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A little ambition goes a long way

Over the past three months, my partner, Drew, and I created and produced the first-ever Red Carpet Relief benefit for The Trevor Project. After raising over $4,000 in a single night, I realized that a little ambition goes a long way.

Red Carpet Relief began when I heard a spot for The Trevor Project on Out Q Radio. I was already looking to create a community project as a part of my Self-Expression and Leadership Program at Landmark Education, so the commercial sparked the idea.

Since that moment, I learned a few things about myself and my community.

Here are some tips that may inspire you to give your community project idea(s) a chance – especially those that you think you don’t have the time or talent for.

1. Ignore the “second thought.”
If you’re like me, you have ideas of ways you could make a difference, but you rarely see them through. Usually when I have an idea, I dismiss it as “impossible” or “too big” almost instantly. Red Carpet Relief began with the thought, “I could host an Oscar party fundraiser!” It was immediately followed by the thought, “That’s stupid. People probably already have plans; and I’m too busy to plan a fundraiser, anyway.” Listening to the second thought halts progress and keeps things safe. Mostly I give up on my ideas before I even try them. The only result possible with the second thought is a missed opportunity.

2. After ignoring the second thought, start talking.
The very same night I had the idea for Red Carpet Relief, I went to dinner with a friend. After sharing my idea with him, he offered to provide his Mission Hills vacation home for the event. He also gave me the names of people in San Diego who already work with The Trevor Project. So just by talking, I was able to secure a location and some Trevor Project experts in less than 24 hours. (And the only thing I did was open my mouth.)

3. Ask people to do things and to give you stuff.
Red Carpet Relief was not a success because of anything I did. In fact, the only thing I “did” was ask people to do stuff. Pretty soon, sponsors donated money and advertising. Waiters, bartenders, and chefs volunteered their time. Even a multi-media guy secured over $10,000 worth of audio visual equipment for us to use – all free of charge. People are hungry to contribute and participate; and all you have to do is ask.

4. Be open to other ideas and “give it away.”
It’s easy to get attached to the way you think your project should be. It’s also easy to take everything personally. Detaching my ego from Red Carpet Relief’s success allowed me to listen to new ideas and let others own the event. Giving the project away to my community (rather than micro-managing it by myself), allowed those new ideas to flourish. And I soon found myself surrounded by people demonstrating their leadership and talents. Now, those same people are asking when “the next one is” and I have a team of people ready to work with me on future projects.

Martin Luther King, Jr. reminded us that “anyone can make a difference.” I am pretty sure “anyone” includes you and me. So the next time you have one of those fleeting moments of inspiration – ignore second thoughts, speak up, ask for stuff, and be open to other ideas.

Even if you fail, remember that your idea wasn’t going to happen anyway. But by being bold and stepping out, your idea has a chance – and your community has the opportunity to make a difference.

Arlon Jay Staggs received his Doctor of Jurisprudence degree from Mississippi College School of Law in 2000. He is a professional writer, business owner, professor, and activist. Even though his opinions are usually spot-on, they are not necessarily the views of SDGLN.com. He can be reached at arlonjay@arlonjay.com.