The TEDx talk that inspired the founding of First Pages



Written by: Kelly Partner, Founder & President
Published on: January 7th, 2015

Ever since leaving the teaching world and discovering my passion for fundraising, I had been thinking about founding my own nonprofit (read a little more about that process here).  But it wasn’t until a TEDxUNC talk that I was inspired to finally make the leap and take concrete steps towards achieving this goal.

It all started back in January 2014.  Paige Abe (now serving on the First Pages Board of Directors) sent me a link to TEDxUNC 2014.  One of her students had been selected as a student-speaker at the event, and she planned on attending.  So I put the ticket release date on my calendar, and when the day finally rolled around, managed to snag myself a coveted ticket for the February event.

On the day of the event, Paige and I walked across campus talking about which speakers we were most excited to hear.  For me, that was: John Miller, commercial bee keeper and John Wood, co-founder of Room to Read.  I was excited to listen to Mr. Miller talk about the plight of the world’s honey bee and the consequences of dwindling natural pollination on our world’s food supply, because, I kid you not, I had JUST had a conversation about the same topic with my mom a few weeks earlier and prior to that had no idea myself how serious of a problem it was.  I was equally excited to hear John Wood speak after I googled Room to Read and learned that they are an international nonprofit organization whose vision is “a world in which all children can pursue a quality education, reach their full potential and contribute to their community and the world”.  It was this speaker that impacted me the most.

John Wood’s talk, titled “What the world needs now… is GSD”, can be viewed in full (19 minutes) on YouTube here.  I highly encourage everyone to watch it.

Wood begins his talk by proposing that many of the systems in our world that we know are broken (education, economics, poverty, poor infrastructure, etc) are so crippled because the world has lost its GSD (Getting Sh*t Done) attitude.  He believes that there are two types of people in the world – GSD people and non-GSD people – and that we must challenge ourselves, each other, and our leaders to be the former.

So first, he talked about GSD inhibitors – things that kill GSD attitudes and ideas in our everyday lives.  Those five inhibitors are:

  1. Bureaucracy
  2. Lousy leadership
  3. Fear
  4. Lack of passion
  5. Energy vampires

The five inhibitors were easy to identify in everyday experiences and were all too easy to relate to.  So we can identify the things that are preventing action and innovation, but what are we supposed to do about it?  How can we change ourselves and others around us?

Well, to combat these five GSD inhibitors, Wood lovingly mimicked Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” and came up with his own “7 Habits of GSD People”  The seven habits or principles are:

  1. Bold goals attract bold people.
  2. Refuse to accept the status quo.
  3. Action is better than talking.
  4. What gets measured gets done.
  5. It’s not about you, it’s about the team.
  6. Be a cheerleader, rally the troops.
  7. Never be afraid to ask for the order.

With those seven guiding principles in mind, Wood said, we can all fight the energy vampires (see the five inhibitors above) and learn to live a GSD life.  With one minute to go on the clock, Wood asked us all to take the official GSD pledge.

The GSD Pledge:

  • Live a GSD life – lead by example.
  • Talk about GSD – praise it when you see it, call it out when you don’t.
  • Make a commitment to do one GSD thing – this week, this month, this quarter, this year.

Color me inspired!

I told Paige on the walk back from the event that I was ready to take the leap and take concrete steps towards founding the nonprofit I had been thinking about for years.  I didn’t know the plan in its entirety, but for once in my life, that was okay.  Wood quoted Sheryl Sandberg in his talk as saying “Done is better than perfect”.  I interpreted that quote as: You don’t have to have the plan all mapped out, you just have to take action.  At least try to get something done.  Try to make a difference in the world.  Just take those first steps.

So I committed to crafting an official mission and submitting articles of incorporation for the nonprofit to the State of North Carolina.

I am happy to report that only two short months after taking the GSD pledge, Paige took this ceremonious photo of me dropping the Articles of Incorporation for First Pages in the mail.

Getting ready to mail First Pages application Almost mailing the Articles Done

We were formally recognized by the state as a nonprofit corporation a short time later, and I spent the rest of 2014 working on “the plan”, recruiting our first set of Board members, registering a website domain name, reading a billion nonprofit books and articles, and more – all while still taking real action by collecting children’s books from family and friends that would eventually be distributed to children who needed them, even though I didn’t have the full plan of how they would be distributed mapped out yet.  (And that was still okay).

I plan to return to this TEDx talk frequently for motivation and guidance, and to be reminded of my initial inspiration and flurry of GSD that got this whole thing started!