How can 15 years make a difference?

My dreams of a fairy tale life started a long time ago, as I imagine did yours. To understand my dreams for a fairy tale life we need to rewind the tape a couple of fifteen year periods…

It’s 1984 and there is a little boy going through the life change that is first grade. The world just got a lot more complex for him than it was the year before. He’s still trying to figure out how girls play differently than boys, and thinks adults have god-like superpowers and can do anything they want.

Knight Rider is his favorite TV show. Not only can the car talk (and who doesn’t like talking cars), but it’s really fast and can leap small buildings… At the beginning of every episode they show off a few things that are cool about the car and Michael Knight (David Hasselhoff), with a narrator speaking these words:

A shadowy flight into the dangerous world of a man who does not exist. Michael Knight, a young loner on a crusade, to champion the cause of the innocent, the helpless, the powerless. In a world of criminals who operate above the law…

Michael Knight speaking of the opportunity he’d been given

…and most of all the best chance I’ll ever get to prove that one man really can make a difference.

That message was ingrained in the little boys subconscious. That’s what good adults do, they make a difference! They fix all the bad things in life and drive around in cool cars and spend time with pretty women.

Fast forward 15 years to 1999. The little boy is now a young man who is just good enough at what he does that he likes to think of himself as a wizard of the arcane. The internet is changing the world in a firestorm of new ideas, new possibilities, and he’s a part of it! He’s making a difference in a brave new world. He’s helping people by fixing their computers and opening their minds to new horizons. Everyone comes to him for advice and he’s on top of the world. He has a lot of friends, he’s always hosting parties (LAN parties, but they’re still parties) and the only way life can get better is if he could find a girlfriend…

Now let’s fast forward 15 years once more. The little boy is now in his thirties and divorced, the internet is not a big deal anymore, it’s just a tool everyone uses. The industry has matured and no longer changes fast enough to hold his interest and while he’s come to understand that knowledge is power and information is king… He can’t truly, deeply, impact peoples lives for the better by fixing their computers or building a faster network.

He’s seen a few things that changed him. He saw what life is like in rural Panama, where owning a mountain bike makes you rich and there is no free wifi. In fact, there really isn’t much impact from the internet at all. He realized from looking at peoples faces and watching them interact, that they were at least as happy as the people back home. In fact they might even be happier. He’d also seen the slums outside Panama City where tens of square miles of tin shacks are festooned with DirectTV antennas and the people struggle to have enough to eat. But what could he do?

That little boy, now a bit taller, hopefully a bit wiser, and with a much better haircut, still wants to make a difference. He needs to make a difference. He tried climbing the corporate ladder, but as he went up each rung, he noticed the view wasn’t getting any better. He’s bought a lot of “nifty” stuff, most of which just takes up space and needs to be dusted or maintained. He looks at the American Dream with it’s associated materialism and consumerism, and he’s well on his way to reaching it but can’t seem to muster the excitement needed to actually pursue it. His mind keeps asking, with more and more insistence “how do I make a difference.. a real difference that actually matters?”

The little boy at the beginning of our story would often hear the phrase “Honey, mommy’s ears just need a little rest” because of how much he loved to talk. He’s learned that he loves public speaking, loves teaching, loves watching the light bulbs blink on over peoples heads. That look of joy and dawning comprehension, when he is able to impart some small but useful piece of information. He loves being around people, and the more people the better. Just being around them gives him energy. Making other people happy makes him happy. He loves sharing their joy, and helping them carry their burdens.

What if he could do this on a grander scale? What if he could help people who really, really need it? In north america he can help people with first world problems, but in developing countries he can help with third world problems. The kind of problems that mean people have enough to eat, have clean drinking water, a dry place to sleep at night. He can help them build their economy from nothing to something. Somehow that seems more important than tacking on a few more zeros to an already burgeoning economy.

He doesn’t have as much money as he probably should at this point in his life. He doesn’t know where to start helping people. He just knows that he needs too help. He hasn’t seen much of the world yet, so he thinks that maybe if he explored it, learned better how the world works and who lives there, that he might find the key to making a difference. Or least find a good starting point.

This blog is a collection of thoughts and experiences by that little boy. How the grown up little boy left his job and left his previous life, on a quest to discover how he could become that man who made a difference.

Where will he be when we fast forward another 15 years to 2028? Well let’s find out…

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