About Shawn Anderson:
Shawn Anderson is a six-time author, keynote speaker and unlimited thinker. His "go the extra mile" philosophy and ability to produce winning results have been praised by political leaders, Olympic Gold Medal and world record holders, and media outlets around the world. An entrepreneur since the age of 10 when he started a business selling worms to fishermen, Shawn has continued by building businesses and organizing events that make a difference in how people think.
Shawn is also the Founder of Extra Mile Day in the United States…a day recognizing the capacity we each have to create positive change in ourselves, families, organizations and communities. On November 1, 2015, 551 U.S. cities made the declaration and recognized local heroes in their communities "going the extra mile in service and volunteerism."
When it comes to living the life he loves, Shawn walks the talk. He has built successful companies, peddled a bike 4,000 miles across the U.S. (twice), run a 100-mile race, walked across three countries, and has created awesome adventures around the world. More than creating great life moments, Shawn is most passionate about helping others maximize potential by sharing a simple message with others: "If you can dream it…you can do it!"
Shawn's book titles include: SOAR to the Top!; Amicus 101: A Story About the Pursuit of Purpose and Overcoming Life’s Chaos; Extra Mile America: Stories of Inspiration, Possibility and Purpose; and A Better Life: An Inspiring Story About Starting Over
Email address: Shawn@ShawnAnderson.com
Shawn Anderson website: ShawnAnderson.com
LinkedIn for Shawn Anderson: Shawn Anderson
Extra Mile America website: ExtraMileAmerica.org
Facebook for Extra Mile America: Extra Mile America
Facebook for Extra Mile World: Extra Mile World
It’s my honour to feature one of the world’s greatest inspirational speakers of our time: SHAWN ANDERSON, FOUNDER, Extra Mile America, a sixth time published author and a world renowned motivational speaker as our COVER STORY inside this special edition of the KARIFEST INTERNATIONAL ISSUE.
Always going on a speaking tour across continents of the world, getting him to settled down for an interview with us was no child’s play due to his tight schedule but as someone who loves to inspire others with his work, he made it possible and granted us the interview.
Shawn Anderson: “It is a pleasure to talk with you, Onyekaah…and let me tell you why. Every time I read about some awesome action you are taking to bring motivation and inspiration to the people of Nigeria and Africa, I am giving you my own private standing ovation. In my mind, I am talking to "Africa’s Ms. Inspiration"…and that is why it is my privilege to share time with you. Thank you for now…and thank you for what you will be doing in the future.
Secondly, it's an additional privilege to share time with your readers and the powerful people of this great continent. I hope somewhere in our interview, you and I strike a difference-making chord that resonates with a reader to help him or her get through whatever challenge they are going through in life right now. I also hope we can plant the seeds to help someone dream bigger, take even greater action, clap louder…and live a life of increased passion and purpose. That is my hope for this interview.”
ONYEKAAH: It’s such a rare privilege to have you talk to us today sir. Am humbled to say the least. Thank you so much for the confidence in me and I hope to give you more reasons to keep trusting me. We are very delighted to have you on the KARIFEST platform.
Shawn Anderson: The pleasure is mine ONYEKAAH…
KARIFEST: Who is Shawn Anderson
Shawn Anderson: I am an ordinary guy who simply believes in living an extraordinary life. I have long realized that the effort I put into my life…in dreaming, in planning, in taking action…will always determine the quality of my days. I take this responsibility to heart every day, and thus do my very best to live every day as awesome as I can. I’m a guy who looks in the mirror every day and hopes to see a person better than the one I looked at in the mirror yesterday.
I think what I wish people knew about me the most, though, is that I absolutely know what it is to struggle in life. I know what it feels like to not have enough money to pay bills. I know what it feels like to hear “no” and be rejected by an opportunity I wanted badly. I know what it is to feel like to experience spirit-crushing failure and defeat. BUT…I also know what can happen if we never give up on ourselves despite whatever happens in life. The “go the extra mile” message that I am known for sharing is the same message I live. Every day.
KARIFEST: What motivates you to motivate others
Shawn Anderson: We live in a tough world. Life can be hard and it’s easy to drown with all the failure, bad news, desperation, exhaustion, rejection and disappointment the world throws at us. It’s easy to forget our dreams and goals in a world of “No” or “You can’t do that”…so I choose to be the person who encourages others by breathing life back into their dreams and telling them “You can!” I chose to be the person who never lets someone else forget what his or her potential is. I chose to be the person who believes in someone so much that he or she, too, would allow the same belief in themselves to grow. The world is full of people who keep our worlds small. I want to be a person who reminds people of how big our world can be when we dare to take action on our dreams…and truly believe in ourselves and our potential. I give myself the job title of “Battery Charger of the Human Spirit” and for me…there is no job title in the world I would rather have.
KARIFEST: What does it mean to "go the extra mile" and why is it important
Imagine if you asked your boss “What more can I do to help us succeed?” Imagine if you asked a friend, “What can I do to help you reach one of your goals?” Imagine if you reached out to a service organization in your community and said, “I’m available.” It’s this sort of extra-mile imagination and effort that has the power to change everything about our lives.
Want a better life? Never stop “going the extra mile.”
KARIFEST: How did you come up with the idea of Extra Mile Day
Shawn Anderson: In 2009, America was in tough shape. So much bad news was hitting us from everywhere that I felt people were losing the confidence in themselves to change anything about their lives. They started pointing fingers at the government and saying, “What programs are YOU going to provide to make my life better?” People started looking at their boss and saying, “What are YOU going to do to help me keep my job?” People forgot one of life’s greatest life-changing principles: “If you want a better life, look at the person in the mirror.”
So I decided to use my voice and remind people again that if you truly want to create positive change in your life, stop looking at others and quit doing the same thing you are doing. If you REALLY want to change your life…go the extra mile. Do more. Give more. Be more. I created a 90-day tour…ocean-to-ocean… across America pedaling 4,000 miles on a bike as a symbol of what it means to “go the extra mile.” On the ride, I held motivational events in 21 national cities, and at these events I interviewed over 200 people who had been recognized as going the extra mile in overcoming personal setback or who had risked everything in order to accomplish something extraordinary.
Along the beginning of the tour, I was pedaling through a very hot and hard 60 mile stretch of Nevada desert, and I started thinking: “What can we do to help people remember the extra mile message even more?” It was then…pedaling in the hot sun…I committed to the idea of creating a special day called “Extra Mile Day” And on this day (November 1), we would motivate mayors to recognize the awesome extra mile heroes in their communities who were going the extra mile to make a difference in volunteerism and service. On that first Extra Mile Day in 2009, 23 cities participated. Six years later on November 1, 2015, 551 cities participated. THAT is what happens when you go the extra mile…take massive action…and keep believing in yourself and your purpose.
The Extra Mile Day movement reminds us that the positive change we seek in our own lives and in society begins with the person in the mirror…and his or her willingness to go the extra mile.
KARIFEST: What makes you different as a motivational guy
Shawn Anderson: I walk the talk. First, my dominating goals have nothing to do with making money; they have everything to do with encouraging, motivating, empowering and believing in other people. I think that alone is different than most motivational speakers and writers whose primary concern is making money. The motivation to help 1,000,000 people live their dreams is a far more empowering thought to me than making $1,000,000.
And when I say, I “walk the talk”…I mean I really do “go the extra mile” walking the talk. Professionally? The financial cost of producing Extra Mile Day is out of my pocket. Personally? I have literally walked the extra mile across three countries…450 miles up the coast of Portugal, 550 miles from France across Spain, and most recently, I walked 750 miles around Japan. I have also biked across the United States…twice. In my mind, I cannot encourage others to “go the extra mile” unless I know in the deepest part of my mind, body, heart and soul what it really means to do it. The words that come out of my mouth…first came from my heat.
KARIFEST: What are some of your goals as you look forward in life
Shawn Anderson: Personally, my #1 goal is always my health…to keep eating right and exercising. Of course I have other goals related to traveling, writing books and reaching people, but without good health, everything else in life will never be as successful as it could have been.
“Securing great health” is my #1 goal…every day. I want to be able to hike 20 miles in a day at age 80. If I reach that goal, that means I would have had the health along the way to accomplish a lot more goals. If I accomplish that goal, it means I was able to create more adventures…grow more ideas…connect with millions more people…and when I take my final breath, I would then know that I lived my life well.
KARIFEST: What are you most proud of accomplishing
Shawn Anderson: Interestingly, what I am MOST proud of accomplishing is the recent 48-day, 750-mile hike I completed in June, 2016. The distance was 200 miles further than I had ever done, and hiking in Japan was extra hard because so few people spoke English. Trying to find a place to stay every night and food to eat because I am a vegetarian became a very exhausting thing to communicate every day. It became overwhelming at times. There were so many days…especially in the first few weeks…that I didn’t know how much “extra mile” I had in me to keep going, but every new day I found the strength to get up one more time…and go again. Sometimes, the rain came down all day as if I were standing under a shower…some days there were mountain climbs that took me almost two hours to go a mile…and on one stretch of 40 miles, I walked in flip-flops because the blisters on my feet were so painful that I couldn’t wear shoes. I never quit on myself despite hearing the whispers in my head say so many times: "This is too hard! It’s okay to stop here…and go home." But I took the 750 miles one mile-at-a-time… one day-at-a-time…and I did it. I had a chance to be tested in every way…and I succeeded.
KARIFEST: What kind of things do you care most about in the world
Shawn Anderson: As I get older, my eyes and heart together become more and more aware of the suffering in the world. I care passionately about causes related to animals and nature, and it breaks my heart to see the wings of a person clipped. I do my best to show kindness and compassion to people and nature every day because it seems that the world is in desperate need for it. I saw a video someone posted of a young kid taking a beautiful dog…tying a rope around his neck…and hanging it. Then when the poor dog’s body became lifeless, he brought the dog down only to drag it by the rope and kick it. At times, we live in a very dark world, and I know that the beautiful people of Africa have seen their share of darkness. I care about being just a small glimmer of light that represents “hope”…that is what I care about most.
KARIFEST: How can people be their best
Shawn Anderson: In our hearts, we will know if we are being and doing our best. I no longer judge my success in life by the results I produce, but rather by the effort I give and the attitude I demonstrate. Again, it goes back to “going the extra mile”…and giving, doing and being just a tiny bit more. I peacefully accept whatever results may come my direction. Because often events are out of my control; I can’t worry about that. But I can stay focused on me…and doing my best to create, to serve and to live.
KARIFEST: How do you keep motivated when things aren't going well
Shawn Anderson: When my world starts tumbling and one bad day turns into the next, I get back to my basics. I focus on my attitude and my thinking. The one computer in life we all need to really learn to work is the one that sits on top of our shoulders. So much of what we think and feel determines how we see the events and experiences we live. When things start to turn upside down in my world, I turn to the foundation of what made me…me.
I make sure I am exercising; that makes me feel better about me. I make sure to read, listen and watch empowering programs; that makes me feel better about me. I make sure to hang out with positive and empowering people…not the negative ones; that makes me feel better about me. And when we start to feel better about ourselves, we begin to take more action on creating the changes we seek in our lives. Just the pursuit of creating change makes a difference in how we feel about and see our world. The change might not come soon…or ever…but the “going for it” is what invigorates my spirit. That is what helps me get on the right track with my thinking and feeling again.
KARIFEST: You talk about having a life purpose. What is that and why is it important
Shawn Anderson: My life purpose is to “Empower 1,000,000 people to lead a more positive and purposeful existence.” That’s why I am here. And when I have decisions to make in my life…big and small…I often measure them against my life purpose. How will that decision affect my life purpose? It makes so many decisions clearer for me.
I think life is an amazing gift…and it is a privilege to be experiencing this unbelievably awesome mystery. I also think that when we define a reason for our lives, we give ourselves the opportunity to truly have made that life count. When we have a purpose…when we know what our mission is…we give ourselves a better chance of walking through the dark times. When we have a mission…and know why we are here, we find ourselves living with more positive passion and intent.
Without a mission or life purpose…a reason for us being here…we are just like a lone tree branch floating aimlessly down a river…directed and guided by the currents of life. I would prefer going down that same river and experiencing those same currents…but being compared to a canoe where I can help direct and guide experiences and events. That is what having a purpose does for us. It puts us in the position of being a canoe…rather than just being the tree branch.
KARIFEST: How did you come up with the number of 1,000,000 people to empower in your purpose, and how close are you to reaching that number
Shawn Anderson: Goals are wishes without specifics tied to them. The specific number gives us something to reach towards. The specific number sets the target in place. I could have said my life mission is to empower people, but in doing so, I let myself off the hook with really having a goal that I mean to do something about. Saying I am going to lose weight is a wish. Saying I am going to lose ten pounds is a goal. Saying I want to start exercising is a wish. Saying I am going to exercise four days a week for at least 30 minutes each time is a goal.
How did I come up with the number 1,000,000? Because in my mind, it is an awesome and powerful number with real size. How close am I to my reaching the 1,000,000 people mark? Everyday I start at zero. I start fresh with that 1,000,000 mark goal everyday…and I start counting from there. Someday I believe in my heart I will reach that 1,000,000th person in a single day. I live for that day.
KARIFEST: In your book SOAR to the Top! you outlined a four step plan to create greater success in life. Could you take us through those four steps
Shawn Anderson: When I graduated from college, I was rejected again and again for every big job for which I applied. But I needed to survive; I needed to pay rent, and I needed to eat, so I found a job at a corner convenience store and worked the graveyard shift from 11:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. I made 10% more than minimum wage at that time because it was a hard shift for the manager to fill.
Not a lot of customers used to come in to the store in the early morning hours, so after finishing stocking, the shelves and freezers and cleaning the store, I would read every motivational book I could find. I would read the stories of the great people who had achieved something awesome with their lives, and I started asking myself the question: “What makes those people’s success different from what I was experiencing?” As I read The Autobiography of Ben Franklin, it became clear what I needed: a defined dream, a plan to make it happen and massive effort in following through. I needed to add daily accountability to getting where I wanted to go.
Soon after reading Ben Franklin’s book, I was out exercising and I became fascinated with a seagull flying out over the ocean water. The bird was not afraid to fly high. He was not afraid to head out over the water in a direction where there was no land in sight. He seemed uninhibited to soar high and far to wherever he wanted to go. I whispered to myself, “I want to SOAR like that bird!” My brain went into “make it happen” mode after adding what I saw with the bird soaring and reading Franklin’s book, and that is when it came together. That is when the accountability system of SOAR was born.
SOAR is an acronym for the four principles I determined I needed to hold myself accountable to achieving if I wanted to live the life I love. They represented the four legs to the table necessary to hold the dream I wanted in my life.
The “S” stands for “SEEING.” How can one ever live the life he or she loves if he doesn’t know what that life looks like? Your goal…your dream…needs to be so crystal clear in your mind that you can SEE yourself achieving it. It is there…in your mind’s magical eye…where every great accomplishment in life is first panted. It is in SEEING you have the goal before you ever really do.
The “O” stands for “ORGANIZING.” It is not enough to just have a dream and be able to say what you want to accomplish; that is still just wishful thinking. The next step of SOAR is to ORGANIZE a step-by-step plan to achieve what it is we are SEEING. What is step #1…step #2…step #3…step #10 to reach that goal? The steps break the gigantic and awesome and perhaps overwhelming goal into baby goals that are achievable and less overwhelming. Then we work on completing each one of those little goals…one-by-one. Think of ORGANIZING as the connect-the-dots map to get to the place we want.
The “A” stands for “ACTING.’ It is not enough to have a dream and a map to get to that goal destination if we fail to take action in following the plan we created. The third crucial step of SOAR is ACTING on our plan. When we are tired or feeling unmotivated, we still need to find a way to take action. ACTING is where we give our goals the legs to run.
Finally, the “R” in SOAR stands for “REJECTING.” Great dreams are often met by initial failure, disappointment and people telling us our dreams are too big and can’t be done. Great dreams are met often by losing heart and giving up in pursuit of achieving them because we lose confidence in ourselves. …and choose lesser goals for our lives. This is why REJECTING is so important. When failure greets our effort, we need to reject it…and keep going. When the voices of others and even ourselves doesn’t believe in us, we need to reject them…and keep going. Go back to SEEING and ask, “Is my dream clear enough?” Go back to ORGANIZING and ask, “What step can I add to the plan that can get me past the obstacles I am currently facing?” Go back to ACTING and ask, “Am I honestly putting in the time and effort required to achieve this goal?” REJECTING is the step where we don’t let ourselves off the hook and choose to quit. Instead, we find the internal fortitude and confidence to go the extra mile…again and again.
I may have created SOAR thirty years ago, but I can assure you that I still use it every day in my life now.
KARIFEST: For people who desire greater success in life, what would you share with them
Shawn Anderson: I have a few thoughts on that.
First, keep believing in you…and then surround yourself with others who believe in you. That is what will keep you going. That is what will get you past the failures and the lack of success you feel you may be experiencing. We need to hear the positive voice in our heads and our ears when things are not going well. That is what allows us to keep going.
Second, hold yourself accountable to achieving small goals that push you forward every day. Each night before bed, think and meditate about what you would like to achieve tomorrow…and then write it down. When you wake up the next day, you have your “Action Success” plan in place. Now follow it.
Third, never stop “going the extra mile.” Our directions never change if we keep walking through life doing the same thing over and over. Do more. Take more risks. Connect more. Dream bigger. Going the extra mile in all areas of our life turns “average” into “great.” And isn’t that what we desire? Great happiness…great harmony…great purpose…great success are found when we “go the extra mile.”
KARIFEST: What would you tell people who are older…and feel that their best days are behind them
Shawn Anderson: Seriously, how can my best days be behind me when I am now smarter and more experienced than I have ever been at any other age? I know how to succeed better than I ever have. I know how to write better than I ever have. I know how to communicate better than I ever have. If you think of life like that, how can one not see that their very best days can still be lived and breathed?
I am 53 and I just hiked 750 miles in 48 days without a day off. Age REALLY is just a number if you take care of yourself…and put health as your #1 goal.
KARIFEST: Do you have a special vision for Africa
Shawn Anderson: I would be arrogant to have a vision for Africa…an amazing and beautiful and powerful continent with more potential than I could even imagine. But…I do have a dream for the people living in Africa…the same dream I have for people living everywhere in the world: May each and every African citizen find the confidence and courage to use their God-given wings and soar to the highest and most positive peak of their potential.
KARIFEST: What's next for you
Shawn Anderson: "What's next for me?” Just living my NEXT moment to the fullest. Whatever I am doing…writing, reading, playing, thinking, meditating, exercising, sharing time with another…I want to bring my best to that NEXT moment. Absolutely…goals give our life awesome purpose. BUT we can never be so obsessed with their achievement that we lose track of the simple joy, adventure and happiness of taking our dog for a walk…of learning about the mysteries of the Universe…or of witnessing the beauty of watching a bird soar. Life is an amazing gift…to be celebrated…to be cherished…and to be lived with the best of our heart, mind and soul. It's that goal of learning to enjoy the challenges and adventures of each NEXT day that I am given…of each NEXT moment I experience…and of each NEXT I am gifted to breathe.
So what's next for me? Learning to master my NEXT.