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Something Magic Happens When You "Pass It On!"

Who do you want to be when you grow up?

It’s an interesting question – fundamentally different from the usual one (what do you want to be…) – and it came to mind while we recorded our weekly podcast with Gary Dixon, President of the Foundation for a Better Future. In fact, I (Will) told Gary that I wanted to be like him when I grew up!

Good joke but I kind of meant it. What an inspiring guy! You can listen in to our conversation with Gary at

I (Chris) felt just as impressed. I’ve known Gary from decades ago when he was the Creative Director at an ad agency. Even back then he was always this cool-headed guy swimming effortlessly through chaos. During our interview, we asked him about his transition into the public service work the Foundation for a Better life engages in. Gary’s now helming a global organization that spreads good news throughout the world (one of their video public service announcements got over 200 million views!) and his reply was fascinating.

He chose to tell us about his scoutmaster, a man who inspired him to live his values back in his childhood. As we listened to Gary speak with appreciation about this mentor who had impacted his life so powerfully, probably 50 years ago now, we thought about the many individuals who have helped us. You can probably do the same kind of retrospective and realize just how much support you’ve had along the way to be your best.

Gary’s organization, and you can dive into their work at, is truly inspirational. Their motto is “Pass it on.” It was really something to hear Gary tell stories about everyday people helping each other, rising up during emergencies, being generous to strangers… and how each simple act of compassion inspires other to do the same. Pass it on indeed!

The story he mentioned that got 200 million hits was a simple portrayal of a young man on a train, oblivious to the world with his earbuds in. When an elderly woman got on, he stood up to give her his seat. Such a simple act of kindness, but it impacted 200 million people! Just imagine the ripple effect that is having, as people who watched the video remember it and perform their own small acts of kindness.

In our recent book, Thriving in Business and Life, we included many stories from the business world where leaders are providing inspiration by demonstrating what we call “thriving leadership.” We’re busy right now writing and recording the 12 video modules for our upcoming on-line learning game and so we’re steeped every day in those materials. Gary was speaking our language, for sure!

The thriving leader is an opportunist. He or she is always looking for the best in others and being a detective of life, sleuthing out innovative ways to express their values. We write about values in one of our program modules and explore the difference between professed values and lived values.

It’s all about walking our talk.

In fact, until we live fully in our integrity, behaving according to our deepest values, there’s an internal disconnect that will sabotage our best intentions. It doesn’t matter if no one else knows about it, we do. At an unconscious level, if we know that we’re not being as true to ourselves as we could be, that blocks our well-intentioned creating.

Gary inspired us with his stories and the scope of his work, positively impacting millions of people every day, but what impressed us the most was Gary himself. As the on-line interview progressed, we found ourselves looking at each other, nodding and smiling, and silently voicing comments like, “What an amazing man!” It’s not hard to recognize and be impacted by the kindness and obvious compassion that someone like Gary expresses.

This illuminates the most powerful kind of inspiration there is, entrainment. Each of us is transmitting something measurable via EEGs and EKGs that affects others, especially those close to us, all the time. Before the words, the websites, the video messages, etc. there’s the personal energetic signature that each of us presents to the world, created by the way we live, moment by moment.

Here’s our first and best opportunity to make a difference in the world, and to do what Gandhi advised: “be the change we wish to see in the world.” In our language, we’d say it’s our chance to demonstrate thriving and inspire others to shift from surviving to thriving.

Actually, being an example is always the best inspiration. “Do as I do” carries more weight than “Do as I say” every time. That makes it clear what we’re here to do, regardless of whether we are writers, housewives, fathers, CEO’s, librarians… Do good and pass it on!

Here’s your thriving challenge for the week:

Express at least one act of spontaneous generosity towards a stranger.

You could pay the toll for the driver in front of you. You could thank a waiter or a phone agent for their excellent service. Get innovative and make this one of your thriving habits. This is how we change the world for the better!

BTW, shortly after working on this blog, I (Will) was standing at an ATM machine when a young man nervously approached and asked if I could spare $2.50 so he could buy some guitar strings. I chuckled, remembering what we were writing about, and gave him 3 one-dollar bills. He was thrilled. Ironically, I saw him again a half-hour later when I was running an errand and he had a package of strings in his hand. He thanked me again and tried to give me the change! It was a magic moment, proving that both giving and receiving feel great. Pass it on.

Christopher Harding and Will Wilkinson

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