A version of this post originally appeared on Medium.
It all started with a bet. Rather than receiving superfluous presents for his birthday, my friend Patrick decided he preferred to bring out the humanitarian within. He asked myself and the rest of his Facebook friends to each donate $5 to a cause he dubbed the “Five-Dollar Challenge.”
Excited to support my friend’s charitable endeavors, I immediately jumped on the bandwagon. There was only one caveat to the request.
The $5 bill we donated would be mailed to a friend we voluntarily selected, who would then receive instructions for the Five-Dollar Challenge.
The premise was simple. Do anything (as defined by you) that would bring about the “greatest good.”
When I asked “why?,” Patrick replied, “Many people choose to donate to charities instead of gifts, but I thought it be more amazing to give small investments to friends to do amazing things. What could we achieve? What would happen?”
Just like the rest of us, Patrick realized $5 really is a nominal sum, but the concept was really about “creating habits of giving to the greater good (that you define) and to think creatively about what’s really necessary to do good in the world (do you only need money to do good, or are there other ways?”
For the challenge, I chose my dear friend Maddy, a brilliant fashion tech entrepreneur and the rest was history.
Do you remember those addictive Origami finger fortune tellers from back in the day? Well, she designed the most inspirational fortune teller ever and used her funds to spread inspiration around New York City (and in hopes, the rest of the world).
The bottom of the fortune teller read an uplifting passage:
“Whatever happened to the days where a simple paper fortune teller could solve all of our problems? Whether you’re facing a mid-twenties crisis, or struggling over what kind of coffee to buy, fold yourself a free fortune and get the answer you’re looking for.”
This is where it gets even cooler. Rather than plaguing the recipients with insecurity or diminished confidence in their decisions, she eliminated the possibility of any negative responses.
The statements appearing on the uplifting teller read:
“Absolutely! Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now. — Goethe”
“Sources say yes. Everything you can imagine is real. -Picasso”
“Totally! You are a fucking rockstar — go make great shit happen you hot ticket, you!
“Yes, yes, yes! Stop acting so small. You are the universe in ecstatic motion. -Rumi”
Regardless of what was on the recipients received, they were reassured whatever they wanted was within their means.
“By making all responses affirmative, it encourages people to believe in themselves and their dreams, making possibilities more real,” said Maxey. “Donating my $5 would have made a minimal impact, but I knew I could do something larger if I got creative and used an incredibly cheap and distributable resource such as printed paper for my project.”
Sometimes, the greatest good that occur in any of our lives occurs by stumbling across a simple piece of paper that empowers us to follow our outlandish dreams. Now that’s what I call “finding fortune.” Even more interesting, these fortunate wanderers can tweet their outcomes to social proof how the project inspired them.
Patrick began this movement after receiving the following letter from his friend Jonathan Allan.
Allan’s intention was to mentor Patrick to “look past perceived constraints and reframe the problem of how to create value. His task required him to think about what the ‘greatest good’ meant to him and then make an impact to the best of his ability in a short week,” said Allan.
Allan was initially inspired by Stanford University professor Dr. Tina Seeling who provided $5 to teams of her students that were encouraged to be entrepreneurial and create the greatest return on investment by identifying unique opportunities albeit scarce resources.
Magically, Allan’s seemingly frugal investment likewise accrued. Patrick scaled his efforts and asked all of the people in his network to challenge one another.
This all goes to affirm that giving (even a little bit) and asking others to join your efforts is the tipping point to starting your own little revolution. Even if you don’t personally have the resources, you can create a tangible impact by fostering a bit of creativity combined with a willingness to help others.
As Patrick said to me, “Five-Dollar Challenge” shows that anyone can do this and that anyone can do good.”
So go on and create that ripple in the world you’ve always been waiting for. The odds seem to be in your favor considering it can actually be quite inexpensive. Or I suppose the alternative which is buying yourself a cup of Joe. Heck, I dunno, the choice is yours...