Imagine you don’t even read books, but one day become convinced that you need to write one … to help other people realize that life isn’t all about themselves. That’s what happened to Matt Emerzian after his life reached a low point and he needed to rebound. Recently Fast Company profiled and interviewed him. Here’s a part:
Fortunately, [Matt] was introduced to a therapist who changed his life. During one of his first visits she handed him Rick Warren’s book, Purpose Driven Life, and told him to read the first sentence, which says, “It’s not about you.” The sentence didn’t make any sense to Matt. Again, narcissism won the day. Then she told him that he would never feel better until he understood that concept. That got his attention because it was like a final life raft, something to grab onto, something to help. Just four simple words were all he needed to read. They echoed in his head every minute of the day, partially from a place of gratitude and partially because he was unsure and confused. But, he was determined to put in the work and find the meaning.
She then prescribed a heavy dose of volunteering. Every Saturday morning at 9 a.m., Matt would go out and pick up litter, paint over graffiti, feed the homeless, etc. At first, he didn’t understand it, but one day it clicked. Saturday mornings were his favorite time of the week. They provided an opportunity to go out and serve others and it was “not about him.” It was the best he felt every week.
Matt was still working in the music industry and wasn’t sure how this new concept was going to work in his life. Then one day he was walking back to his office with a coworker when he bent down to pick up a piece of litter on the sidewalk. Suddenly it all made sense. His coworker asked Matt why he would pick up someone else’s trash and the conversation ended in an argument.
Pissed off, Matt went up to his office and called his friend Kelly Bozza, and told her that he wanted to write a book. She responded, “Matt, you don’t even read books. How are you going to write one?” Matt explained to her that he wanted to write a book that could explain that every single one of us matters and together, we can change the world. They wrote the book together.
His thought was if it took him one second to pick up one piece of litter, what if all 300+ million people in our country picked up just one? It would still be a collective one second, but 300+ million pieces of litter would be gone. What if we each picked up five or 10? Or, what if we got our schools, companies, churches, friends, and family involved? It is just a numbers game.
What if we all smiled more, planted a tree, donated blood, wrote a note of gratitude, or took better care of our health? It just became a “what if” game. They picked 52 of these scenarios and wrote the book, Every Monday Matters – 52 Ways to Make a Difference.
The book came out four years ago and has sold very well. What was more important to Matt was that it started an organization and the beginning of a movement. A month after the book came out, he received an email from a woman who saved someone from committing suicide, all because of the book. He never imagined his book would literally save somebody’s life. That was the sign Matt needed to walk away from the music industry and try to make Every Monday Matters (EMM) a household name.
From the start, thousands of people wanted to be a part of what Matt was doing. Letter-writing campaigns, a weekly newspaper column syndicated in over 400 newspapers nationwide, and a K-12 school curriculum that teaches youth that they matter through self- and social-responsibility projects followed.
Today, EMM is in over 1,200 schools in 43 states, impacting the lives of hundreds of thousands of youths. An Employee Engagement/Corporate Social Responsibility program in major corporations across the country works to create a work culture where all employees feel as though they matter within their company and their community. Oprah.com hosted EMM every Monday for a year. PBS just shot a documentary on EMM that will air in May 2012.
The organization is committed to getting as many people as possible to make their Mondays matter and to understand how much they do. Every Monday Matters is about being able to imagine a day when millions of people all over the country or world are doing the same thing on the same day to make a difference in their life and the lives of others. Matt believes that together, we can officially change Mondays–and the world.
Read the whole thing. Matt sums up his lesson in this way:
I didn’t spend my life being an asshole, but I also didn’t spend my life focused on making the world a better place. I just focused on ME. Things that brought fun to my life, things that I thought mattered, like fame and fortune, and all arrows pointed inward. But, it was the Saturday-morning volunteering–giving back–that changed everything for me. It changed the direction of the arrows, and they now pointed outward. And in those moments, I realized that I am at my best when I am not making life about me, and when my life started to change, it started to make sense. I realized that I had significance and purpose in those moments. I realized that I could impact the world in a positive way, and in turn, I would feel more complete as a person. I guess that’s the irony of it all. If you want to feel better about yourself and your life, stop focusing on yourself. It is so simple, but so hard for us to understand.
In terms of fundamental Integral principles, Matt leaped ahead in his spiritual development by becoming less egocentric and by giving more and more to others, even so far as to change things in world-spanning ways.