By Maya Rowencak
Did you ever get annoyed when you didn’t get carded? Well, the guy at the door knew you were as far away from 21 as China is to Nebraska. When we were teenagers, we would have gone to great lengths to get into any place that was 21 and over. I remember when it was a relief to not get carded.
We have a universal epidemic: we can’t stop time. No matter what path we take, all paths lead to this ultimate truth — we will all one day be gone from this world. (Morbid thought, I know. The story gets better, trust me.)
I don’t know what your number is, but mine is 107 months. Allow me to explain.
Let’s say you’re 30 years old. Since the average person lives til 78, that means you’ll have 48 years left to live. Minus sleeping, eating, using the bathroom… You’re left with 24 precious years (less if you are accident-prone). You automatically lose half of our lives doing things that we have to do, not to mention annoying things like waiting in lines. What about the time for things you actually enjoy?
All these time-suckers reduce my productive time to 107 months. Yes, ladies, 107 months.
What’s your number?
Time is our most precious resource, and it becomes more precious as we get older. It’s the only non-renewable resource you have.
Wouldn’t it be nice to stop time, or better yet… to live forever?
Before I guide you to the fountain of youth, I’d like to share an important story about the stuff that comes out of your faucet — water. As you know, water is shapeless. When you pour water into a cup, water conforms to the cup. Same for a teapot or a swimming pool.
Water can flow like a raging river, trickle down your window when it rains, or crash like a wave.
Did you know that water carved the Grand Canyon through 277 miles of solid rock? If the Grand Canyon were a freeway, it would take over 4 hours to drive from one end to the other.
Today, the Colorado River coasts in the shadow of the towering canyon walls it left behind — taller than four Empire State Buildings…
What will you leave behind after you’re gone?
Sometimes, the secret lies in your past. Who from your past impacted your life in a positive way? Who helped guide you to where you are today? Who believed in you? Or maybe, was there one person who said one thing that changed your outlook on life forever? For example, I carry my Uncle Ed’s words “Follow your bliss” with me every day (even though it means nothing to anyone else).
All in all, the most important person who shaped me into who I am was my mom. My life changed however when she passed away very suddenly almost 5 years ago. Like the Colorado River, her love left Grand Canyon-sized scars in my heart. Like my bruises from Muay Thai training, I cherish these scars she left me.
I always took my mom for granted, until she was gone. When I lost her, I reflected on all of my achievements, my path and my education. Afterwards, I was consumed with the greatest amount of guilt for never repaying her and thanking her enough for everything she did. I carried the burden of indebtedness to her and held the utmost appreciation for every little or grand sacrifice she made for me.
But, I can never repay her.
Love cannot be measured, put in a fancy golden box or returned. We also can’t take money, stocks, crap we hoard, fame or prestige with us beyond the grave.
The only option to “pay back” love is to pay love forward.
I always was searching for something, fighting for something, struggling to get to the top… and when my mom left me, I discovered this great wisdom —
the secret to living forever is to make a difference in other people’s lives. Through your kind gestures and compassion for others, they are changed by you. Then when they share it with others, it spreads onward like wildfire.
Even after my mom’s death, her love for me fuels an immense passion to help forgotten, neglected and orphaned children… because I understand the loss, loneliness, and search for guidance that these children go through every day, and carry with them way into their adulthood.
My journey began by visiting my parents’ home countries (the Philippines and Ukraine). In the process, I not only discovered myself, but I also felt that I understood my parents and their cultures more than ever. More importantly, I discovered so many beautiful, innocent and most importantly, brave children, who desperately need help… and love.
It all came together in 2010, and I started non-profit called Maya’s Hope. Maya’s Hope’s mission is to help impoverished children get proper nutrition, basic medical care and education… especially those who never experienced a mother’s love. I wanted them to know they had value, like my mom did for me. I wanted to give them Hope, and the courage to Dream and Live.
With Maya’s Hope, I discovered the power of my unique identity. All our lives, we have people telling us what to do, what to become. When we were children, adults emphasized that we are supposed to act more mature (whatever that means), color within the lines or learn to be professional…
… We’re supposed to suck in our guts, smile, hair-tied back, turn our dials down to “low” and live in shades of gray and khaki (boring). I personally prefer the brightest color pink or fuchsia known to man. But everyone else seems to want us to be as inhuman or bland as possible.
So I’m telling you: you are allowed to be “friggin’ awesome.” You can be yourself. Don’t be afraid to tell your story. You may think that no one wants to hear your story, but people want to know why or how you made something great or what gets you fired up. Your personal story is one of your greatest assets, especially if you own a business.
The reason it’s priceless in business is because in this age, where just about everything is a commodity (and easily outsourced to the lowest bidder), your story is a powerful differentiator that gives you a unique selling advantage. Your personal story (and your relationship with the people who connect with that story) is something that only you can have. It’s the one thing that cannot be copied.
Besides, you’re not a drone — you’re a person. And guess what? Your customers are people too. Give them something to connect with you; whether it’s an origin story or why you’re so passionate about what you do.
Just to show you, I tell my personal story on our website here: “How it all started”. But don’t get me wrong. I didn’t do this because I’m full of myself and love the sound of my voice. I wrote it because I believe that the primary goal of any business is to serve. I want my story to be a beacon to reach out to someone like me — someone with the same passion to help others because someone left a “Grand Canyon” in her heart too.
I have made many new friends in the process, and some of them have found joy by helping children through Maya’s Hope. Here are some of their own words:
“My mom passed away in 2000. That sort of thing really changes you and the course of your life. At some point instead of being all depressed I started to realize how lucky I was to have had such a great parent for the number of years I did, and that there are others who aren’t in the same boat. For me, trying to live my life in the best way possible is the best way to honor my mother’s memory and everything that she gave me.” – Cynthia R., New York
“I have to say, that when I read that your mother passed away in 2007, I had to stop and reread that a few times. Both of my parents died in 2007. My father had been ill for a long time so that did not come as a shock when he passed away at the end of June 2007. However, my mother died quite suddenly 70 days later. So, I completely understand what it is like to not have parents. That is part of the reason we decided to adopt, and why my heart is with the children who long for a mother and father.” – Corbett A., New York
“I decided to sponsor Rolando because of my mother, she passed away nearly 5 years ago and she always contributed to children’s charities. I wanted to continue her legacy by helping a child in need, I was fortunate to meet Maya through my co-workers. I have truly found the utmost joy in sponsoring through Maya’s Hope for the past 3 1/2 years.” – Deanna H., New Jersey
“It feels great to have the opportunity to help someone who was just like me when I was younger, who needed a helping hand in his lifetime. Now I know he is guaranteed three meals a day, shoes to walk in and he can go to school. I am so looking forward to watching him grow up.”- Juan T., New York
I learned that nothing is guaranteed in life, and your world can change in an instant. So embrace who you are. Be thankful for everything, every passion, every taste, and everyone that helped shape who you are today. Finally, strive to love and be compassionate to other people, and leave an impression so deep… that they feel compelled to pass it on to others.
Next to my bed, I keep in a box some of the letters the “big girls” gave me at an orphanage in the Philippines. One wrote: “I’m not pangit (ugly) to you Ate (Big sister) Maya.” Another girl wrote: “Thanks for your love, you know Ate you are the only foreigner who gave the best; to give to us a good day. You’re like a guardian angel to me.” These notes are sweet reminders of the impact I made on two sisters whose mother never valued either one of them. They had value to me.
Just remember, our bodies will not last forever. So forget Botox, boob jobs, and $200 wrinkle creams made from pig parts. The only way to truly live forever is by what we do NOW— with the little time we have left —and the impact we have on other people, our children and future generations.
“Our memories of the ocean will linger on,
long after our footprints in the sand are gone.”
I hope this was useful in some way, whether in your business or personal life. If you enjoyed this, why not pop by and join our family at facebook.com/mayashope? There, you’ll also get to see what we do to help bring smiles to cutie pies who need some love.