Ideas and inspiration for efficient living.

The power of personal vision

Earlier this month, I posted about the danger of complacency and how to remedy it via legacy work.

I discovered Scott Neeson’s story while thumbing through Reader’s Digest in a waiting room last December. I was very moved by his story, so I am sharing it with you now.

Here is the “About” description from his foundation’s website:

It’s been seven years since Scott Neeson first set foot in Cambodia, and six since he moved to Phnom Penh. He originally came to Cambodia as part of a five-week backpacking trip through Southeast Asia, but found his life changed by the tableau of Steung Meanchey, and the desperate circumstances and unlikely courage of some of the country’s most impoverished children.

After a 26 year-career in the film business, including tenure as president of 20th Century Fox International, where he oversaw the release and marketing of several of the top films of all time – ‘Braveheart,’ ‘Titanic,’ ‘Star Wars’ and ‘X-men’ – Scott left the industry to establish and personally oversee Cambodian Children’s Fund as Executive Director.

What is Steung Meanchey? It’s a massive dump where children gather various recyclables to sell in exchange for a bowl of rice. Many of these children are orphans.

Work conditions are treacherous. Cambodian garbage disposal laws are largely uncontrolled, so it’s not rare to find toxic chemicals, body parts, used syringes and aborted fetuses in the piles of refuse. Garbage truck drivers are careless and an average of 24 children are run over and killed each year.

This is the injustice that Scott Neeson saw on his backpacking trip that forever changed his life and ignited the fire of his personal vision.

He sold all his belongings, moved to Cambodia and begun the Cambodian Children’s Fund. His charity work provides landfill children with food, clothing, housing, education and much more. He gives them hope for what would have been a hopeless future.

So what does he have to say about leaving the jet-set lifestyle, the high income, the prestige all behind?

“There is a contentment now and a fulfillment that I would never get anywhere else. I’m not sure if it’s happiness — I don’t know how you define happiness — but there’s a knowledge now that what I’m doing is right and what I was meant to do.”

Neeson returns a couple of weeks per year to Hollywood to fundraise among the showbiz crowd. After a week, he can’t wait to return to Cambodia. I think we can safely say that he’s found his higher purpose.

What ignites your personal vision?


You can’t change the world

Have you ever said to yourself, “I want to change the world”?

Did you do it? Did you change the world? How did you do it?

Or did you come up with fifteen reasons and excuses not to? Did you let other people tell you it wasn’t possible AND you listened to them?

From a very early age, I knew I wanted to change the world. I read biographies about important people and told myself I would be like them. One day, a book would have to be written about me because I did something BIG.

I knew I wanted to do something to help children. Depending on the day, I wanted to be a pediatrician, sometimes in my own country, more times in a foreign poor country, almost always in Asia. As I grew older, I thought I would work in an orphanage, again somewhere in Asia. One thing I knew for sure, since I was eleven years old, was that I wanted to adopt a Chinese girl (or South East Asia). That desire came after a saw a documentary on the abandoned girls in China. At that moment, I knew that when my time would come to be a mom, I would give a forever family to one of those orphan girls.

I went to a college that was very big on the “go and change the world” motto. So I kept on believing I would, once I graduated.

Graduation came, I got married, got a job as a secretary while my husband was in school and I waited for my chance to change the world.

It never came. I sat in a lonely basement office 40 hours a week, for 3 years, hoping for a plane ticket to take me to the slums of India or the streets of South Korea.

I finally realized that I wouldn’t be changing the world – well, at least, not going anywhere in the world! – and that I had to settle for what I had.

In the meantime, I became a mom and thought that I’d put in all my time and energy into my child, because when you care for a child, you essentially change the world, right? I totally believe that’s true, but eventually, I wanted more, but didn’t feel there was anything more to get.

Enter a book called “The Art of Non-Conformity” by Chris Guillebeau. It was lent to my husband by a friend. I read any book that comes into my house, and the title seemed like it was written just for me, since I tend to conform to to few mainstream ideas. Here is the tagline from the book: “You don’t have to live your life the way other people expect you to. You can do good things for yourself and make the world a better place at the same time. Here’s how to do it.”

After I read this book, I felt like I was given a new life. I felt like Guillebeau had “given me permission” to dream again about changing the world. He described “changing the world” as “leaving a legacy”. That is what I’ve always wanted to do: to impact someone so profoundly that the course of that person’s life, and therefore the world, is never the same.

I will share in more detail how I expect to change the world specifically in a later entry, so stay tuned.

If you currently believe that you can’t change the world, if you’ve let the voices of normalcy tell you to just be a good person and do your thing, then I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to believe the lies. You can go ahead and dream big.

So I ask again:

Have you ever said to yourself, “I want to change the world”?

Will you do it?

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