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Entrepreneur Of The Month: Dreams, Havard & Humans Of New York

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“What’s your favorite thing about your mother?” “She loves life more than anyone I’ve ever known. I hope she doesn’t mind me telling you this, but recently she’s had some health problems. And her health got so bad at one point, she called me and said: ‘I was starting to wonder if there was any reason to go on. But then I had the most delicious pear!’”

“You can’t wait for the perfect idea to follow your dreams” -

Brandon Stanton, creator and photographer behind Humans of New York.

What is Humans Of New York?

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Launched in November 2010, HONY is a remarkable photoblog and bestselling book featuring street portraits and interviews collected in New York City. Achieving incredible popularity, reaching over 12 million followers on Facebook and gathering over 6000 portraits of New Yorkers, HONY captures every shade of human nature through honest visuals and snappy words.

Whether tales of poverty, love, suffering or humour, the thousands of comments under each photo reflect the powerful effect HONY has had on the world, with the public’s words revealing a rather more charitable, loving and inspiring human spirit than the media may have us believe.

A Boy With A Big Dream…

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HONY was created by Brandon Stanton, a self-professed ‘bad photographer’ who left the finance industry to pursue his dreams, risking the wrath of his parents to try to forge a career which would afford him ‘time rather than money’. He has, in fact, achieved both in tremendous fashion.

What Of The High Points?

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In the process, Stanton has interviewed Barack Obama on how he deals with adversity and garnered a Harvard Fund for disadvantaged NYC children which allows them to expand their idea of their own potential by visiting Harvard. The fund currently stands at over $1.5 million, with donations from the public stemming solely from the powerful picture below.

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“Who’s influenced you the most in your life?” “My principal, Ms. Lopez.” “How has she influenced you?” “When we get in trouble, she doesn’t suspend us. She calls us to her office and explains to us how society was built down around us. And she tells us that each time somebody fails out of school, a new jail cell gets built. And one time she made every student stand up, one at a time, and she told each one of us that we matter.” 

Stanton’s Speech To Harvard

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Stanton’s speech about his incredible journey is only 20 minutes long, the rest of the time being comprised of questions from the audience. If you don’t have time to listen to the whole speech and would like inspiration about why you should follow your dreams and design a life which fits your ideals, some of the high points can be found around minute 12 here.

Some Of The Best HONY Snaps…

To see some of my favourite HONY snaps, scroll down. They are, quite simply, amazing.

#be #brave

#follow #your #dreams

#design #your #life #happy

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“On January 19th, I met a young man on the street named Vidal, and I asked him to tell me about the person who had influenced him the most in his life. He told me about his principal, Ms. Lopez, and he explained how she had taught him that he mattered. Over the next two weeks, I learned the story of Ms. Lopez and her school, Mott Hall Bridges Academy. By hearing the stories of MHBA students and educators, my eyes were opened to the unique challenges facing a school in an under-served community. Ms. Lopez taught me that before a student is ready for academic training, they must be made to understand that they deserve success. And that can be the hardest battle in education. Ms. Lopez always said that there was no place her students did not belong. Recently we received an invitation that proved just that” – Brandon Stanton.

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“What’s your greatest struggle right now?” “No struggles.”

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“Right after I lost vision in my eye, I was so bad at walking that I ran into a girl eating ice cream, and knocked her cone out of her hand. She screamed: ‘Are you blind!?!?’ I turned to her and said: ‘I am blind actually, I’m so sorry, I’ll buy you a new cone.’ And she said: ‘Oh my God! I’m so sorry! Don’t worry! It’s no problem at all! I’ll buy another one.’ So we walked into the ice cream store together, and the clerk said: ‘I heard the whole thing. Ice cream is free.’”

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“I’m glad I had a daughter. Ever since my grandmother died, I’ve needed the female energy in my life. It’s good energy. I mean, when things go wrong, another man can tell you that everything is going to be OK. But not like a woman can.”

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“When I told my mom that I was going to rehab, she was about to catch a flight to her 40th High School Reunion. I told her: ‘I guess you won’t be bragging about me to your friends.’ She said: ‘Actually, I’ve never been prouder of you.’”

14 Soul Shaking Quotes From Dr Maya Angelou

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Who Was She?

Maya Angelou’s early life was tarred by rape and prostitution. So disturbing was the abuse that she endured aged seven, she stopped talking for five years.

Despite this, she developed a love of language which saw her become a world-famous poet, civil rights activist (working with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X) and award-winning author known for her acclaimed memoir “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings”.

Awards She Won?

Her achievements don’t stop there. In 2000, she was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Bill Clinton. In 2010, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honour in the U.S., by President Barack Obama, not to mention being awarded over 50 honorary degrees and three Grammys. She was also the second poet in history to recite a poem at a presidential inauguration.

Tributes To Her?

Michelle Obama described the African-American poet as: “One of the greatest spirits the world has ever known”, Barack Obama lauded her as: “One of the brightest lights of our time – a brilliant writer, a fierce friend, and a truly phenomenal woman” and Bill Clinton called her: “A national treasure”.

Why Does She Remain So Popular?

A truly indomitable spirit, the power of her work stems from her remarkable approach to suffering. Her poetry has been lauded for its depictions of black beauty, the strength of women and the human spirit, combining humanity, passion and dignity to stunning effect. Never losing the strength, defiance and humour which underlines her work, she rises above adversity with wit, wisdom, courage and grace. The power of her work is rooted in incongruity; despite her deep understanding of suffering and pain, she became known ultimately as a figurehead for strength, hope and survival.

Where Can You Read Her Work?

I’ve referred to two of her most loved poems below, including a personal recital of “Still I Rise”. With a commanding voice full of humour and gravitas, her poetry comes alive with her performance of it – so if you’re feeling a little run down or tired, watch, listen and be uplifted. It’s magical.

1. Legacy

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My favourite quote. It bears the test of time and is manifest in public reaction to the deaths of much loved figures such as Robin Williams, Princess Diana and Maya Angelou, herself. It was their human kindness, warmth and ability to make others laugh which people remembered, not their jobs or how much money they made.

2. Kindness 

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Corny but true. In line with Buddhist thinking, the greatest achievement and fulfilment is found in selflessness. A poignant message of internal beauty in an age which is increasingly obsessed with the external.

3. Strength 

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While her brilliant poem, Phenomenal Woman, celebrates female sensuality, she focuses predominantly on the beauty of the human spirit. Defiant and poised under attack, like a tree rooted to Earth, her ability to capture what it is to be grounded brings tremendous inspiration to her readers.

Not dissimilar to Einstein’s words: “Try not to become a man of success, but a man of value”, her words are all the more humbling given her achievements.

4. Faith 

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A woman who survived many trials herself, with teenage pregnancy and marital breakdown being at the minor end of the scale, Maya Angelou is a compelling example of hope.

Marianne Williamson builds on this, praising the benefits of intention: “Magic happens when you tell the universe what you want it to do for you”. I’ve also found this to be very true. 

5. Challenges 

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In the words of Freud, another great mind: “One day, in retrospect, the years of struggle will strike you as the most beautiful”.

Listen to Maya Angelou’s personal recital of one of her most powerful poems on adversity at the end of this article. The determination, defiance and positivity in “Still I Rise” is infectious.

6. Self-Expression 

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A woman who created swathes of beautiful literature, Maya Angelou is a great example of the self-generating nature of creativity. If you want to create something, whether a blog, a business or an online pin board, just do it. The rest will follow.

7. Reality 

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I’m probably one of many who have learnt this the hard way. The idea that you can change someone is one of the most idealistic going. It’s easier said than done, but truly listening to what someone tells you about themselves is emotionally economical and can save much pain. In the words of Freud: “Being entirely honest with yourself is a good exercise”.

8. Suffering

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Suffering and isolation often go hand in hand but remembering that we all experience this at different points in our lives can be very comforting. Focusing our attention outwards shifts consciousness away from our inner turmoil, creating space for hope and regeneration.

So avoid becoming too entrenched in your emotions by taking a peek at others’ adversity. The likes of Stephen Sutton who raised more than £5 million for The Teenage Cancer Trust after being diagnosed with terminal cancer at 17 years old puts things into perspective, reminding us of the positives that can come from adversity.

9. Happiness 

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There’s no shame in taking a break from life if your body and mind are screaming for time out. Whether rooted in relationship breakdown, job overload or general life confusion, we’re all human – the only difference is not everybody admits it.

10. Change

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Simple. Nobody will change your life for you. “You are the master of your destiny” – Napoleon Hill.

11. Love 

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Those of us born in Generation Y are very fortunate in educational, professional and travel opportunities but this freedom can confuse as well as enhance us. But however muddled we become on the journey, the fundamentals rarely change.

In the words of Mandy Hale: “True love is crystal clear” – so don’t make too many excuses for a partner who doesn’t make you feel valued.

It can take a while to learn, but love is really quite simple. Your best friends don’t let you down and – corny as it sounds – love is just friendship set on fire.

12. Self-Love 

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If you’re a reasonably settled soul, you’ll sometimes attract people who are lost. If you find yourself with this type of person and you’re unable to help them, you may start feeling pretty disorientated trying.

You then have a choice.

Be careful staying in a partnership which may erode your self-esteem. If you spend too much time with someone with no self-worth, this will likely manifest itself in your relationship and may start to decay your own sense of self. Instead, hang onto who you are and remember Barbara Marciniak’s words: “The quality of love you receive mirrors the value you place on yourself”.

13. Laughter 

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Life’s stressful enough without laughter. Put simply by Charlie Chaplain: “A day without laughter is a day wasted”.

14. Survival 

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What have you done for yourself today for feel good factor? If the answer is: “Not much”, watch the below. Maya Angelou’s energy is contagious.