Thursday, December 19, 2013

How SEO, Charity:Water and a Biggest Loser Contest Taught Me to Be the Mosquito in the Room

On August 20th, 2013, I was jealously and vicariously following the tweets coming out of #Inbound13 sponsored by HubSpot. Unable to attend this year, I was captivated by the energy emanating from this very special event. Then, I saw this tweet:

I hadn't even heard of Charity:Water before, but I had heard Dharmesh speak at MozCon 2013 and was struck by his authenticity and empathy as a person so I continued to follow the tweets that came during the next two days. First there was this one, containing a video that touched me in ways I cannot really explain:

A few moments after I saw this video, I ran across this Tweet (this one is from December but I could swear @ekatarina tweeted it from #Inbound13) :

Before I knew it, being the curious marketer that I am, I had set up my own campaign at Charity:Water and donated $5.00. Then the wheels got turning. What could I possibly do that would get people's attention? Enough attention that they would want to join me and donate to my Charity:Water campaign?

Here is where fate, and most likely, God intervened.

I had been vowing to start going to the gym to exercise and lose weight since the beginning of 2013. I had new running shoes and gear that I'd never used.

The first week of September at CCI Solutions, where I work as an in-house SEO, a flyer appeared in the lunch room promoting a "Biggest Loser" contest for employees. The contest was going to start September 27th and run to November 22nd, 2013.

I got to thinking, what if I tied my exercise and weight loss goals to my charity goals, and did something crazy a half marathon if I meet my fundraising goal? I've never come close to running that far, ever, ever in my life. It would take Herculean effort and, the end results could be stunning. Imagine me, 80 pounds lighter? Now that's something I think even people I don't know very well would enjoy seeing...if only out of sheer wonder and disbelief Bingo. That was it.

I went home and talked all this over with my kids. This is exactly what I said to them, "You realize if I enter this Biggest Loser contest, I HAVE to win."  I told them that meant they wouldn't be seeing much of me and I would be spending 1-2 hours at the gym every day...being typical teenage boys, they were only too happy to hear I wasn't going to be around as much! :-)

And so it began. On September 27th I weighed in with 27 other co-workers and I pledged to not only win the contest, but to run a 5K every Saturday up until the Mercer Island Half Marathon in late March, for which I registered a team to run for Charity:Water.

On November 22nd, 8 weeks later, I won the Biggest Loser contest at work, having lost 10.75% of my overall bodyweight and keeping my commitment to run 5Ks every Saturday. My regimen had evolved into so much more than that, with me now putting in 2 hours of cardio ever single day, with only one day off in 8 weeks, and posting things like this on Facebook:

Then, everything rapidly went South. On November 26th, 4 days after winning the Biggest Loser competition at work and two days before Thanksgiving, I was diagnosed with pneumonia.  But after not improving over the next 10 days and ending up in the ER, it was determined that I didn't have pneumonia, but did have an enlarged heart. So the poking and the prodding and the prescriptions began and the workouts abruptly ended. I don't know whether it's good or bad but the weight loss has continued as I've been too sick to have much of an appetite...

But now what was I going to do about my Charity:Water effort?

I'm sure everyone would understand if I threw in the towel and just said I was too sick to do it. But, gosh darn it, I'm just not a quitter. I might not be able to talk, or to walk on a treadmill, or run a 5K, but by God I have a voice and a computer and I'm still breathing. So I decided to write and tell you my story.

Besides, there were already some amazingly supportive donors out there who had already contributed and I certainly wasn't going to let them down. And then there's the people of Orissa, India. When they get sick like I've been, their risk of death is exponentially higher and more sudden because they do not have access to clean running water like I do.

If I had to haul water 3 miles every day for my family while suffering from this illness, I would be dead. 

So, this is the story of what motivated me to exercise, lose weight and make a difference in the world. You see, it wasn't any one big live altering event. It was a sequence of a bunch of little things that all happened to converge in my life to inspire me to become an agent, a vehicle of change, not only for myself, but for other people in the world too.

Starting is the hardest part. Start today. Get up off that couch and commit to taking a walk once very day for an hour. Go outside and play with your children. Sign up for a 5K, even if you have to walk the whole damn thing....and while you are out there, changing your world, please take a few minutes and help me to keep the commitment I made to myself and the people of Orissa, India back in September.

Join me today and donate here:

If you've already registered, you can join the team here:

Come, run, live, donate and let's make the world a better place.

Be the Mosquito in the Room!