By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
I am just back from the Spring Juice Plus+ International Conference in Phoenix, and of all the company events I have attended in the past 15 years since I became a rep, this was the best. There are always inspirational stories of people who have overcome extraordinary obstacles to become quantifiably successful in life and business. One woman built her team after her husband was transferred to Uganda; the way she did it was to go up on a hill and hold her phone up in the air until she got the smallest amount of cell coverage so she could provide excellent leadership. Survivors of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico took care of their teams as well as their customers when there was no water or power or transportation or communication systems. To say that they excelled at “customer care” is an understatement.
There were several cancer survivors who had both beaten back the disease as well as dead end jobs. One woman grew up in true food insecurity, such that they lived off of dented cans, “and without labels, we didn’t know if what was inside was dog food or peaches. And, it didn’t matter. We ate it anyway,” she said, with true and respectful compassion toward her parents. That experience inspired her to purchase several Tower Gardens so that children in classrooms could learn how to grow fresh produce, and their teachers could teach them the science behind it. Tim Blank was the head horticulturist at Epcot, and a few years back got permission from Disney to take the vertical growing system shown in the exhibit known as the Land and make it available for the average person, even if they have nothing that begins to resemble a green thumb. Now, there are Tower Gardens all over the nation, in schools, in Boys and Girls Clubs, in homeless shelters, in airports, in assisted living centers, on the roof tops of restaurants in Manhattan, and as farms in urban food deserts.
Speaking of Tower Gardens, if you have never heard of the Bronx Green Machine and its founder, Stephen Ritz, you need to spend about 14 minutes watching the Ted Talk he gave that set the audience on fire. “I’m growing students by growing plants,” he said. Stephen has gotten Tower Gardens into the White House, the United Arab Emirates, and my guess is that he won’t stop until there are Tower Gardens in Antarctica.
So, here comes the comfort that comes from being uncomfortable. Stephen Ritz, in my opinion, is what the late Steve Jobs would have described as someone who “dents the universe.” He has been honored many times as a global teacher and humanitarian, he has had an audience with the pope, he has former students who are the first in their family to go to college, and yet he refuses to lay around on his lees.
I had to come to grips with the fact that if I had achieved that level of success, (and for the sake of this discussion I would define success far more in terms of impact, not income) I think I would have started to coast. After all, this guy has trotted the globe, he’s not a spring chicken, so why not just take a break?
The reason is that Stephen, and so many people from all over the world with whom I spent five life-changing days, have what can only be described as a “fire in their belly.” That fire, which refuses to do anything short of relentlessly changing one’s sphere, is truly uncomfortable. However, it is a discomfort I’ll take any day, because of the comfort it ultimately brings; the comfort in knowing that you never stopped, and you never settled.