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Adventure in the Little Things January 13, 2012

Posted by Marc Troeger in adventure, life.
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Ten years ago, a good friend lost her battle with cancer. It was heartbreaking to many of us. Karen was an inspiration to her family and friends, and, with her work with the Helsinki Commission, the world.

Karen was also someone who was full of passion and experienced many adventures throughout her life. I was fortunate to have been able to join her on a number of those.

Even as cancer began to take a toll on her body, she still held a strong conviction that remission would come. During this time, she insisted on experiencing the world as much as she could.

One warm, Fall day, a group of us took a hike along the Hazel River trail, in the foothills of the Shenandoah Mountains, an hour’s drive from Washington, DC where we all lived. Even though the trail was a level stroll along the river, Karen eventually began to tire and we decide to turn back. As the others walked on ahead, I stayed with Karen at her slower pace. Eventually, she asked to rest, so we sat on the banks of the Hazel River, under a large, oak tree.

Always being the curious one, Karen began poking at the ground with a stick and overturning small logs and rocks. I still remember the child-like amazement on her face and the laughter of delight as she uncovered many different bugs, worms and other insects. I joined in the discovery. The others soon came to find out what was keeping us. They, too, sat down and joined us in the search for the “little things” as Karen called them.

Eventually, the search waned and Karen soon dozed off under the tree; someone went off to wade in the river; the rest of the group sat on the riverbank, talking quietly and enjoying the beautiful day. At some point, someone pointed to the time and the sun that was lower on the horizon. Rousting Karen, she arose from her nap, deeming herself rested and we continued our short journey to the car.

As we approached the car to settle in for the ride back to the bustling city, Karen stopped us. With a tear in her eye and her impish, crooked smile, she gave each one of us a hug and thanked us for the days adventure. It was one of those images that burns itself into your brain, of a friend who is long gone, but forever part of your life.

For Karen… for us, regardless of our situation, adventures still abound, even in the “little things”.

What’s been your adventure today?

House of Representatives Tribute to Karen S. Lord )

A tribute to Steve Jobs… in his own words “You’ve got to find what you love.” October 6, 2011

Posted by Marc Troeger in ambition, excellence, journey, life, Passion, Technology.
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Stanford Report, June 14, 2005  http://news.stanford.edu/news/2005/june15/jobs-061505.html

‘You’ve got to find what you love,’ Jobs says

This is a prepared text of the Commencement address delivered by Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Computer and of Pixar Animation Studios, on June 12, 2005.

I am honored to be with you today at your commencement from one of the finest universities in the world. I never graduated from college. Truth be told, this is the closest I’ve ever gotten to a college graduation. Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That’s it. No big deal. Just three stories.

The first story is about connecting the dots.

I dropped out of Reed College after the first 6 months, but then stayed around as a drop-in for another 18 months or so before I really quit. So why did I drop out?

It started before I was born. My biological mother was a young, unwed college graduate student, and she decided to put me up for adoption. She felt very strongly that I should be adopted by college graduates, so everything was all set for me to be adopted at birth by a lawyer and his wife. Except that when I popped out they decided at the last minute that they really wanted a girl. So my parents, who were on a waiting list, got a call in the middle of the night asking: “We have an unexpected baby boy; do you want him?” They said: “Of course.” My biological mother later found out that my mother had never graduated from college and that my father had never graduated from high school. She refused to sign the final adoption papers. She only relented a few months later when my parents promised that I would someday go to college.

And 17 years later I did go to college. But I naively chose a college that was almost as expensive as Stanford, and all of my working-class parents’ savings were being spent on my college tuition. After six months, I couldn’t see the value in it. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out. And here I was spending all of the money my parents had saved their entire life. So I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work out OK. It was pretty scary at the time, but looking back it was one of the best decisions I ever made. The minute I dropped out I could stop taking the required classes that didn’t interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked interesting.

It wasn’t all romantic. I didn’t have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends’ rooms, I returned coke bottles for the 5¢ deposits to buy food with, and I would walk the 7 miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple. I loved it. And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on. Let me give you one example:

Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn’t have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can’t capture, and I found it fascinating.

None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, it’s likely that no personal computer would have them. If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do. Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards ten years later.

Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.

My second story is about love and loss.

I was lucky — I found what I loved to do early in life. Woz and I started Apple in my parents garage when I was 20. We worked hard, and in 10 years Apple had grown from just the two of us in a garage into a $2 billion company with over 4000 employees. We had just released our finest creation — the Macintosh — a year earlier, and I had just turned 30. And then I got fired. How can you get fired from a company you started? Well, as Apple grew we hired someone who I thought was very talented to run the company with me, and for the first year or so things went well. But then our visions of the future began to diverge and eventually we had a falling out. When we did, our Board of Directors sided with him. So at 30 I was out. And very publicly out. What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating.

I really didn’t know what to do for a few months. I felt that I had let the previous generation of entrepreneurs down – that I had dropped the baton as it was being passed to me. I met with David Packard and Bob Noyce and tried to apologize for screwing up so badly. I was a very public failure, and I even thought about running away from the valley. But something slowly began to dawn on me — I still loved what I did. The turn of events at Apple had not changed that one bit. I had been rejected, but I was still in love. And so I decided to start over.

I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.

During the next five years, I started a company named NeXT, another company named Pixar, and fell in love with an amazing woman who would become my wife. Pixar went on to create the worlds first computer animated feature film, Toy Story, and is now the most successful animation studio in the world. In a remarkable turn of events, Apple bought NeXT, I returned to Apple, and the technology we developed at NeXT is at the heart of Apple’s current renaissance. And Laurene and I have a wonderful family together.

I’m pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn’t been fired from Apple. It was awful tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it. Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith. I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.

My third story is about death.

When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.” It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

About a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer. I had a scan at 7:30 in the morning, and it clearly showed a tumor on my pancreas. I didn’t even know what a pancreas was. The doctors told me this was almost certainly a type of cancer that is incurable, and that I should expect to live no longer than three to six months. My doctor advised me to go home and get my affairs in order, which is doctor’s code for prepare to die. It means to try to tell your kids everything you thought you’d have the next 10 years to tell them in just a few months. It means to make sure everything is buttoned up so that it will be as easy as possible for your family. It means to say your goodbyes.

I lived with that diagnosis all day. Later that evening I had a biopsy, where they stuck an endoscope down my throat, through my stomach and into my intestines, put a needle into my pancreas and got a few cells from the tumor. I was sedated, but my wife, who was there, told me that when they viewed the cells under a microscope the doctors started crying because it turned out to be a very rare form of pancreatic cancer that is curable with surgery. I had the surgery and I’m fine now.

This was the closest I’ve been to facing death, and I hope it’s the closest I get for a few more decades. Having lived through it, I can now say this to you with a bit more certainty than when death was a useful but purely intellectual concept:

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth Catalog, which was one of the bibles of my generation. It was created by a fellow named Stewart Brand not far from here in Menlo Park, and he brought it to life with his poetic touch. This was in the late 1960’s, before personal computers and desktop publishing, so it was all made with typewriters, scissors, and polaroid cameras. It was sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along: it was idealistic, and overflowing with neat tools and great notions.

Stewart and his team put out several issues of The Whole Earth Catalog, and then when it had run its course, they put out a final issue. It was the mid-1970s, and I was your age. On the back cover of their final issue was a photograph of an early morning country road, the kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous. Beneath it were the words: “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.” It was their farewell message as they signed off. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. And I have always wished that for myself. And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you.

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

Thank you all very much.

How do you Mountain? December 7, 2010

Posted by Marc Troeger in ambition, goals, journey, life, mountains.
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Be humbled… be inspired… and ask yourself, How do you mountain?

Cochise Rock Climbing Camp… here I come! October 21, 2010

Posted by Marc Troeger in ambition, journey, life, Patience.
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This is where I’ll be and what I’ll be doing in a few days. Come join me on the adventure… there’s still an opening on the trip.

Will be posting from the summit.

And the Adventure Continues… October 9, 2010

Posted by Marc Troeger in aging, humor, journey, life, Uncategorized.
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I posted on my blog, a few years ago, something I wrote titled “Growing Old… NOT!”  I’m reposting it below as a personal tribute to my 48th birthday, but more importantly,  to all those who could care less about how old they are or what condition they are in and continue to do so many amazing things everyday.  I look at my parents, who are in their 70s and continue to travel the world, always looking for their next adventure.  To Holly, who struggles with Freidriech’s Ataxia yet continues to live her life to the fullest (see her postings at:  Hollys Hope).  To my friend Bruce, who has struggled over the years with cancer and is even now awaiting another diagnosis; regardless of his condition, he has and continues to have such an amazing impact on so many peoples lives.  And to the many people you know and admire who continue to amaze you with how they persevere and what what they accomplish.

Living has nothing to do with age, nor your health, nor the obstacles you face.  Living is how you move on with what you have and make the best of it… one adventure at a time.

===================

[The following was Originally posted at www.mountainblogs.com on December 2, 2008 by Marc Troeger]

I turned forty a few years ago… but it didn’t bother me at the time. A few weeks ago, I innocently mentioned several aches and a few pains to my wife after doing an early morning run. Her response: “That’s what happens when you get older.

My response back her through clenched teeth: “I-am-not-going-to-get-older!”  And that’s the truth.

I refuse to feel my age. I refuse to recognize a little of the spread that’s taking place in my mid-section. I refuse to acknowledge the grays appearing on my top section. And I refuse to give up on the youth that I have always felt within me; the silliness, that care-free attitude toward life… that quest for adventure every waking hour. But, then… how do I ignore the inevitable?
I came up against that question once again, very recently while reading a book by Joe Simpson. Joe is best known for the incredible account of trial and tragedy in the mountains in his book Touching the Void. In his latest book, The Beckoning of Silence, he writes on many topics surrounding his mountaineering adventures, the loss of close friends and an introspective look at the risks he has taken in his life and what that means to him today. In particular, he relies on his insight and wisdom of his age (he is the same age as me!) and writes about youth and old age. In challenging his own advance down the trek of time, he offers this quote by Samuel Ullman :

Youth is not a time of life; it is a state of mind. It is not a matter of ripe cheeks, red lips and supple knees; it is a temper of the Will, a quality of the imagination, a vigor of the emotions. It is a freshness of the deep springs of life. Youth means a tempermental predominance of courage over timidity, of the appetite for adventure over the love of ease. This often exists in a man of fifty more than in a boy of twenty. Nobody grows old by merely living a number of years. People grow old only by deserting their ideals. Years wrinkle the skin; but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul. Worry, doubt, self-distrust, fear and despair – these are the long, long years that bow the heart and turn the greening spirit back to dust. Whether sixty or sixteen, there is in every human being’s heart the lure of wonder, the sweet amazement at the stars and at starlike things and thoughts, the undaunted challenge of events, the unfailing childlike appetite for what next and the joy of the game of living. You are as young as your faith, as old as your doubt, as young as your self-confidence, as old as your fear, as young as your hope, as old as your despair.

Yeah… me… that’s me… I-am-not-going-to-get-old!

Cat and Dog Détente January 7, 2009

Posted by Marc Troeger in humor, life.
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In our household, cats (Babee and Pumpkin) barely tolerate a very playful dog (Ernie).  Needless to say, the felines keep a wide distance from their canine housemate, that is, until I walked into my office last night to discover a form of Détente taking place as all three were sleeping together on the couch.  Seems some sort of accord was reached.  May other parts of the world take a lesson from this; when cats and dogs can be at peace.  Meow and Woof.

Cat and Dog Détente

A humbling lesson from… Walmart December 23, 2008

Posted by Marc Troeger in humor, life, Marriage, Patience.
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smiley
Image from pt’s Photostream: http://flickr.com/photos/pmtorrone/150955293/

My original thoughts about this foot surgery was that I was going to be out-and-about within a few days, resuming my normal activities, albeit a little slower, but without much hindrance none-the-less. When I went for consultation prior to my surgery, Dr. Snyder stated that it would be 6-8 weeks before I could even begin to resume any normal activities.

double_diamond“Bah! I’ll show him!” was the first thought that crossed my mind. I’m a guy who climbs small mountains (novicely), skis down double-black diamond slopes(haphazardly), participates in 24 hour mountain bike races (recklessly), runs marathons (averagely), rafts wild rivers (carelessly) and, bottom line: just can’t sit still (expertly). I was not going to let a little foot surgery hold me down!

Walmart made me think differently.

First off, let me throw a disclaimer out there. I am not a fan of shopping at Walmart. While there is nothing morally wrong with low prices and cheap, Chinese goods, I prefer to shop locally, supporting businesses and services in my hometown and the surrounding area. There are times, though, that the convince and availability is to tempting. Besides, I’d been stuck in the house for 4 days straight and when my wife (a nurse by profession and a bulldog by years of caring for others) felt I could join her to pick up a few things, I jumped at the chance. I was more excited than Ernie is when he knows he’s going for a walk. Her only requirement was that I ride in one of the little, electric, mobile shopping carts the store keeps at the front door. “A-N-Y-T-H-I-N-G! Just get me off the couch!”

My pride got the best of me as I walked through the doors of the mega-mart and saw cartthe little cart. It suddenly became a symbol of immobility and, to me, getting older. “ There’s no way I’m riding in that thing!” I insisted to my wife, as I leaned on my trusty, mountaineering pole I was using as a makeshift support. “I am not riding in that thing. No way! I can manage with my trekking pole (I refused to call it a ‘cane’)”. My wife looked at me with those bulldog, caring eyes and then smirked one of those nurses smiles when patients refuses to take their medicine.

“Fine.” was her reply.

Hobbling along, I relished being back with humanity, enthusiastically saying hi to people I didn’t know. I was drinking in the chatter of people and stimulated by all the commerce taking place. At that moment, life couldn’t be better.

It was 10 minutes into my jaunt, halfway to the back of the store, near the frozen food section that something didn’t feel right. Swelling of the foot… pain… a little dizziness… “Bah!” I said, I’ll manage. Five minutes minutes later… nausea and a bit of a sweat formed on my upper lip. I met my wife’s eyes. The nurses smirk was there.

“How are you doing?” she asked, with those bulldog, caring eyes.

“Uh… I think I’m going to go sit in the car.” I said.

“Fine.” was her reply.

Waiting in the car, I sat gloomy and embarrassed. It became clear to me that this recovery would not be as swift as I anticipated. “Six to 8 weeks before you can resume normal activities.” Dr. Snyder’s words reverberated through my head.

My wife got to the car, stowed her purchases and climbed in the driver’s seat. There were no bulldog eyes or nurses smirk. She leaned over and gave me a gentle kiss and a caress.

“How are you doing?” She asked.

“I’m fine,” I replied.

Staring out into the dark night as we drove off, I realized I missed my couch, knowing that it was my symbol of patience and recovery.

-marc

Muses of a taste test… December 22, 2008

Posted by Marc Troeger in life.
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burger_mess2

Confined to my couch all day, while recovering from foot surgery, I’ve been watching a bit more TV than I normally do. It hasn’t been all that bad as I’ve enjoyed a few documentaries and a number of the “Mega” series shows on the History Channels where they do stories on mega things such as ships and rockets and trucks and buildings. It’s fascinating the demand we have for bigger, faster and stronger machines our world demands for manufacturing and shipping.

Throughout some of these shows, I’ve been bombarded a number of commercials, which is to be expected. But the one that gets the Couch Journal Annoying Commercial Award goes to Burger King and their Whopper Virgins campaign. It’s probably one of more ludicrous, most absurd commercials I’ve ever seen. I had a fleeting thought of linking one of the commercials to this post, but felt it might end up offending my readers.

In the commercial, the company travels to remote places in Thailand, Greenland and Romania, looking for people who have never eaten a burger. They then perform a taste-test in between the Whopper and McDonald’s Big Mac. The commercials show the locals experiencing their first taste, and, of course, they naturally choose the Whopper.

This commercial boggles my mind on many fronts, but do you want to know what the first series of questions were that ran through my were the first time I saw the ad?

  • Who made the Big Mac? How do we know that the Whopper people didn’t slap a piece of fried goat between a few buns, dribbled with a questionable sauce?
  • Was Ronald McDonald around to ensure quality control?
  • Did they get fries with their order, or the opportunity to upsize?
  • Were the testers surely and rude, just like the Burger King employees I’ve encountered, giving the tasters the true, Burger King experience?

We need answers here people! The reputations of virgins are at stake!

Seriously, one of the biggest complaints about the ad is Burger King’s exploitation of different cultures and their methods of introducing highly commercialized food products into these cultures. In response to criticism, Burger King issued a press release stating:

In keeping with BKC’s philanthropic philosophy to give back to the communities in which it lives and works, at the conclusion of each taste test, Burger King Corp. worked cooperatively with local authorities to make donations, tailored specifically to benefit each individual community that participated in the ‘study’ and make a lasting contribution in each region.

While it makes me feel better knowing that some village in backlands Thailand has a new community center, it makes me wonder if that building is emblazoned with a big ‘ol Burger King logo on the front and a statue of the King standing in the village square?

It’s for this reason, that I believe in organizations like Epic Change. Their aim is not to just dump aid on those in need; we have many organizations that do a good job of that. The goal of Epic Change is to provide the financial resources, in the form of interest-free loans so that the community can improve their own efforts and making a better life for their community members while maintaining their unique their culture. A built-in side effect is of these loans are the repayments that are recycled to fund other projects and help other communities.

Join with me as I work to make that difference… even from my couch.

-marc

Every Adventure needs a sidekick… December 21, 2008

Posted by Marc Troeger in life.
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Meet Ernie, my sidekick during my couch adventures as I recover from foot surgery. Ernie is named after the famed Antarctic explorer Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton. Ernie’s a two-year old long-haired dachshund and very easily lives up to his namesake.

Any chance Ernie gets, he’s right along side of me, willing to take part in any of my daily adventures, from jet skiing, to kayaking, cross-country skiing and even riding along in a backpack when I go mountain biking. The benefits of the small, little guy is that he can go just about anywhere… and he rarely says no. But size does not matter to him. He usually forgets that he’s one quarter the size of most dogs with whom he plays.


To be honest, I think Ernie’s just as challenged with this couch-bound adventure as I am. He does not quite understand why I can’t join him in the yard, chasing balls and sticks or running the geese out of our back yard. He’s constantly bringing his favorite toy to me, wanting me to chase him down and wrestle it away. While I think he’s disappointed at the restrained attempts I make to play, I believe he understands and patiently waits.

Ernie’s taught me a few lessons about life over the two years I’ve had him. Having been a bachelor only until last year, I’ve learned almost as much about commitment, dependency and the need to let others in my life, as I have from my wife (Oops… I’ll make up for that comment in a future post!).

Don’t forget, this journal is about change, and the changes we can make, no matter our situation. Epic Change is one of those that is trying to make that difference. Check out the Epic Change widget at the top of the page.

Join with me as I work to make that difference… even from my couch.

-marc

The Couch Journals begin… December 21, 2008

Posted by Marc Troeger in life.
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The Couch Journals begin…

For those who know me, I’m normally a pretty active guy… And although I’m no Conrad Anker or Sir Edmond Hillary, I tend to enjoy the more adventurous side of life, which means that a sedentary lifestyle isn’t quite my style. But, on December 19, I underwent a bit of surgery on my feet to correct a hereditary bunion problem (thanks for that gift, Mom!) with my feet. While most bunions can be managed without surgery, mine is a case of bunions gone terribly bad. This required some cutting and shaving and repositioning of the bones, along with a few screws to hold it all together. I’m happy to say the surgery went well, but I am now required to be completely off my feet for a week for a swift recovery.

Recovery meant that I ended up stuck on the couch with my foot propped and the rest of me in a reclining position. Included with this are all forms of entertainment including TV, the internet, DVDs and many books, magazines and blogs to read.

The first half-day of marooning went well, but very soon it got real old. The second half of the day, I got very restless and even started feeling sorry for myself. “Enough of that!” I finally said. Even in this predicament, I am still far more fortunate that others around the world. It was then that I decided to see how much of a difference I could make, even from my couch… and so, the Couch Journals began…

While my secondary goal is to provide a journal of the general observations of couch living (from a not so couch living sort of guy), my primary goal is to see how much of a change I can make. And I am doing that through my little campaign for Epic Change.

Epic Change is a small non-profit that uses donations to provide interest-free loans to local partners to finance many community improvement efforts around the world. They then work with the recipient to repay the loan by collaborating with them to share their stories. In a continuing cycle, they”pay it forward” by recycling repaid loans to help fund Epic Change in other communities. It’s really a self-sustaining gift that keeps on going. Read their mission statement, and the values. http://www.epicchange.org.   They do make difference.

To be honest, I have no idea how much I can raise while I am couch-bound. I hope to be surprised. Please note that 100% of whatever comes in goes to Epic Change. Check out the giving widget on this page. Give as little as you want or just be aware of the opportunities you have to give when you are able. And if anything, you can join me on my latest adventure… from the couch.

-marc

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