What drives Spencer West?
Published Friday, December 7, 2012 1:30PM EST
Last Updated Friday, April 12, 2013 4:48PM EDT
Inspired by Spencer West’s approach to life and his incredible commitment to helping others, W5 asked him to share his views on life.
I believe that, outwardly, I am probably not perceived as typically “driven.”
After all, I’m not the A-type personality who dominates conversation, primarily because I love to connect with people and share stories – whether its kids, educators, peers or entire audiences. I’m pretty easy-going and definitely quick to laugh. But when it comes to things I’m passionate about, you’d better believe it: I’ve got drive to burn!
What drives me? One of the main factors is the knowledge that a better world is possible – and that it’s entirely up to us to make it happen. I am thoroughly convinced that we all have the capacity, the technology, the resources and the skills to make the world a better place for everyone.
But, critically, what we lack is the willingness. It seems that all too often we feel overcome, that the problems we face are far too daunting, too great in scope and beyond our humble reach. And, as a consequence, we decide these problems are simply not worth attempting to fix. People can, at times, too readily accept a fate they believe is predetermined: that they aren’t good enough, strong enough, or properly equipped to tackle what needs to get done.
Sound familiar? It sure did to me at one point.
I started out as one of those people - living a regular life, filled with career aspirations, everyday worries about money and the general pursuit of material possessions. But it wasn’t long before I realized something was missing. I had energy, but it wasn’t being used entirely the right way. I knew I had drive, but it wasn’t aligned to a purpose.
At this time, if you’d asked me if the world could be a better place, I would’ve said “sure.” But I wouldn’t know how this was possible. Or that I could be a part of the solution.
It wasn’t until I went on a volunteer trip to Kenya that I would discover that helping the world was my drive.
I went there to help build a school in a rural community for Free the Children. Yes, I saw poverty up close, and witnessed the great impacts we can all have through courage, community and compassion. But these weren’t people who needed a hand out. They needed a hand up. They had so little, and were offering me so much – sharing their homes, their joys and their hearts.
And by working side by side, as I was helping them break from the cycle of poverty, they were helping me discover my life’s true path. They were helping me reach the top.
I have been driven ever since. Driven to help anyone who would listen that they can overcome their own obstacles. That they have the power within them to take action on something – anything – they feel passionate about. There was no more “too small” or “too young.” There was no “can’t.” No “won’t.” Only “how.”
I now try to devote my life to doing just that: making a difference, whether that’s right here at home, by inspiring youth to recognize their own power, or through fundraising (climbing mountains or embarking on 300-km walks) to provide clean water in east Africa.
And that drive will forever remain alive.