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What’s Your Giving Pledge?

Slider5For Your Giving Consideration

Of the 9 billion people on earth, 87% of us are blessed with food, shoes, shelter, education, medicine, and clean water. But somewhere, someone is suffering in ways we cannot fathom. A billion are hungry and homeless. Over 2 billion don’t have clean water. Just as many kids are at risk. Many are physically and emotionally challenged. There are communities without schools or books. We need urgent relief due to war, natural disasters, and diseases such as malaria to Ebola.

What’s Your Giving Pledge

The smallest contribution will change lives. Your $3 movement can feed starving babies or build schools. We can give away clothes. We can mentor youth. We can donate our time, money, products and services. So I’m challenging my friends around the world to give back even more than they already do. As one of my commitments, a portion of all proceeds from Cliff Michaels & Associates goes to global causes from cancer and the environment to kids at risk and animal rights.

I Pledge to Give Back by Learning Forward

I have a particular passion for changing lives through education. I think it’s the great equalizer, especially for students in need. So if you would like to join me in an education revolution, I’ll match your sponsorship with free training programs dedicated to careers, leadership. entrepreneurship, and financial literacy. Just visit and let me know how I can help a student, club or school in need.

Together, we make a difference.

Cliff Michaels

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Change Mavens & 3 Degrees of Social Impact

On Nov 22, 2011, a team of scientists at Facebook and the University of Milan released a study based on 721 million Facebook users. The study suggested 69 billion friendships could be formed by any two individuals connecting through just 4.74 acquaintances. Sounds like fuzzy math so I thought I’d explore the “separation theory” myself. Could it mean something more to modern innovators, game-changers, and social media mavens.

In 1967, a psychologist named Stanley Milgram conducted an experiment with 160 people in Omaha, Nebraska. It was seminal work that preceded the social media phenomenon. As part of his Harvard dissertation, Milgram asked participants to forward a package to a friend they believed could bring it closer to a stockbroker in Boston who was the subject of Milgram’s experiment. Each participant received instructions to mail a folder to a friend they knew on a first name basis. Each person passed along the same instructions, hoping an acquaintance might know Milgram’s stockbroker. Milgram tracked progress through return postcards in each letter. There was an average of “six degrees of separation” between the original sender and the recipient in Boston who received the package. Sound familiar?

Kevin Bacon’s 6 Degrees

In 1990, an American playwright named John Guare wrote a Pulitzer-Prize nominated play titled Six Degrees of Separation. It was inspired by a real-life con artist named David Hampton. The 1993 movie based on Guare’s play starred a young Will Smith as the lead protagonist. The story proposes any two of us are connected at most by five others.

In 1994, actor Kevin Bacon joked in an interview that he seemingly worked with everybody in Hollywood; or at least someone who worked with someone. The social buzz exploded that year when four college students invented a party game called Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. They began speculating on the number of films Bacon had appeared in and how everyone was connected to the famous star one way or another. The students then wrote a letter to talk-show host Jon Stewart, telling him Kevin Bacon was the center of the entertainment universe in their “silly party game.” Soon after, the students found themselves on The Jon Stewart Show explaining the concept. A book and trivia game were released and “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” became a cultural juggernaut.

In 2007, Bacon also formed a non-profit called His organization teamed up with a popular charity hub called Network for Good to power a website that linked users to over a million charities. Great concept. But I can’t help but wonder if we can improve on 6 degrees … maybe even lower the 4.74 degrees in the Milan-Facebook study?

Is 3 Degrees the New 6 Degrees?

The recent ALS Ice Bucket Challenge inspired millions of people to dump a bucket of ice on their heads to bring awareness to a debilitating disease called ALS (aka Lou Gherig’s disease). You shot a home-brewed video of yourself calling out three friends on Facebook or Twitter (maybe even 3 clubs or companies) and the frenzy began. Results? raised over $30 million dollars in just a few summer months of 2014 compared to less than a few million dollars in 2013 for the same period. People who had no idea about ALS didn’t want to miss the social train. Even those who didn’t donate supported the movement. In turn, ALS and other charities were rewarded with funding and global awareness. This begs a question: “Is the paradigm shift for social impact this simple? A Change Maven would say, “THE SHIFT ALREADY HAPPENED.”

What’s a Change Maven?

The average entrepreneur is not a boat rocker. He or she takes minimal startup risk to compete in an existing market the same way competitors do. Change Mavens on the other hand are disruptive innovators. They push the envelope and try something new. We know some of these mavericks as The Crazy Ones featured in the famous “Think Different” Apple commercial (Gandhi, Ali, Parks, Picasso, Earhart, Dylan, Dr. King, Jobs). They are the misfit pioneers in art, music, sports, science, medicine, business, civil rights, and education.

Chaos & Challenge in a Connected World

Now that the world is hyper-connected through social media, the biggest causes are harder to ignore, regardless of political, religious, or social positions. While 87% of us have access to food, shoes, shelter, education, and medicine, over a billion people are hungry, homeless or physically and emotionally challenged. Over 2 billon people don’t have clean water. There are communities without schools and schools without books. Our collective battle is as much against disease, disaster relief, and kids at risk, as it is with terrorism or dysfunctional governments. And the world is watching more than ever on Twitter, and Facebook as much as CNN.

Are You a Change Maven?

Making a difference and making money has never been easier. A kid maven can start a lemonade stand for a local cause and friends across the globe will know instantly. Education mavens can teach anytime, anywhere through 24/7 e-learning. A lending maven can help small entrepreneurs in third-world countries with micro-loans as little as $25. In other words, personal, professional and community impact are no longer the start-up challenge they once were. In a socially conscious world of tech savvy Millenials, Change Mavens can also be Average Joe or Plain Jane. They don’t need to be genius outliers. A passion behind a worthwhile movement has already proven that purpose can be just as strategic as profit motive.

Gone are the days where success or ability are measured strictly in terms of money. Corporate responsibility is the new paradigm according to Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz. “If you’re not giving back to the communities you serve, you’re not building a sustainable business model in the 21st century,” says Schultz. Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh echoes the sentiment with core values that “Deliver Happiness” to employees and customers. TOMS Shoes founder Blake Mycoskie spearheaded a 1-for-1 movement that encouraged individuals and companies to always give something back (with each sale, TOMS gives a pair of shoes to a child in need). Similarly, Cliff Michaels Academy provides free books and e-courses on life skills, leadership, financial literacy, and entrepreneurship to students and schools in need worldwide.

If you’re a Change Maven who believes in social impact, you don’t think in terms of “What’s in it for me?” You think in terms of “What’s sustainable for you and me?” You’ll join forces with leaders who share similar mission, vision, and values. You might bring together three like-minded students, teachers, or club presidents from different schools. You might challenge 3 competitive CEOs to fight for a common cause like cancer or the environment. You may even help three charities work together for a global event where the sum of their teams is greater than their individual parts.

Clearly, Change Mavens don’t need to be celebrities or social media moguls to launch powerful movements. The right movement with the right message attracts high-profile messengers. Meaningful movements can also generate huge profits and that’s a big part of the paradigm shift too. So find your 3 degrees of social impact, and don’t be afraid to make money while making a difference. If you can do that, there’s a good chance you’re already a Change Maven!

Cliff Michaels Academy Giving Mission –
With each sale, we give FREE books & e-courses to schools & students in need.

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Remembering Steve Jobs – The Crazy One

He was a dreamer and a misfit who built one of the most endurable brands in history. He took us through revolutions in computers, music, and entertainment. He even master-minded one of the most popular advertising campaigns in history: Think Different: The Crazy Ones (featuring 17 iconic figures from Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Pablo Picasso, Bob Dylan and John Lennon to Richard Branson, Muhammad Ali, Ted Turner, Mahatma Gandhi, Amelia Earhart and Martin Luther King, Jr.).

And on October 5, 2011, we lost Steve Jobs. He left behind an entrepreneurial spirit we may not see for a long time. His biography (Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson) reveals the saga of a complex soul who vacillated between genius and madness. In Isaacson’s words, we discover a “deeply emotional, sometimes mean, anti-social human being … who lived in his own altered reality.” But we also discovered a creative mind with a passion for what’s possible and no space for mediocrity.

When he passed away, I thought about one of the essays I wrote in The 4 Essentials of Entrepreneurial Thinking. I had a little fun comparing Gates to Jobs and Mozart to Tiger Woods in order to dispel the myth of born genius, born entrepreneur, and take on a bit of Malcolm Gladwell’s Outlier Theory that suggests 10,000 hours or 10 years of practice are secrets to success (yes and no in my book).

Most of us know the stories of Apple founder Steve Jobs and Microsoft founder Bill Gates. Volumes have been written about both juggernauts so I can offer little to their biographies. But there’s a unique lesson I picked up watching a 2010 Apple commercial comparing PC to Mac. In its cheeky ad campaign, Apple pokes fun at the ongoing glitches of Microsoft’s operating system. Apple had similar bugs throughout its storied past, but since Microsoft’s PC is known to crash more than Apple products, the audience gets the joke. The commercial is clever but I came away with a totally different take than the one intended. It starts with a hip-looking kid i jeans (Jobs), standing next to a geeky, older guy in a suit and glasses (Gates). The next 60 seconds goes something like this …

Kid Mac: “Hello, I’m a Mac.”

PC Gates: “And I’m a PC. Hey Mac, did you hear the good news? Windows 7 is out and it’s not gonna have any of the problems that my last operating system had. Trust me.”

Kid Mac: (suspiciously): “I feel like I’ve heard this before, PC.” For the remainder of the commercial, we see PC Gates in decade-old leisure suits, insisting each new version of Microsoft’s operating software won’t have the previous problems.

PC Gates: “Windows Vista won’t have any problems Windows XP had, or any problems Windows ’98 had, or any problems Windows ’95 had … or any problems Windows 2 had. This time it’s gonna be different. Trust me (winking).”

What I gleaned from this time-capsule wasn’t that Mac was better than PC, Apple better than Microsoft, or Jobs better than Gates. My epiphany was that neither guy ever stopped innovating. Microsoft was still working out the kinks on Windows 7.0 when I wrote this. By the time you read this, the latest versions of iPads and iPhones will be in stores for at least 12 months anyway (trust me, wink-wink).

So as we remember Steve Jobs, we have to ask, “Was he a genius or just crazy enough to be obsessed with a passion for excellence?” After all, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak was the original tech guy but could never have created Apple Computers the multi-billion dollar empire without a crazy sidekick. Jobs was the visionary and marketing guy who told us everything was “insanely great!” For Jobs, crazy was as much about form and beauty as function. And for that reason, he was more of a poet and artist than Gates even though both were crazy enough to think they could change the world.

Fortunately, Jobs left behind some of that crazy poetry, mantras that almost every artist and entrepreneurs alike know…

“Think different … Don’t be trapped by dogma and other people’s thinking … Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition … They somehow already know what you truly want to become.”

With all his foibles, we admire Jobs not because of his perfection, but his imperfections. He told us to never stop asking, “What if ?” To that end, we classify him as modern-day Mozart who played with passion and practiced with purpose.

For any of us to harness the essential legacy of Steve Jobs, we can’t wonder rest on our laurels. If the goal is “insanely great,” then the crazy question is “What’s next?”

Thank you, Steve. (R.I.P.)