101 Days, 101 Strangers, 101 Stories: Day 33

Today I met up with a really fascinating stranger over a sunny walk and yummy burritos. Two of my smartest, most inspirational friends have been telling me that I absolutely must meet up with him. Problem: he’s from New York. But this weekend, he’s been gracing Vancouver with his presence.

Meet Jordan:

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In two days, he’s embarking on the journey of a lifetime. He’s walking all the way from Vancouver to Mexico. Why? Well, he’s deeply aware of the unnecessary wrong in the world — from poverty to homelessness to unemployment. Along with that, he has a deep belief that we can make a big difference. He explained that we have a tendency to wait for governments and bureaucracies, and all of the red tape that comes with them, to make changes. But there are things that we can do today, together, to start making improvements in the lives of others and ourselves. That’s why he’s going on this walk — to share ideas and learn from communities to get his amazing community incubator idea off the ground.

He wasn’t always this way. He was born in Brooklyn, New York, the eldest of four siblings. His family had issues of its own and, being the big brother, he quickly took on the role of peacemaker/problem-solver. Without a whole lot of money, and having grown up seeing what life can be like without it, his narrative was framed in such a way that money was at least somewhat equated with success and happiness.

So, Jordan went to college. He got a job at a firm that paid well and had a good sense of security. But after working there for a while, something didn’t feel right. The work he was doing wasn’t really helping the people who need help most. Sometimes, it was even helping the wrong people. And his colleagues didn’t treat each other well there, either. It was like people with more senior jobs were treated better, like they were more valuable human beings than the rest. And that was unacceptable. “We’re all equally human, aren’t we?”

So he left his job, and moved out west to California to work with homeless people there. It felt right. But after a while it wasn’t very financially sustainable. Jordan was quick to make the connection between good work for humanity, and good paycheques: they almost always have a negative relationship. So it makes sense in a way that more people aren’t drawn toward more selfless lifestyles. After all, being unable to support yourself financially isn’t the most attractive way of life. But perhaps it doesn’t have to be such a polarized thing. Jordan thought that there must be a way to integrate both in a way that resonates with more people.

He found himself drawn to the idea of social enterprise and entrepreneurship. He has some big ideas and tangible plans for how we can move toward a better way of living. And he shares all of the plans online, urging people to steal his ideas. “It’s about doing good work and making a difference, not about getting credit”, he explained. He writes about this and lots more on his cleverly named blog, Uncommon Sense. Oh, and he wrote a book. I’m really excited to read it.

Jordan has a rare gentleness about him. His warm personality is inspiring, and his authenticity shines outward from his core. He’s so accomplished and yet so, so down to Earth. I’m excited that people from Vancouver all the way down to Mexico will have a chance to meet him, and that I have the opportunity to share his story with you today.

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