Don’t underestimate the power of your vision to change the world. Whether that world is your office, your community, an industry or a global movement, you need to have a core belief that what you contribute can fundamentally change the paradigm or way of thinking about problems.
With so much focus on ‘Adulting’ it’s been awhile since I’ve talked to my parenting audience. Hopefully, you’ll not only read this, but take what is said in the following article to heart. It may save you from untold heartache and disappointment when you have to deal with…
The Weight Of Reality
A painful choice had to be made today.
For weeks I’ve watched, waited, tried variations, even dropped to my knees in prayer…trying to find a better solution.
Yet no matter what was tried, I find myself back at this very spot, sick to my stomach and my heart feels like it’s going to break. In the end, Kathi and I had to sit down in our own living room, look a mother (and dear friend) in the face and give her the sad news:
For the first time in memory, circumstances have forced me to turn my back on, and walk away from, kids who need me.
What makes this even more painful, is that these teens come to my home.
Kids who are welcomed, loved, visit with my family…who tell me they come here because it’s where they feel safe and loved.
[Insert frustrating curse words here…]
Yes, the kids will understand my ‘adult’ reasons for the choice made.
…but twenty years of experience tells me it will become another betrayal of their confidence and trust in a string of life pains I was striving to help heal.
Teens who were willing to become emotionally vulnerable, because an adult truly cared about them.
It hurt just to type that out.
Can’t help but think it might leave scars on some of them.
This has made me recall the 10 Commandments of Changing the World.
…the simple, yet profound things that we, as adults (not just parents) can do to make a real and lasting difference in the world, by how we affect others.
#1 Thou Shalt Inspire A Heart, Not Break It
Change the world? People have always thought I was crazy.
Be honest. You come here, read these articles, maybe read my books or look around this website…and you have wondered at some point, what kind of mind comes up with all this?
You read the comments, the conversations with visitors…and it perks your curiosity, doesn’t it?
That happens with kids, too.
The things said, the way I interact with them…
I’m not like other adults and they notice that.
It’s about honesty, confidence and trust.
No…it’s really about inspiring.
My belief is that, for some reason, something inside me never let go of the pains of struggles of my own youth. Oh, it’s only a guess—I’m no shrink, but when I see a teen struggling—when they’re in pain, I feel it.
Something in me cracks…and my heart is compelled to help.
My first desire is to alleviate that pain. To reach out and make sure they know they’re not alone.
The next step is almost immediate—and that is to strengthen them, give them emotional and mental tools so they don’t have to face that fear alone.
You do that by weaving reality to show another that there are possibilities in their own lives. It doesn’t matter who they are, where they come from, what struggles they face—your job is to show them just the probability of a better future.
This allows them to confront the fear.
The fear that we don’t matter.
#2 Thou Shalt Lead, Not Drive
We all have a need to be wanted and accepted at some level. To know, not merely hope, that we have value.
For when we realize that we have value, regardless of looks, wealth, talent, intelligence, gender, nationality or beliefs…a true and deep rooted transformation takes place.
…and we can heal.
That’s all Wanted Hero was really supposed to be.
Did you know that?
My plan was to write a story about a teen who was exposed to extraordinary circumstances so he could learn that he matters. That he has value. That he is more than he thinks he is.
To write a story of such magnitude and depth, that readers would fall in love with the characters, with the world, with the wonder of it all…and they would learn that very lesson for themselves.
Because they would feel it and discover it all on their own.
I wanted to write a story to help kids heal and then guide them to find that hidden hero inside them.
Inside every one of them.
Not preach to them. Not get in their faces. Not talk about religion or rules or how they should conform. Why? Because if you force something, even your own views on another, our natural inclination is to shut down and reject, not accept.
Just tell a story that allows them to discover a better self.
…and I thought, “The rest will take care of itself.”
You know what?
For once in my life, I was actually right.
Kids started to realize that they could be something more.
So they chose to be amazing.
#3 Thou Shalt Give Without Expectations
I didn’t expect the emails.
You don’t write a story, expecting parents to thank you for encouraging their child, inspiring their child…or for unknowingly bridging the gap between them by providing a story they both enjoy and talk about.
You just…write the story because it needs to be told.
Put your heart into it. Put your hope into it.
Kiss it on the forehead and then let it go.
Teens reached out, sharing experiences of overcoming fears and adversity. A young girl who’d been crippled in an accident, thanked me for helping her get through her rehabilitation. I actually heard a father reading part of my book to parents in church, as an example of what they should be teaching their kids!
To this day…I don’t fully understand it all.
This story mean different things to different people.
What I do know is that this story continues to grow in influence, little by little, reaching further each year:
USA, Canada, Russia, Brazil, UK, Australia, India, Italy, Netherlands, Germany, Japan, Ukraine, Belgium, Serbia, Spain, France, Greece, Norway, Philippines…and the list continued, until emails became phone calls.
Doors opened and parents started reaching out.
What started as just a story, became a cause.
#4 Thou Shalt Remember Thine Own Past
We all have experiences we can (and should) draw upon to change the world. To use them in benefiting the lives of others. What to do…what NOT to do.
Yet more importantly, we should use our painful experiences as a reminder to be patient and compassionate.
Years ago I was in a horrible car accident.
I didn’t want to wear a seatbelt. In my foolishness, I thought the shoulder strap was good enough, so I ignored my friends’ warnings.
It was the big brother day—and both Tony and I had our baby brothers in the back seat. We were taking them out for food and an afternoon at the nicklecade.
We never saw the car until it was too late.
The force of the impact was such that our car jumped into the air several feet…the engine cracked in half.
When I was cut from the car, it was a complete miracle I was even alive. The engine hood came into the windshield and had missed decapitating me by inches.
Instead, I was blessed with the second best thing: mangled hands.
That accident changed my life forever.
No more drawing cartoons, but I met the love of my soul and knowing her has helped me to become the man you’ve come to know through these articles and books.
But I wonder sometimes, why didn’t I wear that seatbelt?
Would life had been different if I had?
Would I have met Kathilynn? Would I still have 12 amazing children?
I don’t know the answer to that.
What is plain, is that the events of my life and my own choices—combined with the choices of others—brought me here.
We forget that when we interact with others—expecting them to be as we would like them to be, rather than who they are…WHERE they are, right here and now.
Who made you so damned perfect?
Snap out of it & keep it in perspective.
#5 Thou Shalt Not Run Faster Than Thou Hast Strength
So here I am, with Wanted Hero…and my desire was to run faster than I had the resources to support or strength to sustain. It wasn’t necessarily a bad desire…it just wasn’t wise.
As each door opened, I would jump in with both feet. Not once can I recall stopping to feel for a light switch. My conditioning/habit is to believe in the potential of something…and jump.
Again, perhaps you think I’m crazy (or reckless).
Maybe you’re right.
…but even if that’s true, it wouldn’t deter me.
Not for a single moment.
Even when I crash and get mangled.
(Okay, that does sound like I’m crazy…)
Yet, the lives that have been touched and the ripple effect those people have on others has shown me that passion, commitment, perseverance and conviction can oftentimes carry you forward when nothing else will.
When I could no longer make comic books for kids, my wife said, “write novels.”
“But I don’t know how,” I replied.
“Then learn,” she encouraged me. “You’re good at learning.”
So I did.
[Ladies, never underestimate the influence you have on those who love you. He may not say so, but the world revolves because you breathe life into it for us and give it value, remember that.]
“We don’t have the resources to publish these,” I said.
“Write them anyway, for when we do,” she smiled.
That was 21 books ago.
One book at a time. One reader at a time.
Then one talk at a time. One class at a time.
…until I finally realized what it meant, to “not run faster than you have strength.”
It’s not that you stop moving or trying or striving to accomplish…but rather stop berating yourself or whipping yourself when you can’t do more than you already are.
The KEY is, YOU are in charge of putting forth the effort and consistency…while the UNIVERSE is in charge of the results.
It’s not the other way around.
#6 Thou Shalt Choose Or It Shall Be Chosen For Thee
The journey always made sense.
I love people. I love kids…and there was a story in my heart to share.
All I had to do was tell that story and it would do all the teaching.
That was my part: tell the story.
It could be published into books and as those sold, it would pay for the website, pay for further books, other creations and be self-sustaining.
Piece of cake.
But it didn’t work that way.
The transition between your daily living and something you hope to do for your living is rarely a smooth transition. If you don’t believe me, ask Kevin Duncan over at Be A Better Blogger. One of the best bloggers I’ve ever known (and one of the most talented), he’s had a similar struggle trying to balance a day job and pursuing his passion and dreams to make a living with his blog.
I bet you can relate to this as well in some aspect of your life.
Writing turned into so much more than I imagined. Books became games and more stories and interviews, teaching and speaking to youth. I was requested by families, schools, churches, even state programs…all to speak with and encourage teens. Sometimes I wasn’t even quite sure what message to give until I got there and met the youth face to face!
It became very personal.
All the money from my book sales goes to sustain this already…and even though books sell consistently—they don’t sell fast enough.
Over time, that small gap slowly became a chasm.
…until I was forced to choose between a life I could sustain and a life I was trying to get to.
Late one night, staring at the 8400 new visitors stat on Google Analytics….and the seemingly endless schedule of classes on my daily planner, I moaned. “This has grown so much bigger than the resources we have and I don’t know how to keep going.”
#7 Thou Shalt Heed The Spirit Of The Gathering
Walking slowly to my desk, Kathi lifted my face and gave me a tender kiss ( I love when she does that). With a bright smile that always tells me there’s more to a situation than what I’m seeing, she whispered, “Then we find people to help support it until enough books are selling and it’s self-sustaining.”
Puzzled, “Who would do that?”
“Where do I find sponsors?”
“Businesses, people, families…I don’t know. You’ll figure it out, though. That’s one of the things I admire about you, sweetheart…you always figure things out.”
Now, I’m a man that believes that I’m not even close to my full potential without Kathilynn. We make a complete person, in my opinion.
…and then it hit me.
Are we supposed to be alone in our business ventures? Especially when we are trying to create lasting improvements and change int he environment around us?
CAN we do it alone?
I don’t think so.
It’s a lot like a marriage and we have to find the right partners that believe in us and we in them—combining our love, goals, passions, and energies for the same cause.
There are many times where I have heeded the calls of others concerning their own projects. From book launches to reviews or blog tours, raising money for good causes or cooking for 750 people because no one else wanted to do it.
Wasn’t it alright for me to make a call of my own and see who would gather under a banner for inspiring youth?
#8 Thou Shalt Be Of One Heart, One Mind
I want to change the world because I don’t like what I see and I don’t want to leave such a crappy inheritance to my children…or yours.
It never occurred to me that this would be impossible to do on my own. Until that fact was accepted—the truth never would have appeared to my skewed vision.
WE are the greatest power on Earth–and I’m not talking about “Americans” and sure as hell NOT talking about governments. I’m talking about you and me and the people we know.
I don’t want to offend my religious friends here—so please hear what I mean, even though my words are imperfect.
WE were created with purpose.
WE were created FOR a purpose.
WE were created to do good.
WE were not meant to be alone.
There is nothing that WE cannot accomplish, for good, with purpose, together.
That’s the beautiful magic of this life—what can be accomplished when we set harsh feelings and judgments aside and work side by side for a common goal. When self is willingly set aside for another and the focus is outward, because we take pleasure…no…when we find joy, in the happiness of another!
As a community, we have the ability to accomplish seemingly impossible feats, heal hearts and empower minds by nothing more than small, combined efforts.
#9 Thou Shalt Remember The Children
This is my opinion only…but I believe there is nothing greater than caring for children.
It is for children that I live, breathe and work.
Children are the treasures of this world.
Children are a society’s assets and strength.
Those who shape the minds and hearts of children, shape the future.
Few examples of community exceed that of helping a child.
BATKID: When a small boy battled Leukemia in California, a blogger heard what Make A Wish Foundation wanted to do for “BatKid.” Using his blog and social media, this person rallied a community to help provide a truly epic and life-changing experience for the child.
Ryan Hreljac: In 1998 six year old boy, Ryan, heard that other kids in Africa didn’t have clean water to drink unless they walked many miles to get it. He was so concerned, he decided he needed to build a well for a village in Africa. This child did extra chores and spoke publicly about clean water issues and in 1999, a well was built in a Ugandan village.
Through this child’s determination and rallying a growing community behind him, he has completed 667 projects in 16 countries, providing water to 714,000 people.
It Started With A Cabbage: A 9 year old girl brought home a cabbage plant for a school project and grew it to an impressive 40lbs. Katie donated that cabbage to a soup kitchen which helped feed 275 people. Moved by the experience, she started a program that provides food for the needy. “If you want to make a difference, follow a cause you believe in,” she says. Her desire caught on with many people, and it continues to grow with volunteers emulating her example all over the country.
#10 Thou Shalt Endure To The End
I love Katie’s quote.
“If you want to make a difference, follow a cause you believe in.”
The cause I believe in is people.
Both the young and the young at heart.
Oh, I know I just write fictional books and draw pictures for people.
Yes, I talk a lot and toss my opinions around also, but there’s a reason for the things I do.
I believe that if you can inspire the minds and hearts of our youth and help them see the potential in them, something miraculous happens.
Healing occurs, hope returns…and the impossible not only becomes possible, it becomes probable.
I believe that if you want to change the world, it starts with a belief.
For me, that belief has best been expressed through a story.
One that people are eager to partake of when they learn about it, and they enjoy it because it doesn’t encroach upon their own beliefs, their own backgrounds, regardless of who they are.
This is bigger than myself or my family and it really does affect us all.
This journey started in 2005.
Not only to maintain what my family and I are doing right now with youth organizations, churches, and communities—but to assist us in taking the next critical steps forward.
This is about community.
I’d like your help, more than anything, to spread the word.
What do you say?
I know this will succeed, because with your help, it’ll be impossible not to.
That’s what I believe.
Please tell others about WANTED HERO
Nerd. Introvert. He was the hero they never knew they wanted.
All Wendell hoped for was a decent job, a hot new car and a girlfriend to match.
What he got was the mantle of a legendary hero, the heart of a girl who had no idea who he really was…and a diamond bigger than his fist.
What could possibly go wrong?