The Power of Philanthropy


How much of your time, energy or resources do you give to others purely to help the world around you be a better place?

Last night I watched an excellent TED talk with Bill and Melinda Gates. It was about their Foundation – The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation – and what it is currently achieving and what it hopes to achieve over the coming decades.

It was truly inspiring and has given me so much more hope for our planet.

So let’s start with philanthropy: What exactly is it? It is the desire to promote the welfare of others, expressed especially by the generous donation of money to good causes. Generally, very wealthy people set up philanthropic causes around something they are passionate about. For some it is the arts whilst for others it’s education or health.  It doesn’t really matter what the cause is, and I am sure each of the causes across many different areas are abundantly happy to receive the help.

I have always wanted to be a philanthropist ever since I found out what it meant when I was 16. I am sure that on some level I loved the idea of being super rich, but I loved the idea of giving it away even more. I think that is why I am so inspired and fascinated with what the Gates are doing.

The idea of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation was born in the 1990s. They had been on a trip to Africa to see the animals but it was the people that really caught their attention. They found them to be so open and wonderful and were deeply saddened by their challenging lives. They were walking along a beach in Zanzibar at the end of their holiday discussing why it was like it was and what could be done about it.

Bill and Melinda had already decided that their post-Microsoft years would be about charity and giving back, but this trip to Africa prompted their philanthropic journey to start much earlier than planned, and their Foundation was born in 2000.

The philosophy of the Foundation is to tackle just a few big problems very well. They choose extreme poverty and poor health in developing countries, and the failures of America’s education system. They have a global approach which is highly commendable! When we are happy to take the resources from developing countries, I believe we have an obligation to take care of their people as well.

On the Foundation’s website there is a letter from the Gates explaining who they are and what they stand for. In the letter they share some advice that Warren Buffett gave them around philanthropy: “Don’t just go for safe projects,” he said, “take on the really tough problems”.

They have and they are making a massive impact in the world!

The other thing that I love about the Foundation is who they have got to join them. Being as affluent as they are, they swim in circles where there is a lot of money and a lot of influence. And really, these are the people who will be changing the world, not our governments.

Bill and Melinda Gates have currently given 80% of their wealth to the Foundation. By the time they leave the planet they will have given 95% to the Foundation. In 2007, Warren Buffett called his friends Bill and Melinda and asked to donate 80% of his wealth to their Foundation. Between these two alone, we are talking billion and billions, if not trillions of dollars! Trillions of dollars that is being spent with intention, research, testing to ensure they are doing the best thing, and simply changing the world to be a far better places for millions of people.

Now that blows my heart up!

Aside from Warren Buffet, there are now over 150 other super rich people who have committed over 50% of their wealth to the Foundation. The influence that the Gates’ actions have had on leading their peers has been so powerful and the philanthropic spirit has been ignited in a way that the world has not seen before.

I am nowhere near being in a philanthropic position but the Gates inspire me to continue to give where I can. Whether that is a small donation to a charity, giving away things that I could sell to someone who needs them more than me, or simply coaching people who want to make a change and are not yet in a position to pay for the help. It really doesn’t matter if you are the Gates or me – it is about the spirit of giving and taking care of others who need the help.

If you get a chance to check out the TED talk, do so! It is full of hope and is a great opportunity to see what two people who are committed to a more equal planet can achieve.

The Desiderata


Last week I posted a single line from the Desiderata on Instagram, a prose poem written by Max Hermann in 1927. It is a magnificent piece of writing, a simple and thoughtful take on how to live a life of contentment, happiness and fulfilment.

The post prompted several conversations about what sort of person Max Hermann must of been to have had such an insightful and simple take on life. He was clearly  a man who understood the world, and even though this poem suggests that he had his struggles, he was loyal to the belief of choosing happy.

It is the simplicity of this poem that makes its so attractive to me, and the wisdom too.  If we  all lived by these words, I think the world would be a happier place.  I just had to share it again.

Enjoy Max’s beautiful work…..


Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.

Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexatious to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.

Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.

And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be. And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.

Be cheerful.

Strive to be happy.

Life is a journey, not a destination…..


Today I was chatting with two beautiful ladies I work with and the conversation turned to the topic of “life is a journey, not a destination”.  One of the ladies was sharing her experiences on achievement and how, once she achieves whatever her goal is, only then is she allowed to enjoy the fruits of her labour (or the fruits of her experience).  That belief really challenged me for several different reasons. Mostly, because the enjoyment of the process is all determined by the outcome.  Being in the now is not enough because the goal has not yet been realised. Don’t smell the roses, just keep on marching through, we are not there YET!

So what happens when the goal, for whatever reason, is not realised? Does that mean the process of going after the goal can no longer hold any joy or celebration?

I notice more and more that our world is obsessed with right and wrong and good and bad. I absolutely appreciate the power of contrast, yet so often we use it against ourselves. It is treated as a weapon to destroy our enjoyment in the NOW.  If there is “right”, well here must be “wrong”.

“If I don’t get the outcome I want, well this all has been a waste of time and energy”, “It was meant to go this way but it didn’t so I won’t celebrate the journey of getting to here even though I may have learnt a lot”

Why are we so focused on finishing the race when we are smack bang in the middle of it?

Life is in the learning and if we continually pass the learning by because we are so focussed on the outcome, well, it is a huge injustice to ourselves and our creator.  The danger of living a destination orientated life is that we only allow ourselves to celebrate our achievements once we have achieved them.  We are wrong until we have arrived at right.

“Until I am living in the beautiful house, I am not really a success”, “Until, I have $200,000 in the bank, I am not really secure.”

I got to call it, it’s total and utter bullshit!

Imagine how different life could be if you woke up, ate a great breakfast, kissed your partner and kids and then announced that you are a success.  I mean you are breathing, healthy, connected to others and have food on your table.  That automatically puts you in the top percentages of people on the planet. Imagine how different life could be if you royally stuffed up the business deal and because of that, learnt something that you never would have come across any other way and were able to turn that into a deal that is 10 times bigger than anything you could have previously imagined?  What if each day you focussed on the journey of your life with total appreciation,  that you are right where you should be?

When I think of people who go on these amazing treks over months at a time, they talk about the moments along the way so much more than the moment they finished the journey.  The moment of finishing is so, so sweet because of the preciousness of all those hours, days and weeks that have gone into getting them there.

The Now is where it’s at, enjoy the journey……


Don’t cheat yourself (or the world), you are Powerful!



This last week I have had four conversations with people who truly believe that they have no power, that they are unable to effect change in their life or anyone else’s.  Collectively, the message was “I have no control over my life, I am powerless to do anything about it”, “I can’t change the world, I am just some small speck on the planet, there really is nothing I can do”, and  lastly “Well, the Earth is ruined anyway so what’s the point of me doing things any differently”.

This is such an ineffective story to have, plus its total BS!! Every single one of us is powerful.  The decision lies in whether or not we want to step into that power. Do I want to live from an empowered place where I trust that I can make a difference or do I want to live from a disempowered place where I believe I have no ability to influence myself or others?

I remember my Dad telling me a story when I was in my teenager years.  It is the story of the starfish on the beach.  There is a man walking along the beach and the beach is covered in starfish.  They have all been washed up on to the shore and now are going to die because they are out of the water.  The man, as he is walking along, is picking the starfish up and throwing them back into the ocean.  Another man is walking along the beach in the opposite direction and he says to the guy picking up the starfish, “Mate, don’t even bother throwing them back in, there are just to many of them to make a difference”.

The man who is picking up the starfish casually throws another one back into the ocean and turns to the other person and say “Well, it made a difference to that one”

I love this story because it illustrates so beautifully that making a difference doesn’t have to be saving the planet (or ourselves) in one foul swoop, its doing lots of little things that empower not only us but the world around us. For each and every starfish that got thrown back into the ocean, he made a difference. For each and every starfish, that man got to experience the pleasure of his own empowerment as he helped something outside of himself.

I get that we sometimes feel so small in the face of some of the challenges that we have on earth right now but remember, as a family, community, city, country  we become VERY powerful, especially as we banned together.  Imagine if all those people who have effected amazing change, had the same belief as those people I have spoken to this week.  India would still be controlled by the British, Apartheid would still be alive and well in South Africa, women would still not be voting and the hole in the Ozone layer would be ginormous by now.

So the question is, how do we as individuals express our power?  Well, we speak up, we have opinions, we have conversations, we say no or we say yes, we ask, we get curious and we continue to educate ourselves about what ever it is that we feel passionate about.

Every time we go to the shops and open our wallet we are telling industry what we like and don’t like.  Twenty five years ago there were no organic sections (in my memory) in the major supermarkets, if you were Vegan you were a freak and now there are cafes that only serve coffee with non diary milk, recycling was a novelty, animal testing was rife and and products didn’t have to be labelled to state whether it had occurred or not.  Recently, the Australian government conducted a survey on Animal testing with the view of changing the laws to match the will of the people.

So really, when you think about it, we have already come a long way.  I firmly believe that we have come a long way because of people like you, me and the four people I spoke to during the week (they just don’t realise it). We are creating the world we live in, whether we do it consciously or not, so lets do it consciously and be really POWERFUL.



Last night I saw footage of something so deeply disturbing that I am unable to shake it from my thoughts.  I thought maybe if I wrote how I was feeling down, I might be able to make a little bit of peace with it as well as clearly saying to the world, I am NOT okay with this. It was the footage from the Syrian town, Khan Sheikhoun which experienced the devastating chemical attacks on Tuesday.

Watching those young children (and adults) convulse like they had been sprayed with a can of Mortein was nothing short of horrific.  I am truly astounded that on the planet, right now, we still so easily and effortlessly destroy peoples lives, homes, villages and countries.  What the fuck is going on with humanity?

I truly hope that this footage awakens something in all of us to stand up and have a voice that this is not acceptable.  This is not okay in the world we live in today.  All the associated parties are blaming each other and making up what appears to be lies about who is to blame and what should be done.

All I keep coming back to is how does this happen? The thought that a group of people have sat around and discussed chemical warfare as an option and then actually CHOOSE to do this to these people is mind blowing.  I am sure they themselves,  must have wives or husbands, children and elderly parents.  Clearly that does not help them to connect to what they are doing to these people! It does not invoke any sense of compassion or humanity.

It makes me think of the Buddhist monks, who live by the Five Precepts of Buddhist morality.  The first precept is to avoid killing or harming any living being.

When I think of the spectrum of life, at one end we have the Buddhist monks who kill nothing and the other end we have the people who decided to use chemical warfare on innocent people for pursuit of what ever it is that they wanted.  In the middle of that spectrum lives the rest of us.  When I think of it like a seesaw, I really hope that the Buddhist end of the seesaw starts to get more loaded up, that people feel inspired to condemn the violence that is happening in our world right now,  to have a voice and to demand that our governments step in and help these poor people.

I am deeply saddened by all that is going on in Syria and the other parts of the world where people (and animals) are being treated so horrifically.  We need to stand together.