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31 Days of Living Out Loud {why Jacob does what he does}

Hi, I am Jacob. I have guest posted on this blog several times (Thanks Christen!!), and usually talk about some sort of “do something epic” topic. Since Christen is posting this month on living out loud which sort of covers the "do something epic" part, instead of encouraging you to do something big, I will tell you why I do what I do.

I posted a picture on facebook the other day showing these three little girls. This led to a fairly lengthy conversation with myself for why I do what I do. I came to a pretty straightforward conclusion that I will share in a paragraph or two.

Let me start by saying that a little over a year ago, I sold everything I had in the States, packed up my stuff, started an organization and moved to Africa. The organization is called Water282 and exists to provide clean water to villages that have no access to safe water. That’s the back story. Next is the reason.

Why do I do what I do?

I do what I do because I LOVE PEOPLE. Not just in a “I love everyone because I am supposed to” sort of way. I love and believe deeply in people and their power to change the world. You can see in my  previous  posts on here that I think you are personally capable of great things. Not because you are more talented than everyone else (though you probably are), not because you work harder than anyone else (though you probably do), not because you have access to cool things (you definitely do), but because you are a person. And people are awesome.

Because of this, I couldn’t stand by and see some people suffering from the lack of the basic human necessities, and continue to live the same. In his book “Do the Work”, Steven Pressfield says that we should follow our passion/calling/entrepreneurial endeavor not to make a difference, but because we can’t allow ourselves NOT to. That the pressing need to pursue that dream should be enough to keep us dissatisfied if we aren’t doing it. That’s what the water problem was to me. Something I had an idea, knowledge, talents, and understanding of how I could definitely make a difference, but something that was nearly impossible to say no to. You just can’t see with your eyes, people struggling so badly over something like water and be content living your normal life. Not that you have to move to Africa or anything, but if you saw it, you’d do something big too. Wanna see some examples of the water people are getting?

 

 

I

Love

People!

How could you see these and not love them?

Here’s where this ties in to you. I started an organization because I didn’t just want to help poor people in Africa. I also wanted to also provide a way for the not-so-poor to easily be able to share their love for people by helping meet the need of water. I feel like we could provide an opportunity for life-changing events for people on both sides of the world. The people who adopt a village know exactly who they are helping and get to see lots videos, pictures, and stories of the people from their village. Nobody is giving to a faceless organization somewhere on a continent far away. They are changing the lives of people whom they have seen and know the plight of. When you invest your time and money in that way, you won’t be the same either. Check out this sample village.

Here’s your chance to do something big (perhaps live life out loud?). If you feel like your workplace/church/kid’s school/etc would like to adopt a whole village, check out this page to see what all is involved. ADOPT

If you just want to help our organization to provide clean water to thousands of people in Zambia who don’t have any, and would rather just donate to Water282 rather than adopt a whole village, you can give here. DONATE (we are a registered 501(c)3 non-profit organization, so your gift is tax-deductible.)

Help people go from walking 3-6km for water like this:

To having clean water in the middle of their village like this:

Hope my story helps you to live life out loud. I am nothing special. I just chose to live into what I believe God wants me to be. You can too. Every. Day.

Annnnnddd.... GO.

 

 

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Art

Warning: This post, like all of mine, will likely be disjointed and scatterbrained, but will hopefully come back to a decent conclusion by the end. Now that you have been adequately warned, I would like to share my thoughts on creativity, art, and motivation. Here are some things I hold to be true in relation to creativity:

  • we are all capable of awesome creations
  • all of our creations aren't awesome or art
  • nobody else is as capable of your creation as you are
  • few, if any, of us are creating all we are capable of

1- We are all capable of awesome creations. I am constantly amazed at the cool things that people are creating. Whether it's art with traditional methods like this guy

Doing cool things nobody has done before: http://youtu.be/zlfKdbWwruY his new one: http://youtu.be/Pwe-pA6TaZk Doing cool things nobody else can do: http://youtu.be/zlfKdbWwruY http://youtu.be/az27ffuGEFc http://youtu.be/yKWoPlL2B8I http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=sIv4PHJqCnM

 Or even covering someone's good song in an epic, new way: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d9NF2edxy-M The guy who made this creation isn't spectacular. He doesn't have the eye that a lot of you possess to make something brilliant from a blank canvas. But he makes something masterful. http://youtu.be/U2juYr2Xjeo This guy, by his lack of ability, is forced to make careful measurements, fine tune, erase, and go off screen to likely consult a picture he either drew or made on a computer. His chalk design is nothing to write home about. In fact, I would wager that any of us could make this same design after practicing for a couple of hours a day for a week.

What IS remarkable about this guy is that he did it.

He made the picture, found a medium (chalk on asphalt) and made the video. He thought of something that tapped into our love for nostalgia and made something incredible. At the time of this writing it has just over 200,000 hits. I guarantee you this will far surpass 1 million views on youtube. Again, it's not technically special, but it is the most awesome thing I watched today. I think the proliferation of pinterest has proven that there are far more creative, artsy people than we ever thought (i assume, but I have only seen that stuff on facebook.)

2. All of our creations aren't awesome. I make stuff all the time. Most of it is utter crap. Almost all of it is mundane to me. A good deal of the stuff I experiment with will never be seen by another eye. And that's good. By not introducing my crappy stuff to the world, I don't water down the good stuff people are putting out there. If you have seen the documentary "Please Exit Through the Gift Shop", then you have seen a great example of someone figuring out how to sell worthless stuff to the masses (the subject of the movie, not the movie itself). If you haven't seen it, do. You won't be disappointed. It's really fascinating. The moral of the movie is: just because you can create and sell something, doesn't mean that you should. There are plenty of people offering substandard products, ideas, and Or are just huge wastes of our time. http://youtu.be/u2vZUsL6OOA This guy's "art" is anything but great.

 http://www.smashinglists.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/Face-Piercing-7.jpg

But I know that only by making junk first will I ever make something beautiful. http://youtu.be/gwjlDBjNzXk http://www.ted.com/talks/rodney_mullen_pop_an_ollie_and_innovate.html

3. Nobody is as capable of your art as you are. I would even go as far as to say that nobody will even try to make your art if you don't. Nobody is going to tap into the craziness floating around your brain. Just google "our art". Only a couple of pages down is this page: http://ourartsite.com/

That girl probably has some great stuff in her head that would be great to view on this site. But she isn't making anything. Instead this blog sits there totally unused.

http://layertennis.com/index.php

This site, however, shows aweseome animators and graphic artists competing in a time-trial to make awesome stuff. Nobody could make what these people do. It's only their ideas. It's so neat to watch people's creative process too. Yeah, your stuff is unique and cool. Make stuff, or nobody will.

4. Lastly, few, if any, of us are creating all we are capable of. Life happens. But that's no excuse. Make cool stuff. Today. All these links and videos will hopefully inspire you. If not, go to a library and find some books on whatever you like to make, and get inspired. Make awesome things. That's what the world needs from you. That's when you will find everything in you to help others. Because in the end, that's what art is all about. Helping others. Making people smile. Making people happy. Inspiring others. Never stop doing that. When you stop inspiring, everyone loses.

More inspiration: http://www.streetartutopia.com/

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Adjusting

If you are an avid reader of this blog, you will know only about three things about me. My name is Jacob. I am in Africa. I love my job and helping people. (and that I love parentheses…) Well, in this issue I will let you know a bit more, just for the fun of it. I am going to attempt to share a bit about me and life by myself on a different continent, without talking too much about myself (and make it worth your while to read my little post).I could talk about life in Zambia and water and all that stuff for days, but you would be bored after the second sentence. Instead of telling you all that’s going on and what I am doing, I will focus on the three questions I am most frequently asked regarding my new life (and how these questions could relate to you one day): how long did it take and how hard is it to adjust? What do you miss the most? What’s the most amazing thing you’ve seen? (totally not sure how to punctuate that last group of sentences. Shameful.) How long did it take and how hard is it to adjust? The adjustment from life in America to life in a third-world, African nation can be a bit tricky. In fact, it’s almost hard to compare both lives because they are so utterly different. For example, here, you can be stuck waiting extraordinarily long periods for the most mundane things. A friend from the States posted this week that they were tired of waiting at a fast food restaurant after 10 minute. A 10-minute wait is cause for celebration here. If you need to check on the status of a processed order or permit, you don’t get to hop online and search for your name. You have to go to an office and wait in a queue (line) to inquire. Time is not valued as a commodity here. It’s completely expendable. Getting used to that is not an easy task. Cultural differences also play a role in the adjustment phase. They are too extensive to bother you with here, but needless to say a new person here has to put forth a good amount of effort to be aware of cultural issues. In fact, I think I will continue learning these for years. It’s not something you can afford to get wrong many times. Just being without the normal comforts of life definitely takes an adjustment. Take a clothes dryer for example. Or nice, smooth roads. Or electronic banking. Or household air conditioners. Or unlimited cell phone contracts. Or “safe” neighborhoods. Virtually all of these are nonexistent here. None of them are particularly awful on their own, but doing without all these plus more takes some getting used to. And finally, the hardest thing to adjust to is not being with family and friends back home. I have made lots of friends here, but the thing about friends in a developing country is that most all of them are short-term people who come and go. It’s fun and depressing at the same time if that makes any sense. How does this impact you? Not really sure, except that you could keep in mind that your friends or people you know living overseas are probably all going through similar things and would always appreciate a letter or fb note to help ease things. On to question #2 (sorry if you’re bored already. The others will be shorter). What do you miss the most? Dr. Pepper, my kitchen knives, the availability of any kind of spices for food, potable tap water, free refills, comfortable temps while sleeping and working, and hearing from friends and family. Yeah, I know these are simple things, but life without them plus more isn’t quite the same. Oh yeah, and reese’s pieces. How does this pertain to you? Ummm… don’t take the small stuff for granted. It’s super easy to swing by the drive thru and enjoy your whopper in your Accord and not think about how nice every aspect of that is. So just stop and enjoy the small things. Every day. What’s the most amazing thing you’ve seen? I see amazing things almost daily, so it’s hard to say. If you go check out my fb page, you will see the pictures I just uploaded from Namibia. THAT was an amazing place. Should be on your bucket list. Seriously. In Zambia, I have seen some waterfalls and mountains and rivers and wildlife and people stopping to help strangers dig out of the sand and Victoria Falls (one of the natural wonders of the world). Yet, nothing compares to the faces of the people whose lives are going to be just a bit better because of my little life. Those kids’ eyes that are searching for hope. The old ladies who can barely walk, but still must carry 40 pounds of water up steep hills. When we come with a message of hope, their faces light up and the glimmer of hope can be seen in their faces. That beats anything I could see or do. What’s the take away here? Seeing the most beautiful things the world has to offer scarcely compares to empowering other people to help themselves in a way they didn’t know was possible. You don’t have to move to Africa to feel that.

Just do yourself a favor and read “Toxic Charity” by Robert D. Lupton before you go help. Prepare first and make sure you are doing it for the right reasons. Then experience life’s most amazing joys by lending a hand. For more on the adjustments, you can head over to these L IKS to read my 5 lessons in adjusting to life here and dealing with a polychromic time structure (google that). Thanks for reading my post. Sorry it turned out to be so long. Cheers, Jacob.

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How can you change the world?

Do you have an answer to that question?  You should.  You know why?  Because you can.  And not only can you change the world, you are actually the best person for the job.
I know that might sound absurd, but bear with me for a minute.  You are the best person for the job of changing the world because you are the keeper of the idea/vision/dream/goal inside of you.
I am confident that all of us have inside of us some sort of deep-seeded passion to change our world.  Even if you don't know what yours is, I believe it's in there.  It may be lurking in the depths of your consciousness waiting for the right moment to spring forward from the cave it's hiding in and ruin the perfect world you've built.  More likely, it's waiting patiently for you to discover it.
Now from the abstract to the concrete.  You have a chance to change the world today.  TODAY!  No, you won't make a billion dollars and solve the famine crisis in Africa by 7pm this evening.  But you can start the ball in motion that radically transforms the world.  You see, it starts with you doing something.  Not in the Butterfly Effect, weird sort of way.  I think that by beginning the search for your vision to change the world this very day, you can get on a track that ends up in something far beyond what you thought you were capable of.  But what is the vision you are searching for?  (back to the abstract...)
The author Bill Hybels describes your vision as a "Holy Discontent" in his book by the same title.  That thing that is in your soul that you just cannot allow to continue.  The thing that he uses the old Popeye cartoon to paint the picture- when Popeye got to the point that he HAD to act he would say, "I've had all I can stand, and I can't stands no more."
Your vision is what is going to drive you to change the world.  It's the thing that won't let you sleep at night because you are so excited about the chance tomorrow brings to make it come true.  That sense of "what am I here for?" is answered in your vision.  The change you want to scream, cry, and beg for is waiting to be released by the actions wrapped up in your vision.
The tricky thing about your vision is that it's yours.  Nobody else is responsible for it.  Nobody else has it.  It's just you.  In his book "Visioneering", Andy Stanley says
"Initially, your vision will exceed your competency."
That's not just true for some people.  That's true for all people.  So don't use competency as an excuse.  You can do it.  You have to do it.  You are the only one who can make your vision reality.
Find it, plan it, act on it.  That's how you use your vision to change the world.
Whether your vision is global in scope or the desire to save one single child from a life of pain, you are responsible for finding and implementing the vision.  When you find yourself holding your new baby in Uganda or see the tears roll down the elderly neighbor to whom you just delivered flowers on the anniversary of her late husband's death, you will know that you are on your way to changing the world.
I am no expert on the subject, but I believe that you and you alone have the power to make a huge impact on your world.  You really are the best person for the job of changing the world.  Maybe not in a grand, sweeping way, but in a way that nobody else can.  But you've gotta do SOMETHING.  That's where you start...
I will leave you with a closing quote from Francis of Assisi:
"Start by doing what's necessary; then do what's possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible."

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Exciting Adventures in Africa

I am still unsure of why I have the privilege of writing here, but I will take advantage of it and hopefully not waste your time in the process. :)  (if you don't know me, I am Jacob, just a guy who is living in Africa to help provide clean water to people who don't have it) Instead of writing for you about the importance of helping people and the need for everyone to be doing something –something right where you are, right now – to give assistance to people who, through a set of circumstances (and likely bad choices), now are unable to help themselves {though you will see evidence of my belief in that scattered in my writings}, I am simply going to tell you some of the adventures of being in a foreign land trying to do my part. (longest opening sentence ever. I understand if you stop reading now, but the good part is just ahead.)

Is it possible to live a lifetime worth of experiences in only 6 weeks? Had you asked me that question 5 months ago, I would have told you “no”. Yet, these past six weeks in Zambia have proven my thought to be wrong. Even the day I arrived was filled with enough drama to go back home and call it a good trip. I arrive in the country right before the announcement of who the elected president would be. If it goes one way, there are riots and people die; if it goes the other way, there is celebration like you’ve only imagined (or most likely more than you could imagine). So I am dropped at the guest house with no food, no water, no idea where I am, and instructions to stay hunkered down for the next two days until it’s apparent that it’s safe out. The news comes the next day that it’s the good outcome and there is mass celebration. Thanks to that, plans are changed and I am un-abandoned and witness the most amazing sights I’ve ever seen. Then I find myself standing on the stage at the inauguration of the new president because I am white and carrying a fancy camera and so assumed (though nobody ever asked) to be a journalist. So the worst night of life turns into one of the best days of my life.

Every single day is an adventure. Each day since my arrival, the day has unfolded in such a way that I could write a whole story on that day alone. I have had motorcycle wrecks (not too serious, mom, though my shoulder might be permanently damaged), dug a car out of the sand with our bare hands, gone swimming in a 400ft deep sunken lake with high cliffs surrounding it, sat in the house of a Chief (kind of a big deal), walked 2 miles to see a village because the road was impassable, driven a motorbike through a small river, canoed alone in an African dugout canoe in crocodile infested waters, visited a huge game park, driven many times on the wrong side of the road (the left side is the driving lane here and you sit on the right, and I still feel like I might die every time), been offered land (I might accept), eaten chicken that I watched being caught and killed, bathed with only a washcloth, soap, and a tiny container of water to rinse with, had breakdowns, broken two camera lenses (took one apart and fixed in a village), eaten tons of things I didn’t know exactly what I was putting in my mouth, ridden countless hours on busses, climbed trees to film people hanging out in the trees, spoken to large groups of people, “greased palms” to squeeze a 2-6 month process into a week, et cetera, et cetera. Even now, I am on a bus on a 9 hour journey back to Lusaka, listening to some great Zambian music (but cringing at the accompanying video), surrounded by smelly, sweaty, hot people and crying babies. Oh yeah, and I am getting to see elephants, all kinds of antelope and deer-like animals, hippos, zebra, etc.

And with every adventure comes a chance to learn. A chance to grow. A chance to be grateful. As a chief showed up at the house this morning to see me off (yeah, that is a HUGE deal), I realized that I might be the luckiest guy on the planet. That I have more to be thankful for even in my six weeks here than I could begin to put down on paper. Each of the events in the above paragraph have their own accompanying story and proof that I am more blessed than I ever deserve. I am experiencing the kind of life that I wouldn’t have matched in my wildest dreams. But at the same time seeing people that are living the worst lives you could imagine. Yesterday I visited a village that had a huge valley that was pockmarked with hand-dug holes 6-12 inches in diameter that the villagers were using to scoop water out of with cups, bowls, and whatever they could find to draw the water from a couple of feet below ground level. And the field was up to 2 kilometers from some of their huts. If you, the reader, have even an ounce of ungratefulness in you, I invite you to spend a week with me here. The month of November is usually the time we use in the States to give thanks for our blessings. I know that hearing of how others have it worse than you, does not make your personal struggles any easier. But I assure you that a small change of perspective could make even the most hopeless person be able to regain their ability to be thankful. I couldn’t be more thankful for this life of “poverty” I have chosen that I might give others a reason to be thankful. So I encourage you not only be thankful for what you have, but be thankful for the power you have to help others. And if you are still struggling with it, visit me here in Zambia. Cure is guaranteed.

** SELF-PLUG** You can follow my adventures at water282.org and feel free to drop me a line at Jacob@water282.org

ps-sorry for the crappy iPhone photos. I have tons and tons of great photos, but none of me, and none of elephants, so I went with the iPhone ones. Sorry. I hope it never comes to that again. :)

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