People Who Change the World: The Urban Farming Guys

This is part three of a three-part series.  Find part one here and part two here.

The Urban Farming Guys epitomize Gandhi’s quote to be the change you wish to see in the world.  These guys moved to one of the worst neighborhoods in the country.  The neighborhood was a place that politicians and charity groups had written off, because of the high rates of drug use, violence, arson, drop-outs, etc.  It was a place that was running low on hope.  The UFG’s changed that.  They brought hope back, and incredibly their efforts have actually reduced violence and restored the lives of addicts and criminals!

It would be best to see a brief video they made.  They can explain their efforts better than I can, but I’m not ashamed to say I’m a huge fan.  Ashlee and I donated to their efforts.  This is the future of freedom!

I think I was most excited to share with my kids about the Urban Farming Guys, because they are living the lesson I try to teach my family all the time.  God placed us on Earth at a specific time, in a specific place, with a certain family, endowed with unique interests and talents.  He did this for a purpose.  These conditions and attributes all contribute to our personal, individual mission.  When we key into our purpose on Earth we will be the happiest we could be, we will enjoy an immense sense of fulfilment, and we will have the greatest impact on the world around us.

I’ll keep this post brief so you will have time to watch the video, but I want to extend two invitations.  First, check out the Urban Farming Guys and consider donating.  They can be found on the internet here, Facebook here, and on YouTube here.

Second, and most importantly, spend some time brainstorming what your God-given purpose is.  Don’t be lazy about it.  Don’t assume it is your profession.  (Here’s a hint – it probably is NOT your profession.  I feel that the fact that over 80% of Americans are dissatisfied with their job is a symptom of people finding work in areas that do not align with their passion/purpose.) What are some interests you’ve had for a long time but never gave the time and resources you wish you had?  What’s a business idea you’ve mulled over that you were afraid to pursue? What’s an issue in society that boils your blood?

These might be areas that you were meant to be involved with.  Look into it more.  Find a mentor in those areas.  Read books about those interests.  And DO SOMETHING!  You might be surprised just how easily you change the world.

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People Who Change the World: William Kamkwamba

This is part two of a three part series.  Read part one here.

As a young boy I often had persecutory nightmares.  Someone would be chasing me or trying to kill me.  A few times I got to a point in the dream where I was stretched to my limit of stress and frustration.  I was tired of running.  A simple, small thought would come to me: This is just a dream and it is YOUR dream.  Change it.

So I would.  I fought back.  I took control.

I remembered these nightmares as I contemplated William Kamkwamba’s story, because there is some parallel.  I don’t think he had the same thoughts as me, but much in his life was like living a waking nightmare.  Instead of running, he took control of a small piece of his life that eventually made a huge difference.

Two things I love most about William’s story is first he did not see life as a victim and second his journey illustrates many of the principles that I love and learned from Oliver DeMille’s works – primarily A Thomas Jefferson Education.   I love teaching my kids this philosophy.  I love teaching them that they are meant to be great – to make a difference.

William is from Malawi.  A serious drought plagued his country, and many people starved to death.  The family farm was unable to produce a profit, and William was pulled from school, because his family could no longer afford the tuition.  William loved to learn and soon found the library.  His command of English was poor, so he preferred technical books with diagrams that he could understand.  He found a book about windmills which opened a whole new world to him.

William scoured the scrap yards for usable materials.  His former classmates made fun of him.  The people in his village thought he was crazy.  Even his mother told him to stop, but William kept learning and experimenting.  Eventually he built a working windmill that brought power to his home.

Soon the reporters came, and the poor, uneducated boy from Malawi was brought to an international stage.  William spoke at a TED event to share his story.  You can find the video here.  A year or so later he spoke again at a different TED event to explain more.  You can watch that video here.

“I tried and I made it.”

I love that Williams dedication to a dream led him to further opportunities to learn.  He attended college in the US and applied his education to expand his dreams and put them in place.  Already additional windmills and solar panels were brought to his village and William dreams of a day where all the fields are irrigated from wells instead of relying on the rain.  His dream will be powered by alternative, sustainable energy.

William’s story is an inspiration to me.  I highly recommend reading it in his book The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind.

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People Who Change the World: Elon Musk

I LOVE being a dad of boys in Cub Scouts!  It’s a lot of fun to watch my boys get excited about achieving goals.  The program exposes them to a lot of new ideas and reinforces values we teach in our home.  They’re learning new skills and developing character.  And it’s fun!

Ephram and I had a great time with a requirement that said: Find three stories that tell how people are protecting our world.  I shared with him the stories of three “people” that I look up to a lot.  I will write about this in four posts – three about the people, and one with some insight about why the process they’ve followed is the best way to make a positive impact on the world.

Elon Musk


Elon Musk is an amazing entrepreneur.  He’s an anomaly in the popular image of what a capitalist mogul is.  We often think of the powerful, rich, uncaring man who amasses wealth without a care for the world or its denizens.  (There’s a lot wrong with this perception, but that’s a topic for a later post.) A simple exploration of Musk’s business achievements obliterates this perception.

Ephram and I watched some videos about Musk’s company SpaceX, which is notable for making space travel possible at lower costs than previously possible.  They’re also making huge strides in manufacturing that will increase efficiency, reduce waste, and open the door for drastic improvements in complex components like rocket engines.

SpaceX is amazing, but my respect for Musk really comes from his work with Tesla.  Since being a kid I’ve looked at electric cars with disdain.  They either looked stupid, performed poorly, or most likely both.  It was like the auto industry manufactured a few electric cars in a way that turned people away from wanting to buy the very product they made!

Musk changed the rules.  He said that they would make a car that was world-class in performance (not compared to the previous models of electric cars, but compared to the world’s best gas-powered vehicles!), aesthetics, elegance, and technology.  He refused to accept that devoting attention and resources to one of these areas necessarily meant sacrificing in the other areas.  The result is electric cars that are in my opinion some of the coolest cars on the road.

He even bypassed the outdated, expensive model of dealership sales.  By selling direct he improved on the process of buying the vehicle with plans to make future models more accessible to the public.  And if you doubt his sincerity in making this TYPE of vehicle (notice I’m not saying just HIS cars) accessible to all, let me finish with the last tidbit that is the most amazing of all and the reason that I think he’s one of the most important figures in protecting the world: He released the patents held by Tesla – inviting competition and improvement on his designs.


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Review: How I Raised Myself from Failure to Success in Selling

How I Raised Myself from Failure to Success in Selling
How I Raised Myself from Failure to Success in Selling by Frank Bettger
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It is a shame that I’ve grown up with disdain for salesmen. This book along with others like Think and Grow Rich, The Magic of Thinking Big, and How to Win Friends and Influence People have taught me to love the world of sales.

I avoided such books for years because I thought they were books about techniques to get people to do what you want. I was so wrong.

What I learned from these books is that true sales is about connecting with people and serving them. They taught me that integrity, honesty, hard work, and a willingness to overcome one’s fears and weaknesses are more important that making a sale. In fact, they are essential to becoming who God intended we be!

I feel inadequate as I attempt to scratch down a bit of a review here. I recognize that as is true with all good classics, I could put a lot of mileage into rereading How I Raised Myself from Failure to Success in Selling and gain immensely from each read-through.

Bettger faced failures as a professional baseball player and later as an insurance salesman, but he eventually became a huge success, commanding the respect of Dale Carnegie. What changed? Bettger decided to dig into the WHY. Why had he performed poorly in spite of hard work? He began to identify the reasons and attacked them with enthusiasm. His stories show a readiness to learn from others and implement the principles they taught him. He followed the example of Benjamin Franklin and created a system to work on several virtues that would help him succeed as a man and a salesman.

The heart of these virtues is genuine concern for others. Bettger teaches the reader how to work towards overcoming fear, how to remember names and important details about other people, how to be a good listener, how to be genuine at all times, and how selling (when done right) is simply gaining the trust of others so they are willing to let you find them the best solutions for their individual situation.

I’ll end with the counsel he gives in the last chapter. He says that when we finish reading a book we have three choices.

1. Ignore it – we might as well not have read it in this case.
2. Try to implement every good idea – we’ll fail with this approach, because it is overwhelming and unrealistic.
3. Follow Benjamin Franklin’s example and focus on one lesson at a time – this will lead to lasting success.

My first point of focus is remembering the names of those I meet. To learn more about how to master names, read chapter 22! It will be well worth your time.

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Review: 1913

1913 by Oliver DeMille
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Yet another amazing book by Oliver DeMille. DeMille is so obviously keyed into his purpose, and his years and years of intense preparation, study, and experience allow him to deliver the message of liberty with clarity and accuracy.

The most important point I took from this book is that freedom can only exist when the people care enough to study out the issues and remain vigilant. DeMille writes:

Another simple reality is this: When people lose their freedoms in such a system, it is always the people, not the system, which have failed. The people have all the power, but they must choose to exercise it.

DeMille explains three major events that occurred in 1913 that derailed America from its foundation of liberty. These are the creation of the Federal reserve and the passing of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Amendments. These were followed by the ruling of United States v. Butler in 1936 which lambasted constitutional limitations on the federal government.

It is essential that we understand why these events are so damaging to freedom and prosperity, but I’ll direct you to the book to learn more. Do yourself a favor and read this book. It is such a pleasure to learn from Oliver DeMille, because he will never stop with identifying the problems. He always offers solutions.

In 1913, DeMille builds on the ideas he wrote about in his book FreedomShift. (Also a must read for anyone concerned with liberty and government.) In short, there must be an increase in entrepreneurship, self-directed education including voracious reading, and community building that participates in leadership development. Without these changes, the American legacy of liberty and prosperity will continue to erode.

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Review: President Ronald Reagan’s Initial Actions Project

President Ronald Reagan's Initial Actions Project
President Ronald Reagan’s Initial Actions Project by White House Staff
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Initial Actions Project (IAP) is a document spelling out Reagan’s philosophy and plan of action for his first 100 days in office.

I liked many of the economic principles. I loved the lessons about effective leadership. Specifically, in a time of arrogant, self-interested politicians, the IAP conveys humility. The plan shows great concern for involving other politicians, constituents, and appropriate agencies while maintaining a firm resolve for Reagan to take the helm and assume ultimate responsibility for the course of the Nation.

I appreciate that this wasn’t just some partisan drivel. In fact, the author of the introduction speaks favorably of Clinton’s economic leadership. The IAP also cites trends of past presidents without regard to their political party. The plan seems sincerely interested in taking the good and learning from the mistakes of others.

I personally have a problem with the idea of criticizing government for being too big and expensive while simultaneously planning to drastically increase military presence, intelligence gathering, and foreign aid. It seems a bit ironic. However, I also wonder what would have happened in the Cold War with a different president at the helm. I lack enough understanding of what transpired in that time to make an educated assessment.

Overall, I think this is an interesting and important document for those serving in or aspiring to leadership positions.

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Review: Los cuatro acuerdos: Una guia practica para la libertad personal, The Four Agreements, Spanish-Language Edition

Los cuatro acuerdos: Una guia practica para la libertad personal, The Four Agreements, Spanish-Language Edition
Los cuatro acuerdos: Una guia practica para la libertad personal, The Four Agreements, Spanish-Language Edition by Don Miguel Ruiz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Honestly, I didn’t love this book, but some of the principles it teaches are so potentially life changing that I had to give it four stars.

One important note: I read this in Spanish; consequently, some loss in translation may have occurred.

The book begins by explaining that our life is a dream made up of all the agreements we’ve made. Many of our agreements are lies born of fear and negativity and those consume a lot of our personal, productive energy. Love-based agreements preserve our energy.

There are four agreements which if adopted will aid us in breaking negative agreements and will allow us to use our personal power to rewrite our dream into heaven on earth.

The first agreement is to be impeccable with our words. Impeccable means without sin. Examples of sinful use of words are: negative self talk, gossiping, lying, carelessness with words, etc. Ruiz reminds us that words have power and must be used carefully and accurately. We should never hurt ourselves or others with our words, instead we ought to focus on using our words toward truth and love.

The second agreement is to not take anything personally. Anything said and done by another person reflects that person’s “reality”, not yours, unless you allow it to become part of your way of thinking. What I liked about this explanation is that it invited me to consider what influences people who make offensive remarks. Maybe they have some emotional baggage that is causing hurt in their life. It makes it easier to have grace toward others.

The third agreement is to never make assumptions. Ruiz makes no direct mention of assumptions making asses of u and me. He does explain that assuming creates a false reality, invites problems in relationships, and creates negative emotions. We assume because we fear asking for clarification or we think others ought to know what we want or think. How much better off would we be if we simply asked for clarification.

The fourth agreement is to always do the best we can. Action leads to fulfillment and happiness. Inaction is an attempt to avoid fear or risk. When we do our best we are content because we don’t feel guilt or shame. It’s about progress, not perfection. One day our best is different than the next day, but we can only be our true self is we’re giving all we’ve got in that moment, otherwise we’re hiding or avoiding part of who God intended us to be.

There is a lot of wisdom in these agreements. It is difficult to master them, but liberating if we do.

I recommend this book to anyone who wants to find more happiness and peace in their life, especially those with low self-esteem.

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