01/27/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Top 10 Reasons to Become a New Radical

[This is a refreshed repeat of one of Julia's most popular posts.]

When I was writing my book about New Radicals (that is, people like you and me who've found ways to leverage skills acquired in our careers and put them to work on the world's greatest challenges []), I asked everyone I interviewed to imagine sitting down with readers over a cup of coffee or a glass of wine. And I asked these pioneers what they would say to people who are considering becoming New Radicals.

As you can imagine, their responses covered a broad spectrum of ideas and emotions. Yet, they also spoke with one voice, like an opera chorus, using the Nike tagline that got this generation off the couch once before, "Just do it!" They hope, as I do, that their stories will awaken you to the power within.

1. You will change someone's life.
"When I told the women in this village [ed: a small town outside Kigali, Rwanda] I would return in April, they were happy. I heard later that they didn't believe me, saying to one another, 'Why would she leave a rich and beautiful country to come and help strangers?' When I came back, there were tears. It was so important to me to return in April, you see, so that they knew something good could happen in that month." -- Nicole Pageau, Ubuntu Edmonton

2. You will change your own life.
"I got an injection of energy and excitement about my ability to contribute to the world. It was incredibly scary to let go, but it was also incredibly freeing. And I have not been this happy in years." -- Melissa Dyrdahl, Bring Light

3. Your skills are needed.
"I can't think of any social cause that will say, 'That's it, we're done!' Everyone is toiling away at the things they care about. And there's always room for more people." -- Suzanne Seggerman, Games for Change

4. You will discover the power of synchronicity.
"I don't know how the universe works, and I'm not a scientist, but there's no doubt in my mind that there are lots of synchronicities at work. The universe waits for you to say, 'I'm ready!' And when you've made the internal commitment, the universe, whatever it is, just delivers. It's extraordinary. But, it takes that deep, courageous moment, or series of moments." -- Mark Brayne,

5. Your view of the world will change.
"What I've learned from our alumni is the truly extraordinary impact they have on their kids' lives. It's funny, but it's fueled by a sense of dissatisfaction at the same time. On the one hand, it's possible to achieve, and on the other, we still have so far to go to reach the point where all of our teachers attain that level of success with their children, and ultimately, where the entire education system does, too. I've moved from having an idea that the world could be different, to realizing that not only should it, but that it really could." -- Wendy Kopp, Teach for America

6. You will influence those around you.
"This work has been a great example to my kids. My son, who is in university, is becoming interested in international affairs and is learning about the inequities between rich and poor countries. And he feels that social awareness has been in our family since he was a little boy, but now it's nice to be able to deliver on it, in terms of true on-the-ground activism. I can actually demonstrate how a bunch of people like me made a difference in this community." -- Tony Leighton, Guelph Civic League

7. You will meet exceptional people.
"A fascinating by-product that I didn't expect is that when you do this work, you start to meet really interesting people. I've developed a new network of friends. My personal life's gotten much better, and they are exactly the kind of people I want to develop this new venture with, as well." -- Ron Dembo, Zerofootprint

8. You will feel connected to something bigger.
"There are a lot of people out there who are disadvantaged and, you know, I could have been one. It's so important to help one another. I have friends who have all the material things in life, but aren't happy. I tell that they'll be amazed at what happens if they spend just one day a week helping someone in need." -- Paul Gillespie, Kids' Internet Safety Alliance

9. You will play a part in saving the world.
"I've seen kids in refugee camps move from apathy and violence to happiness and hope for the future. They become children again." -- Johann Koss, Right to Play

10. You will die happy.
"I think the worst thing in the world is to be lying on your death bed saying, 'I wish I had tried." Putting yourself out there, and giving yourself the opportunity to do some good, is noble in its own right. The other thing I tell people is that with the traditional career arc, the more money we make, the more we buy, and the more we make to keep feeding those things. In the process, we forget that we're not any happier, and maybe less so. To my m9ind, it's better to live 24 hours a day meaningfully rather than just the hours when you're not at work." -- Kevin Salwen, Motto Magazine

Do you agree with what these New Radicals say? What would your top reason(s) be? Please share your thoughts with us by commenting below, or email me directly at

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