Zig Zag is for Nuevo Conception

Monday 2 July 2012 @ 4:34 pm

So I have a little confession to make…as I wrote The Zig Zag Principle, indeed I had great ambitions and interest in inspiring entrepreneurs and in providing a model for them. And the indeed it worked. I can say with boldness and with confidence that The Zig Zag Principle is a great business model for aspiring entrepreneurs.

I’ve been so thrilled and delighted with all the positive feedback that The Zig Zag Principle has received. Just last week I heard from a young man living in a small college town. He heard me speak and had the great idea to put together a business selling hotdogs and smoothies from a truck. He’s had so much revenue and success out of that, that he’s the rock star of the entire campus. Those stories delight me. I love to hear these stories.

But the stories that really rock my world are the stories that come out of third-world countries.

One and a half weeks ago I was in the Mayan highland jungles of Guatemala. We were a ten-hour ride from Guatemala City. We were basically out in the middle of nowhere, in a little village called Neuvo Conception. Here’s an amazing video created by one of the kids from the group.

As I spend time in that village, there was one individual that completely caught my attention–his name was Erwin Seirra. He is the agriculture field agent for Choice Humanitarian. Boy do they ever have a winner in Erwin. He optimizes the model of bootstrapping.

As we worked together and had a chance to talk throughout the week, I commented that all the work we were doing was really less effective than the impact and dialogue we were having with Erwin (including the mental and visual tools that he could use to change the entire paradigm of the village.)

You see us a foreigner going into a third-world country and giving them advice (if we could even communicate at all) is pretty meaningless.

Erwin however was respected.
He was handsome.
He was rugged.
He was incredibly intellectual.
He was a leader

As a matter of fact, I joked with Leah Barker, the SEO of Choice, if you ever don’t want Erwin–I’m hiring him. Indeed he was amazing. Plus, he was bootstrapping in every sense of the word.

Let me give you an example. He had solicited enough funds to buy a nice plot of land—a plot of this rich fertile Guatemalan soil. With that land he started raising cacao plants. Rather than wait until they matured to sell the cacao, he sold the plants. In that transaction he drove to profitability–his first zig.

His next step was that he brought in several workers, teaching them how to grow the plants and follow the steps.

The third zag is to begin growing the plants to maturity himself, so that he can begin producing this really rich, really refined high-end Mayan Cocoa (that’s something you’ll soon hear more about.)

I was able to sit and talk with Erwin for several hours as he was anxiously engaged via a translator. Erwin speaks Chickee, which is a native Mayan dialect (he also speaks Spanish.) Through a Spanish translator he was deeply interested and excited about The Zig Zag Principle.

I’m really excited to announce that during the coarse of a few hours we were able to go over the entire Zig Zag model. Erwin is living Zig Zag better than I’ve ever seen it executed. I’m excited to see these next phases and steps. I’m all in with Erwin. You’re going to hear and see more about Mayan cocoa, Guatemala, and Nuevo Conception in the weeks and months to come.

I need to tell you this: any impact we think we’re having with our little companies and businesses is great. It’s wonderful. It’s good. But when you’re working to carve out an education for your children’s hope or the ability to put meals on the table, it takes on a whole new definition.

I’m excited about the successes that have come for entrepreneurs here at home. But I’m absolutely ecstatic to hear when the zig zag principles are being applied in third world countries.

It’s what drives me.

It inspires me.

It passionately motivates me.

I look forward now to focusing my attention to on my education goal—the goal of educating 1000 young men and young women in third-world countries. And I invite you to join me in this wonderful quest of excitement. 

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Our Teens Will Change the World

Sunday 24 June 2012 @ 11:49 pm

I spent the last several weeks with my CCD Team, my Power Team of Teenagers. These brilliant, incredible young men and young women will change the world.

This past year, they set their primary goal and their reward associated with their goal, to do a humanitarian project in Guatemala. Indeed we just returned from this epic adventure. We traveled into the remote highlands of the Mayan villages in Guatemala via a 12-hour bus ride and eventually came to a beautiful little village called Nuevo Conception.

Upon arrival we were greeted by an entire village showing an outpouring of love. These villagers live in huts with dirt floors and bamboo walls. They protect their chickens and ducks by tethering the birds’ feet to the inside of the huts. There is no running water inside their homes either. Choice Humanitarian (the organization that we went with) did, however; help bring water to the village.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This was a wonderful exercise in helping. The teens worked hand-in-hand with the locals to build a hospital and improve a school. It was amazing that despite no common language, we were able to connect. It wasn’t long after we got there that the children were all instantly engaged in games and interacting with high fives.

One young man named Zach Van Pelt led one of the service projects (for his Eagle Project in Boy Scouts). He gathered and coordinated taking computers into this little village school. The school has only been established two years prior. Some of the students walk four hours each way to attend that school, and the inside is as barren as an empty basement. They have nothing, yet the teacher comes and teaches them for several hours a day.

Zach was able to bring nine computers and you should have seen the kids light up with delight. Again, despite the language barriers, the teens were able to teach these intelligent and capable kids to use the computer (particularly the Excel Spreadsheet). After working in the school we all left with a deep commitment that we were going to help, support, and enable that school through the years.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Guatemala service project was a beautiful experience on all levels. Of course some of us got somewhat sick (diarrhea, vomiting, and the whole nine yards) regardless of the stellar attempts to retain good sanitary conditions. Simply put, we were in a third-world country.

These young men and young women worked their guts out. I think they worked harder physically than they ever have in their life. They carried sandbags, dug trenches, and worked in the school.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We all had a common feeling and a common thread as we were coming home, and it is hard to communicate. Indeed, the experience was so deep and so meaningful that these teens knew it would be difficult to find the words to express to their friends back home where their biggest concern is, “Should I have a coke or fries with my hamburger?” The teens (and us adults too) will always remember the contrast of our life back home to the kids living in Nuevo Conception with no material possessions.

As we were coming home I issued the team this challenge. 

“Your generation had the opportunity and the challenge to help alleviate poverty in third world areas.”

Each of the teens committed to this. They have a deep desire in their hearts and a resolve to make changes.

We live in a world where so many people are down on our youth, but I’m here to tell you that after working with this group of 20 young men and young women this past week–they are far ahead of where I ever was (or where most of my peers were) at this age.

They are deep hearted.
They are intellectual.
They are thoughtful.
They are great leaders.

I look forward to what’s to come. The world we live in now is very interesting. Often times it is painted as a negative place, but my perception is that we have an incredible opportunity to make a difference.

In the last 30 years or so we have doubled the world population, while actually reducing hunger. There is less war than there has ever been before. With the Internet there is openness and access to information. I think that the final challenge and frontier is to help bring our worldwide neighbors out of poverty.

In this little village of Nuevo Conception the poverty is largely a result of government corruption and suppression, but the people are bright-eyed, loving, and generous. I see incredible opportunities on all fronts.

I challenge each of you to provide humanitarian opportunities to youth and to yourself. Serve, reach out, and get outside of your own skin. You will love it. There is a level of happiness and satisfaction that comes with serving others that you can’t find anywhere else. A special thanks to Choice Humanitarian, the group we traveled and worked with.

As the young men and young women were loading back into the bus, their eyes were teary and full of hope as they said goodbye to their new friends in Nuevo Conception. They…I…we have a new perspective on the world.

As most of you know, one of my primary objectives in life right now is to help educate young men and young women in third-world countries and I solicit your assistance and support in reaching this cause and challenge you to do good in the world.

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All Call for Guatemala

Monday 7 May 2012 @ 12:11 am

One of my major goals is to help young men and young women throughout the world. In about a month, I will take a group of 12 teenagers to Guatemala.

After we land, we’ll take a ten-hour bus ride out of Guatemala City, into a little remote village. The destination is a spot where they set up the first secondary school in the history of the region. This group of teenagers will help educate and teach computer skills to the people of this village–particularly the youth.

Many of you have reached out and approached and asked, “Rich, what can I do to help out with this education goal?” Indeed, now is an opportunity to help with this goal. We want to take at least 12 used laptop computers into this little village.

If you happen to have access to one or more used laptop computers that is:
–    In good working condition.
–    Available for donation.
–    Loaded with basic word processing
–    Loaded with Excel spreadsheets.

The teenager and I would greatly appreciate hearing from you if you are willing to help contribute to this cause.

I am so excited about this effort. Indeed the juice and the fuel that keeps me excited in my life is this–making a difference in the lives of youth.

As I wrote The Zig Zag Principle we did three start-up business tests. One was with a group of work-from-home mothers. One was with a straight-up businessman. And the third was with this group of teenagers. I am so thrilled with this group of teens. They created a successful business, and they indeed knocked it out of the park. These young men and young women are the ones that are leading the effort in Guatemala. It is going to be amazing.

I’ll make sure I take pictures and keep you posted with this wonderful experience. And I do appreciate your support and assistance in helping me educate these young men and young women throughout the world.

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Educating 1000 Youth

Monday 12 March 2012 @ 9:04 pm

Most everyone knows that my major goal in life right now is to educate 1000 young men and women before I turn 50. This is all consuming to me at this point in my life. Indeed I have total confidence that this will come to fruition. I do have to admit however; I’m not sure how it’s going to happen.

One of my favorite saying is, “Do it now. Do it with a purpose. Make no small plans. They have no magic to stir men’s souls.”

This week I’ve had four powerful individuals, that I greatly respect, reach out to me. They each asked, “Rich how can we support you in this goal?”

I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I stumbled around and stammered a bit and came up with several lame responses. As I’ve been thinking about it the last few days, here’s the conclusion I’ve come to.

There’s no need to wait to have impact. This summer I will be taking a group of teens down to Guatemala to work on the education goal. In the next few months I’ll also be taking a trip to Nepal to engage in working with a school called Choice Humanitarian. But that being said, there’s no excuse and no reason that everyone with an interest in humanitarian efforts can’t make an impact right now. It’s really this simple. Do it, do it now, do it with a purpose and make no small plan.

Great good can come from helping make a positive change in one person’s life. Here’s what you need to do to become a mentor to a person:
#1. Identify a young person with great potential that doesn’t see it in himself or herself.
#2. Reach out to the person, and help build him or her up. Help them see the vision and the potential within. Critique both the good and bad. Don’t be afraid to point out the things that are negative behaviors. At the same time offer incentives and rewards for positive changes.
#3. Make sure there is consistency with regular follow up. One thing I have done frequently is to assign an appropriate book i.e, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens or Way to Be. And of course if the person has a propensity for or an interest in business, I assign Bootstrap Business or The Zig Zag Principle. I like to use books as a discussion point for youth.

I also have a number of rules that I use to help shape and engage these young men and women. For example, they can’t become involved in abusive substances that will limit their potential, including drugs and alcohol and such. They must remain very focused on their schoolwork and hit excellent marks. Admittedly, I’m tough on these kids, and at the same time exceptionally loving.

I challenge everyone to reach out to the youth that you see. There is a crazy storm going on out in the world and kids could use supportive mentoring. Go out there and make a difference. Let’s not just educate a thousand; let’s educate 10,000 or 100,000 young people. Let’s put the youth on a course where they’ll have dramatic impact going forward. What an exciting time. What a meaningful goal. I can’t wait to share the experiences with Guatemala and Nepal. And I’d love to hear about your efforts too.

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Pay it Forward

Monday 2 January 2012 @ 4:32 pm

Paying it forward is a beautiful concept that I came to enjoy this holiday season. As the Christmas season rolled around I was kind of in a little bit of a bah-hum-bug mood. I hadn’t really had the Christmas spirit hit me.

One night as I was preparing to wrap up an intense week and start moving into the Christmas week and the celebration mode. I got a nail in my tire. Everyone knows that I love my Audi A6, and to top it off, I had just put new tires on the thing.

So I was a little irritated as I took the car into my local Big O Tire store. Of course, they were extremely backed up. I waited and I waited in line to drop off the car, got a ride back to the office, and then raced through the day of work. When I finally arrived back at the tire place, it was past closing time. However, they were completely delightful and kind to me.

The guy at the cash register looked at me and said, “Mr. Christiansen, I see these are beautiful new tires. I know you didn’t buy those tires here, but I know you are a great customer. I’ve met you before. This is what I’d like to do. I’m not going to charge you for the rotation. So it’s just $20 for the flat.” Then he stopped, considered a moment, and said, “You know what? It’s Christmas! Let me just do that for you. Go and pay it forward.” 

Instantly that kindness softened my heart. Most of the interactions I have with people are the exact opposite. They are usually attempting to collect money, not gift it! 

I of course, instantly decided to pay it forward. I since have paid it forward. I do not want to share the specifics of the interactions, but I will tell you that when the time came to pay it forward, I had an incredibly strong feeling come over me–a great feeling that doing this little act of service for someone else was definitely the right thing to do. I was sure and that the kindness would touch someone else as it had touched me that hectic day in the tire shop as the joy and happiness boiled up in my heart.

Now as the New Year kicks off, I want to challenge everyone out there to pay it forward. There is no joy greater than doing private, random acts of kindness. I took a little risk in “disclosing” the fact that I’ve been paying it forward. But I share my story with a purpose, which is to encourage all of us to carry out more service.

There is no greater joy than doing private acts and paying things forward. This how we get out of the scarcity mode. I can tell you this with confidence! Every time I get into an abundance mindset –I can tell you the acts of kindness actually end up benefiting me.

So at this time, irrespective of your financial situation, be abundant. Do kind acts. Do small things. Bake a plate of cookies and take it to someone. Pay it forward. Although I can’t explain why, I can tell you that those acts will not only bless you personally and give you joy, but they will also bless you in your business ventures. 

Being abundant is one of the biggest magic secrets that there is. Now I am not one of these big subscribers to the method of sitting around, holding hands and chanting “ohm” and expecting things to fall out of the sky. Success also requires a lot of hard work. What I can say with confidence is that sharing abundance is a key part of the equation. 

Go forward this year of 2012 and have wonderful joyful experiences.  Building businesses, experience, and grow.

One of my favorite sayings comes from the climber Adrianne Burgess. The first time I climbed in the Himalayas it was with Adrianne. He often said, “We are spiritual beings on a physical journey, not physical beings on a spiritual journey.”  I really believe that. We have much to accomplish. Be good to the people around you. Go forward. Prosper.

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Blowing Kisses to Lauren – I Have Faith in our Youth

Monday 26 December 2011 @ 8:51 pm

On any given night there are anywhere between 5 to 15 young men at our house for dinner. We manage our home not by control systematic mechanisms, but by total chaos. Last night was the ultimate joy and experience of not only chaos, but just a real, joyful experience. All of you who know me, know that I have an incredible, intense passion for Nepal.

There has been one family in particular that I have become very bonded with, to the point that I consider these young men and young women my children. We first went to Nepal in 2001, met our Nuwang, brought her back to the U.S., raised Nuwang Sera Sherpa as our precious daughter.

Several years later we took our oldest sons, John and Matthew, to Nepal. They became dear lifelong friends with Tashi and Tenzing Sherpa. Indeed this week our ultimate dream was realized as Tashi and Tenzing have done very well in school. They have followed my education requirements and are now here in the United States. Tashi arrived about a week ago and was able to come to our home for the first time, last night.

He will be going to Snow College next year with his brother Tenzing. As everybody heard about it, all of our wonderful friends and the wonderful friends of our children gathered together to meet Tashi and Tenzing and to celebrate. At the top of the list were Scott Harward and Wyatt Earnst, who were John’s dearest friends growing up. Our favorite thing was when Scott would fling open the door and say “I’m Home!” that is exactly what he did when he came over.

Last night we had a huge, blow-out game night expecting Tashi to invite a young lady named Lauren to join us along with a handful of friends. What we thought would be five or six individuals turned out to be 19 young men and one young women, Lauren. As each young man would walk in the door my heart would swell with joy knowing that that was a strong, determined, intelligent, capable young man and I would add the count for Lauren saying, “Now you have 12 adoring fans Lauren, 13, 14,” and the count went until we hit 19.

We had a joyful night of eating pizza, playing games, interacting with these young men and I want to say this boldly “I BELIEVE IN THE FUTURE OF OUR YOUTH!” There are more qualified, capable, incredible young men and at least I know 1 young women out there that will make a difference in this world. I know that things are challenging and this diversification into an international economy is tricky and scary for many people, but I want to, with boldness and with confidence say, “I BELIEVE IN OUR YOUTH!”

I believe that there is brightness in store for everyone. I believe that there is enough positive energy and goodness to solve our problems. I think the next major challenge that we have, as a society, is to end poverty–to bring equality to all the world. We can make the world a better place, especially with the positive influence of our youth. I look to the youth with great confidence, because I observe them everyday! I love those 19 young men who gathered in my home last night. And what a delight it was to also have one beautiful young woman join the celebration.

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What’s YOUR Big Audacious Goal? – Zig Zag Principle #22

Saturday 16 July 2011 @ 5:35 pm

Eating Our Own Cooking

Froghair, the company I’m currently spending most of my time on, has spent a considerable amount of time wandering in the fog.  As I explained in chapter 1, when I started the company, it was a very low priority, we went through various permutations of ownership, it morphed into a little business I ran out of my garage with my boys, and I ultimately sold it.  Then, when my partner and I took Froghair back, we found we needed to create a much clearer focus.  Our beacon in the fog is now to become the leading agency in the outdoor sector that helps launch brands internationally.  Our catalyzing statements have to do with specific benchmarks we have set for each month as we have tried to undo the damage created by the previous owner.  And having those benchmarks (which will be discussed in more detail in subsequent chapters) has turned Froghair from a company that was under deep water financially into one that is beginning to make a profit and move my partner and I toward our broader goals.

On a far more personal level, my overarching beacon in the fog is to make a dent in the poverty that permeates developing countries.  But that is an overwhelming challenge, one that world leaders, philanthropic organizations, and development agencies have not been able to solve.  Recognizing my inability to fix such an overwhelming issue with my limited means, I turned to a catalyzing statement that motivates me each day and that has brought many like-minded individuals on board with me—to educate 1,000 young people from developing countries by the time I turn fifty.

Conclusion

The beacon in the fog is our destination.  Where do we want to go?  This is our big, audacious goal.  For some, it is a dream vacation to France.  For John F. Kennedy, it was his goal of having the best space program in the world. For me, it is educating young people in developing countries.

Our beacon in the fog is not a short-term goal; it is a long-term goal that our short-term goals are leading to.  We then supplement it with our catalyzing statements, which add specificity.  As we zig zag toward our individual beacons, it is essential that we pause long enough to climb high enough up a tree to see beyond the fog.  We are then able to check our bearings to see if we are heading in the direction our zig zagging is supposed to be taking us.

 

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Rich Christiansen