MONDAY, MARCH 19, 2018
JIM: Few of us would have the guts to do what our guest today has done, just shortly over two years ago when he walked away from a well paying position after having just graduated from college five years prior, to pursue his passion and that is working to better humanity through his charitable organization, Because I Said I Would. In just two short years Alex's organization has touched millions of lives, so to find out how he did that and what drives him to make such a difference in the world, is Alex Sheen, founder of Because I Said I Would. Welcome, Alex.
ALEX: Hi, Jim, thanks for having me.
JIM: I'm really looking forward to our talk today. I belong to an organization, Million Dollar Round Table, where 8000 advisors come from around the world, actually, to hear various speakers, and you were on the main platform so you had a chance to speak to everybody. I knew you were someone I wanted to get on our program to share your message with more because you've certainly touched a lot of lives and made a big impact. You started the organization, Because I Said I Would. Tell us a little bit about how that started and what that's all about.
ALEX: Sure. Because I Said I Would is a social movement and nonprofit dedicated to the betterment of humanity through promises made and kept. It makes the most sense to just start from the beginning on how this started, and that was really influenced by my father. My dad was someone of his word, a man who when he made promises to me, his son, he kept those promises and when he was diagnosed with stage four small cell lung cancer and when he died of this disease on September 4, 2012, I deeply reflected on his character, on how he treated his commitments, and I gave his eulogy. I titled it, Because I Said I Would, and I talked about the importance of a promise.
Too often these days we say things like, I'll get to it, or tomorrow, and one day there won't be a tomorrow, and a lot of our lives pass by and the promises that we make are sometimes broken, so I decided to give that eulogy and I for the first time handed out a promise card which really started it all.
JIM: So tell us what that promise card is.
ALEX: A promise card is essentially a business card sized piece of paper and it says, Because I Said I Would in the corner and there's nothing else on the front or the back of the card. What you do is you take a commitment and you write it on the promise card, you give it to someone, you tell them, I'm going to fulfill this promise. You tell them that the card is a symbol of your honor, and that you'll earn the card back once the promise is fulfilled. You go, you fulfill your promise, you get your card back and you keep it as a reminder that you care about your integrity and the commitments that you make to others.
That promise card was handed out for the first time at my father's funeral, then I created a Facebook page called Because I Said I Would, and offered to send 10 promise cards anywhere in the world at absolutely no cost to the recipient. Let's just say that there are a lot of people on the internet and in less than a year and a half we had distributed 1.27 million promise cards to over 105 different countries. People use these cards for a variety of commitments in their lives. It could be little kid just committing to clean their room or could be someone promising to donate blood, and then when we look at the deeper commitments in our lives as we face the challenges and adversities that find their way into our lives, we have some people with posttraumatic stress disorder write things like, I will not kill myself, and people make promises in memory of those they have lost to disease and violence. It really is a very wide ranging thing, that's the promise card.
JIM: That's powerful. I think you're going to put the round-to-it out of business. I don't know if you ever saw those round-to-it that's like a round poker chip that says, to it. It was almost kind of funny because you'd hand these things out and say, yeah, now you've gotten yourself the round-to-it so now you can go forward, so you might end up putting them out of business because I find when you put something down in writing, it really changes your mindset to be accountable, especially in today's fast paced world where a lot of people just seem to blow things off, and I really think you're on to something, Alex. I think this is awesome.
So you quit a full time job to pursue Because I Said I Would, that's really taking a leap of faith in humanity to believe that this would continue on and be able to make a living doing what you're doing, so talk a little bit about that and how you're able to walk away from work and pursue this passion that's going to be so impactful.
ALEX: Sure. I was a corporate strategy lead at a large enterprise software company that was ranked by Fortune 100's best places to work, and I was the youngest manager at the entire enterprise, or at least the entire company, and so it was very difficult for me to walk away from financial success. My father had tried to build a life in America for me and my brother, and he did a good job of that, getting us a solid education, but I decided that I was going to quit my job. Really what pushed me over the edge in this decision was a letter that was dropped to my desk anonymously, it was from a stranger. I had no idea who it was from. It was actually at work, and it had talked about this person's struggle with depression. They didn't think life was worth living and they almost committed suicide. In this letter they said that the promise card had given them strength, that they fund purpose, that they should be alive. They said that they might not be around if it wasn't for this card.
I went to my boss' office with this letter to resign from my job to pursue a life philanthropy, and it turned out that the letter was actually from my boss' daughter. She had snuck in to work and dropped off this letter to inner office mail. It was one of the craziest moments in my life, but I took it as somewhat of a sign that I should do what I was doing, and it wasn't easy because I had no pay. I spent tens of thousands of dollars on postage and stamps and things to keep the nonprofit running of my own personal money. I did not collect unemployment, and for seven months it was really, really hard, but I deeply believed in what I was doing and so I stuck with it through it all, and now I'm the leader of this nonprofit organization. I make less than half of what I used to make, but that's okay because I feel good about the mission.
JIM: I think that's something that's really lacking in peoples' lives today, especially with the internet and technology, we've become a lot less social and a lot less connected, and people have a lot of times lost their purpose and I think what you're doing is really helping people focus on what's truly important, and that's people and relationships, having integrity certainly builds upon that.
Why don't we take a quick break. When we come back I want you to tell us the story of Matthew Cordle and share with us what happened there, so please stay tuned.
JIM: Welcome back as we continue to visit with Alex Sheen, founder of the social movement and nonprofit organization, Because I Said I Would. He is now going around the country speaking, I think you shared with me that you have close to 100 speaking engagements scheduled in the next several months, is that right?
ALEX: Yeah, in 2014 that's about the number of speeches that I'll give, and a hundred percent of my speaking engagement fees are paid to the 501(c)(3) nonprofit. They don't come to me, and it really just helps us with our charitable work, so it's been an honor to be a part of so many events across the country, and now spreading across the world.
JIM: You've got some pretty impactful stories to share. You shared the story with what prompted you to abandon the safety and security of the well paying job to found this 501(c)(3), but tell us the story of Matthew Cordle.
ALEX: This actually started on August 9, 2013, a little over a year ago. It really started as a Facebook message from a stranger to our Facebook page. This gentleman named Matthew Cordle had messaged our page but called me out specifically and talked about the night of June 22 of last year, a night where he got drunk, he got into a car, and he had killed a man while driving. He talked about that crash, but I think more importantly he talked about the guilt that he felt that was insurmountable, the guilt that made him feel like he had to bring good into the world for two people because that's what he now felt that he owed, so in this message he asked me to help him better humanity, how can I do this, and so I started messaging back and forth with this young man. We eventually decided that he was going to make a confession video. He wanted to not struggle against the legal system and use the loopholes. He wanted to put a message out to the world against drinking and driving, and he wanted to do that through a YouTube confession video.
At first I was a little bit reluctant internally just because I was afraid that maybe this person was trying to just use, Because I Said I Would, to get a lighter sentence, but the fact it legally it didn't make any sense for that to be the case because he had no charges pressed against him, and if you ask any defense attorney, you weren't going to get any leeway for putting out the entire case on YouTube, so when this video of his confession was released it received over two million views in less than 10 days, Matthew Cordle would be arrested. He would in fact receive what his attorney said he would receive which was a higher than average sentence. He actually received 50% higher of a sentence by not leveraging negotiations in his guilt plea. Today he sits in an Ohio prison, and this video has gone viral around the world. In it he writes a promise card that said I will take full responsibility for what I've done, and what is exactly what he's done.
JIM: That is just an incredible story. Why do you think it went viral and had such a huge effect on people?
ALEX: The fact that Matthew Cordle had no charges pressed against him I think is a big piece of it. Another piece is if you watch the video, it starts with his face blurred as he's describing this night and his problems with alcoholism, but then in the middle of the video the distortion of his voice and his face clears up and he says, my name is Matthew Cordle, on June 22, 2013, I hit and killed Vincent Conzani (SP?). I think at that moment you start to realize that this isn't some sort of PSA, it's not like this person is taking off makeup and going home. This is real life, and I think that's part of the reason why it went viral.
The last piece of it is that I think we can all connect with his message in the video, that we make excuses for these destructive decisions, to drink and drive, to text and drive. We make excuses and pretend that it's okay but those are just excuses and we know what we're doing is wrong, and he pleas with everyone who's watching to make the promise to never drink and drive.
JIM: When you talk about Because I Said I Would, people say they're going to do things all the time and then they don't. They spend more time sometimes figuring out the excuses than just having the integrity to do what you said you're going to do, so I just love your whole concept. It's fantastic that it's making such an impact.
You talked about social media, Facebook, YouTube. With your technological background, you have been able to leverage social media to make much more of an impact that you would just trying to sit on a soap box and try to talk about your message. You've gone viral with this message and I just think it's awesome.
Tell us, how do people get involved with social media to make a difference if that's something they want to do?
ALEX: Sure, you know, the first thing is that we send 10 promise cards to anybody anywhere in the world, so you can go to BecauseIsaidIwould.com and you can request those promise cards. The biggest piece I think that helped this whole message spread is actually a lack of focus on any one individual. While certainly I'm the founder of Because I Said I Would and I do interviews like this and everything, really this social movement isn't about me. I'll good so far as to say it's not even about my father, it's about you, Jim, it's about every listener that's hearing my voice now, it's about the promises we make as individuals that change this world, and so with social media what we really share are the supporters' promises, that people write promise cards, they go to Facebook and post it to our Facebook page.
They go to Twitter and they tag us, or they hash tag Because I Said I Would, and they share their commitments as a symbol that they respect the honor of keeping your word, and it's because of social media and it's because people have taken it on themselves to make promises to better humanity, that's really the only reason why this has spread. I certainly can make my big commitments like walking across the entire state of Ohio or sending a hundred kids to Disneyland who have cancer, but those flashes are never really going to become a social movement. The only thing that makes a social movement is everyone, and so I encourage your listeners to check us out at Facebook.com/becauseIsaidIwould, or just check out our web site BecauseIsaidIwould.com and get some cards.
JIM: The other thing I would encourage our listeners if they belong to any groups that would like to have Alex come in and speak as he mentioned earlier in the program, you've got over a hundred events scheduled and I'll say the organization MDRT where I heard Alex speak in front of an international audience, you inspired a lot of people, so if you're looking for something like that, one of your groups, how do they get ahold of you, Alex?
ALEX: You can email contact at BecauseIsaidIwould.com or just go to our web site BecauseIsaidIwould.com and find the speaking engagement form there. There are a couple of Ted talks that I have, and again a hundred percent of my speaking engagement fees are for charity. They go straight to the 501(c)(3) and I just really appreciate the support of your listeners.
JIM: Well, thanks Alex, I'm glad to have had you on as you continue to expand your reach, I'm sure you're going to have other ways of making an impact as you go forward. I'd love to have you back to share.
ALEX: Awesome. Thank you so much.
JIM: Thanks for joining us this week, and tune in again next week as we explore another phase of the Real Wealth process, and remember if anything you've heard in today's show you'd like to get more information about, contact us. Also if you feel that any of this information would be helpful to a friend or family member, please feel free to forward them this link.
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