Curious, I participated in his initiative, and the resulting conversation, then connected with Nate by Skype to learn more about his projects and vision.
Last year, we talked about his first project, It Starts with Us and the concept of dropping a love bomb to someone in need of a word of comfort and support.
My take — and I suspect his as well — is the tools are only as good as our intent in using them. So I cannot think of a better person to start us on a grounded (business and life) footing for 2011.
You started three initiatives — ItStartsWith.Us, Love Bomb, and the brand new Love Drop — that have already attracted well over 6,000 members in close to 100 countries. Why do you do it? What gave you the initial idea to do this?
Nate: I do it because I want to show people that it's easier than they think to change the world in a very literal and tangible way. We can wait for heroes and saints to do huge, amazing lifelong work, or we can roll up our sleeves and do some consistent, small things ourselves.
Everyone of us has a small circle of people around us whom we can directly and strongly impact by our actions. The idea behind all these teams is that we can expend just a very small amount of time and effort in a positive way to make a meaningful difference for those people.
And if we get enough of us thinking this way and working together to make this kind of impact on a consistent basis, the chain reaction we produce literally can change the world.
The initial idea came about two years ago, when I was going through some leadership training for my old job and realized that I wanted to stop using my talents to simply coast through life, and actually do something positive with them.
During this training there was a portion where I had to write down a list of my interests, skills, and passions. After that was a free-form page where I had to write down what I was going to with that information in the upcoming year.
At the top of the page was pre-written: "Next year, I will . . . " I finished that sentence with " . . . change the world." I didn't mean it as a cliche – I was quite serious. So that's exactly what I set out to do, and now, two years later, we are well on our way to that goal.
Clearly, you do want to so you could to make a difference for others. When we talked a little while ago, you mentioned you were working with organizations. Can you give us an example of how businesses utilize these concepts to touch lives?
Nate: In 2010 I was fortunate enough to be invited to talk to some of the biggest and best organizations in the country about utilizing the ItStartsWith.Us platform to mobilize large groups of people to give back.
One of the things I learned is that the biggest organizations move rather slowly, so I'm still in discussions with them, and I can't talk about it yet.
But an easy example is to consider that the ISWU team has done incredible things with just a few thousand people, and think about what kinds of things a business could do with its thousands of people – things that not only make a difference for others, but activities that also tie into the corporate vision and values, and also support marketing/outreach/PR initiatives at the same time.
This space is too small to go into all the possibilities, but interested readers can learn more here.
In 2011 I'll continue working with some of the large businesses that are still in discussion, but I'll also be giving away my system to a couple non-profit organizations, and start to work with some smaller networks and businesses at a lower rate, because I think they can match my speed a bit better.
Where do you see yourself and the networks going in the next year? What are your biggest challenges?
Nate: 2011 is going to be a big focus on Love Drop for me personally. I'm going to be traveling around the country with my business partner to change the lives of 12 families over the course of the year.
And the cool thing is that our team will tell us where to go — they're the ones who will be nominating people who need a bit of help, so we don't even know where we'll be going or what we'll be doing month to month.
The biggest challenge is that we'll have to think on our feet all year long, and organize big events on short notice and with limited resources, one after the other. Not gonna lie — that'll be tough. But it's also a huge opportunity to do something that no one's ever done before — use the power of the web and a caring community to be a helping hand to someone who truly deserves it, and to do it in a fun and cool way that gets people excited to be a part of it.
I can't wait to see what happens with that project. Oh, and another challenge is that I have to be on camera for much of it, since we're building it out mostly with video. I'm not too comfortable in front of a camera yet, so you'll all get to see me stumble along. 🙂
What inspires you? Who are your mentors?
Nate: I love creative teams who stick together for a while and build something unique and inspiring (using a broad definition of inspiring). I'm thinking Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld, Peter Jackson with the Lord of the Rings franchise, and everyone at NASA.
Speaking of Lord of the Rings, I should mention The Inklings, which was a small group of writers who met at the Eagle and Child pub in Oxford to workshop their writing and discuss life. Members included J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton and others.
These guys created entire worlds out of simply their imaginations, and captivated many of us along the way. I have a few business people that I talk to once in a while about my projects, and they could be called mentors, but in a much bigger way, I think the creators of fantasy literature and film inspire me to create the kind of world I'd like to live in.
If you were to share one word of advice, what would it be?
Nate: Start small. That's the absolute best advice I have to give.
It's okay to start small, as long as you start somewhere. You'll get the hang of it as you go, and you'll find ways to do bigger and better, if that's what you want to do. But never underestimate the value of the little things, whether you're helping out individuals or building a large project.
Follow and friend Nate St. Pierre's It Starts with Us streams on Twitter, and Facebook. The biggest way to help out the ItStartsWith.Us mission this year is by supporting Love Drop. Here's what you can do:
- subscribe for a few dollars a month
- partner with the initiative
- join the blogger network to spread the word
There are many ways to support Love Drop recipients, and if everyone gives just a little, together we'll put it all together and do some incredible things in 2011.