The prime ages for wanting to change the world are right around 18-25. You’re old enough to do something, but young enough to think it’s possible. For me, I was also too young to know that I had weaknesses. I think I always just pictured that someday I’d be famous enough to make a big speech about all the injustices I cared about and they’d go away. Then I turned 26. Then 27. Then 30.
Somewhere along the road I realized that aside from not having the skills to do the things I’d always thought I would, I mostly lacked the commitment. I was certainly committed to other things in my life, I just wasn’t committed to anything that didn’t benefit myself.
Somewhere around my 30th birthday, I came to a realization: I needed to stop waiting for myself to figure everything out. For all the gifts and skills I lacked, I had developed a few good ones too. That’s when I realized that no one that does great things figures it out first. They’ve just figured out how to go do something.
So instead of trying to get noticed, I just tried to get moving. Amy and I bought tickets to Kenya. We spent 2 weeks taking photos for an organization (eduKenya) that we’re passionate about. We spent a TON of money to do it. We got sick. We were uncomfortable. Sure, we made a few friends and we learned a few new things, but mostly we just worked. That’s the best we could do.
When we got back, everybody asked us how the trip was. I think they all expected elation, but the truth was… It was really hard.
Since returning from Kenya 2 years ago, I’ve changed in subtle ways. I’ve started to realize how small the world is. Mostly, I’ve started to realize that if I really want to see things change then I better do something before I ask anyone else to. There’s a lot of people that will tell you everything that bothers them, but not enough that just put their head down and do something about it. For me, that’s meant a few things:
- I need to get used to the idea that I won’t keep a lot of the money I make.
- I have to make time and sacrifices to make things happen without any potential rewards.
- I need to learn that it’s ok if things don’t work out.
In the last two years I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out what my skills are and how I can use them. At first that started as a print sale with our business. Then it turned into a Christmas gift and print sale. Then I started doing a bit of design work for eduKenya. Then I started The Giving Gallery.
The Giving Gallery is a way for photographers to donate an image that they love and for people to buy prints of that image at a good price. All of the money that’s made from sales (about 50%) goes directly to our friends at eduKenya. We do all the admin work ourselves and pay for all the little things involved.
I’d love to sit here and tell you that we’ve donated millions of dollars and that The Giving Gallery is a modern day success story. The truth is that we’ve done OK. It’s been a lot of work and a lot of time trying to get people to donate or to buy. Ultimately, it might be a huge success or just fade away. Either way I’m fine. It’s not that I’ve given up on trying to change the world. Quite the opposite! It’s that I’m learning that the joy comes from both the process and the results. If I truly want to change the world, then I need to be satisfied with just being part of the process without getting credit for the results. I think I’m getting there.