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Mission Highlight of the Month: Rottensperson

by Joshua on August 27, 2015

The mission was simple – take just fifteen minutes of your time and help someone with something time-consuming for them. Angela spent an entire day, even recruiting her mom, to help her friend Chris.

Chris’ husband, Mark, is the head of a HAZMAT team. The regulator valve on his suit malfunctioned, giving Mark severe acid burns in his lungs. Chris (ironically, a home healthcare nurse) took a leave of absence from her job to spend all of her time juggling being by Mark’s side and taking care of their children. To help her exhausted friend, Angela insisted Chris take the entire day off to relax, get her hair done, and have some shopping therapy. While Chris was at the mall, Angela asked her mom to spend the day in the hospital and keep Mark company. Angela spent the day watching Chris’ kids, cleaning Chris’ entire house, and even cooking several meals in advance to freeze so Chris wouldn’t have to cook for the next week. Chris came home at the end of the day to a happy husband, sleeping kids, a clean home, and a freezer full of home-made meals.

Happily, weeks later, Mark is home now. His O2 levels have to be constantly monitored and he has a breathing apparatus, but he’s doing great. Mark is even (jokingly) threatening to leave Chris for Angela since she’s such a good substitute cook!

Angela absolutely went above and beyond the mission requirements, and she’s the inspiration for the new highlight. Every month, we’ll pick the person who did the most selfless mission (which will be extremely hard to judge, so please don’t get upset if you weren’t chosen!) and write a short feature on them. If you want to be considered, don’t forget to go to the forum and post what you did for each mission under the Mission and Results topic!


Recap of 2012 Missions…

by Joshua on August 3, 2013

Hope everyone brought in the new year in style!

I am sure we all have our resolutions in place, so for this week I put together a quick little list of missions from 2012.

If there was a mission you were thinking of doing but couldn’t get to it, why don’t you start off the new year and complete it :)

This week take 15 minutes to…

  • sit down and write a letter to someone that is special to you.
  • recommend someone.
  • get to know someone.
  • share something inspirational.
  • do something unique to show your love.
  • help someone going through a tough time.
  • make others laugh.
  • change something.
  • do something epic.
  • help someone who hasn’t asked for it.
  • show your appreciation to someone who took care of you.
  • practice kindness in the face of adversity.
  • start something you have been putting off.
  • share the best piece of advice someone has given you.
  • recognize a hero in your life that has inspired you to become a better person.
  • do something that makes you feel happy and balanced.
  • teach someone.
  • help someone going through a rough time.
  • ask someone spontaneously if they need help.
  • recognize or thank a leader in your personal life or community.
  • showing some heart in the face of adversity.
  • make a new friend or inviting someone to join you.
  • do an activity that makes you feel free.
  • commit to helping a charity or cause in the future.
  • help change the way someone looks at things for the better.
  • push and encourage someone to complete a project or goal.
  • try something new that helps someone.
  • make other people smile.
  • help a co-worker.
  • tell someone they’re the greatest.
  • do something unexpectedly sweet for a co-worker, friend, or stranger.
  • help someone in need.
  • connect with someone through food.
  • use your talents to help others.
  • thank your friend.
  • just do it.
  • surprise someone.
  • write a letter to make someone feel better.
  • acknowledge someone who was there with you in the beginning.
  • do something kind inР’В remembranceР’В of someone you know.
  • talk to someone who needs it.
  • inspire someone to do a random act of kindness.
  • ask someone how they are doing and listen to what is going on in there life.
  • tell a child or parent how much you love them.
  • write out how you will help others in 2013 and share it with someone.



I'm a horrible story teller

Post image for I'm a horrible story teller

by Joshua on August 10, 2012

Do you know how I judge a good story?

It’s when I become a part of it- when a personal part of me connects with something in the story.

That’s what makes ISWU special- when you are able to connect with the mission or when you connect to something someone shares on the community forum.

With that being said, I need to tell you something…

I am a horrible story teller and it’s a major problem in how it impacts ItStartsWith.Us.

The main reason I joined ISWU was because I could relate to many of your stories shared in the community:

  • the pain and frustrations happening in life
  • the moments of joy from doing the missions
  • the satisfaction after the missions from helping someone out and wanting to do more

I could relate to all of those and it made me want to be a better person and take more action to help others.

I Need to Get Real with You

When I had a chance to help lead ISWU last summer, I wanted people to continue sharing those stories while I shared the story of ISWU with more people.

But like I said, I am a horrible story teller. Because I wasn’t telling the story of the community, the community started becoming quieter and less active week by week.

I personally consider that my fault and take responsibility.

Over the past 2 months or so, I really thought deeply about ISWU and what a special community it is and can be.

Instead of resolving to become a better story teller, I want to try something new:

Your participation and stories is what makes the community so awesome.

Your stories are what helps motivate and change the lives of others.

The Shift

I want to take our community and make it a platform for sharing how kindness has changed your life, and then make your stories into missions that changes lives.

We’re still going to be doing the same thing every week, but I don’t wantР’В  this to be me anymore behind the scenes solely creating the missions. Instead, I want to extend a hand in helping to share the best and most meaningful stories with others.

It’s time we start getting back as a community and sharing with each other.

So if you’d like to take this new leap with me and share some meaningful moments from your life, e-mail me at jos (at) itstartswith (dot) us and let’s work together to on making it a mission to help change lives.


(PS you can also drop a line on Twitter @itstartswithus and I’ll follow up with you)


Need a little inspiration for Wednesday?

by Joshua on August 8, 2012

Hope everyone was able to share some inspiration during last week’s mission.

If you are looking for some inspiration this week, be sure to watch the video above.


That One Ray of Light

by Joshua on August 30, 2011

Every once in a while, while going about the business of ItStartsWith.Us, I am fortunate enough to witness a singular ray of light that breaks through the clouds and illuminates who we are and why we are here. Yesterday was one of those days. I was going through the ISWU community forum, where people can share the results of the missions I’ve assigned. The last mission was “Use the Technology” (in a partnership with the awesome, where we were directed to use technology in a way to make a difference for someone in our lives. Check out what one of our members had to say:

At first, when I saw this mission, I thought to myself something along the lines of “Agh. How am I going to do that?!” Then I got a text message- It was one of my friends thanking me again for a cupcake I gave him right before his last Advanced Placement test, and telling me to have a good weekend. It was above what he had to do, and it was sweet- definitely made me feel good.

Anyway, I was still struggling to apply this mission, and yesterday I was speaking with an underclassman who I “adopted” as my younger sister. We’re both in the marching band, and we both play instruments in male-dominated sections. Because she was unable to have a section “Older sister”, and I had no section “Little sister”, I just kind of adopted her and we’d ride the band bus together. Anyway, yesterday she gave me her tumblr link (I didn’t give her mine, because it’s about a lot of personal stuff with depression, self injury and suicide, that some of my best friends don’t know about) and I saw a post she had written a long time ago about struggling with herself because she had/has a friend who struggles with depression, self injury, suicidal thoughts/attempts.

I messaged her and told her that we didn’t have to talk about it at all, and that I respected her privacy, but if she ever needed to talk to me about any of that kind of stuff, I was always there for her. We ended up talking for a while, with plans to hang out in the future so I could kind of give her a better idea of where I was coming from with that whole situation.

I really hoped it helped/helps her and at least makes her feel a little supported.

And, well, can you tell? I’m seeing a theme here: These missions are helping me, too. [Thank you, Nate!!!]
After speaking with her, I went to my room and threw out my razors. I put a small index card with her name written on it in the altoids case I used to keep them in, and put the altoids case back in it’s usual spot. I will do this for her, maybe even myself.

I was happily stopped in my tracks after reading this yesterday. Seeing the amazing things that can happen as the result of a small suggestion and just a few minutes of effort is one of the true joys of being a part of the ItStartsWith.Us team. If you’d like to join us, you can sign up at the top of the page on the left.

Budget Weddings - How to Save Thousands

Photo Credit: respres


You Can't Outsource Yourself

by Joshua on August 30, 2011


I used to write a blog. Then, as I began to build and grow all my projects, I realized that I didnРІР‚в„ўt have the time to write on a consistent basis. So I outsourced writing duties on the ItStartsWith.Us blog to other people. And now here I find myself, three months later, realizing that I am no longer a blogger.

To be fair, I never really considered myself primarily a blogger – IРІР‚в„ўve always been a more project-oriented guy who just happens to write adequately and often enough to be viewed as one. But still, I was proud of my writing. And now I am not.

Back in October I brought on someone to manage all the writing on the site, including contributions by a small group of staff writers – not professional writers, but people pulled from our team who were interested in writing, gaining experience, getting their voices heard, etc. At that time I wrote my last “real” blog post, “Your Best Friend.” Other than that my only contribution to the blog has pretty much consisted of updates on the various projects IРІР‚в„ўm working on, except for one small bulleted list that I wrote in 30 seconds as a note to myself, but decided to publish. Ironically (or appropriately), that one tiny post generated more traffic than any of the other articles in the past three months.

Please understand that IРІР‚в„ўm not taking anything away from the people I brought on to help me with this. They did exactly what they were asked to do, and I really like some of the stuff that came out of it. The simple fact of the matter, however, is that theyРІР‚в„ўre not me. And I hope you understand thatРІР‚в„ўs not meant to sound prideful . IРІР‚в„ўve simply realized that when you have a blog thatРІР‚в„ўs built on personal experience and a familiar voice, you canРІР‚в„ўt just up and quit and give the job to someone else. It doesnРІР‚в„ўt work like that. IРІР‚в„ўve felt this in my heart for a while now, but after trying it for three months, I also have the numbers to back it up. Every single applicable statistic on reader engagement is down (and down big) over the last three months. Across the board, folks.

I know in my heart what I want to do: I want to be proud of my blog again. And it’s so very difficult to say to those who have been helping out “Sorry, I don’t need you anymore,” but it’s what I’m going to do. Because at the end of the day I need to be 100% satisfied with the caliber of my work, and this is the way to do it. I’m taking back my blog, starting now.

IРІР‚в„ўd like to thank all the good people at BlissDom for reminding me to take another look at what IРІР‚в„ўm doing with my online voice. IРІР‚в„ўll write more about that experience later (now that I write again, ha), but for now IРІР‚в„ўll leave you with something that Scott Stratten (@unmarketing) said in his keynote that really hit me. He was answering the question: How often should you write?

“You should write when you have something to say.”

And thatРІР‚в„ўs what I intend to do from now on.

Photo Credit: Rob Warde


I'm Retiring from ItStartsWith.Us

by Joshua on August 28, 2011

For just over two years now (105 weeks, to be exact) I have been the leader of the ItStartsWith.Us team. My goal was to assign one mission per week that would give all of us the chance to make a positive impact in the lives of those around us – to enable us all to change the world.

And change the world we have, friends. Two years later, the team has grown from 18 people to around 5,000 people, in close to 100 countries. We’ve impacted hundreds of thousands of lives, if not millions. We’ve changed thousands of lives. We’ve even saved a few.

And we will continue to do so, but not with me at the helm. I have personally attempted (and almost always completed) each and every weekly mission I have assigned for the past 105 weeks . . . except the last one. I realized today that I had completely forgotten about it. And while that’s not a terrible offense, it does show that my attention to this project has slipped greatly, as I’m sure you’ve noticed in the sporadic mission assignments and blog postings so far this year.

I am no longer giving this project the attention it deserves, and so it is time for me to move on. ItStartsWith.Us needs an engaged, enthusiastic leader at the helm – someone who is eager to jump in every day, interact with members, construct activities that change lives, and build this project into something greater than it is today.

I’d like to give one of you that opportunity.

I still plan to own ItStartsWith.Us, but I am now officially looking for someone to take over leadership of the project. I want someone who loves the idea of guiding thousands of people to make a difference all over the world. Someone who is savvy enough both on the social/web end and the business end to build the technology and make the connections necessary to take ISWU to the next level. I’ll still be around, and I’ll function as a mentor to whomever decides to accept this challenge. If you like sports analogies, you could say that I’m the team owner, and you’re the coach/GM. :)

So if you’re interested in this opportunity, just send me an email (nate [at] and tell me why you want the job, and why you’d be good at it. I’ll start talking to candidates within the next week.

If you have any reaction or comments to this announcement, feel free to respond in the comment section below.

In an odd twist of fate, I decided to clean out my backpack before I sent this message out, and I happened to find the original planning docs for ISWU, and a copy of the very first email I sent out to the 18 founding members. I didn’t even know I still had that stuff. You’ll see a picture of it at the top of this post.

I’d like to thank each and every one of you so much for being a part of this truly amazing team. I know that our goal is to change others’ lives, but I want you to know that you all have changed mine. I would not be the person I am today if not for the love and grace I’ve been shown by so many members of this team, and for that I am eternally grateful.

It’s been an honor to serve as your leader for the first two years of the project, and I hope we’ll continue to serve alongside each other under the new leadership.

Much love,


Mission: Amplify Your Voice

by Joshua on August 27, 2011

The Inspiration

What happens when you leave a megaphone in the middle of New York City with the message “Say Something Nice” attached to it? Check out this video -Р’В

The Mission

This week, take 15 minutes to say something nice in a unique way that amplifies your voice.

Each week we tend to do something under the radar to lift or inspire someone.

Not this week.

Find a creative way to say something nice while being heard!

Share your creativity and let us know what you came up with-Р’В


The Mysterious Letters Project

by Joshua on August 26, 2011

Last year, we set out on a mission to surprise an entire town with handwritten letters with our Mysterious Letters project. Our leadership team pulled together, brainstormed, used the Internet to find as many addresses as we could and hoped our project would be a success.

The town we picked was Omer, Michigan. With the help of a few amazing It Starts With Us members (you know who you are), we were able to send handwritten letters and postcards to almost everyone in Omer. We also received e-mail messages from members around the world, which we wrote on stationary and sent to the town in Michigan.

However, the amount of handwritten letters we received from members outside of the leadership team was disappointing — two letters (so, thank you to the two of you who took time to do this).

Overall, this project turned out to be an interesting experiment. Perhaps more members would have written letters if we promoted the project more, or if we created more enthusiasm around it. Albeit the lack of member participation, the Mysterious Letters project was still a success, as we did end up doing what we intended from the beginning — surprising a town with anonymous, handwritten letters. It certainly wasn’t a failure. Thank you to all who participated.

After reflecting on the way the Mysterious Letters project turned out, IРІР‚в„ўm willing to try this again with another small town. How about you guys?


Love Bomb + Love Drop for Jill!

by Joshua on August 21, 2011

Just wanted to throw up a quick video update for you guys on this week’s Love Bomb mission as we partner with Love Drop for Jill, our very first Love Drop recipient! Check it out.

Love you guys!

You can read more about Jill here on the Love Bomb website, or go directly to the blog post to leave her a comment.