People who are fully alive step into the unknown and take the more difficult path. The shame isn’t in failing, but in not being willing to live.
The beautiful, continuing success of Changes for New Hope, like any success in life, was built on a series of failures. Every world championship team lost many games before becoming world champions. Greatness is built on the ashes on failure after failure. We all know the story of Thomas Edison and his previous 10,000 attempts to make a light bulb before he found a process that worked. Colonel Sanders was rejected over 1000 times before someone agreed to use his secret recipe. Failure after failure was the path to ultimate success and greatness as long as it is blended with tenacity and perseverance.
When I created Changes for New Hope, I failed many times prior to its success. I arrived in Peru not speaking Spanish, with limited funds, I never was a teacher previous to coming here, I trusted people who were dishonest and had no idea about Peruvian culture and customs. In short, if I had clue money, I couldn’t even buy a clue. And of course failures became part and parcel of the experience that served to develop my thinking, motivate me to learn and find solutions and ultimately propel this project forward to help over 2000 children today.
I am not embarrassed about my failures, in fact, I embrace them as stumbling blocks that I turned into stepping stones. I climbed on top of those stepping stones and now I can see farther than I ever could before. Every disappointment pushed me closer to the realization of my vision to serve the destitute children of these Andes. I am grateful for those bitter experiences. I now allow new challenges to further build my inner strengths. Multitudes of failures simply mean someone has tried to succeed a multitude of times. The only way to never fail is to never try. The world is full of couch potatoes.
What I am embarrassed about is that I did not have more failures in my life. For the greater part of my life I coasted along never taking any great risks, never losing sight of land and always snug inside of my comfort zone. While many people can identify with that as a pretty convenient and smart life choice, for me it is an embarrassment, knowing what I know now.
Life was never meant to be lived in a cocoon. Those who are fully alive, as I am now, take calculated risks, they step into the unknown, take the more difficult path, and blaze a trail. People who are fully alive know the feeling of success after many failures and cherish each breath and a beautiful experience. The sense of completeness, a fullness that life was meant to be, the intrinsic explosive joy that every morning introduces is incomprehensible to those nestled behind their nine to five cubicle, peeling open their bank statements and content with their smidgen of security. R.I.P. is supposed to be etched into your tombstone, not your forehead. I am convinced now that a life half lived is a life that is half dead already.
At fifty two years old, after a few life changing circumstances pushed me over the edge of safety, I started my new life, took risks and accepted failures as I endured them. While most projects similar to mine help a few dozen children step out of destitution in some degree or another, I couldn’t accept that as nearly enough. If I could successfully reach fifty children, why couldn’t I use the same methods to reach five hundred? So we did. And if five hundred, why not a thousand and so on. Those who shared my vision joined me. Our “Haz lo Correcto—Do the Right Thing” message is seen ubiquitously in several pueblos and villages. Vitamin Angels has provided us sufficient vitamin A for over 5000 children. Anti-parasite medicine is being used to eliminate worm infestation which affects over 95% of the children that we tested. Art projects became art exhibitions in museums. School materials, clothing, games and toys are sent to us by compassionate supporters.
I am proud to say that every single success of this project was built from rejections, mockery, endured apathy and in some cases overt resistance to my goals. Failures again and again. Literally thousands of sent emails have gone without response. However, as anyone enjoying success knows, it only takes a spark to start a fire. Just the unique few who want to share in the victories with you that makes it all come together. Our photojournalism now shares the challenges of the people of the Peruvian Andes with the international community. We are celebrating the solutions and successes that failure after failure developed into.
I failed many times but I am not a failure. I am a man who can share what the perseverance in the face of failures will do for you. I can share that no human alive, no circumstance and no setbacks can stop success of any project that you envision for yourself, if it is an absolute must for you, and nothing short of success will suffice. If I can do it, with so many obstacles that people actually pleaded with me not to attempt it, you can too. Your new life can start right now!
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so other people will not feel insecure around you. When we let our light shine, we unconsciously give other people the permission to do the same” ~~ Marianne Williamson