My book, Success Mindsets, is officially available in print (click here to get it at your favorite retailer). To highlight the launch of the book, I have been sharing portions of my book. This week, I share a section about a profound experience that helped me shift from an inward mindset to an outward mindset. All of the pictures come from a scrapbook my mom put together.
Look back on your life and identify your most meaningful experiences. In those moments, did you have an inward or outward mindset?
My most meaningful experiences came when I was able to shift into an outward mindset. Allow me to share one of the most meaningful experiences of my life and the profound effect it had on me.
Humanitarian Trip to Guatemala
When I was 13, my parents and I did something for Christmas that I was not particularly happy about, although I was excited about the adventure. Rather than give and receive presents, my parents and I joined a humanitarian group to help out a small village in Guatemala.
Our group comprised over 30 people. Half of our group was dentists and dental hygienists who would be providing dental care, largely pulling teeth. The other half was tasked with helping to install a new water system. This was the group that I was a part of, led by my dad, a civil engineer. We would be finding an uncontaminated spring, damming it up, and then laying pipe from the spring to a concrete reservoir built by a previous humanitarian expedition. My job would be machete duty. I would be spending much of the week hacking a clear path for all the workers and pipe.
We flew out Christmas morning and, after a rerouted flight, landed in the thick humidity of Guatemala. For the next 10 days, we would be camping in a schoolhouse in a small village tucked in the lush jungle mountains. To get there, we had a 10-hour winding bus ride and a long hike.
Nothing in my middle-class Utah upbringing had prepared me for the poverty and desperation I would encounter.
At the center of the small village, nestled in the valley of the surrounding hillsides, sat the schoolhouse, our lodge. It stood on the edge of the main dirt road, now muddy. Despite it being the dry season, it misted almost the whole time we were there. The road did triple duty as a thoroughfare, soccer field, and roaming ground for pigs and dogs.
As I scanned the hillsides, I could see small lean-to houses peeking out of the trees.
I also saw that the hillsides were covered in a lush green bush about the height of a man: coffee plants.
All of the families in the area picked coffee for a living, making $10 per ton. After picking the beans, the men and boys had to haul their coffee down the muddy and slippery hillside with 30- to 60-pound sacks on their backs.
Continuing to take in my surroundings, I noticed a piece of bamboo, sliced in half lengthwise, protruding from the bushes on the opposite side of the road. A small trickle of water dribbled from it.
This was the village’s source of water for drinking, bathing, and washing clothes. I later found out that it was contaminated and a primary cause of disease among their children—which, in turn, led to a high child mortality rate.
As a middle-class kid from Utah, I was floored, wondering how in the world people could live like this.
For the next nine days, my group hiked several miles through the wet and muddy hillside to a spring. We cleared it out, dammed it up, and started laying pipe. At the end of each day, we returned to the schoolhouse to help the dentists, who had a never-ending stream of people waiting to see them. People came from miles away, many walking through the night to have their teeth pulled. I never saw so many people relieved and happy to have their teeth pulled, freed from miserable pain. Can you imagine being so desperate you wanted to walk all night to get your teeth pulled? It was heartbreaking.
Since I wasn’t old enough to directly help the dentists, I took on the enjoyable job of entertaining and playing with the village’s children to keep them from getting in the way of the dentists. They loved seeing many of the conveniences that I had grown accustomed to, especially the video camera. I could record them and play it back. Because most of the kids did not have a mirror, this was one of the rare times they saw themselves, and they could not get enough of it. At times, dozens of kids swarmed me.
Despite seeing this poverty and providing service, I was still primarily concerned about number one. I complained about the food: rice, beans, plantains. When I worked, I tried my best not to make myself too uncomfortable or dirty. Additionally, I was focused on only doing the tasks that interested me, not necessarily what my team needed me to do. This got me into trouble as I macheted my way into a hornet’s nest and got stung over ten times on my face, neck, and arms.
However, during our last couple of days in the village, my mindset shifted to outward. While I was unconscious of this change, I started to act differently, complaining less, and working harder. Instead of always wanting to be entertained, I felt the desire to uplift and serve the people in the community. I stopped defining my life by what I didn’t have and started feeling grateful for the many comforts I was able to enjoy that the locals were not, like clean running water and shoes. In fact, felt stupid for the times I argued with my parents about not getting presents for Christmas that year and for always having to settle for non-name-brand clothes.
When the last day came, while I was ready for a real shower and bed, my heart was simultaneously open toward and breaking for the people we were serving. I was desperate to help them in any way we could. In many ways, we all were.
What a difference a few days makes!
I was now willing—rather wanting—to leave the Guatemalan villagers with as much of my clothes and stuff as I possibly could.
Never in my young life had I seen others so clearly as people with needs and feelings as important, if not more important, than my own. Never had I come to empathize with others as I did with the people in that village. While I didn’t recognize this as a mindset change, it did give me a glimpse of what life could be like looking through a different lens.
I wish I could say the outward mindset stuck from that point on, but that was not the case. But since I have been working on upgrading my mindsets, this experience in the mountains of Guatemala has given me clarity on the mindset that I need to put on and wear.
If you would like to get the newly released paperback version of my book (or ebook or audiobook), click here to find it at your favorite retailer, plus several promotion giveaways (e.g., free mindset webinar).