I want my life’s work to be ending child slavery.

But I have a problem…

For years I’ve put the emphasis on the “want” instead of “work”. The result is that I’ve done nearly nothing to progress my goal or to help actual enslaved children. I have all kinds of excuses for delaying this:

  • “Do I have enough money?” I’m terrified of my personal finances being anything other than extremely stable; this is probably because I grew up in the Canadian version of poverty. Seriously, if you knew the number I need to see in my bank account to not be stressed out, you’d think I’m delusional;
  • I have a bunch of theories about how you could decrease child slavery, but I don’t actually know how to do it; and
  • It’s easier to suffer the mild cognitive dissonance of not starting than the massive dissonance that would come from failing. Basically, as long as “I want” is in the future, my grandiose identity is safe.

I guarantee you that abused children in Cambodia don’t give a shit about what I want or my intellectual challenges; they just want a chance at living a relatively normal life.

This post is about my first step to take meaningful action, and I’m going to ask for your help. If you want to skip to the help part, here’s the summary:

I setup a fund to fight child slavery and I’m asking you to commit $25 per year to help. I will personally double the first 100 contributions; so you give $25 and I’ll give $2500. 100% of the funds go directly to on-the-ground programs. I will send an annual transparency email letting you know exactly how the money was used, and to the extent data is available, the impact we made. You can learn more and donate on this pledge page.

Why I Care About Ending Child Slavery

Every time I share this mission, the conversation goes like this:

Me: It’s a solvable problem, and I believe I can make a difference.

Friend: Why do you care so much about this?

Me: I wish I had a good answer for that, so let me give you this long-winded brain dump instead.

As I’ve stumbled through these conversations, I’ve started to understand it better myself. I’ve learned that people want to support you and your mission, and that giving them “the reason” is important.

I grew up in a one parent home, and my mom had a disproportionate impact on my values. My mom is level 100 on empathy. She sponsors 15 kids, and if she could it would be 1500; she would probably adopt all of them too.

You may not see me the same way; I’m analytical and introverted. I’m also a closet empath. I don’t know who the most vulnerable group in the world is, but this isn’t a contest — no one can reasonably deny that children exploited for dangerous work or to be raped are far from the bottom. That’s reason number one.

Reason number two is scattered over dozens of contact points. My law professor, Ben Perrin, has dedicated his career to promoting awareness of modern slavery. Hillary Clinton named him a hero. Ashton Kutcher, Not For Sale, Walk Free, The Exodus Road, and dozens of other organizations reached me with their message. I’m thankful that awareness is growing, and allowed me to recognize real slavery when I saw it on the streets of China and Southeast Asia.

In one sentence: there is a ladder that takes us from awareness to support to action, and I’ve been climbing it for awhile.

So, Why Am I Starting Now?

I’ve realized a few things:

  • I could die at any minute and my purpose would be left unfulfilled. I’ve mitigated that risk by including charitable giving in my will, but still;
  • The first step can be small. I learn pretty much everything by just starting, and then iterating until it isn’t terrible;
  • Solving this is absolutely urgent. Every single night we waste, children are being exploited;

All of this is directly and indirectly inspired by things I’ve read or convos with friends.

  1. In Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, he writes about how we protect our egos by avoiding tackling what actually matter to us, and about how all of the fear and apprehension is kind of pointless because in a few decades we are all going to be dead anyhow.
  2. My friend Eric reminded me that a project doesn’t have to be complicated to be impactful, using another friend’s business and his own as examples. Naveen charges a $25 annual subscription fee and sends members occasional ticket deals for their local airport. Eric charges a $19 annual subscription fee and sends members monthly gift guides. Compare that simple model to the complexity of most businesses out there.
  3. I’m a finisher. Nick Gray is a starter. I’ve learned a lot from working with Nick about testing assumptions and hustling harder.
  4. Ramit Sethi, years ago, wrote about a concept he calls Layers of Abstraction; for example, when you want to start a consulting business, but you start a blog instead that will someday bring in clients. There is often a more direct approach to achieve the result you want. Ramit also wrote 2017: The Year of Now, which is a kick in the butt to get started on whatever you’ve been putting off.

So, I’d like to introduce my new project…

The $25 Fight Against Child Slavery

I setup a fund to fight child slavery and I’m asking you to commit $25 per year to help. I will personally double the first 100 contributions; so you give $25 and I’ll give $2500. 100% of the funds go directly to on-the-ground programs. I will send an annual transparency email letting you know exactly how the money was used, and to the extent data is available, the impact we made. You can learn more and donate on this pledge page.

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