Recently, the news organization, Upworthy, found out about my new vision. They filmed a conversation between me and a friend, and featured it on their popular website and Facebook page.
Because of that video, I continually get interest in what was, just a few months ago, an idea.
How did it happen? How did a big organization like Upworthy learn about my new idea? More generally, when you have an idea you want to turn into reality, how do you make that happen?
I’ve been fortunate to launch a few organizations in my lifetime. And what to share what I’ve learned. But, first, quickly let me tell you about my new venture.
It’s called The Christian Muslim Alliance. Our mission reads “To end division between the world’s two largest religions.”
I think our country needs this organization — because there’s so much paranoia. Hate crimes. Suspicion. There will be more terroirst attacks. And I think banning an entire religion, or registering people in a big government database, will only create more division.
And I’m a Christian. And over 70% of Americans also identify as Christians. That means there are tens of millions of us Christians that can help end the division. And for those who truly follow in the teachings of Jesus, he was all about welcoming outsiders. And lets face it, Muslims, to many people, are outsiders.
Many Christians even think Muslims are the enemy. But even if they are the enemy — and they most certainly are not, though some claiming to be Muslims are — Jesus has very specific words about how Christians should treat their enemies.
So The Alliance has a vision to bring an end to the paranoia. Stop the xenophobia, which is a big word, but simply means suspicion of a people group based on how they look, where they are from, or because you don’t understand their beliefs.
How are we going to do it?
So far, I’m spending a lot of time immersing myself in the very large and influential Muslim culture. It’s a world I’ve never known because I’ve spent most of my life with non-Muslims (and mostly Christians).
I’m kind of on a “listening tour,” going to Mosques. Meeting leaders. Learning from them.
And we are steadily building our social media and website, too. Oh, and week I was asked to launch a podcast with an influential Muslim leader.
So, I’m thrilled to see great things already starting to happen! But we also have a very long way to go — there are millions of minds to change.
Okay, so what should you expect when you’re launching your vision? Here are just a few quick things I’ve learned throughout my career.
First, expect to feel unqualified. Expect it. That you don’t know enough. You don’t know all the right people. Even that you’re a fake. And because of these feelings, expect to have thoughts along the lines of Who am I to think I can do this?
My advice: You just need to get used to feelings of inadequacy. If not, you end up quitting. Or, worse, you just keep talking about your amazing vision, month after month. Or, you just daydream on your computer looking at all the successful organizations you want to become like.
Second, you can’t just talk about it. There’s an old Chinese proverb that says talk don’t cook rice.
Merely talking about your vision is like a person wanting to become a baker, who keeps telling friends about their baking business vision, creating fancy power point presentations, with beautiful photos of all the kinds of fancy cakes he will bake. But he never puts anything in the oven. You’ve just gotta start baking stuff and sharing it with people. Only then do you find out whether your product is any good, and how to tweak your recipe it to make it better.
So truth be told, I’m not exactly sure how I’m going to start The Alliance — but in the meantime, while I’m figuring out exactly how achieve our mission, I’m going to get a bunch of stuff done and see how it works, including the writing of this very post.
Third, you must expect sabotage in some form or another. And that will hurt most when it comes from family and friends — the ones who have a voice in your life. Some will think you’re too young. Too naïve. In my case, too idealistic or too “obsessed” with a cause. They will think of the others that are already doing your thing and say things like, “Oh, you want to do what so and so big organization is doing?” Some will think you’re being too risky. Or, that you don’t know how to keep a “real job.” Like above, you just need to get used to the feelings of inadequacy — expect them — and if you can come to enjoy those feelings, even better!
Fourth, money. It takes money. And if you don’t have the guts to ask for money, it’s never going to work. The upside is that the best fundraisers don’t ask people for money. There’s an old saying I’ve found helpful: If you want advice, ask for money and if you want money ask for advice. So you’ve got to find people, and ask them questions about how they want to change the world. As you get to know them, you’ll have your answer as to whether they could help fund your dream.
Fifth, you’ve just gotta show up. Keep chipping away. Making the calls. Posting, writing, doing the work. Sounds obvious, but the number one goal of any organization is stay in business. And you only stay in business if you keep showing up.
Finally, only when you step-up and launch your vision can you open yourself up to a powerful force of success called luck. And so much of success is about luck. Just read the biographies of great pioneers; luck is always a part of their story.
So the most publicity The Alliance has received, thus far, was due to luck. Upworthy called me because I’m also a blogger. And I was part of a political video series with another blogger friend during the election. One of the Upworthy writers randomly found that series on Facebook, watched it, heard me talking about Islam, then emailed me because they thought I’d be good at talking about politics for a pilot series.
They knew nothing about The Alliance. But when I told them, they decided to make their production about my new vision.
Okay, thanks for reading. I’m always around to chat if you’d like, and best of…luck…in your vision!
I was so distraught about the Syrian refugee crisis and the chemical weapon bombing that I wrote it HERE on Thursday morning.
Then threw a tent and a sleeping bag in the car and decided to drive to the desert to be alone and pray.
Decided to not bring food. Food is a hassle. You have to get a stove and pans AND shop and I didn’t want to lug a bung of stuff out of the car, get an ice chest, etc.
I just brought a thing of Arrowhead water and a bottle of wine.
The desert, water, wine. Sounded sufficient.
And, anyway, millions of people go without eating for a few days. And we all whine if we miss one meal and say we’re “starving.” (Gina did make me bring some Trader Joe’s trail mix. It had M&M’s in there. Not real M&M’s but chocolates that looked like them.)
Sometimes when I’m reflective, I take along my Nikon camera. Like writing, but in a different way, I find photography soothing.
I shot this yesterday. There were lots of them scattered around. I don’t know their proper name. It would be more impressive if I googled “Wildflowers Joshua Tree” and then wrote the proper name down and you might be impressed but I’m freewriting and don’t have the time to try and be impressive.
Something about how they stand tall and proud amidst lots of rugged and dry foliage. And something about the color purple, with those little violet blossoms.
After I took this shot I went back to my camping spot because I was thirsty.
I sat for a few minutes.
Stared at the sky. Hazy but clear.
I kept thinking of checking my iPhone but no service. Tried to read. Threw some rocks.
Listened to the German family that were camped in the next spot. Camping spaces weren’t too close so couldn’t really see them well. Kids seemed between 7 and 10. Cute accents.
I remembered my kids being here with me.
Went into the tent to try and take a nap. Couldn’t sleep.
Restless. Iphone detox I think.
I took my beach chair and climbed to the top of one of the thousands of towering boulders. This view is from right above my tent.
I read from my Kindle even though reading from a paper book would have felt far more appropriate, given the natural surroundings. But I didn’t want to lug my paper books up this steep rock.
I tried to read but couldn’t because that view kept me distracted.
I wonder how many miles it is from here to that far mountain range? Twenty, 50, 200? I have no idea.
I then realized that it was Friday. And that I had made a commitment to Friday Freewriting. No matter what — every single Friday.
But I had no computer.
I started to feel anxious — I came out here to pray and unwind and here I am reading on my slick Kindle PaperWhite stressing about how I have a deadline.
Do you ever give yourself time to relax, then stress the whole time about all the stuff you suddenly must do?
So I climbed back down the rock. Grabbed my Nikon again.
I walked for over an hour and took dozens of photos.
And I prayed that justice would be done in Syria. I prayed that children and mothers and fathers would find hope and healing and comfort.
I knew nothing about the air strikes yesterday because no cell reception.
I am not a pacifist. I believe in just war. I believe going to war with Germany was justified. We saved the lives of millions by entering WWII and taking out those Nazi bastards.
I prayed there would be a way we could end this senseless carnage in Syria. I don’t know if my prayers brought about the destruction of those runways. Maybe. Maybe not.
I found this flower bush. In the hours I walked around, I saw none other like it.
The afternoon pressed on and on. And walked on and on.
I was bored, restless, at peace, lonely, satisfied, hungry — all mixed together.
I wanted to go home.
I wanted to stay for a week.
This is one of my favorite pictures. When I look at those rock formations I realize just how little I know about geology.
Especially when I look at the mushroom shaped one on the left.
Then I had a thought to do something entirely strange. And I’m surprised I’m going to admit it here. But I decided that I would be honest in this blog.
I took all my clothes off.
Because I started to feel — boy this sounds granola — one with nature. The longer I walked, the longer I crawled on my stomach trying to get the perfect shot of these wildflowers, the anxiety started to strip away.
The smells of the earth and the new spring growth.
And even my body odor.
I realized I hadn’t had a shower in over two days.
I could feel the dust against my legs and in my hair.
But I didn’t care.
I realized I was wearing the exact same shoes and shorts and v-neck and jacket I had worn when I departed Costa Mesa on Thursday morning.
But I didn’t care.
In this moment and in the remoteness of this place, I longed to just strip myself of not just all those intrusive thoughts and worries but also, everything else.
I was miles away from anyone else.
I searched around for a rock formation that could have a southern facing barrier (since all the campers are to the north).
“Just in case.”
So here it goes.
Right in between that cluster of boulders, all far taller than me, I paced, sat, meditated, prayed and struck yoga postures.
In the nude.
Don’t know for how long.
At least 15 minutes, I’d guess.
As weird as this sounds…
It felt amazing and I felt close to God or nature or whatever.
It just felt free.
(When I decided to get dressed, man I did it quickly for some reason, and if you could only see my eyes darting in every possible direction for possible onlookers you’d be on the ground howling.)
If nakedness is natural why is it so unnatural?
The sun was starting to set.
I returned to camp. I wanted a picture of me and my austere site. So I put my camera on a rock and used the timer because I didn’t want to bother the German family.
When the sun set, I took one more short walk. This Joshua Tree says it all to me. I don’t know why.
It had a certain mood and that mood matched mine.
I brought a bottle of Pinot Noir. Opened that.
Wondered what I would write about for Friday Freewriting, so scribbled some notes to myself in the back of one of my paper books.
I like being alone.
I’m too sensitive to all the sounds I hear people from other campgrounds.
I hear the sounds of lots of younger families. Younger children. The joys and giggles and how it’s all new and adventurous and how teenagers prefer being with friends versus camping with their dad.
Then I spent about an hour thinking my three children.
The memories in this same spot.
Thought of one of those photos we took almost exactly 10 years earlier to the day.
Life has changed since then.
Then I thought about the Syrian children again.
Then the joys and burden of loving your own children.
We all think we have problems.
I crawled into my tent.
I was hungry, but out of Trader Joe’s trail mix.
Hungry, yet satisfied, I fell asleep to the giggle of German children.
Woke. Packed. Driving out. Had to take just one more.
A note on “Freewriting.”
Every Friday, I set my timer on my iPhone for 15 minutes. Then I start writing. I don’t stop. I write whatever pops into my mind. After 15 minutes, I go back and quickly correct all the blatant typos. Then I publish it on Paulosophia.
I started “freewriting” in the early 1990’s because I had read this short article called “Freewriting.” I was a horrible writer back then, with the most severe writers’ block. The article said you have to write WITHOUT STOPPING. For a fixed period of time. Even if you have to write the same word over and over again. Over time, you get better, and more confident.
Writing becomes as easy as talking.
I can’t count how many freewriting exercises I’ve done over the years. Thousands for sure. I still do them almost daily. My kids know them well. I hope you will, too.
Like Fazelah, who was forced to flee her village in Afghanistan, after fierce fighting broke out. Fazelah, who now lives in a compound in the district center, with 14 other families.
Eight out of 10 internally displaced Afghan women don’t have proper identity papers, hindering their access to education, employment, housing, and property.
When Jesus spoke of caring for the “least of these,” let us be certain he was talking about refugees just like Fazelah — even if they just happened to be Muslim.
When you have a bunch of resolutions, your odds of failing increase. But so do your odds of success. That’s my theory anyway. And it seems to work well. I can now cook Greek food. And I know more about meditation and yoga. I now have a blog. And The Christian Muslim Alliance is now more than an idea. All those things were New Year’s resolutions.
Here it goes…
- Be more decisive.
- Write as much as I read.
- Finally learn Twitter.
- Start getting honest in my writing.
- Post more of what I write.
- 60 push ups every day. Every day.
- Make more mistakes.
- Focus, even on the smallest things.
- Encourage writers.
- Start a podcast.
- Really try and understand how teens think because they intrigue me deeply and I think they are amazing.
- Reduce anti-intellectualism.
- Search to find my blind spots.
- Teach and encourage in my writing.
- Sell my soapskins.
- Read Shakespeare.
- Eat slower.