“Nothing liberates our greatness like the desire to help, the desire to serve.” – Marianne Williamson
I have met a lot of people in my life, but few compare to Dan Crothers.
When I was living in Maine, a mutual friend connected us. Within the first five minutes of talking over an empty pitcher of Gritty's beer, I knew there was something special about Dan.
He had a warmth about him, a genuine love for life and for the people in it. It was jarring to talk to someone who was devoid of all judgement – I was at a point in life that I could feel myself being hardened by the world's cold desire to put people in boxes and determine their worth based on what shelf that box was placed.
Dan made no such assumptions, just an awesome fucking dude who took life as it came.
Over the next few years Dan and I saw each other when we could and grew accordingly. When I decided to move to California, I received nothing but support from Dan and his amazing family.
I believe the exact quote was, “It's about time, man.” During the last few days in Maine, we talked a lot about where we wanted to go in life and, more importantly, the responsibility we both felt to leave this world better than how we found it.
I left and went full throttle on my own business and Dan began lighting up initiatives of his own which you will read about below. Last summer I went back to Maine and spent a Sunday night catching up with lots of friends, Dan included.
We talked about his non-profit, apps, life, and good times. We ended up at a local bar with a group of our best friends, only to find about 20 other people already there.
A Sunday night in Maine does not attract much of a crowd so we figured it was some sort of birthday or event.
But about thirty minutes later, a guy in a tuxedo stands up on the bar and asks the bartender to kill the music. Everyone goes silent.
The man who is standing tells the crowd that tonight is the best night of HIS life….because it's the 10-year anniversary of his best friend being free of cancer. He could barely speak through his tears of joy, overwhelmed with the raw love he felt for his friend and gratitude that he had to be there with him.
Everyone in the bar, including families, senior citizens, and our friends stood up and cheered for these guys. For beating cancer, but more importantly, for believing. It was seriously one of the most awesome and inspiring things I've ever experienced.
It was in this moment that a switch flipped for me. Life suddenly became filled with color, a vast contrast from the black and white world that business can often bring you to. My friends all started high fiving everyone in the room, put on Michael Jackson, and danced well into the night with strangers that, if only for a night, seemed like best friends bound by the common connection of humanity.
After that week, I knew that all the money and all the success and all the downloads in the world don't matter unless you give back with a titanic amount of effort. There is such an enormous amount of energy that comes from working hard and seeing big cash deposits in your bank account, but that's only half of the equation.
The minute you decide to work hard and make money, some cosmic karma-force of the world starts keeping score about how much of that energy you share back with everyone else. It doesn't mean you have to give away your money, but you have to do something that helps other people.
With great power comes great responsibility.
It is the key to happiness, in my opinion, and a link that so many people dismiss.
Dan came from the other side of the spectrum that I did – help people, start a non-profit, then find a way to fund these ventures. I got him involved with app flipping and he took it to a whole new level. Finding a passion, working with a brother, giving himself the injection of potential that this industry can bring.
Combine that with the stuff he's already doing and, well, you can imagine. Create a revenue stream that will allow him to focus on the non-profits would be a dream come true for all of us.
And this is why I asked Dan if I could interview him for my blog. It is not about me and it's not even about him – it's about two regular, weird dudes in their twenties decided that this is what's important in life.
Of course business and making money is important (and fun!), but it doesn't paint the entire picture. If nothing else, I hope this shows the world that you CAN make a difference and that it is a responsibility to at least try. It's about doing what you do and doing it to the absolute best of your ability, then sharing it with other people so that the whole is greater than the parts we could each do on our own.
Please join me in celebrating this with my good friend Dan.
Without further ado….
CT: Yo Dan! Welcome to the blog. SUPER pumped to have you here and thanks for taking the time. For anyone who doesn't know you, can you tell us a little bit about your background?
DC: Hey Carter, sure. Hey guys, I am Daniel Crothers.
I was born in Vancouver, raised in Ontario, and attended University in Montreal. I now live on an Island off the coast of Maine. I’ve made a very gradual migration across the continent. Carter and I first met in Portland Maine, and developed an affinity for hung over beach workouts in front of my house, throwing rocks and logs around, and generally saying yes to fun. Carter has asked me several times what I would do if I earned one million dollars a year, or if someone gave me a million dollars. I love thinking about this question because I have a lot of fun with my life, and I know my capacity for impact and enjoyment can only grow. This blog post is an extension in a lot of ways about that answer, and what I’m doing about it.
CT: Haha yeah man, those beach workouts were epic! Definitely something I miss about Maine. You still doing crazy stuff like that? What are you up to these days?
DC: I have a lot of things on the go these days. I’m working on my graduate in public health degree, attending medical school, managing operations for a non-profit I co-founded, the Maine-African Partnership for Social Justice (www.MAPSJ.org), and distributing apps using Carter’s app flipping program.
I love being the lead. Managing projects, seeing results and doing things right is such a rewarding way to live everyday. My work with MAPSJ has me working in South Sudan, and with African Immigrants in Portland Maine. App flipping is amazing, and the potential is nearly intoxicating, which makes learning from Carter and Chad’s systems a great endeavor.
So what do all these things have in common? Without a common theme, these projects might be quite different. Actually, the ability to manage projects with the right people and resources is more universal than I had previously understood. If you can manage to learn the knowledge and skills of app flipping, execute new abilities in distribution and marketing, and repeat the practice, then I believe you possess the abilities to be able to manage nearly any project.
CT: That's interesting. I never really thought about, but I think you're right on. Both models deal with looking at situations and finding ways to capitalize on an opportunity. There is definitely a focus on execution vs brainstorming. But why MAPSJ? And app flipping?
DC: I am engaged in all of these different projects because I believe in the transformative power of positive energy, both when you put it out there and receive it. This transformative process has allowed me to understand the value potential of my life, which I define as the growing impact of my actions for benefit for the people around me and for myself.
Don’t mistake the intention though, I’ve embraced my inner capitalist as well as my inner altruist. From my work with app flipping, and most recently a new business venture ‘BlueShelfPublicSpeaking.com', an educational program to improve your public speaking voice, I want to create great products that I love, which return an automated source of income, so that I can pursue medical school without the soul crushing burden of debt, but with the mental space to be creative and imaginative in my practice to be a part of using the cutting edge of medical technology. I love that the app flipping community and the non-profit community think of themselves as their biggest asset that they can leverage to achieve their goals.
My biggest success to date with app flipping has been the distribution of several apps to the iTunes store using source code I got from Carter's site. That first e-mail informing me that my app was approved for sale was huge, like a validation stamp. I partnered with my brother Will Crothers, silver medalist in the London Games, to begin crushing it with Apps (www.willtowin.ca). Sharing any success with my family is a huge priority for me, and my brother is an inspiration and testament to the power of handwork and dedication.
As for failures, I don’t see things as failures too often in my life, especially when I am a controlling factor, because if I was involved then I have the ability to learn lessons from the experiences. My biggest hurdles in app flipping are navigating the technical requirements, such as dealing with setbacks in the resolution center (the worst, right?). I’ve adapted the ‘a little bit everyday’ attitude to create a compounding effect of knowledge, which I can translate into new skills, practice and attitudes with app development.
CT: What's that quote, like “The lesson is in the journey, not the destination” by some wise old man haha. Something like that, but it's so true. A lot of these ventures teach us more during the process than anything else. For all of your projects, what have they taught you so far?
DC: That the core philosophy I use in business and in life also drives the work I do with MAPSJ. We operate in two very different locations; Maine and South Sudan. In Maine we provide academic assistance to graduating high school seniors who are also African Immigrants. We provide one full scholarship to Southern Maine Community College each year, and we are hoping to be able offer two per year in the near future.
Often times teenage African Immigrants arrive in the U.S. with no academic transcripts, money or knowledge of our society, so opportunities to pursue higher education can be very challenging goals. My work with MAPSJ is primarily focused on our operations in South Sudan, where we set up medical education training opportunities to villagers in rural areas, who have no prior medical education. To date our programs have focused on child and maternal health and wilderness first aid. By teaching rural villagers who don’t have prior medical care experience, we are developing a populous approach to health care capacity building.
This theory is being put in place across the world. Imagine Haiti’s earthquake, 300,000 people died, and the majority could have been saved if the entire population were equipped to be first aid responders, and ready to treat broken bones, crush injuries, bleeding, infections etc. South Sudan has the same needs, not for an earthquake readiness, but because it is so rural and still experiencing widespread violence, first aid care is an essential skill that just isn’t prevalent at all.
I remember one of our military guards who saw us practicing with villagers, jumped in to be taught how to care for a broken arm. He had never had any first aid training, but had seen fighting before. We partner these education programs with deposits of medical supplies, government partnerships, textbooks to the medical school in Juba, financial assistance to health councils, public planning and assistance with building a local school and birthing center with lights and a bed (a real novelty in this area).
We do all this on a shoestring budget of about $22,000 a year, doubling that budget would allow us to quadruple our impact, leading to widespread education dissemination through regional tribes, and domestic benefit for immigrants. In South Sudan our education model can exponentially grow the rural populations capacity to survive their own physical and mental environment.
CT: Damn. Talk about perspective. Being in SF and even in the United States can make it really easy to think about problems as massive, only solved by donating $100M like we see major philanthropists do. But when you get right down to it, change happens on the micro level. That's something I have learned as I've gotten older – sometimes it's better to have a huge impact on a few people than a smaller impact on a ton of people. What about you? How has working on MAPSJ been?
DC: This is some of the most rewarding work I have ever known, and it has a really unique connection to Carter and app flipping. When Carter decided to move from Maine to San Francisco, I realized that besides knowing a good friend was moving across the country, he was also a role model for how to step out into the world to try and make a difference. Starting his own business was a huge leap, and something he has written about before. Carter showed me that it was possible to venture out into the unknown and do great things.
Shortly after that, I decided that starting a non-profit, with my partner Dr. Charles Radis, was going to be our ticket to help South Sudanese save a little slice of the world. There is another unique connection though, as you might know an app flipper takes a source code, hopefully with potential, and re-skins it adding features and new themes. This process saves time, money and can have a faster ROI. Analytics, advertising and an existing monetization record are often made available.
Our non-profit operates with a similar model. Instead of coming up with original region specific medical education material, which can be a huge endeavor costing years and immense resources we find appropriate materials being used by other non-profits with a track record of success, and, with permission, repurpose it for our programs for our regional needs. This costs nearly nothing, takes months to implement, and is a very attractive model for a small non-profit like mine.
Additionally, by using picture based education material, tribal language is a small hurdle. Additionally, like app flipping’s built in advertising and analytics, this type of ‘non-profit flipping’ has built in analytical tools like examinations, follow up surveys and retraining guides. They even come with certificates demonstrating course completion.
I could go on about the similarities between these two endeavors with regards to app flipping, but I won’t. My point is this, the answers in one innovation can be found in others, or can be repurposed, and the approach to learning new knowledge, abilities, practices and skills can be transferred from one unique project like app flipping and be applied to something as unique as teaching how to relocate shoulder joints in rural South Sudan. Both are the type of projects that are bound to have a positive impact on your life and those around you, as long as you can see the value potential there beyond money.
(If anyone wants to ask me about the ‘White Savior’complex, feel free to e-mail.)
CT: I'm not kidding when I say this – it's a real honor to know you, Dan. To see you decide to make your life a pursuit of this nature is awesome in the most real sense of the word. You inspire me.
But, before we end, I would remiss not to ask….what would you do with a million bucks?
DC: Haha I knew this was coming. Hmmm….what then would I do with a million dollars a year? Well, I’d continue to live a great life that is focused on adding value potential to myself and the people around me, and around the world. I’d share venture opportunities with my family, develop a bad ass budget and strategy for MAPSJ to flip existing health, education and economic models for East Africa and the U.S. I’d take on every day by experimenting with how to hack my value potential to lead to more success.
Oh and of course, I’d move to a nice spot in San Francisco, develop medical tech & apps, live on the beach, where I'd go to medical school, surf and keep up with doing more beach workouts year round. If anyone feels like donating, YES! That is awesome, I know all of our donors on a first name basis, as I said we are a small growing non-profit. For anyone interested in teaming up with MAPSJ, or app flipping for collaborative purposes, I can’t wait to hear from you.
CT: Dan – thanks so much for taking the time. Truly amazing stuff.
DC: My pleasure. Take care.
Just like that.
This is how change happens in the world. Positive people doing positive things.
In honor of this attitude and because I believe in this so much, I'm donating $10,000 of my own money to MAPSJ as I publish this post. I urge you to check out what Dan and his team are doing and if you believe in this too, make a donation yourself by clicking the link below. Even $5 makes a difference.
When I am on my deathbed, I want two things: to be scared of nothing and to know I made a fucking difference. Here's proof that I'm serious about it.
Rocking in the free world,