✔ It's all about passion! - Passion 6: Help [part 2]

Note: This is the 19th excerpt from my book "It's all about passion" which I wrote and shared as a gift to my readers and my Nozbe customers on my 35th birthday. You can get the entire digital ebook (PDF, Mobi or ePub) for free or buy from Amazon (all proceeds go to charity).

I will be publishing the entire book as a series of blog posts over the next weeks here every Friday, so you can read it bit by bit (I know you might be too busy to read an entire book at once). I'm also doing it to be able to "talk to you" about each chapter in the comments section below, so make sure to post your feedback, questions and your passion-related stories in the comments. Thank you for your passion!

"It's all about passion!" - The 7 types of passion I discovered over 7 years of running my productivity startup

It's all about passion - 19

Passion to Help, part 2

Helping in trying times - Earthquake in Japan

In this chapter I'd like to share with you my personal story of how my passion to help got ignited by some really passionate people in very trying times... and how my software was helping a lot more than any amount of money would.

In Japan just in time for the biggest Earthquake

As my application became popular in Japan I decided to visit the country to get to know my users. It was March 2011 when I came to Tokyo and spent a few fantastic days getting to know people and the country. I felt three quite strong earthquakes while being in the town, but Japanese people assured me that it was "normal"...

Our plan involved doing a road-show tour by visiting two more cities: Osaka and Fukuoka. On Friday, March 12, we began our journey with the bullet train (Shinkansen) to Osaka. The train stopped 30 minutes from Osaka and they announced a big earthquake.

It was THE earthquake. The biggest in Japanese history, but we didn't know it then. I remember thinking: "What's the fuss all about? After all they have earthquakes here all of the time, right?". Boy was I wrong.

I wasn't alone. I think nobody really realized what had just happened. In Osaka we spent the evening with our users in a meet up in a local Apple Store. People showed up. We had a blast. Everything went great.

When we came back to the hotel after the event and turned on the TV we realized what had happened. The biggest earthquake ever caused tsunami waves that completely destroyed the region of Sendai, a little north of Tokyo. We were devastated, confused and didn't know what to do. We were supposed to fly out the next day to Fukuoka to promote Nozbe there... we didn't feel like doing this anymore.

I was with Kiran-san (my PR representative in Japan) and Zono-san (the author of the Japanese Nozbe book). Over the breakfast we talked about our options and decided to fly out to Fukuoka if the plane goes and meet with whoever comes but not to do a real event there.

Zono-san was browsing his Twitter feed and told me that Japanese people, instead of panicking, share useful information between each other. Mobile phones connected to the Internet still worked in most places and Twitter turned into the best channel to share information in these trying times. He later pointed out to me that Evernote, a company we work with, asked users to share their Evernote Notebooks as public information with other folks. My mum sent me an email with a short to-do list - what to do in case of an earthquake hit.

These three pieces of information magically merged in my head and I realized what we should be doing. I thought we should enable people to create public to-do lists with useful information inside our application (which core functionality is a to-do list after all) that would be sharable with the entire world and that would be re-usable and viewable on any computer, mobile phone including the not-so-smart phones which have access to the internet. It all just clicked together. I sketched the idea on the plane to Fukuoka and when we landed I told Zono-san we might have a way to help Japanese people not with money directly but with software.

Before the planned Fukuoka meet up I woke up my CTO Tomasz (it was 8 am on Saturday in Europe) and told him what we're planning to do and that I needed his help. We are supposed to code a new feature in 24 hours to make sure it really helps. He offered to build the groundwork for the feature and I offered to code later, too.

In the Apple Store we presented our idea to the people that came (and more than 30 people showed up anyway!) and among them there were leading Japanese social media experts and influencers. They literally took the project from me. They decided to publish first public projects once the functionality goes live and reach for others to publish more useful projects. They also offered to browse actively through Twitter to find more useful information and share it, too. I was surprised and totally humbled. After the event we had a dinner and they politely asked me to go to my hotel room and code the feature. They said there was no time to lose. They were right.

I went to the hotel room at 11 pm and started coding. My CTO did a great job of preparing the groundwork. It was my time to dig out my programming skills and do something useful now. At 3 am Zono-san visited me in my room, told me what the guys have done already and brought me some tea. I wasn't finished but I was close. At 5 am I decided I needed a nap. Woke up at 8 am and continued coding. After the breakfast I started testing the feature with Zono-san and later on the plane… and at 4 pm Japanese time when we landed in Tokyo, the feature was ready to go live. Tomasz, my CTO, woke up at 8 am in Europe on a Sunday and asked how I was doing. He revised my code, found a few bugs and fixed them and we pushed the feature to the production server. I almost passed out. The Japanese social-media guys took it from there and started working for 2 weeks straight on gathering useful information and spreading the public projects to the stricken areas.

The outcome? More than 2000 public projects created, more than 100,000 people viewing these projects and more than 30% were from Sendai area (the area most stricken by the earthquake and tsunami) - which just proves that this small feature worked and really helped. Amazing.

When you help, you feel even more alive

When I came back to Tokyo with this new feature built I felt an earthquake every hour (the aftershocks) and although I was scared (and my family was literally freaking out) I was confident that I came to Japan to do all this. When people asked me later if I regretted going to Japan in this dreadful moment I always respond: "no way". I wouldn't have done all this. I wouldn't have worked so closely with so many inspiring people on something larger than our lives. It was a great time to be alive. My greatest to this date. This is what happens if you're passionate to help.

Successful people are always looking for opportunities to help others. Unsuccessful people are always asking, "What's in it for me?" - Brian Tracy, motivational speaker

To be continued... or get the book free and continue reading :-)

Question: How do you feel about helping other people?

Posted on Friday, January 16, 2015 (passionbook)

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