Why I Had To Found a Non-Profit to Find Myself

by Aaron Hurst | 0 Comments | January 11, 2017

Have you ever decided to make a large career change to pursue one of your passions? It is a terrifying idea to step outside of your comfort zone and into the unknown. Elevate Leader Aaron Hurst did just that, and it changed his life for the better. With passion and purpose at the forefront of his goals, Hurst began to surround himself with amazing people who pursued those same passions. With his career change, he opened himself up to new opportunities and outlooks on life. His decision to found his non-profit allowed him to find himself. How would your life change if you pursued your dreams?


Originally posted on Aaron Hurst’s LinkedIn. Read the full article below.



Why I Had to Found a Non-Profit to Find Myself

It was the day of my wedding. I had founded Taproot Foundation three years earlier with the goal of connecting nonprofits and social change organizations everywhere with the passionate, skilled volunteers they needed to achieve their missions.

I wouldn’t be standing at the altar if it weren’t for Taproot. More on that later.

In starting the Taproot Foundation, I did something that scared the hell out of me. I left a well-paying job with next to no savings. My executive coach at the time called it unrealistic at best. Friends and family voiced concerns for my wellbeing.

There was no clear way to fund Taproot; the core concept ran counter to the established rules and best practices in the field.

So there I was, three years into my mission, and I hadn’t done much to prove the doubters wrong. We hadn’t expanded beyond our San Francisco location.

We had only delivered a fraction of the services I hoped we’d deliver. We had only engaged a few hundred professionals. We lacked corporate partners.

But I could see it, taste it, and smell it. It had to be done.

From my experience working in the nonprofit sector, I knew the mission was critical to the future of charitable organizations. From my experience working in product development, I knew that connecting nonprofits with pro-bono services was technically possible, and that business professionals were not just hungry for purpose, but starving for it.

Something was missing, though. It certainly wasn’t motivation; the early setbacks and doubts only fueled my determination.

The turning point was when I met my bride Kara. She was an early target for the emerging board of directors (as the joke goes, I over-recruited). I had dated some wonderful women over the previous 10 years, but with Kara it was different. Starting Taproot required me to become open to the world and to express myself fully. It had enabled me to find the woman of my dreams and to put my whole self into the relationship in a way that had previously eluded me.

It was like I’d suddenly been infected with a super power. Rather than a radioactive bug, the source of my newfound power was something deep inside me.

My super power didn’t grant me any physical abilities, like leaping tall buildings in a single bound (my vertical leap remained at about three inches). But it did something much more meaningful; it allowed me to surround myself with amazing people.

That’s what was missing.

I realized that you can’t build something bigger than yourself without surrounding yourself with amazing people.

Standing before Kara and me that cold October day was Dick Matgen, our officiant and one of the most impressive human beings you could ever have the honor to meet. Dick and I had met less than two years earlier when I visited him at the Silicon Valley Community Foundation seeking support for Taproot. He helped us secure our first grant, a $10,000 check that felt like all the money in the world at the time. A former Catholic priest, Dick had left the clergy when he came out. His partner, George, sat in the audience.

Next to George sat Caroline Barlerin and her new husband, Hunter Walk, as well as many old friends, quite a few of whom had become closer over the last few years. They had, in myriad ways, helped me realize my dream; like me, they were part of something bigger than any one of us alone.

I had found a calling. It wasn’t a business plan, an idea, or an organization—it was me, and I was chasing greatness.

Looking at my bride, Dick, Caroline, and the rest of the crew assembled on that cool but stunning October day, I realized that in founding Taproot, I had found myself.

I’m curious, have any of you made a career change to pursue a bigger passion? If so, I would love to hear hear your story and the steps you took to #ChaseGreat.

Leave your comment