Just over a year ago a vision grabbed hold of me. I wanted to give away seed grants of $1,000 a day, every day of the year to individual changemakers. Within a short period of time, I realized this wasn't just a short-term vision: it was a promise that I would endeavor to keep for the rest of my life.
When I tell people who I am going to give away $1,000 a day, every day for the rest of my life, they frequently say, "it must be nice to be sitting on a pile of money." However, if I had enough money to fund an endowment to do this, it wouldn't be as unreasonable or nearly as meaningful. I started the Pollination Project with some seed capital and the support of my lucrative, socially-responsible business. Those things helped get us started. But what will ultimately allow me to fulfill on my $1K a day promise is my unwavering and unreasonable commitment to doing it.
It only makes sense that the Pollination Project would look to fund people who have also made unreasonable promises that they intend to keep. After all, changing the world requires boldness, imagination and deep commitment. George Bernard Shaw famously said (gender pronouns changed from the original): "The reasonable person adapts themselves to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to themselves. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable person."
One such unreasonable person and recent grantee is Shodo Spring, a long-time activist, grandmother of four, zen monk and author, who considers it her life's work to stop global warming.
Some may think it is naïve to dedicate one's life to something that is, by any logical measure, impossible. Yet that is exactly why we funded her.
The controversial Keystone Pipeline caught Shodo's attention several years ago, and in 2011 she was arrested outside the White House while protesting. Shortly thereafter, during a winter long monastic retreat, Shodo received a vision of walking along the pipeline with a group of people. She explains, "the vision persisted and I accepted it as a major assignment for my lifetime."
This summer, Shodo and a team of approximately 10 other spiritual activists will spend three months walking along the 1,700 mile Great Plains Keystone XL Pipeline route. Shodo explains the Compassionate Earth Walk is not an "anti-pipeline" protest. The walk itself is described as a spiritual pilgrimage that offers an active and conscious giving of energy to the earth. Along the route, the team will do service projects, education events and interfaith spiritual services. Of course, they hope to raise awareness along the way while forming bonds with the people who live in the communities along the route.
Funding Shodo and the Compassionate Earth Walk is the kind of thing that few other foundations would consider because it is not sponsored by a larger nonprofit organization, it defies measurable outcomes (how do you measure consciously giving energy to the earth?) and besides, what can 10 people really do about the pipeline anyway? Yet, seeing this grandmother of four give up her physical comforts to fulfill this destiny, starting with the pipeline walk, inspires me (and I imagine countless others as well).
We all have seeds of inherent goodness that, when nurtured and turned into real commitment, can create transform the world around us. This is exactly what we saw in Shodo Spring.
Whether we can measure it or not, people like Shodo are changing the world by being unreasonable. They encourage us to ask: What unreasonable promise is calling me forward? What is the vision that grabs me and won't let go?
When you figure it out, I know where you can apply for a $1,000 grant to take your first steps.