KEY TAKEAWAYS FROM THE EPISODE:
Don't Be Afraid to Start A Conversation:
The best advice Sam Vaghar ever received was to never be afraid to start a conversation with anyone. This one piece of advice, given to him by a homeless man whom he stopped to share lunch with in Washington, DC, ended up leading to him pitching his ideas to President Barack Obama (You’ll want to listen to the full episode to hear the story in his words!). Conversations are powerful, and you never know where one might lead unless you get up the courage to start talking.
As Sam reveals in this podcast, starting a conversation wasn’t always easy for him – he used to be a really shy kid. Being bold enough to chat up famous people was something that pushed him outside of his comfort zone. Pushing ourselves beyond the boundaries of what feels comfortable is key to shifting our worldview, building connections, and eventually manifesting large-scale change.
Make the Most of Every Meeting and Opportunity:
When Sam went into the meeting where he met the president of the United States, he came prepared with handouts to give the president that outlined his vision. Being brave enough to start the conversation was only half the challenge – he also had to be prepared to take advantage of that opportunity to the fullest.
In this podcast, Sam reveals the two most important things you can ask in a conversation: The first is “How can I help you?” The second is to ask for the help you need. Giving of your time and talents is a great way to build genuine relationships, and offering to help can open unexpected doors. (Listen to the full podcast for examples of how both of these questions led to key opportunities for Sam.
Find A Mentor By Being A Mentor:
Sam is often asked for advice on how to find a mentor. In response to this question, he cites advice given by entrepreneur Ryan Allis of iContact: if you want to find a mentor, become one. You might not think of yourself as someone in a position to mentor, especially if you have big goals you’re just setting out to achieve. But, chances are, you have experience – whether professional or life experience – that someone younger than you could draw on in building their own success. Serving as a mentor will help you reflect on your own strengths and abilities, and remind you of the value that you have to offer the world.
[3:00] How Sam Vaghar founded the Millennium Campus Network.
[6:00] Why it’s not enough to just have an idea – you have to take action.
[7:14] How students from the MCN have turned their ideas into action.
[9:45] The importance of getting out of your comfort zone and starting conversations.
[14:00] How Sam was able to discuss his ideas with President Obama, and why you need to make the most of every moment and opportunity.
[21:50] The importance of mentorship - both having and being a mentor.
[24:33] Realizing that people have been improving the world for thousands of years, and how we can learn from history.
[26:00] How Sam first connected with Kuda Biza and Alexander Star at the Millenium Campus Conference at Lynn University in 2014.
[32:00] The proudest moment for the MCN to date.
[34:05] The next steps for the MCN, and how it’s growing.
[35:45] One example of an ostentatious idea that started small and changed the world.
[37:00] How Sam Vaghar is making this his era.
[38:45] Three key lessons that Sam has learned in life so far.
Take Massive Action Now:
Pick up a book –
A common thread throughout Sam Vaghar’s story is that he draws inspiration from the books he reads. In the podcast, Sam discusses how two books – Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder, and The End of Poverty by Jeffrey Sachs –inspired him to create MCN. He often looks to books about great leaders, like Nelson Mandela’s autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, in order to understand how people have succeeded in creating huge social impact in the past.
Following Sam’s lead, pick up a non-fiction book that focuses on an issue you care deeply about or a historical figure whom you admire. Highlight and take notes as you come across key takeaways. You might reflect upon the following:
1) If you’re reading a book about an issue you care about, does the book mention specific needs that aren’t being met? How could you use your unique talents to fill this void?
2) If reading a book about a historical figure, imagine that you’re having a conversation with them. Given what you now know about them, what would you ask? What advice might they offer you? How can you put this into action?
Practice How to Ask the Right Questions –
Asking the right questions is a central theme throughout Sam’s journey to creating the Millennium Campus Network. Work on crafting the right questions for a real or imagined opportunity to approach someone you greatly admire. Practice in a mirror, or with a friend, until you get more comfortable with the idea of approaching someone well-known. You might want to work on the following:
1) Introduce yourself, briefly, in a way that leads in to the question at hand – it should be clear why the answer will be of value to you.
2) Ask a question that reflects your knowledge of the person’s work, but that you genuinely don’t know the answer to. (Don’t ask a question hoping to hear a specific answer.)
3) After asking your question, you’ll probably immediately have some follow-up questions in mind. Jot those down immediately after the conversation, and then use one in a thank-you email to keep the conversation going.
Connect with #ThisIsMyEra:
Join the conversation across all platforms with the hashtag #ThisIsMyEra
“In a world that feels increasingly divided, where our politics are divided, where people are divided based on so many labels, we can actually as a generation own our era.”
“We’re on this learning journey together. We don’t have all the answers… by knowing how to ask questions… that’s where change begins.”
“That’s how you solve big problems. Not on your own, but just finding other people, being in community with other people who share your values.”