Power of One | Max Woolf

Max Woolf is a motivational speaker and career coach for Gen Y and beyond. Max speaks to organizations, groups, sports teams, and individuals to help them maximize their potential, live life more fully, and discover their passion and purpose. He has developed a new context for living that invigorates life experiences and improves quality of life called Living at the Edge.

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“One person making a difference for one other person will begin to change the world!”

I finally realized tonight what Power of One truly means.

I just returned from Thailand where I traveled with a group of 47 high school students, mentors, and teachers from the Untied States, Thailand, and China. The purpose of our trip was to explore the idea that one person can make a difference and provoke change in the world. By engaging in service work throughout Thailand, our goals were: to better understand the cross cultural differences, to hone our unique personal visions, and to understand how to make a difference as global citizens.

Lek’s Vision

Our main service project was at The Elephant Nature Park in Chiang-Mai, Thailand. Sangduan “Lek” Chailert is the founder of The Elephant Nature Park, which seeks to reform the way that the Asian elephants are being trained and treated. In 1995, she took it upon herself to change the life of just one Asian elephant. By rescuing just one elephant, she was able to begin a process of change; a grassroots movement to reform the treatment of the Asian elephant. Now, more than 10 years later, she has a 60 acre Elephant Nature Park where she has rescued over 30 elephants from torture and mistreatment; she is truly a Power of One.

I was glad to see that this message hit home with each and every one of our high school students. In our closing circle, the students explained the ways that they were going to reevaluate their lives and values when they returned home to the United States. Whether it was reconnecting with a distant father, shifting an extremely committed relationship with a boyfriend, learning to be the voice of reason when all her friends wanted to drink all the time, understanding how to stand up to a parent in a constructive way, or learning how to acknowledge the preciousness amenities of life including hot showers and clean bathrooms, each student got it!

No matter what circumstances each of these individuals faced, by traveling many miles across the globe, each was able to look back at his/her life at home and reevaluate it from a new unattached perspective. By separating themselves from all of their previous views and beliefs, and in a way being forcefully shoved outside their original box of possibilities, they were able to radically reinterpret their own lives.

I believe that this is the experience and opportunity that we need to give young adults in order to help them shift the paradigms of the future. Given the normal course of events without travel and new cultural experiences, students will develop habits, patterns, and ways of being to which they will have no comparison. And even worse, they will have no alternate perspective from which to look back at their lives, their communities and themselves. In order for them to be the agents of change in this world, we need to provide them with an outlet to experientially understand possibility. We need to allow them understand that there may be more to the world than the reality that they currently live in and the circle of influence in which they currently operate.

This trip also provided me with personal growth through a drastic shift of perspective in my own life. When I drove across the country this past fall, I learned a lot about the United States and saw poverty in a whole new light. It made me realize that the world was a lot bigger than just me and my local Boston community. And then when I traveled to Thailand, I learned not only that the world was a lot bigger than just the United States, but also there was a lot more on it than just human beings. It may seem obvious, but plants and animals are a large part of the life on this planet!

And interestingly, it was through this understanding of the vastness of nature and the vastness of the global community that I realized I needed to begin by making an impact on a much smaller scale. (…at least for the immediate future…) I will be able to find satisfaction and fulfillment by simply affecting the lives of the people around me. And if it is just one person and one relationship, then so be it!

Fortunately, being a member of the 47 person group that traveled to Thailand on this trip, I saw how easily I could affect more than just one person. On the trip, I helped serve as a volunteer coordinator to effectively run a 20 person mud brick making operation; I put on make up and performed a Thai dance making hundreds of people laugh; and I had deep, meaningful , genuine conversations with many students and mentors on the trip. And it was amazing that when I was just being myself and channeling the spirit, the energy, and the words that naturally came to me I had an impact on so many people’s lives. I understood how to be a Power of One. I got in touch with my personal ability to make a difference in the world and that the difference is in the lives of those around me!

So the message and the lesson is this: Your reality is as small or as big as you want it to be. If it is demeaning to think of it as small or daunting to think of it as big, then shift your perspective. You can only be who you are. And furthermore, understand that who you are will inevitably make a difference in this world. By acknowledging this difference internally you will get more satisfaction and fulfillment in your life. Your difference can be creating a new paradigm for green construction, volunteering your time at a homeless shelter, saving elephants in Thailand, donating money to good cause, eliciting a smile from your neighbor, or picking up a piece of trash on the street. We live in one large interconnected community; every action has a reaction and every cause has an effect. Your small difference will have a much larger impact even if that impact never directly reveals itself to you! Take a moment to be the observer and evaluate your life as these high school students did. You only need to affect one person to begin to change the world, and, ironically, that one person can even be you!

Be a Power of One!

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