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The simple gift that changed my life

Posted in the following categories: Life Lessons, Personal Development

It’s been a whirlwind around here lately! I’ve been giving lots of keynotes and gearing up for the re-launch of my acclaimed online course, The AI Advantage (dubbed by participants as “the best online course I’ve ever taken”). Get on the waitlist here for a sneak peek and early access when doors reopen in April.

While my focus has been on these big projects, I took a moment to ground myself in the quiet strength of seemingly small acts. I’m re-sharing a post below that’s close to my heart about a simple, yet transformative gift that rippled across generations. Hope you enjoy the read.

Back in the 1940s, there was a 14-year old boy living in a small village in Turkey.

He grew up in poverty and helped support his family as a shepherd tending sheep.

Setting off to pursue an education against the odds, he walked 50 kilometers to enroll in a school designed to train future elementary school teachers.

But this resolve faced a silent adversary—the worn-out shoes that were barely clinging to his feet.

Students (and teachers) were required to do manual labor around the campus, building classrooms and working the fields that supplied food to the school. This left his feet soaking wet, and his shoes filled with mud.

The school nurse noticed the dire state of his footwear and gifted him a pair of hobnail boots. This gesture, seemingly small, was monumental for the boy. It allowed him to stay in school, graduate, and return to his village—not as a shepherd—but as an elementary school teacher.

Over the next few decades, he taught thousands of students, becoming an inspirational leader in his community.

He also taught me.

That boy was my grandfather—and my first teacher.

My love for reading and writing—along with my curiosity and sense of wonder about the world—can be traced back to him.

If the school nurse hadn’t given him those boots, my grandfather would likely have dropped out of school and the trajectory of his life—and therefore my own—would have been starkly different.

In other words, a butterfly flapped its wings in a small village in Turkey and created a ripple effect that radiated outward for decades to come.

We often assume we have to “do something big” to make a difference. We focus on the big splash, the viral, the grandiose. If we don’t have a “large following” or if we lack the ability to create change on scale, we don’t even bother.

A huge splash is what’s visible—and we assume what’s visible is what’s important.

But a tiny drop can also create ripples that extend far beyond what’s visible. We often don’t see those ripples, so we assume they don’t exist. The nurse who gifted my grandfather that pair of boots has no idea what an impact she made on my life—and on the lives of thousands of students he later taught.

I often get a version of this question during my keynotes: “How do I inspire others to change?”

My answer? Embody the change you want to see. Stop waiting for others to take action. The nurse didn’t wait for “the authorities” to help my grandfather. She did what she thought was the right thing to do.

So the next time you ponder the magnitude of your actions, remember the story of the school nurse and my grandfather.

Your seemingly inconsequential acts today could be the catalyst for someone’s remarkable tomorrow.

You may not see the ripples extend—but they’re there, moving beneath the surface, shaping the future in ways beyond your wildest imaginations.

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