Title: Getting from "I have a dream" to "I have an answer"

Theme: The answers are simpler than you think


Do you have dreams? 

Do you have goals? 

Do you have a REALLY great idea?

Are you living it out?

These are the questions my wife and I were asking ourselves as we sat in our living room 3 years ago.

Out of those questions came a story I'd like to share with you.

It's a story about your dreams.

Dreams for

your personal life
your organization
and for the world

How you can make them happen

And how technology can help you do it.

I think this story is important, because we ALL have ideas

But those ideas are fragile.


But if you grab them
    And you grow them
        You CAN release them into the world.

The answers are simpler than you think.

Dreams for your personal life

Let's go back to that conversation my wife and I had in the living room.

Our apartment was 300 square feet

so by "Living Room," I mean "anywhere you can't touch the kitchen"

except for my office, which was up a ladder, in a crawl space

So there we were, sitting in our "Living Room," asking ourselves those questions:


What are our dreams?

Are we living them out?

And for us, at that point in our lives, the answer was NO.

OUR dream was to use our skills to make the world a better place

OUR dream was to be working with an organization that grabbed our hearts -- called Free Burma Rangers in Southeast Asia

Free Burma Rangers trains teams to provide humanitarian aid and a message of reconciliation in the war zones of Burma.

We saw small ways we could contribute to what they were doing

My wife works in medicine, so she wanted to train medics

I'm a programmer, so I could do computer stuff.

Your dream will be different than ours.



So don't fall for the lie that we almost fell for:
Do not beleive what we almost beleived:
That we were trapped by the lives WE HAD CREATED FOR OURSELVES.

Do you ever feel that way?

 Like you can't do what you want with your life...


Let me tell you right now, you are not trapped by your own life.

And whatever it is that you think is standing between you and your dream...

It is time to list those things out 
    and get some answers

Because the answers are simpler than you think.

Here's what was on our list.

The 5 things that stood between us and living our dream out were:

Here's the powerful thing about writing those 5 things down:

Now we KNEW
the only thing between us and our dreams
was 5 small answers:

Year off
    Take a year off school. It'll be there when we get back

    ad will let us sublet our apartment, and rent is cheaper overseas anyway.

    is everywhere. In fact, it was better where we wanted to go.

Earth Class Mail
    is a service that will scan your mail and e-mail it to you.

Skype and Google Voice 
    will give me a US phone number anywhere in the world

    They'd let me make calls that went through the Pacific Ocean 
        but were CLEARER and CHEAPER 
            than calling next door on a cellphone in the US 

5 simple answers and 5 months later we're on a plane to work with the Free Burma Rangers.

The dream we had could have been squashed,

but instead, 
    it grew and changed our lives.

This is your life. What do you want to do with it?

Make a list
Get the answers

The answers are simpler than you think.

Dreams for your organization

We start working with Free Burma Rangers

as it turns out, they have dreams too!
A lot of them!

They'd been working for 15 years towards the dream of

love, truth, and reconciliation in Burma.

To acheive that dream,

they train Burmese ethnic minorities to care for their people.

These are people who get away from the war zones, 

they get away...

    but have the strength of character to say: 

        "I want to go back, 
        I want to help my people."

Free Burma Rangers trains them to do it.

But still, some things felt like they could be a lot simpler.

They had thousands of human rights abuse reports
And 100's of thousands of medical reports

But SO MUCH of that information was TRAPPED in towers of paper and spreadsheets

Do you ever feel like you work for papers,

or you work for computers, 

    and not the other way around?

Like technology made us this promise of simplicity and solving life's problems, but really we just spend our lives in front of computers and want to throw them out the window every time they crash?

I want to tell you that you do not have to put up with that.

Technology should work for you, not the other way around.

We have to insist that people be put first. 

Not computers.

Not an IT department.

Free Burma Rangers had a dream of organizing their information to put people first

So we made a list
of what stood between them and their dream:

15-years of paperwork 
    had to fit into their new system.

    all of their    medical reports
    all of their    reports of human rights abuses

Had to be fast to create
    Myself and another programmer could volunteer for 6 months, and only on nights and weekends.

Had to be simple to use
    First-time computers users would be putting information in

Had to be simple to manage
    There was no gaurantee programmers would be around to help after those first 6-months, 

Had to be free... or close to it.
    Budget was zero dollars.

This may seem like a tall order

But now that we had a list, we could get answers.

And the answers are simpler than you think.

We looked at SO MANY SYSTEMS.
But as it turns out, WordPress could do all these things.

That's BLOGGING software.

But it puts people first.

It is easy to use.

And for the last 2 years, FBR has been running


Because it's easy to use.

And it hurts as a programmer to say this, but usability trumps sophistication EVERY TIME.

Now, when they are asked:

“how do you KNOW there is 
    forced labor, 
            and murder 

    happening in the jungles of Burma?”

They can answer with reports, photos, and GPS coordinates in about 5 minutes.

Now, when doctors want to know:

How can we improve the care given by our medics?

They don't have to sift thorugh piles of paper.

They have a pie chart that shows them

They see, there's a lot more green in the pie chart for this medic
than the pie chart for all the others

That means this medic diagnosis Urinary Tract Infections
a lot more frequently on average than other medics do.

Now we can ask questions we could never ask
when we had to dig through papers


"Why is that"?

Does he know what a Urinary Tract Infection looks like?

Does he need better training?

Is he working near a polluted river or some other environmental hazard?

When we get answers to questions like these...

That's when computers are working for people, not the other way around.

What dreams do you have in your organization?

Make a list.


And insist that computers work for you, not the other way around.

The answers are simpler than you think.

Dreams for the world

Last, let's talk about dreams for the world.

We all have lots of ideas every day.

But every now and then,

somebody has a REALLY GREAT IDEA.

But just like
ideas for your life,
and ideas for your organization,

ideas for the world are SO EASILY SQUASHED

There is boundary after boundary after boundary between:

the moment that idea goes through your mind

    to when you first speak it

        to when you put it into action

and maybe, just maybe, that action 

        will CHANGE THE WORLD in a big way

I don't know about you,

but when people share world changing ideas with me,

my REFLEX is to think:

    * You're just a nobody, what can you do?

Do you ever FEEL like you're a nobody?

I feel that way!

I feel like,

because I'm a nobody

        I won't acheive anything.

So why even try?

Before you choose to beleive that,

Let me tell you something 

        about the people who work with Free Burma Rangers

most of them are what's called an IDP –– an Internally Displaced Person.

If you are an Internally Displaced Person, that means:

For most legal purposes, YOU do not exist.

( Sigh )

if that were you

wouldn't you        FEEL         like a   __nobody__.

But they are NOT nobody.

They are OPPRESSED, but they DO NOT give up.

They write down what is happening to them

They write down their dreams for reconciliation

and they share them with the world.

And you know what?

Three months ago,

when these people's own government 

    began using air strikes against them for the first time, 

some of these people refused to beleive

That they were TOO SMALL to make a DIFFERENCE.

So they looked for a simple answer

And they let technology work for them.

They took a video

    They hiked it out of the jungle

            And they put it on their blog

At first, the Burmese government said to the press, "we don't know anything about these bombings"

And then the video...

That some nobody put on their blog

was on the front page of the


It was there for less than 1 day.

Before the story changed.

The Burmese government had to say, "okay, we did do that".

And all of a sudden, nobody had a voice,

and it was backed up
by the United States
and the United Kingdom
and the United Nations

saying together,

"this is wrong. you need to stop."

                            and they did.

The answers are simpler than you think.

You are not a nobody.

You can change the world.

Make a list.

Find the answers.

Make technology work for you.

Thank you.