Being the founder and project manager of Laptops for Egypt has brought along with it an emotional rollercoaster. There are the days that I get so excited when I find out that we are getting closer and closer to our financial goal that I just want to scream. And then there are other days when I don’t get the grant I spent forever writing and it absolutely breaks my heart. Working on this project so far has taught me some life-lessons I would otherwise have not learned until I was much older. So, I’m going to make this post as practical as I possibly can while I try to relay exactly what I have learned over the last ten months and how you can apply it to your daily life.
Before we start, however, I’m not assuming in this post that you are tackling a great big project, that you are the president of the United States, or that you have ended world hunger. As a matter of fact, the most valuable lessons I have learned from my experience with Laptops for Egypt are the things that can be applied to the little things in life–to your day-to-day goals you have to accomplish and your interactions with the people around you. No, these lessons are not the “end all be all,” but they are simply my take on how to keep on keeping on in everything that you do.
1. The key to success in life is balance.
Well, I’ll admit it, I’m still really struggling with this one. I think it’s absolutely important for people to emotionally invest themselves in everything that they do, to try their best, and give all 110% of yourself into every project, every relationship, and every goal you are dealing with. It’s definitely not okay for us to be indifferent as we move through life, lacking emotion and not caring about anything that is going on around us. That being said, it’s also very easy to get too emotionally attached to what you’re doing to the point that when something doesn’t go exactly as you have planned (see the next lesson!), you freak out, throw a fit, and get angry. Believe me, I have been down that road before, even with regard to this project, and it’s not worth it. If you can find that balance between obsession and indifference, then you’re on the road to finding true success.
2. Take a deep breath–things are not going to go as you planned. EVER.
Let me just start off this point by saying that I am a control freak. Yes, I really am. In my perfect world, everything goes the way Sarah wants it to go. But let’s face it–we’re not living in Sarah’s perfect world, and therefore people run on their own timelines. So, basically what I’m saying is that things are not going to go exactly as you plan them. This, however, isn’t always a bad thing. For example, when I first started out the fundraising portion of Laptops for Egypt, the money coming in was really slow–and understandably so as people were just starting to find out about the project. But to me, the fact that in the first few months, we had only raised about $7000, I was not only devastated, but I was also SUPER anxious. I spent time thinking up plans for who I could ask to donate money and what I was going to do if I didn’t get enough money and how everything was going to work out by the end of November. What I didn’t realize was that donations would soon start to pour in as people understood the passion I have to get these computers to Egypt and how much the “Zabaleen” kids really need this technology. What I didn’t realize was that even though it seemed to take forever to even raise $7000, I had initially started from zero. Those $7000 should not be discounted like I had been doing. And what I also didn’t realize was that just because it took several months to raise $7000, there’s no telling what being patient can do for you. I didn’t account for the fact that in just two months, the amount of money I had raised would be almost triple what I had started out with. I didn’t plan for that at all, nor could I have ever expected it. The biggest lesson I have learned here is that the best things in life are unexpected and unplanned–so, take a deep breath and assure yourself that everything is going to be okay.
3. Don’t think that you can do everything by yourself—because you can’t.
Yeah, I said it. I can’t do anything by myself. And neither can you. We need help from each other to get things done. The people who get things done are the ones who reach out to the people they know and love and ask for help. It’s scary at first–asking for help, because you’re admitting that you can’t do something alone. But let’s face it: can a 17 year old girl raise $25,000 all by herself to bring 100 laptops to her family’s home country (including reaching out to many organizations, learning how to write a grant, learning how to write a proposal, building awareness of the project, etc)? Probably not. But, when a 17 year old girl teams up with an well-known nonprofit organization and an experienced teacher, the chances increase exponentially. I would not have been able to do any of the work that I have done and do without the help of Hands Along the Nile and Ms. Christine Murakami. They give me connections, reach out to organizations when I need a hand, teach me how to write grants, and provide the support and encouragement I need to get this project done. Yes, I still put in a great amount of effort into Laptops for Egypt–that cannot be denied. But my work would be fruitless had it not been for them and it would be unfair for me to take the credit all for myself when this project is over and done. And aside from HANDS and Ms. Murakami, without my parents, my grandparents, my siblings, my other teachers, and my friends, I could not do this either. Each and every one of the people I have mentioned makes this work possible–even if it’s by helping me with my Calculus homework late at night before a test, giving me a hug after a long day at school, or encouraging me not to give up no matter what happens. I couldn’t do any of this without any of these people who are all so close to my heart.