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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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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