I am trying to build a little part of the world in which I would like to live."

Yes, there are many causes to serve and limited time to serve them, but for each of us there is a little part of the world that we can help, sometimes by contributing five minutes and sometimes five years. Dedicated people like Yunus and Rosa can inspire us, but their shining example shouldn't deter us from casting a little light of our own.

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The hero's holiday shopping guide for 2007 

This holiday season, consider using your gift-shopping dollars to help make the world a better place. By purchasing gifts from fair trade organizations, social enterprises, nonprofit cooperatives, and other worthy causes, you can give a gift to the people on your list and to the global community at the same time. In what has become an annual feature in this blog, here are some suggested ways you can make a difference with your holiday shopping.

Ten Thousand Villages - Purchase fair trade housewares, jewelry, accessories, and other gifts from artisans in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. For the women on your list, check out the Vintage Appeal collection. For men, see the ideas on their Gifts for Him page.

Handmade Expressions - Choose from socially and environmentally responsible products from artisan cooperatives, including eco-friendly journals, shopping bags, tote bags, and purses from recycled materials, cloth dolls made from scraps, and jewelry created from locally sourced materials.

BuyChange - Select gifts from four different social enterprises that sustain worthy causes: Arghand Hand-milled Soap from Afghanistan, Food from the Hood Salad Dressing from South Central Los Angeles, Mr. Elliepooh Elephant Pooh Paper Products from Sri Lanka, and Hagar Handbags and Accessories from Cambodia.

A Greater Gift - This program of SERRV International provides development assistance to low-income micropreneurs and helps them market their products. In their online store, you can purchase jams and jellies from Swaziland, olive oil from Palestine, wild rice from the Native American Ojibwe tribe, tea from Nepal packaged in a satin brocade bag, and much more.

Palestine Children's Welfare Fund - You can purchase beautiful handmade embroidery crafted by Palestinian women in refugee camps. Your purchases help to support these women and their families, who have very few options for earning a living. Stop by the ConnectHer project to find out how your shopping dollars will help more women micro-entrepreneurs get started.

Heavenly Treasures - Help people break the cycle of poverty by purchasing handicrafts from livelihood projects in 11 countries around the world. Check out the banana bark holiday ornaments from Kenya, wool slippers from Kyrgyzstan, and silk scarves from Laos. If you're in the Los Angeles area, visit their retail store in Glendora.

Aid to Artisans - Buy jewelry, accessories, home decor, and crafts from this project to help artisans in the developing world learn business skills and find markets for their products. You can also find some ATA products at stores like Crate & Barrel and Pier 1 Imports.

iGive - If the wish lists of your loved ones include items from name brand merchants like Apple, Best Buy, Gap, or Harry & David, you can make these purchases and still make a contribution by shopping through iGive. Participating merchants will donate an average of 1-5% of your purchase to the cause of your choice. Since 1997, iGive has raised almost $3 million for charity.

JustGive - For the person who has everything, you can make a gift in their honor with a charity gift basket that donates the amount of your choice to a selection of charities in support of a single cause. Choose from causes like Support Women of the World, Create Peace for All, Plant Trees, or Provide Shelter for Animals.

For even more suggestions, check out my 2006 guide or 2005 guide to find sources for gift baskets, baby clothes, organic cotton clothing, bath salts, pet gifts, soup mixes, chocolate, and much more. Build a better world with your purchases this holiday.

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You don't have to do it alone 

The hero's journey can be a lonely one. But does it have to be? Or in fact, do the heroes who ultimately succeed in their quests do so because they were willing to seek out -- and accept -- a considerable amount of help?

In Joseph Campbell's writings about the hero's journey, he describes numerous helpers the hero may require along the way, including mentors, spirit guides, allies, and rescuers. In stories about heroes from mythology, fiction, and real life, the role of these helpers is significant.

King Arthur had his mentor Merlin and the aid of the Knights of the Round Table. Luke Skywalker had the guidance of Obi-Wan Kenobi and the companionship of Han Solo and Princess Leia. Lance Armstrong became a champion cyclist because he was mentored by Chris Carmichael, survived cancer with the assistance of Dr. Steven Wolff and cancer nurse Latrice Haney, and built his cancer research foundation with the help of Kristen Richard, who became his wife. Successful heroes have help.

If you are setting out on a quest of your own, you may already know that you need guidance and support, but where can you find it? One approach I always suggest to fledgling heroes pondering this question is immersion. If you stand outside the new world you want to enter, it always appears mysterious, and usually frightening. You don't know where to go or who to talk to, and because you aren't talking to anyone, you think you are alone with your goals and dreams. But once you take one small step into that world, you immediately make contact with like-minded people. The trick is to be willing to step in before you have it all figured out.

When I first decided to help entrepreneurs become more successful in 1992, I had no idea how to go about it. I didn't know anyone else who did that kind of work, I had no mentors or guides, and no one to help me. If I had stayed in that isolated state, I wouldn't have lasted 15 weeks in my new venture. Instead, it's been 15 years. The reason I've ultimately been able to help so many people with my work is because I've had a lot of help myself. And I found that help by immersing myself in the world I wanted to enter -- before I felt ready to be there.

What this means on a practical level can be any number of activities, for example, attending meetings of like-minded people, reading books about related people and projects, surfing the web to find out who is doing what, taking classes related to your goal or dream, and asking others for ideas, resources, and connections.

One of the most helpful steps to me personally turned out to be getting on mailing lists. Receiving newsletters and announcements from the people and organizations already in the world I wanted to enter introduced me to new possibilities, suggested places I could go and people I could meet, and made me feel as if I was a part of something.

If you are looking for mentors and allies for a social action or advocacy project of your own, the organization FLOW has developed some effective models for connecting people with similar ideas. In San Francisco, New York, and Austin, they've been holding regular "Activation Circle" gatherings to bring together people with a shared vision of "liberating the entrepreneurial spirit for good." And on Nov. 30 in Austin, and Dec. 7 in San Rafael, they are hosting daylong events for that purpose.

I'll be attending the San Rafael event, where the morning will be focused on a particular theme: supporting women entrepreneurs in the developing world. In the afternoon session, attendees will have a chance to interact with each other about the topic of their choice related to any social enterprise, in an open space setting. After attending a session like this in October, I walked away with a tall stack of new contacts and possibilities for my own projects.

One of the fastest ways to end your quest to make a difference before it starts is to believe that you're the only one on that particular journey. If you want to have a successful mission, start looking around for who else should be on your team.

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Five reasons why to stop global warming 

Amy Wilson is a woman on a mission. In the spring of 2006, she sold most of her possessions, cashed in her retirement savings, and set out on a quest to do something about global warming. Amy's project is called Five Reasons Why, a documentary film about how global warming is affecting people's daily lives, and what they are doing to stop it.

In Alaska, Amy interviewed indigenous people who told her that their traditional way of life is ending. "The fish are no longer good to eat," a village elder said. "The warmer water rots their flesh." Warmer temperatures are melting the ice and bringing more powerful storms to the coastline, causing people's homes to fall into the sea. Because of the warmer winters, spruce bark beetles are surviving year round, and killing trees by the thousands.

But the children of Alaska aren't waiting for adults to do something about it. "This is the biggest issue our generation faces," a young man in Anchorage told Amy. They have formed the organization "Alaska Youth for Environmental Action" and collected signatures from over 5,000 young people concerned about the future of their state. The kids raised money to fly to Washington and speak with legislators directly, and even purchased carbon credits to offset the environmental impact of their flight.

You can see a trailer for Five Reasons Why on Amy's site and learn about her plans to interview community members in four other states of the U.S. about what global warming is doing to them and how they plan to fight it. What Amy needs to finish her film is, of course, money. In addition to asking for individual donations, she is currently looking for people willing to host house parties and invite their friends to contribute.

"America is in denial about our warming planet," Amy warns. If nothing is done, "the consequences of America's inaction will be experienced by the entire world." Amy's heroic mission is to give a voice to those who are passionately engaged in taking action about global warming, and wake people up to the truth.

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The hero's holiday shopping guide 

The holiday shopping season is upon us, so it's time once again for what has become an annual feature in this blog – suggestions for how your gift-buying dollars can help to make the world a better place. By making your purchases from fair trade organizations, nonprofit collectives, social enterprises, and other worthy causes, you can give a gift to the people on your list and the global community at the same time. Here are some ideas:

The Culture Shop - Buy jewelry, accessories, textiles, and home decor created by indigenous craftspeople around the world. Everything in their catalog has been purchased according to Fair Trade Federation standards

Global Girlfriend - Organic cotton clothing, recycled plastic accessories, and natural bath products are available online from this Fair Trade boutique. Their goods are made by women's non-profit programs, women's cooperatives worldwide and products that benefit women's human rights.

Greyston Bakery - Order brownies and blondies for shipping nationwide from this social enterprise in Yonkers, NY that gives jobs and job training to the chronically unemployed. Greyston is the sole supplier of brownies to Ben & Jerry's, and profits from the bakery support community development initiatives, including low-income housing, childcare, health services, and technology education.

Humane Society - For the pet or pet-lover on your list, shop at the Humane Domain, where you can buy dog sweaters in team colors, kitty hammocks, dog or cat pajamas, and lots more. Proceeds benefit the Humane Society's animal welfare programs.

Rosie's Place - Purchase jewelry and accessories made from unique and vintage buttons, made by the Women's Craft Cooperative. Rosie's place serves poor and homeless women in Boston, providing emergency and long-term assistance with housing, food, health care, and education.

Shop New Orleans - You can help with Gulf Coast recovery by purchasing gifts from the artists, craftspeople, and nonprofits struggling to recover from Hurricane Katrina. The Carnival of Hurricane Relief has assembled this collection, which includes designs from the New Orleans Craft Mafia, Christmas note cards from Southern Creations, and prints of paintings salvaged from the destroyed Biloxi Maritime Museum.

Sweet Earth Organic Chocolates - Buy organic Fair Trade chocolate bars, caramels, truffles, cocoa mix, and more at wholesale prices. Orders from individuals are welcome on Sweet Earth's website.

Trails to Bridges - Beautiful handbags, baskets, pottery, scarves, jewelry, and more are available from this faith-based venture that supports disadvantaged artisans worldwide with Fair Trade practices.

Global Giving Gift Certificates - Allow the people on your gift list to donate to the cause of their choice by giving them a donation gift certificate. With Global Giving, you can buy a certificate in any amount of $10 or more, and the recipient can choose what project or organization your gift will be donated to by browsing a project catalog indexed by theme and global region.

For even more suggestions, check out last year's guide for where to buy gift baskets, baby clothes, bath salts, soup mixes, and much more. Make a difference with your dollars this holiday season.

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It takes a girl to raise a village 

I mentioned in my last post that I had come to a decision to focus on just one cause for all of my personal volunteer efforts and donations. By funneling my charitable energy into a single channel, I believe I can make more of a difference. I'd like to share with you what that cause is, and why I picked it.

One of my criteria for supporting a charitable project has always been that it has an aspect of teaching people how to fish. Over the past few years, I've been drawn to support organizations like Heifer International, who gives farm animals to villagers instead of food, and requires that each recipient of an animal give its first offspring to another family. Or Kiva, where you can make microloans to entrepreneur in the developing world to them build a business to support their family and create local jobs.

I love this sort of social trim-tabbing. Trim tabs are the small surfaces on the rudders and ailerons of boats and planes that can steer the whole vehicle with tiny movements. Buckminster Fuller used the term to describe people who seek to achieve major social change with minimum effort, by choosing carefully where to apply pressure.

A second yardstick I've used to choose my causes has been that I must feel a visceral connection to the people being helped and the specific way in which help is being delivered. Entrepreneurship projects gain my attention because I'm an entrepreneur who had to struggle to be successful myself. I worked on several Katrina relief projects because I empathized so deeply with the feelings of abandonment experienced by hurricane survivors when the help they were counting on didn't arrive.

My third rule has been that I must be able to connect what I give to an impact I can measure. In looking for a place to make contributions after the Asian tsunami, I chose to donate to a group delivering buckets of supplies to the Indonesian coast in small boats, instead of giving my money to the Red Cross. The Indonesian group was able to tell me exactly how many people my contribution would help, and how it would get to them.

So here's the cause I've found that meets all three of these personal standards of mine, and more -- send girls to school.

In many countries in the developing world, education isn't free. Families must pay school fees to local governments, buy uniforms, books, and supplies, and do without the income of a child who isn't working. Faced with tough decisions about how to spend scarce resources, many families choose to send boys to school, but keep girls at home and put them to work.

However, when girls do get an education, the impact on the family, village, and entire nation can be dramatic. Consider these facts:
o For every year a girl remains in school, her wages increase by 20%, and she has 10% fewer children
o A child whose mother attends five years of school has a 40% lower mortality risk
o For every two years a girl stays in school, the children she raises stay in school another year
o You can send a girl to school for an entire year with a donation as small as $75

According to UNICEF, educating girls is the best vehicle available for eradicating global poverty. The World Bank says: "Educating girls yields a higher rate of return than any other investment in the developing world." If you're interested in learning more about this topic, I've set up a Squidoo lens about it at launched a project to support this cause at

I'm sure you can see how this cause passes my tests for trim-tabbing and measurability. And as for the personal connection test, well... I'm a high school dropout who eventually worked my way through college with no help from my family. Helping girls get an education feels pretty personal to me.

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Heroes don't need to be famous 

In David Bornstein's book How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas, he discusses what makes a social entrepreneur successful. Along with qualities such as the willingness to self-correct, share credit, break free of established structures, and cross disciplinary boundaries, he mentions their "willingness to work quietly." It seems that many of the people most successful in exerting broad influence on how societies fix their problems often spend many years steadily advancing their ideas in small groups or one on one, working in relative obscurity.

Bornstein quotes Jean Monnet, the architect of European unification. In Monnet's Memoirs, he declares that people of ambition fall into two groups: those who want to "do something" and those who want to "be someone." Monnet elaborates: "The main concern of many very remarkable people is to cut a figure and play a role. They are useful to society... But, in general, it is the other kind of people who get things moving -- those who spend their time looking for places and opportunities to influence the course of events. The places are not always the most obvious ones, nor do the opportunities occur when many people expect them. Anyone who wants to find them has to forsake the limelight."

I think this is one of the reasons many who are truly heroes would never apply that label to themselves. Our image of the hero is often confused by picturing only those who achieve celebrity status. We consider Martin Luther King a hero not just because of the work he did, but because he spoke to huge crowds and appeared often in the media. But the March on Washington where King gave his "I Have a Dream" speech to a quarter of a million people was organized by a man you've probably never heard of: Bayard Rustin.

It was Rustin who set the program for that day, coordinated media outreach, arranged for transportation, and took elaborate measures to make sure there would be no violence. Rustin assigned responsible captains to each of the 1500 buses and 21 trains that brought demonstrators to the march, created a detachment of trained civilian marshals to serve as nonviolent peacekeepers, and provided for water, cheap food, toilet facilities, and first aid. Without Rustin, King might never have made his speech, or worse, it might never have been reported if violence had broken out at the march. (You can read this story in Jervis Anderson's book Bayard Rustin: Troubles I've Seen.)

Harry Truman once said "It's amazing what you can accomplish if you don't care who gets the credit." This simple philosophy is the mark of the true hero, who may often be someone whose name you will never know.

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New Year's revolution 

Every January, many of us spend a few moments thinking about what we want to do differently in the year to come. Typically, these resolutions focus on improving our lives. We resolve to exercise more, eat less, earn more, spend less, find a better job, or improve our health.

So here's a revolutionary idea -- what if this time around, you made a New Year's resolution to improve the lives of others? Look around you at whatever conditions in the world most often make you mad, sad, or frustrated. Are you fed up with our political leaders? Touched by the plight of earthquake victims in Pakistan? Angry that the world's poorest people are suffering while corporate greed seems at an all time high? These are all issues where one person can make a difference.

My first revolutionary resolution this year is to find ways of making my aid to others direct and personal. I notice that when I think about problems on a global scale, I often feel overwhelmed and hopeless. But if I see something I can do to help one small group of people directly, I feel energized and can take positive action.

Here's an example of that principle at work. I recently found out about Kiva, a microlending program that allows individuals to loan funds directly to entrepreneurs in the developing world. With the investment of tiny amounts of capital, these small businesses can provide a means of earning a living to their owners, the owner's family, and others in the community. When you visit Kiva's web site, you'll see a list of businesses that need microloans to get started or grow. Most businesses need amounts as small as $300-500, and you can loan as little as $25. These are loans, not grants or donated aid, and the funds go directly to the entrepreneur described on the site.

I decided to loan money to Agnes Ochieng, operator of a restaurant called Good Feeding in Tororo, Uganda. Agnes needed $300 to buy equipment for her restaurant, which employs five people in her village. And I feel a whole lot better about having loaned $300 to Agnes than if I had written a check to an aid agency so they could send food to Africa.

What will be your revolutionary idea in 2006? One person's resolution can make a significant difference in the lives of others. Is that one person you?

P.S. My "How to Become a Hero" teleconference discussion forum starts Jan. 10. We'll begin by discussing Step 1: Develop your heroic qualities. My story above is an example of how to put yourself in situations that evoke your higher self, an important aspect of this step. Please join us!

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Take the pledge in 2006 

Shel Horowitz wants to change the world. Shel is the author of Principled Profit: Marketing that Puts People First, and he's started a campaign to get 25,000 people to sign his Ethical Business Pledge. Shel believes that businesses should "look at the triple bottom line: financial, environmental, and social" in all their business practices.

In the pledge, business owners and their employees are asked to support this bottom line, to not tolerate crooked practices on the part of anyone their business deals with, and to share this message with others. Also in the pledge is the request to treat all stakeholders "with compassion, and with a commitment to service."

Compassion and service are two of the hallmarks of the hero, who when faced with a choice, puts the needs of others -- and the best interests of the community -- first. Shel envisions a world where a corporate culture built on strong ethics not only refuses to tolerate unprincipled behavior, but directly addresses issues that arise out of seeking only to maximize profit: unfair labor practices, the degradation of natural resources, damage to the environment, and the propping up of repressive governments.

If you'd like to support Shel's campaign, you can sign the pledge online. Note that Shel asks you to share his message with 100 other people in business when you do. Even if you don't decide to sign, Shel's 12 ways to reach 100 people are worth studying as an excellent model for getting your message across for any issue you care about.

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The hero's holiday gift giving guide 

Here in the first week of December, the thoughts of many are turning to holiday gift-giving. Why not use your holiday gifts to make the world a better place? By making your purchases from nonprofit collectives, social enterprises, and fair trade organizations, you can give a gift to the people on your list and the global community at the same time. Here are some sources for holiday gifts that will help to make the world a better place:

Global Exchange - At their Fair Trade Online Store, you can purchase crafts, clothing, jewelry, gift baskets, and more from importers and producers around the world who adhere to fair trade guidelines, providing their workers with a living wage and safe working conditions, and following environmentally sustainable practices. (I ordered several items for my gift list from them, which arrived within days and were as beautiful as they looked in the catalog.)

Marketplace India - Support economic development for disadvantaged women in India by purchasing beautiful clothing and linens manufactured by local cooperatives. Gift certificates are also available.

Appalachian Baby Design - If there are babies on your gift list, shop for clothing and blankets from this nonprofit, which has devoted itself to making machine knitting a sustainable, home-based industry for women in rural Appalachia.

Southwest Indian Foundation - Shop from a huge catalog of jewelry, clothing, ceramics, housewares, food gifts, and much more to support community development, affordable housing, and alcohol counseling for Native American families in the Navajo, Zuni and Hopi tribes.

Make Piece - Purchase one-of-a-kind, handmade jewelry made by low-income women in the Washington DC area.

The Enterprising Kitchen - These soaps, bath salts and other spa products are made by low-income Chicago women recovering from substance abuse and homelessness.

Women's Bean Project - Help Denver women break the cycle of poverty and unemployment by purchasing these delicious soup, bread, sauce, and beverage mixes.

Fair Trade Certified - Coffee, tea and chocolate are marvelous presents for the hard-to-buy-for names on your list, and make excellent client gifts. Look at your local health food store or progressive market for products that carry the fair trade certified labels from TransFair USA or Fair Trade Federation.

Heifer International - For the person who has everything, give them a cow... or a goat, llama, or water buffalo. Make a donation to Heifer and they will purchase farm animals to help needy families around the world earn their own livelihood. You will receive a beautiful "honor card" to give the recipient explaining the donation you made in their honor. For the last-minute giftgiver, honor cards are also available by email.

Most online stores will guarantee holiday delivery if you order by Dec. 10, so pull out your credit card this week and start saving the world.

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Beyond philanthropy 

In the July issue of Colorado Company, the cover article is The New Face of Philanthropy, featuring Jessica Biel's Make the Difference Network. Jessica's project is an innovative example of how to take action to solve social problems in a way that is self-sustaining. The concept of MTDN is to serve as a clearinghouse for nonprofits in need of support. Nonprofits become members and post "wishes" for projects in need of funding, each one categorized by an issue it addresses. When visitors come to the MTDN site, they can search for their favorite cause and locate nonprofits they can support to make a difference. They can contact the nonprofit directly about volunteering or contributing goods, or make a monetary donation via the MTDN site. MTDN takes no percentage of these donations.

A unique feature of MTDN is its use of celebrities. A celebrity member of MTDN can sponsor their favorite nonprofit causes. If you visit the site and search for wishes supporting entrepreneurship, you'll see that I am a celebrity sponsor of Global Inititative to Advance Entrepreneurship. The idea is that Jessica and the other celebrities involved will drive traffic to MTDN by including it in PR activities they are already engaged in to promote their work.

MTDN supports itself using an earned income model; it operates as a business. Instead of requiring grants and donations or taking a portion of the funds they collect, they charge a reasonable membership fee to the nonprofits who participate, and also sell fundraising items in their online store. (There is no charge for an individual to be a member.) In this way, the project can be self-sustaining without the need for fundraising.

This brand of social entrepreneurship is an answer to the high cost of fundraising for nonprofits trying to create positive change in the world. It is not at all unusual for a nonprofit to spend 50% or more of its budget on fundraising activities. Some organizations spend as much as 85% of their revenue on raising funds, leaving only 15% of what is collected going to help the intended beneficiaries. By forming an organization that pays its own way with membership fees, product sales and other sources of revenue, everyone involved can receive more direct benefit.

Forming a business like Jessica's can be an answer to the essential question would-be heroes often ask: "How can I make a living at changing the world?" If you have been contemplating this dilemma, think beyond working for a traditional nonprofit, or earning more at some other profession so you can spend more time volunteering. Is there instead a business model that might work to implement your idea of how the world most needs to be served?

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True grit 

Watching The New Heroes on PBS the past two weeks, I was struck by the incredible determination of the people featured on the series. Faced with overwhelming social problems, governmental inertia, political opposition, lack of funds, and even threats of violence, the social entrepreneurs who were profiled took action instead of waiting for help. All of the stories were striking, and if you didn't get a chance to watch the series, I would highly recommend buying the DVD for only $29.95.

One particularly compelling episode profiled Albina Ruiz, who is rescuing hundreds of people from an unimaginably miserable existence living in the garbage dumps of Peru. Poverty-stricken families from the countryside have built shacks in the middle of the city dumps in order to live off the garbage. The segment shows unforgettable footage of people crowding around a dump truck as it empties its contents, sorting through the garbage with their bare hands to find anything they can eat, use or sell.

Ruiz's brilliant idea was to form small businesses to process the garbage under controlled and sanitary conditions, and hire the people who were living in the dump to work there. The businesses earn enough to pay their workers by recycling usable items, making compost to use for fertilizer, and charging small service fees from local residents who never had garbage collection before and used to throw it in the river. Ruiz started doing this work alone nearly 20 years ago. Now she oversees projects in 20 cities across Peru, employs more than 150 people and serves over 3 million residents.

Beginning her work in an environment so unpleasant that most of us would never even go there, Ruiz has implemented a solution that simultaneously addresses poverty, unemployment, unhealthy living conditions, sustainable agriculture, and the quality of life for entire neighborhoods. It's an amazing story of dedication and commitment to finding a solution.

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Social Entrepreneurs as Heroes 

A new miniseries debuts on PBS this week titled The New Heroes. Hosted by Robert Redford, this four-part series profiles 14 social entrepreneurs who are addressing societal problems with entrepreneurial solutions. The program will first air on Tuesday, June 28 and Tuesday, July 5 and will be repeated several times, so be sure to check your local listings to find it.

Social entrepreneurship has been gaining momentum over the last two decades as so many people realize that the world's major problems require innovative solutions. Small organizations run by a tightly-knit management team often have a better chance of implementing new and radical ideas than government agencies, large nonprofits and major corporations. Most social entrepreneurship projects begin as the idea of just one person with a vision and the desire to make a difference.

David Bornstein's 2003 book How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas called international attention to this growing trend, and to the efforts of organizations like Ashoka who support and nurture entrepreneurial approaches to fixing global problems.

In my work as a business coach, I have had the privilege of helping numerous clients get socially-oriented businesses off the ground. My clients have included an author who used her publishing expertise to found a unique nonprofit helping low-income girls learn business skills, a mother-daughter film production team who formed a company dedicated to changing the role of women in the entertainment industry, a trainer who introduced sexual harassment awareness programs into elementary schools, and many more.

What all these social entrepreneurs have in common is a fierce determination to change business as usual to make the world a better place. In the words of Ashoka founder Bill Drayton, "Social entrepreneurs are not content just to give a fish or teach how to fish. They will not rest until they have revolutionized the fishing industry. "

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A little cash or a little time can make you a hero 

The tsunami disaster in South Asia is already starting to disappear from the headlines. The drama of the early rescues and heartbreaks has faded, so the media are turning their attention elsewhere. Meanwhile, in Indonesia, the death toll is still climbing, and as many as one million people are still homeless.

Indonesia was the country hardest hit by the tsunami, with over 100,000 dead so far. But the tragedy is far from over. Entire villages were swept from the earth, and the people who survived were left with no food, shelter, or clean water. Relief organizations from around the globe are helping with their immediate needs, but the long-term view is bleak. These survivors have lost their entire means of livelihood.

The environmental devastation caused by the tsunami has wiped out the rice fields and much of the fishing industry, in a country where most people live on rice and fish. It may take years for the land and sea to recover. The small businesses and cottage industries that used to supply jobs for people outside of farming and fishing are all gone. Their shops, inventory, and equipment are destroyed, and they have no source of funds to rebuild. It's going to take a lot more than emergency aid for this country to survive.

What the people of Indonesia need now is to regain a way to support themselves. Instead of gathering in refugee camps and lining up for handouts, they want to return home and go back to work. But what paying work is there for them to do?

Here's where you get to be a hero. I serve on the board of a nonprofit called Global Initiative for Entrepreneurship. Before the tsunami struck, we had begun a pilot project in Indonesia to help address global poverty through the vehicle of microenterprise. By helping people in developing countries start and expand small businesses, we create jobs where none exist. And we need your help.

One way you can help us is by donating by check or credit card. No donation is too small. I know you have seen many requests for tsunami relief donations over the last two weeks, but our goal is not just relief; it's recovery.

We also need volunteers. If you have skills in any of the following areas and can spare just a few hours, please email Global Initiative to find out how you can help us with: proposal writing, fundraising, graphic design, web design, copywriting, editing, financial analysis, business planning, import/export, product sales, or program management. Any nonprofit experience is a real plus.

I know many of you reading this are coaches and trainers, and soon we'll have a role for you to play, too, so stay tuned. This is a project where just a small contribution of time or money can make a big difference, so please pass the word about it to others you think may be interested.

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Be a holiday hero 

I love giving gifts, and at holiday time each year I buy many small presents for clients and business associates. It occurred to me this year that I could use this practice to do some good for the world at the same time. I decided to buy all my business gifts from companies and organizations that give back to the global community. Here are some of the sources for world-friendly gifts I chose:

Southwest Indian Foundation - This nonprofit group provides food, housing, and education to Native Americans of the Navajo, Zuni, and other tribes in the Four Corners area of the U.S. Their catalog offers a wide variety of gift choices, many handmade, including jewelry, pottery, dolls, music, and tea.

Xiao Ping Silk Collection - These beautiful silk brocade cosmetic bags, jewelry cases, purses, and tote bags are a fair trade product handmade in Shanghai.

Gecko Traders - Their hand-dyed hand-woven silk change purses, key cases, handbags, and accessories are made by a group of Cambodian women, many of them victims of land mines or polio, who are typically their families’ sole breadwinners.

Pharmaca - You can buy Xiao Ping and Gecko products at Pharmaca holistic pharmacies, along with Acholi Beads jewelry, handmade from recycled magazines by Ugandan women displaced from their homes by civil war.

Green & Black’s Chocolate - Delicious organic chocolate bars are made in several yummy flavors by this company that supports fair trade, organic farming, and biodiversity.

Heifer International - When you’re not sure what to buy, just send money. Only in this case, the money goes directly to this self-sustaining charity that feeds hungry people throughout the world by providing livestock so they can raise their own food. Make a gift in someone else’s name, and you can get a color fold-out "honor card" to send the recipient. Or for last-minute shoppers, print one online.

If you’d like to be a holiday hero this year, consider choosing some gifts like these that help to make the world a better place.

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Doing well by doing good 

Recently, a member of the Get Clients NOW! online community posed the group a question. There were some social issues she cared very much about and she wanted to address them somehow in her professional work. I hear this desire often from self-employed professionals. Having already taken the first step toward choosing how they spend more of their time by opting to work for themselves, now they wonder, "Can I make a living by doing what I really want to do and also give back?

I think this is a real possibility for professionals who work for themselves. Here is how I answered the member's question.

There are many ways of incorporating issues you are passionate about into your business enterprise. Some of them involve earning money directly from working on the issues and others do not. For example:

o Offering your professional services to nonprofit organizations pro bono, at a reduced fee (paid for by the agency but free to the recipients), or at full fee (paid for by a grant to the sponsoring agency). A hypnotherapist concerned about social conditions in the country she emigrated from could offer her services to victims of trauma arriving in the U.S. as refugees.

o Speaking or writing about the issues that concern you either on a paid basis or in return for promotional opportunities for you and your business. You can talk about the issues and promote your business at the same time to those who read your articles or hear you speak. This weblog allows me to talk about non-business issues that interest me while still receiving promotional benefit by gaining more visibility with new readers.

o Starting a project of your own to help others that emphasizes your professional skills and gains visibility for your business. Often this can involve partnering with an existing nonprofit or a business who can provide some financing. Steven Van Yoder's Global Initiative for Entrepreneurship is a great example of this strategy.

o Using the programs or events of your business as fundraisers to benefit a cause that concerns you. I've done this frequently for causes like Heifer International or coaching legislation in Colorado.

o Offering resources your business has to groups who need them, e.g. a page on your website or meeting space in your office.

o Concentrating on making your business profitable with the goal of being able to volunteer more of your time and money to important causes.

These are just a few ideas for business owners to begin incorporating the concerns they have about the larger world into their existing enterprise. If you want to move in this direction, pick just one idea to start with so you can begin making a difference right away. It really is possible to make a good living and make a valuable contribution at the same time.

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Helping entrepreneurs around the globe 

My friend and colleague Steven Van Yoder has launched a fascinating project to help micro-entrepreneurs in the developing world get started. Steve is the author of Get Slightly Famous, and he's using the principles in his book to assist new entrepreneurs in India and Bali.

"This project is my book brought to life," says Steve. "As a long-time journalist, I've traveled and seen the human costs of poverty and economic hardships brought on by a rapidly changing global economy, especially to people in the developing world."

Steve is posting periodic reports during his current trip, detailing his efforts to mentor a Balinese cab driver and Indian virtual assistant. This is just the sort of heroic project I love to hear about, showing what one person can do to make a difference in the world.

P.S. If you've been missing your email updates from "How to Become a Hero," it's because the Bloglet subscription service has been down since Aug. 10. It appears to be working again now. Please visit the site to see what you have missed.

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Sharing the wealth 

From time to time in these posts, I hope to share stories of modern day enlightened heroes. One that I have admired for some time is Dan West, founder of the charitable organization Heifer International. Dan founded Heifer in 1944 based on a remarkably simple idea. Instead of giving food to hungry families, Dan convinced Midwestern farmers to donate young dairy cows. The gifts were given with one condition attached: each family who received a heifer had to give one of its offspring to another hungry family in their village. Today, the Heifer organization provides farm animals for food, wool, or draft power to needy areas in 115 countries and trains the recipients in sustainable agriculture. Each donation is tailored to the environment and culture of the area, and may include cows, pigs, sheep, goats, chickens, ducks, geese, rabbits, guinea pigs, bees, camels, donkeys, oxen, water buffalo, or llamas. The requirement for "passing on the gift" continues, and families who receive animals say that one of the most rewarding parts of the program for them is being able to help another local family feed themselves.

In a recent issue of Heifer's World Ark magazine, West's daughter Jan West Schrock talks about her father's belief that we should all "live simply so that others may simply live." He often said, "If a person has more than three pairs of shoes in their closet, someone is doing without." Instead of working hard to accumulate more, we should let go of what we don't really need and give it away. Dan West's courage to share his simple idea has directly helped 4.5 million families around the world, and improved the lives of millions of others through pass-on animals.

If you know of modern-day heroes like Dan West who exemplify stepping into one's own greatness to be of service to others, I'd love to hear about them. Please post a comment on the "Hero" web site or email me.

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Making it up as you go 

Speaking today at the San Francisco Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center, I was struck once again by the awesome inventiveness of entrepreneurs. Fully half the audience was made up of people who owned businesses that were totally unique. That's one of the greatest things about starting a business -- you can just make it up.

When you are on the outside of entrepreneurship looking in, you may think that to be a successful business owner, you must be a butcher, baker, or candlestick maker. There is much in the business literature to support the idea that you should choose a business with a recognized label, e.g. graphic designer, bookkeeper, or executive recruiter. Or one where you can follow a manual someone will be happy to sell you -- for medical transcription, gift baskets, or home inspection -- and perhaps even buy into a brand name through a franchise or direct selling company. But it doesn't have to look this way at all.

One of the people I met today was Roger Kalhoefer, founder of Holy Legends Ltd. His violence-free board and video games promote cross-cultural understanding by featuring the heroic story of Abraham, patriarch of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity.

Also in the audience was Myra Alcaide, managing partner of Prime Image. Her company helps to celebrate and unite Asian communities by providing entertainers and event production services. Their mission is to give the Asian community a voice in mainstream entertainment. Try finding either of those enterprises in a how-to-start-a-business guide.

It's my belief that whatever your mission in life is, you can find a way to make a living at it, and therefore be able to work at your mission full time. But to do this, you often must be willing "to boldly go where no one has gone before."

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Business or pleasure? 

I'm a strong advocate for pursuing one's avocation as a vocation. The reason is simple -- it makes it possible for you to do what you love full time instead of relegating it to your spare time. If your desire is to be of service, you can make a much greater contribution if you are able to serve while making a living.

This crucial area is one where stepping into your greatness becomes essential. You must have the courage to Do What You Love, the Money Will Follow. It is possible to follow the path of right livelihood as an employee -- challenging enough in itself, when you must break away from a more comfortable career. But I find that for many seekers, their true vocation requires some form of self-employment.

This becomes a triple challenge. First, you must leave your former occupation and learn a new one. Second, you must remain steady on the course of pursuing your dream in the face of numerous outside influences that oppose you. And third, you must rely on your own resources instead of a paycheck to earn your way. It's truly a feat worthy of a hero, and one which requires the use of all your heroic qualities to accomplish.

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