Saturday, November 4

Looking for Inspiration

My tear ducts had a workout this week. Yes, it’s no secret that I’m a softie who cries at even the silliest romantic comedies, but no one should doubt the sincerity behind each salty little drop. This week, I wasn’t crying so much as I was moved—inspired really—by people who translate their passions into action. Despite all the stress and frustration that comes with taking risks to follow your dreams, it’s nice to be reminded that hard work can pay off.

First moment came in Chicago last weekend. I was there attending the 2006 Net Impact conference with fellow grad students (Net Impact is a global network of professionals interested in using business skills to achieve social change) and didn’t expect to have access to so many driven, motivated leaders. One of whom was John Wood, founder of Room to Read. He was there promoting his latest book (excuse the somewhat self-righteous title) but also imparted great wisdom for those of us aspiring social entrepreneurs. His decision to leave a cushy Microsoft job to bring literacy to the developing world was more than just a whim. Anyone can write a check. He took what others would term tragic (a small school in Nepal with barely any books in its library) and saw an opportunity to change it. That takes guts, and I couldn’t help but admire him.

Then on Wednesday, I sat 6 inches away from this man. Not many people would get that excited over the head of the nation’s largest school district. But Joel Klein is like a celebrity to me. And his outrage at the state of the city’s dire education crisis wasn’t a lament, but a call to action. After he spoke, I wanted to stand up and scream ‘I will work for you!’ Too bad I didn’t have my resume handy.

And of course, whenever I get overwhelmed—by the burden of debt, the loneliness of student life, or the excruciating lack of sleep—I always like to read this: Steve Jobs famous commencement speech (made to the Stanford class of ’05). There’s this one section that comforts me, this tiny nugget of inspiration:

Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

It always makes me wet behind the eyes.

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