July 20, 2015

The Complete Guide to You


Breathe deeply and with each deep breath say it with me three times… and it will change your chemistry… and your life:

I am complete.

I am complete.

I am complete.

This seems to be the mantra and thread throughout many conversations with friends lately… that we are enough. Truth is we were born enough. This isn’t some "aha" revelation that I came up with because I’m a spiritual superstar (which I think we all are – some of you just don’t know it yet). It’s been taught in many religions, including Buddhism, where the core belief is searching for enlightenment.

I recently reconnected with a friend who seems to have it all. Professionally, she’s worked as an international correspondent and is currently a network anchor. Personally, she has a beautiful family, lives in one of the prettiest neighborhoods in America, has a handsome hubby and a gorgeous little girl. To add to the package, she is good looking, has mad style and then, there's her light. Wow. Her light.

I was shocked to find out that recently things seemed to have crumbled beneath her designer heels. She split with her husband, work has been uncertain because she isn’t locked into a contract (what workplace doesn’t have uncertainty?) and her spirit seemed low the last time we spoke on the phone.

When I met up with her, she had a lightness around her energy. Her aura was clear as though she had just finished a long yoga sesh. Why? We both agreed that we are complete and are always on the right path, even if it seems like the wrong path at the time.

Traversing these routes shows us the way to life lessons, blessings and miracles that unfold through the grace which is our life, our breath, our connectedness to one another. We talked about our lives and how far we’ve come in our personal, professional and spiritual paths. We agreed that no matter who you are, even Oprah in all of her Oprah-ness, she sometimes, I believe, still has days where she, too, doesn’t think she is as complete as she is (although she seems mighty close to complete). That I know for sure.

The truth is, thanks to ego, we seem to think we are never enough. Release that thought when it comes and instead, live in gratitude – that is the true meaning of grace. If you’re feeling way off your path, like your dreams aren’t unfolding as you think they should, here are three spiritual snackables to nibble on:

1. Anxiety is wanting to be where you’re not. Guess what? Even after I achieved ALL my dreams at an early age – TV reporter in a big market, co-host for a PBS show and instructor at the university level – I still felt like I hadn’t arrived. First I thought, “Will I ever get a paid TV reporting gig?” Then after achieving that I wondered if and when I would jump to a bigger city. “What now, what next?” That’s the ego talking. Be OK with the now. How? Start by breathing. It will chemically change the way you feel and shift your perspective.

2. Don’t compare yourself with others. It’s futile. We are all on different legs of our journeys. My friend mentioned that sometimes she got caught up in comparing herself with others, their jobs, buying luxury homes, having more children, etc…. I told her that I learned long ago not to compare – it wastes energy. I remember quitting my first TV job in Wisconsin to take care of my father who was battling cancer. I thought to myself, “This feels right, but my friends are jumping to bigger TV markets and I am so far behind.” Guess what? I got back into the biz a couple of years later and landed in San Francisco, the No. 5 market at the time, before the friends I was compared myself to did. I realized that it didn’t matter that I got here before them and it doesn’t matter that I’m out of the biz now. We all are being guided by something greater. We can’t control timing. Just be here enjoying what is….

3. You are complete. Born complete. Start by writing a gratitude list. It doesn’t matter if you’re on your last dime. You have something to be grateful for. Maybe it’s the check coming your way when you didn’t expect it. Or a loved one who loaned you money to pay rent. Begin with your breath. If you’re alive, you’re blessed. You’ll see before your eyes how real your completeness is. A few days ago, I was inspired to go to my rooftop and practice yoga. I joined Oprah and Deepak Chopra’s 21-day meditation challenge, "Manifesting Grace Through Gratitude." That day’s entry was perfect for this lesson on being complete and grateful for what we have now:
Day 3 - Awaken the Energy of Gratitude

“Joy is the simplest form of gratitude.” ― Karl Barth

In today's meditation, we learn how to recharge our gratitude batteries. If we are tired, upset, or stressed, then our heart is closed and we are not able to feel or express real gratitude. Genuine gratitude comes from a feeling of contentment, safety, and being welcomed in your life – what Buddha called the “gladdened heart.” This natural energy of gratitude is awakened when we meditate. Our intention in meditation will be to invite this warm attitude of appreciation into our awareness and perception. With this recharged heart of thankfulness we will find reason to be grateful wherever we look.
If you do all three exercises, you too will feel the shift. Nothing else has really changed around you, but something is changing within you. Honor this moment. The only thing that is real. You are complete. You are complete. You are complete.

July 2, 2015

In Search of Modern-Day Heroes

One of the biggest questions on planet Earth that humans have twisted, toiled and contemplated is, “What is the meaning of life?” I was so excited when I got close to the answer after running across a Dalai Lama quote that I even blogged about it.

The second biggest question (at least for me and for many folks who follow my blogs and videos about everyday heroes) is:

“What does it mean to be a hero today?”

Toan spoke earlier this year at the Community Heroes
club at Sun Valley School in San Rafael, Calif.

I don’t think many people ask this question enough in this day and age where we are inundated with junk TV, an unhealthy obsession with celebrities and Hollywood’s depiction of comic action heroes. It’s important to contemplate because we DO need heroes to look up to, attempt to emulate and get excited about. According to research from Santa Clara University:

“We need heroes first and foremost because our heroes help define the limits of our aspirations. We largely define our ideals by the heroes we choose, and our ideals -- things like courage, honor, and justice -- largely define us. Our heroes are symbols for us of all the qualities we would like to possess and all the ambitions we would like to satisfy. A person who chooses Martin Luther King or Susan B. Anthony as a hero is going to have a very different sense of what human excellence involves than someone who chooses, say, Paris Hilton, or the rapper 50 Cent. And because the ideals to which we aspire do so much to determine the ways in which we behave, we all have a vested interest in each person having heroes, and in the choice of heroes each of us makes.”


My curiosity to explore the essence of what makes a hero ultimately led me to quit what I thought was my dream job as a TV reporter and start my voyage to discover everyday heroes so others – you – can find the hero within you. Perhaps the best answer came from a friend on Facebook:

“Heroes are popularly depicted as the comic action brave-heart who saves the day. The real version of a modern-day hero is the nice guy/woman who stands up for what they believe in for the sake of the greater good. An act of goodness beyond themselves, and against any odds. Contrary to popular and cynical belief, good guys don't have to finish last. Within every good guy/woman is a hero waiting to be to unleashed.” – Meno Crompton

After meeting hundreds of heroes, some of whom can be celebrated via our Go Inspire Go YouTube channel, I realized that everybody can be a hero in their own way. They don’t have to accomplish huge feats like Phoebe Russell, a 5-year-old San Franciscan who wanted to feed hungry homeless people. Or Matthew Kaplan, a teenager from Arizona who, in standing up for his brother who was being cyberbullied, educated and inspired compassion amongst thousands of bullied youth around the country. And Tony Tolbert, who at age 52, moved back in with his mom and gave up his home in Los Angeles to a homeless woman and her children.

To get a kid’s perspective, super mom Kala Shah, co-creator of Go Inspire Go's Community Heroes program, asked them, "What does being a hero mean?”

Sun Valley School students explain what a hero is.


They answered, “Fearless, helpful, giving, persistent, passionate and courageous....”

Their real-life heroes include, “My great aunt for taking care of people in a dangerous part of the world,” “Malala because she helps people and risked her life to stand up for her beliefs,” and “My uncle because he’s a policeman and helps the community.”



These elementary school students appear to be on the right track in identifying admirable heroes and their lofty answers underline the importance in starting these conversations early to help direct young minds towards worthy pursuits.

The truth is each and every one of us has a superhero power within us. It’s our duty to find it while on this planet and use it to the fullest capacity. That’s the meaning of life. That’s the answer to what our purpose is. That’s what ultimately leads us to joy. So we’d love to know, what do you think it means to be a hero today? What’s your superhero power? How will you use it? Inquiring heroes want to know. Share in the comment section below! Pow!

Onward and upward,
Toan

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June 21, 2015

Homage to My Father and Yours

Good morning Dad. As I wake up this Father’s Day morning, I resist the urge to get on social media to see what my friends and people I follow post in celebration – homages, snapshots of photos old and new and little heart-felt messages to their Dads and father figures alike.

It’s been 15 years since you passed away. It still hurts. The empty hole you left when you disappeared.

My family - I'm in the #12 jersey

I never told you how much I yearned for your acceptance, for you to say, “I am proud of you, I see you and that you are enough the way you are.”

Sure, more than a decade has passed since you fought a long, courageous battle with stomach cancer and other illnesses that slowed down your body. But I find strength in the fact that you never lost your spirit. I hope I never do too, no matter what challenges lie ahead.

Your mind and essence remained strong. So strong I can still feel them more than a decade and a half later as I look up into the sky, during my conversations with loved ones and walks in nature. I’m not going to lie, it is weird here without you. It still hurts deep inside.


We didn’t have the best of relationships, but I know that you did your best to give us opportunities and freedoms. You left your worldly riches and fancy life in Vietnam to bring us to America in hopes of achieving the American dream.

We landed in Sacramento, 10 of us crammed into a small trailer, a few bucks in your pocket – but the riches lie in our hearts and eyes – wide and full of hope. Through your actions, you taught us that we have nothing if we don’t have hope.

Along the way, you were locked in semi-golden handcuffs. You weren’t around as much. Didn’t spend enough time with me. I used to wonder, were you proud of me? That’s all I wanted to hear. Are you proud of me? Did you know that I quit my first TV job so we could spend time with each other before your spirit left your body? I hoped we could make memories that would fill the gaps from all the times you were not home. But as I learned, no time was and is enough.

I’ve grown up a lot since then. I’ve found my passion work through Go Inspire Go. Met many magical people. Miracles unfolded. I found my happy place and joyful place within. The key to joy in life isn’t in material wealth. It was through service and helping others. You taught me that.

As you told us before your passing, “It’s our responsibility to share the music inside of us before we die.” You’ll be proud that that music is being sung loudly every day through the work I do, people I connect with and every experience I’m able to feel because of all your sacrifices.

Today, as I look at the tiny squares, harrowing hashtags and micro-messages online, I know and feel you are proud of me for just the way I am. I am enough. For me and for you and for others we touch.

Onward and upward,
Toan

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June 13, 2015

This Equation Will Point the Way to Your Future Success

Photo by cocotran.com

“You seem so passionate about what you’re doing with your life. How do you find your passion?” That is one of the biggest questions I’ve been asked during my career as a journalist, founder of Go Inspire Go and university instructor.

I have a woo-woo and practical answer. I’m part spiritual – I believe in trusting in God (some call Universe) but also taking action. Start by taking baby steps that lead to your big goal. Here’s what I came up with in a simple equation:

Trust + Action = TRACTION

In college, I would’ve never believed the trajectory in which my life unfolded. I definitely didn’t believe in the magic of positive thinking/believing. This happened through opportunities and people who have showed up to guide me.

When I was a student at the University of San Francisco, I wanted to be a TV reporter. I remember my old school journalism professor Michael Robertson asking my News Media class, “How many of you want to be TV reporters?”

Statistics show about two percent make it. I was an unlikely two percent. The odds seemed stacked against me. I didn’t have a big network of journalists, I wasn’t born into a family with any journalists and financially, we were poor.

I remember wondering if I would ever achieve my dreams – getting paid to be a TV reporter and host a show on PBS. Unclear about how I would hit my target, my gut told me to TRUST. I am spiritual and knew that I could trust God would use my life for a bigger purpose than serving myself. I knew that I would regret it if I didn’t try to tell peoples’ stories as a news reporter. I’d rather try and figure out that it wasn’t for me than not have the courage to take those baby steps. I said prayers, practiced gratitude and wrote down my goals.

I also applied ACTION. I interned five times at various production companies and local TV stations. I was in it to win it. I recall logging tapes for a whole semester during one of my internships, wondering how this would ever help me with my job as a TV reporter. It did – it helped me identify good soundbites while interviewing people on the street – a critical time-saving skill to have for breaking news situations.

Still not convinced? Here’s one thing you can do NOW to help you reframe your state of mind:

Instead of focusing on how a future job, beefy paycheck or status will make you happy, focus on what you can control. Keep up the hard work, network and be around people you want to be like (I joined the Asian American Journalists Association). Your experiences and hard work will add up to the sum of what you’re supposed to do. Here’s to you being part of that two percent too!

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May 27, 2015

Spreading the Message There's a Gem Inside Us All

Toan Talking to Kent Middle School Students in 2014
If there is only one thing you tell a younger person in your life, it should be “YOU MATTER.” Heck, you should tell that to anyone, at any age, in your life who matters – before it’s too late.

It seems like every week, I hear news via Facebook, the press or through a friend, that yet another young person committed suicide here in the San Francisco Bay Area.

I recently asked a group of millennials to introduce themselves, tell us where they’re from and give us a snapshot of an experience that changed their lives forever. One by one, the kids mustered up the courage to tell us gut-wrenching stories of the heart.

One teen told me how depressed he was because his parents didn’t know his truth and how he finally came out as gay to them. Another teen talked about her battle with booze and another talked about the sudden loss of a parent and how she was nearly out in the streets with no family. Each story touched us all. I was shocked to several of them had tried to commit suicide.

Many of them admitted they didn’t feel that who they are, what they’ve been through and even their very existence mattered. I saw the brilliance and potential power of each of them. I wish they only saw themselves through my lens.

No matter what platform I’m on – as a teacher, mentor, motivational speaker, founder of Go Inspire Go – I spread the message that “you are all gems.” Some of you may be dustier than others. Some of you may have been dragged through the dirt and mud more than others, but everyone deserves to shine. It’s my job and every human being’s job to dust off these gems so they shine.

Toan speaking about the power of storytelling with Reel Voices youth in 2014.

Likewise, every youngster should only surround themselves with people who make them shine. If only those kids who took their lives knew how much they matter, how bright their light really is – they – and the world would be a better place. One of the biggest life lessons I’ve learned as an adult is, when you let yourself shine, you reflect it onto others and they shimmer and sparkle too. We – YOU – are all dazzling beings. So let the light in!

My mentor – actor, comedian and humanitarian Michael Pritchard, whose life work is healing people through comedy – reminded me that the moon actually casts no light. Rather, it reflects the light from the sun. The unison and the yin and yang of this story gave me chills. What if we were the moon to all the sunshine we encounter in our daily lives? Wouldn’t the world and all its gems be a warmer, shinier, brighter place?

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May 12, 2015

Comedi-tarian Michael Pritchard: Healing Through Humor (VIDEO)

Photo: Robin Williams and Michael Pritchard
UPDATE: Since the taping of this Tea with Toan & Michael Pritchard interview, Michael suffered a massive heart attack and underwent bypass surgery last week. Thankfully, he's on the mend. A small way to say thank you for all his inspiration and love is to contribute to his medical fund.

# # #

Have you ever met someone who touched you so deeply your soul shifted? For me and the millions who’ve been touched by the gentle giant known as Dr. Michael Pritchard, you know and you feel what I’m talking about.

Many folks know him as an actor, comedian, PBS host, Vietnam medic, life saver and humanitarian who along with his best friend, the late Robin Williams, spent many hours using his power of comedy to heal sick kids, bandage wounded spirits and hold hands with the dying as they crossed over to the other side through hospice. I gave him the name “Comedi-tarian.”

He left the glitz and glamour of Hollywood to heal hearts and wounded spirits. “Pritch” traveled near and far to motivate, facilitate and elevate the hearts and minds of many. Authenticity, kindness, friendship and anti-bullying were just some of the life lessons Pritch preached. I know him as my mentor of life... my spiritual teacher-preacher. Get ready to be inspired, entertained and uplifted.

Even Robin Williams spirit made his way through this interview – you'll have to watch and be amazed!



I met Pritch through Kala Shah, my sister from another mister and co-conspirator of our Go Inspire Go Community Heroes program. She called me on the phone after meeting him for the first time and sounded like she had just won the lottery. “Oh my gawd, you have to meet Michael Pritchard, woo!” I get it now. She won the spiritual lottery and so did I. So did so many of you who’ve met him. And so will many of you who will meet him one day – but until then, you can feel this spiritual superstar through my Tea with Toan interview with Pritch.

When we met, it was love at first hug. The synapses of our souls were felt deeply by both of us. His knack for connecting to a higher source and connecting to all he touches is magical.

“Hey brother, don’t work too hard,” or “Take care of your health, your gut is going through some problems,” he would spout out to people walking on the street. Pritch just knew.

He knew that I was, in his words, a “spiritual teacher of the next generation.” He knew that I was working on a TV pilot and had aspirations to do more motivational speaking, a TED talk, write a book and that I had a flair for compassion and fashion – all before I shared with him my soul’s desires. He knew my deep desire to spread my message of what he calls “mindfulness and kindfulness.”

Michael Pritchard, Robin Williams, Kala Shah & Toan Lam

The last few months have been a spiritual whimsical whirlwind of wisdom. His “Pritchardisms” include, "Don't overstand, understand," "When the student is ready the teacher arrives" and "Build a spiritual wall."

He told me that he wanted to pass the baton to me and Kala because he was getting tired. “You are the enlightened reinforcers,” he said last week at his home in Marin, as we talked about the debut of our TV pilot and the folks to whom he wanted to connect us.

“Toan you know my soul more than most. Through your work and this show, you are carrying on Robin Williams’ legacy of compassion and joy,” he said excitedly.

Perhaps the most special (and there are so many things that make him special) is not what he says, but how he makes you feel. He makes everybody feel like they matter. They are special. And he is right. I matter. You matter. We all matter.

Tea with Toan interview

For some reason, I left his home that day feeling heavy after our light but deep conversation. Little did I know that my feeling of “something isn’t OK with him” was right. Last week, I got a call and found out he had suffered a heart attack. As he undergoes triple bypass surgery and heals, I ask all of you in the “unity of community” to pray for a speedy recovery.

It’s ironic that the man with the biggest heart is getting it repaired as I type. As I process what has happened, I thought, “What could I do to help? What can I do to show the gratitude of the biggest gift of all – his time and love?”

I wrote this poem, titled: BearClown for Pritch to read while he was in the ICU:

A big teddy bear. Oh where did you come from? Bigger than life. A happy clown who once drowned and frown thanks to the glitz, glare of fame and fortune. A heart that is the epitome of care and share and dare to find your authenticity. Synchronicity. A noble job he embarked on...using his life, power and many hours to heal with laughter, saving lives day by day, spending hour by hour helping soul brothers and sisters cross over, moreover seeing the love, laughter, light in all. Sending love to everyone he touches. My teacher-preacher bestows wisdom from above... he exhalts “don’t overstand, understand,” “when the student is ready the teacher arrives,” “build a spiritual wall.” Still sometimes I stall. Afraid of my power. But no more. The hour. My power is ready. So join me. Step up. Join the circus of love. Balancing act. Lots of work dropping the act we were taught. That falseness that we fought. Search for your real you. Robin and robins and hummingbirds teach us the legacy of happy. Who cares what haters say? Blessed be the day that me becomes we. That we see the gem in thee. The true community. Keep laughing and lets send our healing vibes to our bearclown...

Michael Pritchard, Barbara Ocampo, Kala Shah & Toan Lam #Selfie

Here are a few other ideas:

Reflect & Act...

1. I don’t know how else to repay him for his support and love but to use my power of connecting with people and storytelling to say, “I love you back and thank you for being you.” I called my editor and good friend Barbara Ocampo, videographer of my recent “Tea with Toan” segment, a conversation of the heart and soul with Pritch from his backyard. I asked her to meet with me ASAP to finalize this video as a gift to him and you. Again, please contribute to Michael's medical fund.

2. Share this blog/video with loved ones and in the blog’s comments section, share how meeting Pritch changed you and/or your fave Pritch moment.

3. In the spirit of Pritch’s teachings, do a kind thing for someone and let us know about it using #PayItForwardPritchard and #GoInspireGo – we’ll share on our social media channels.

4. Laugh at a challenge you're going through.

5. Make someone laugh today.

And don’t forget, be mindful and kindful.

Love you guys,
Toan

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May 4, 2015

Too Blessed to be Stressed

As I count my blessings before bed every night, on the top of my list are loved ones. Peeps who make life’s bumps smoother and life lighter.

From divorces to uncertain times at the workplace, I’ve recently had many friends confide in me about physical, mental and spiritual problems they’re blessed with. While the issues and life lessons are different – there is an underlying theme here: these problems are making them stronger. There are life lessons to be learned and ultimately I’ve told them we are are too blessed to be stressed.

Here’s an email I sent to one of my friends who is going through personal and professional tribulations as I processed a recent call:

1. Write down five things you're grateful for every night. It will rewire your brain to pay attention to the lovely little things in life that really matter. Start with Bella's gaze into your eyes and excitement when she sees you after a long day of work.

2. It's YOU time. Do something nice for yourself every day. Phenomenal, fabulous, stylish -- lovely you. I believe friends are like mirrors that shine the light you emanate back at you. Every time I think of you, I think, "She's got mad style, sexy, fabulous, classy lady, good heart and wicked smart. Anyone who is lucky enough to be in your life and heart space is better for it, blessed for it."

3. You are blessed with breath. Listen to your breath when you get stressed to bring you in the now. If you live in the past you’re filled with regret. Live in the future and you are anxious. We have no choice but to live in the now. Try it and it will calm those crazy nerves.


This too shall pass. I wish I could take a bit of the pain and hurt away -- but like the little butterfly, you need to sit with these challenges as they are teaching you invaluable life lessons about yourself, the light and shadows.

Be well my fabulous friend.

Big hug,
Toan

P.S. Please share with someone in need and let us know in the comments section how a challenging time has blessed your life.

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April 27, 2015

Making the Impossible Possible

Earlier this month, I was honored to keynote Rotary District 5330’s annual assembly in Southern California with more than 350 brothers and sisters of service in attendance. The theme of this year’s district assembly, “Making the Impossible — Possible,” resonated with my soul. The marching orders from incoming District Governor Rudy Westervelt were simple: tie in the theme “Making the Impossible — Possible,” talk about why storytelling is important and inspire the heck out of them. Tall orders for this motivational speaking event, but I was up for the challenge.

“Where do you even begin?” I thought to myself. Right from the heart. I structured the talk around three simple stories:

I started by sharing my story. If you would have told my 10-year-old self that I would have achieved all my dreams by my early 30s, I would have thought it was impossible. My family moved to America from Vietnam with a dream and $4 in our pockets. The ten of us lived crammed into a trailer. Against my parents’ behest of becoming a “doctor, lawyer or engineer,” I followed my own dreams – to use my love for reading, writing and talking to teach in universities, become a TV reporter and tell stories on a PBS show.


I then told the story of one of my youngest teachers: 5-year-old Phoebe Russell, who wrote letters to friends and family asking them to give her aluminum cans so she could redeem them and donate $1,000 to the San Francisco Food Bank. Her efforts raised nearly $4,000. Our video featuring her story multiplied that amount to $20,000 dollars. Together, she, my Go Inspire Go team and the community has helped her enable the food bank to give out more than 200,000 meals.

After the talk, a shy ninth-grader mustered up the courage to tell me that she was inspired by the talk and Phoebe’s story. “When you said, ‘If a 5-year-old could feed 200,000 people, what can you do?!’ I thought, I could do more,” she said enthusiastically. “I can do more.”

I ended the talk with why storytelling is important. What a loaded question. Every single culture from the beginning of time has told stories. They connect us all. You and I may not know each other, but when we learn about each other’s stories, we are no longer strangers. Storytelling breaks down walls, builds compassion and leads to action.


Before I walked off stage, I went off script – actually, I didn’t have a script, but you get the point! I asked the audience, “How has storytelling changed your life?”

A woman stood up and said, “I’m an incest survivor. I haven’t told my story to many people, but am starting to. It helped others.” WOW! I thanked her for having the courage to tell her story. In turn, it was a cathartic experience for her and the people who learned about her story.

Words can’t convey the inspirational fuel that filled me up that weekend. People from all generations told their stories. I’d love to hear about your inspirational story. Please share in the comments section below.

With love, faith and trust we can all make the impossible possible together.

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March 23, 2015

Three Life Lessons Mother Nature Taught Me

I’ve been fielding many calls from friends lately who needed to talk because they felt like their lives and experiences weren’t "going the way they’ve wanted them to" and because "their lives were off-balance." All of these challenges are merely opportunities for us to spread our wings when we’re ready to fly.

I love to be in nature as much as I love analogies, so how natural of me to want to use nature to explain what I’ve learned about the art of going with the flow and being in your flow.

Since I left my day job and started to be in tune with my passion, which I express through my nonprofit, Go Inspire Go, I’ve started to be more in my flow. I’m sure it’s exactly where I’m supposed to be.

I’ve faced many challenges — still do — and continue to learn how to deal with them and learn from them. I’ve poured all of my life’s savings and most of my time and energy into this platform that uncovers everyday heroes so that you can find your inner hero to help you help yourself and others. I’ve flexed my physical, financial and spiritual muscles through tough times and joyous times. No matter what I’ve faced since the inception of Go Inspire Go, I can truly say that every night I can say, "Today was a day well lived."

If you’re going through challenges, just think of these three lessons Mother Nature has taught me:

1. One of my favorite plants is a fiddle-leaf fig tree that I bough six months ago. I was excited as more than 12 leaves grew anywhere from 5 to 11 inches in about two months. The leaves — so big, green and rubbery — bring me joy.

Just about a month ago, it stopped growing. Concerned, I went to a local store and talked to a plant expert. After a quick diagnosis, he told me that the plant hibernates from about December to March. It knows that it needs to be in reserve mode during the colder season. How amazing is that?

I wondered, how does this lesson apply to my life? Then it clicked. I used to get freaked out when emails, inquiries and opportunities slowed down during December. A flurry of thoughts crossed my mind and I started to worry.

My spiritual friend, Terrie Crowley, told me, "Honey, God is giving you time to rest. Be in the now and be grateful for it. You’re going to get plenty busy soon.”

I realized that I didn’t need to stretch myself thin and take every meeting and call. I needed to just do "nothing" and get some R and R. Things will grow as they should. Just like the fig plant, I too needed to rest and just be…. What about you?

2. Did you know that a butterfly needs to struggle in its cocoon before emerging? If it doesn’t struggle, the fluids don’t push through the body into its wings and it won’t be strong enough to break free and fly.

Think about the struggles you’ve been through in your life. Release the expectations and just stay in the present moment. In time, what should happen will happen. How did they help you spread your wings? Talk about metamorphosis!

3. While on a walk with a dear friend, Suzanne Lettrick, we talked a lot about the idea of flow — being in your authentic "zone."

I told her that I was in alignment with my true self and that nothing makes me feel more alive than helping people discover and use their power to help themselves and others. Most of the time, I’m in that space and don’t let the ego get in the way by way of thoughts of doubt and negative self-talk.

She heard a writer once say, “If you look at a swan walking on land, it waddles and walks funny. But once it rests upon the lake, it flows.” Are you going through something that is knocking you off balance? It’s OK, go through your human emotions, cry, work out and talk it out if you need to. Just know that you can and will find the effortless flow that only you know how to find.

In the past two weeks, a half a dozen people told me, “You’re glowing.” I believe they meant that I am radiating inside and out — the feeling of joy.

So now, when I freak out when my expectations don’t turn out the way I want them to, I think, "Are you flowing?" For me, exercising, writing and talking to trusted people in my life help me remember to get back in the flow.

I know that we are not alone in this. You aren’t either. The key is to find what helps you be in your element so you can go and flow. Are you glowing and flowing? We’d like to know. Comment or get social and share on our social media channels.

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Join our movement & Go Inspire Go

March 6, 2015

A Day of Giving — And the Magic of Collective Giving

By Kala Shah

When I first started the Community Heroes program nearly three years ago. I was hoping my own three boys would learn the value of giving back in the beautiful bubble of Marin County, Calif. I suspected that if we were able to get their friends and peers involved, “service” might even become fun and if I dared to dream, addictive? I invited Toan Lam, founder and Chief Inspirator of Go Inspire Go, to help launch the program at Sun Valley School (San Rafael, Calif.) and now in our 6th semester, we’re still going strong, helping build a stronger culture of empathy and giving in our community. Something magical has happened as the kids’ compassion and kindness has billowed out on campus and beyond, and as our ambitions have grown to do more. We’re now in four Marin County schools with others lining up to join us.

This past Sunday, more than 250 kids and their parents took the Marin area by storm, giving back to their community. Four schools, participants of the Go Inspire Go Community Heroes program, embarked on the second annual Day of Giving, with 12 unique service projects including:



-Cooking an elegant meal and preparing shelter kits for Homeward Bound of Marin
-Gardening at the Canal Community Garden in San Rafael
-Cleaning up with the Downtown Streets Team San Rafael
-Weeding and trash pick-up at Marin Civic Center
-Planting 150 plants and clearing non-native plants at Terra Linda/Sleepy Hollow Open Space Preserve
-Making superhero capes and blankets to benefit patients at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital and Rooms that Rock 4 Chemo
-Multiple bake sales to help pay for expenses


That’s an incredible amount of good to come from one morning! The joy and excitement was palpable before and after the event. People were glowing… and happy! Why? I truly believe there’s a hunger in this community to try and keep grounded amid our picture-perfect scenery and weather, our gadget obsessions and the super-charged environment fueling the latest tech boom. Disparities are widening and the growing masses of homeless are being shuffled around. You see them out and about more — as local parks shut their gates, and as it gets even tougher to find affordable housing with rents and home prices through the roof. All these Community Heroes CHOSE to spend their Sunday getting their hands and hearts busy to help others. Our secret sauce? We make it FUN and aim to INSPIRE with our videos and our ENTHUSIASM, which I’ve been told is rather contagious. :)


Top heartwarming quotes from kids who took part in the Day of Giving:
-“The people we cleaned the streets with don’t look homeless. They’re just like us.”
-“I can’t wait to see the smiles on the faces of the people we cooked for!”
-“The Day of Giving was the best day of my life.”

Whoa, how’s that for compassion in action. Magic indeed!

The ask….

As Sun Valley School’s program has been going strong, word has got out and we’ve recruited three new local schools to join us this year: Kent Middle School, Dixie Elementary and Mary Silveira Elementary. More are lining up — and at this point, we need your help. Despite what it may seem from all we’ve accomplished, this program is 100% volunteer-run. Aside from a few grants, including a coveted LinkedIn Innovation Grant, we’ve come to the point where to keep this program growing and sustainable, we need to secure funding. This requires support for a full-time coordinator and Go Inspire Go infrastructure to create videos to grow the curriculum, operate our website and help run an organization.


The Community Heroes program has been teaching kids about compassion and action for close to three years, and we’ve been proving that what we’re doing WORKS! We’ve been getting kids and adults EXCITED and ENGAGED and have gone out there and done A LOT — collection drives, fundraisers and service projects to support local charities. The most exciting aspect of our impact is how kids have felt empowered by the program; they understand how they have the power to make a difference. Who knows how these young philanthropists and social activists will exercise their powers throughout their lives?


I believe there’s no greater gift we can give our kids than to grow their sense of compassion and responsibility to help make the world a better place. Don’t you agree?

Three ways you can help:

1. If you think this program is valuable, and can support us with a contribution, please donate here. Funds would help develop a toolkit, expand to new schools, train facilitators and coordinate among partners and the non-profit network.
2. If monetary contributions are a stretch, we could always use more volunteers and connections to those who might be willing to help. Just drop us a line with your ideas!
3. Spread the word about Go Inspire Go’s mission — to inspire people to find their power to help others! Please forward and share this blog. Use #ComHeroes and tag us @goinspirego. You can also email Kala Shah.


Kala Shah is Go Inspire Go’s Chief Innovation Officer and Program Director of Community Heroes, a service-learning program that is now in four Marin County schools.
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