Episode 27: Transformation Maven Troy Swanson

Heather and Troy in India

Heather and Troy in India

Episode 27 of the Mavens Do It Better Podcast features Troy Swanson. Troy is a philanthropist, social entrepreneur, global nomad, community builder, global technology business developer, transformational traveler and author. Troy is the Founder and Executive Director of the AlphaBet Club. ABC is an international not-for-profit organization helping children in need to break the cycle of poverty through education. ABC funds new school projects (11 to date in India, Nepal, Haiti, Cambodia & Laos) with schools providing nutrition programs (500,000+ free meals served) that would otherwise be out of reach for many children living in underserved communities and slums. Operating in the Netherlands, and Spain; ABC is funded by donations, sponsorships and proceeds from fundraising events.   

Troy and Heather worked together at Microsoft and figured out that they went to high school together at Wheaton Central High School, Wheaton IL during a 2004 European SharePoint Roadshow and have been friends and colleagues ever since. 

Troy and Heather caught up in person from Bangalore, India on a visit to The AlphaBet Club’s many schools and library projects there.  

Listen in as Heather talks with Troy about: 

  • Education impact projects in India & developing countries. Lessons learned and the value of strong partner ecosystems to bring quality education & nutrition to underserved children, families & communities. Transformational Bridge School & Libraries 4 Schools Programs & how donating birthdays online are impacting lives. 

  • Growing up in Wheaton, DuPage County, Illinois and a life of travel and cultural immersion.  

  • A sneak peek into Troy's forthcoming book, 'The 3 Knocks Rule',  a simple tool to start recognizing and saying 'Yes' to growth experiences to transform your life and overall well-being. 

Troy Swanson  Facebook |Instagram | Website | LinkedIn  

Check out Troy’s Burner Podcast – Episode 68: Breakfast at Troyfanny’s 

The Alphabet Club | Facebook | Twitter | Website 

Mavens Do It Better original theme music composed by Jesse Case with voice over by Julia Francis.

Transcript

Heather Newman:  Hello everyone. We are here again for another Mavens Do It Better podcast where we interview extraordinary experts who bring a light to our world. I could not be more excited to be here today in Bangalore, India with my dear, dear friend, Troy Swanson. Troy, you want to say hi to everybody?

Troy Swanson:  Hello. Heather, it is amazing to be on your podcast and to be a maven here with you in Bangalore.

Heather Newman:  Absolutely. Um, so everyone a trip of a lifetime for sure. Uh, for me and Troy and I have known each other a very long time. We worked together at Microsoft. Uh, many of you on the who know SharePoint, uh, we worked together on a roadshow, the first road show in Europe and your company sponsored the coffee carts.

Troy Swanson:  Yes, that was wow, 15 years ago or so now.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, absolutely. And uh, so we ended up doing five cities and uh, he had said, hey, I, you know, I live in Madrid when you come to Madrid, which was the last city, come and I'll give you and your friends and colleagues a tour. And I said, great. And so, uh, we met and said, I said, okay, so where are you from? I know you're American. Where are you from?

Troy Swanson:  Yeah. And my answer is I'm from Chicago. And her answer was, I'm also from Chicago. And I thought, well, I'm from a smaller town outside, western suburb called Wheaton. And she's like, I'm from Wheaton. And then she's like, I went to Wheaton Central High School. And I'm like, I went Wheaton Central High School.

Heather Newman:  And we went, oh my goodness. And realized that I was a senior when he was a junior and, uh, we had actually gone to high school together, sort of run in the similar crowds. And had that moment of Aha and uh, friends ever since. So and so everyone, so Troy, goodness, there's so many types of maven you are in my book. Um, uh, you know, with the work that you've been doing, um, in India, uh, with the AlphaBet Club and also just transformational experiences and everything. And I'd love for you to tell our listeners, um, talk, talk about ABC and how that got started, if you would.

Troy Swanson:  Yes. So I'm an accidental philanthropist. And, uh, 13 years ago I was in Amsterdam. I was working at Microsoft and I wanted to meet people. And I looked online, this is BF, before Facebook. And I'm like, who is throwing meetups or gathering nights for ex pats? And I didn't find anyone that was. And I just kind of decided I will throw a gathering on a Wednesday night, January in 2006 and 30 people came. And then a month later we did it again and 40 people came and a month later, 50 people came. And this thing got kind of big and it started to move a lot of money. Um, the bars were making a ton of money and, uh, we were wanting to host events on weekends and we were being asked for security deposits. And it was amazing for me because I, not only did I get to meet people in Amsterdam, but I also got to connect people, uh, people that are from the same country or worked in the same types of industries. So for me, these nights were really exceptional, um, for various reasons. And it got to the point where we, it became so popular and we began to, it began to raise so much funds for other organizations that we just decided, hey, listen, do you have enough charity in your life? Do you have enough impact in your life? No. Do you have enough to impacting life? No, I don't have enough impact in my life. So let's, let's change this into a nonprofit, an NGO. Let's start charging people at the door to come. Whatever they would be paying to go to the place next door. Let's get our friends to come and DJ at a discount and photographer friends to come and shoot photos at a discount. And let's have great nights of connection. And at the end of the night, we're going to have a little bit of a profit and let's build educational infrastructure, schools and libraries. Let's build projects that, uh, massively impact lives. And we gave it the name the AlphaBet Club. And a lot of people think it's because we do schools and it's been 13 years. It's been 170 connection events in Amsterdam, in Madrid, in India, in the United States. Uh, however, the concept of the AlphaBet Club is based on the belief that it doesn't matter where you go, what matters is who you're with. You can go anywhere, you can make it amazing if you go with great people. So pick a place in the center of your city. It can be a bad place or a great place and you can do it on a Tuesday night

Heather Newman:  Dive bar. Or a fancy hotel.

Troy Swanson:  Yes. Or museums. I think we've done it in all different bowling alleys. Um, that place starts with the letter A and then a month later, pick another place to that starts with the letter B. So get to know your city through the alphabet. And that's kind of the journey of how I hosted one event to now. We've been 130 volunteers. We're a volunteer organization. I'm a volunteer as well. Uh, we funded 11 schools in five countries. We've funded six schools in India, uh, five of them in Bangalore in the south. Last year we funded a new school in Haiti and we funded a new school in Nepal. So that's a bit of the mix of the events that we host to connect people. But then the kind of the impact that we have and then Heather, so excited that you could be here for a few days and visit some of the projects and meet the partners and meet the beneficiaries, the children, the schools, go to the slums and, and visit some of those communities and kind of get a deep dive over the course of a few days of what we're doing and what our partners are doing and the ABC volunteers and donors. And really amazing to have you understand all of this now. A bunch more than before.

Heather Newman:  Well, we've been talking about me coming to visit you in India for many years now and it finally worked out and yeah, I everyone, I mean we're sitting in this really lovely hotel in the middle of Bangalore in India and we went around with a bunch of other volunteers and friends, uh, and a coach and went and visited schools and, uh, after school projects and libraries. And the slums and you know, what really has impact, so much. I, I'm going to unpack this for I know for a long while, but really getting an understanding like I've always known what you've done with AlphaBet Club and I think way back in the US we did an event in San Francisco and I've been to things in Amsterdam and Madrid and when I, when I could, traveling around, but really getting an understanding of the educational system in India. Education anywhere is sometimes hard to understand about who gets funded and how it gets funded and where things are going and, and so really looking at, you know, what the difference is between a school that's run by the government, a government school versus you know, the Bridge Program which you have. And then schools that have the more sort of a private funding and, and really kind of getting a, an ecosystem lay out has been really interesting. And also then understanding and what's really great everybody about the work that Troy's been doing too is that I can see him as this, you're, you're the glue in a lot of the ways of getting people together who may not have been together or just jumping in into the ecosystem and connecting people in a way that maybe they didn't have a connection before. And that to me was such an exciting piece of this. Will you explain a little bit about sort of government bridge, some of that stuff so people understand?

Troy Swanson:  So, we started funding new schools in 2009 through some of the leading NGOs or nonprofits on the planet that do this at scale. And then, uh, I came to India and I met, uh, an amazing organization that was funding schools for children that live in slums. And that moment was transformational for me and my organization for many, many, many levels because when you engage with what we call implementation partners in the field, partners that are implementing programs in let's say, developing countries, they will typically ask you for funds and they do need funds and we have funds. We were throwing events and we had other CSR programs and other organizations and individuals giving us funds. So we give them funds. But what I realized is the value that, that we can bring to them is much greater than just the money. It's helping them in areas, you know, there'll be super strong in certain areas like recruiting teachers or relationships with families or education for example, but they might not have any idea on marketing or on fundraising or on videos, on storytelling. And especially what I realized was on the, on the partner ecosystem. So, for me, uh, with my background at Microsoft and other tech companies working in alliances and partnerships, it just became evident to me that I would meet a lot of nonprofits, especially when you show up in a foreign country as a funding partner, everyone wants to meet with you, right? And I'd meet all these different partners that were doing exceptional things but they were very siloed. So they were very much doing it in a bubble and they were doing great things. And then I would come in and be like, well, actually we want to fund your project, but you got to realize there's five other, let's just say the case of India, amazing Indian nonprofits that are, that can help these kids and they can help you and they can take up, you know, English teacher training or they do uniforms or they do deworming tablets or they do other levels of goodness that the focus is sustainability and impact for these children and their families. So we would fund a certain partner or a school project for example, but we would actually help them partner better and that would be like win, win, win. So for me, a lot of the time I've spent about one, one to three months of my life, the last nine years in the field in India, it's actually partner and ecosystem building. And we've seen that come such a long way. And what's Nice, and I think you've seen this Heather, because we visited so many projects over the last few days, is the levels of love. And the levels of giving that different partners or organizations come in and it might be they donate a backpack, it might be they donate books, it might be that they paint walls of the school or whatever. But a successful project, I've learned over the years, is about levels of love and caring and especially when you can get locals, that are running the programs. I mean we're, we're basically out of Europe and the United States, right. So we've got, it's all about local implementation partners, but getting, getting, you know, the ecosystem is like a big, big pie or a big cake that's sliced. So, aligning all these different nonprofits to do their magic cause every one of them has their magic and to align it next to yours. What I think you've seen is that the impact is, and the sustainability of these programs is really, really amazing. So, you asked me to share a bit about the bridge education schools and you've recently visited one, and in all the years I've been involved in education projects, this is the most impactful project I've come across and I'm super happy that we're involved with it. It's a very special project in that it goes to slums and then identifies children that are of the age to be going to school, six, eight, 10, 12 years old, and they're not going to school. In India, huge country, a lot of different languages. Families will move where there's work and in Bangalore for example, there's a lot of jobs, so you have a lot of families moving from different places in India and some of them end up living in slums. Those families will speak the language where they're from and they will arrive to Bangalore. And how the schooling system works is that government schools are free. However, all of the classes will be in the local language of that state or of that area. So, the child that moves in with the parents into let's say Bangalore and then goes to school, will be incapable of learning or studying or communicating because of the language issues. So, what a bridge school program is, is going to slums and it's identifying children that should be in school and it's creating a special one-year program for them, free of charge six days a week, over 11 months. And the entire focus is getting these children to a state like a year later where they could pass an exam and they can enter back into the formal education system. And that would be in their local language where they're now living or in an English medium school. So, it's a very impactful project because it's basically taking children that are locked out of an education system and it's getting them back into the education system. And at the same time, we're working a lot with the parents to teach them the value of education because what we're seeing is that a lot of these children are actually working in the slums. A lot of the slums that we're working in are actually garbage sorting centers. So, what you're seeing his mom and dad, instead of having them going to school is having them do low level sorting plastic types of jobs. So, there's a lot of amazing partners in these projects. We're working with Alternatives for Children out of the Netherlands, Venita Services Foundation, Samurti Trust. The entire Bangalore Effective Education Task Force Consortium is adding value to try and impact so many of these children's lives. And as I think you've seen; these projects are just huge impact.

 

Heather Newman:  Yeah. Sustainability to me is, you know, we talked to, it's that quote about, you know, you give somebody a fish, it's great, but you have to teach them how to fish. You know, that's lasting. And I think we've seen that is really what I've seen is that, you know, Troy has been coming here for such a long time and um, we got to visit one of your things first schools and you got to see kids from when they were what like three?

Troy Swanson:  Yeah, I started with them when they're three, four, five.

Heather Newman:  And they're now in

Troy Swanson:  Sixth grade, seventh grade

Heather Newman:  And seeing, and it's not just, you know, you, you, you, you're affecting a child's life, but you know, it's with anything with all of us, you know, we're effected as human beings as one, as an individual. But we are all connected. And so the education and things that you're bringing it, it goes to the brother and sister and it goes to the mom and dad and it goes to the aunt and uncle. And it goes. Will you talk about that, cause that was so, the other thing that was amazing everybody was just going to school, seeing the kids, seeing an afterschool program and then visiting them and many of them live in the slums and you get to, you saw these kids in uniforms and then you see them with their brothers and sisters and their parents and the places and where they live and how they live. And it's, uh, it's, it takes your breath away. You know?

Troy Swanson:  Yeah. You know, you referenced the give a person a fish and what I say is people will come to you and they'll ask for a fish, give them a fish and then teach them how to build a fish farm.

Heather Newman:  Okay. Fair enough.

Troy Swanson:  So that's the how do you become sustainable. It's not that we don't want to be a part of this, but let's go with that mentality. But, so one of the things I love doing most when we visit the projects. And typically these are marginalized, impoverished communities, slums. Uh, they can be tent cities, they can be many different types of living environments. Some of them are garbage sorting centers, is um, you know, we've been doing years of work and most of the places that we'll visit and we go there with, with, with staff that, that live in that slum and with teachers that. Some of the slums that we visit, we've, we've helped have a hundred or 50 to 100 thousand meals for kids that live in that slum. So not just the education but the nutrition. So when you show up in a slum with the teachers, the community mobilizers that live there. And we are almost never there because we don't live here. The love that we receive from the parents, especially the mothers. Because you've been educating and feeding slash babysitting slash everything else, their child for one, two, three, four, five years. And for them it's basically free of cost. What I love doing is through the translators, through our staff is having people like Heather or anyone in our group ask questions to the children. So how has your child changed? How are they different? And the, the thing that I consistently hear over the years especially is around hygiene. So it's like, wow, like our child now washes their hands like a lot and like tells mom that we have to wash everything and like brushing the teeth and hygiene. And again, some of these are garbage sorting centers that are mud and huts that are tents and there's one to two months of monsoon and rain.

Heather Newman:  Yeah. Well and six to eight to whatever, how many people in one that's like a closet.

Troy Swanson:  Extremely small space with a cracked roof if there's a roof. And so getting time and getting access with the parents and even though we don't speak the language, we can ask questions through the translators is it makes what we do worth it because that, that understanding and feeling from them, it's powerful.

Heather Newman:  Yeah. And the education piece of it, everyone is, you know, there's, you know, there's so many languages spoken in India. Um, but also, you know, English is one of those, you know, it's a language that helps people level up. It helps them get jobs, it helps them be able to go to university.

Troy Swanson:  Break the cycle of poverty.

Heather Newman:  Yes, and breaking the cycle of poverty. So, you know, going to the different, the schools and then the, where they live, you know, it's like being able to talk to the kids. They're learning English, you know, and so the kids are um, uh, able to talk and then translate to their parents if they don't speak English as well. And I think the other piece of it that really is key, and this is key, I think in any education system, but it's also, it's, it's education and learning a different language, but it's food. It is nutrition. It is like, will you say again, the number of meals so that everybody gets that because it's, you know, it's not about here's a book and I'm teaching you to ABC, cat, dog, whatever. They're getting, what, two meals a day?

Troy Swanson:  Yeah. I mean, every program is different. Every program's different. No, no, no. But I mean, this was one of the learning curves that we had is we're going to fund new schools. We're going to fund the opening of new schools. And then you realize that these children aren't eating and that there's multiple siblings and that we're going to start giving them a meal, one or two meals a day. Well, when you have a hundred kids at a school and you're doing two meals a day and you've got school six days a week and you start doing the math, I think about month three, this is like in 2010 I'm like start saying, you know, hey, we're, we're actually kind of running a massive nutrition program. And, and a lot of this may not be with ABC or it might be ABC starts it. But then other partners come in and our implementation partners are the ones that are actually having the cooks and all that stuff. So what we say is you start rolling those numbers over the years. And we think in the projects that we've, uh, seed funded or funded, at least 450,000 to 500,000 meals have been served. And these are kids. I mean, the mom and dad, they're, they're not making a ton of money and there's a ton of siblings. And, and, and that becomes a main driver also for the parents to want to send the kids to school. And what we'll notice unfortunately is if there's like a week off and these kids are so small anyway, if there's a little bit of time off for like vacation, the kids come back and you, you will know the difference in their, their weight and their size. And then also through the partner network, you know, eye checkups and medical checkups, not only for the kids in our schools but also oftentimes for the slums. I mean these things, these things are, are, are massively important for these children.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. I, I knew what you did, but I didn't know what you did. So, it's been a very enlightening, eye-opening thing. And I, you know, getting back to, um, I have watched over the last bit as well of I know that, you know, I've been to the parties and the things that have happened, you know, that you do. And I think, you know, there's this interesting shift in the world right now of like, you have things like Kickstarter and GoFundMe. And all of that. And so the easier I guess way of sort of, you know, you can throw a party and go and be local and all of that and network and, but I think there's also this really wonderful way, you know, Facebook has got it. You know, like I think I've seen, you know, people, I'm going to do it this year ABC for my birthday, we're going to do a fundraising.

Troy Swanson:  Amazing.

Heather Newman:  Right. So I'm like, let's get, get us a library or schools.

Troy Swanson:  Yeah. Beautiful.

Heather Newman:  Yeah. You know, and so I think that's been really interesting too. And you've seen that shift I think as well, right?

Troy Swanson:  Yeah. You know, online fundraising and um, Facebook recently launched a Facebook for nonprofits accreditation and we were accredited and now it's super easy and extremely integrated with Facebook that like two weeks before your birthday, Facebook sends you a message and says, do you want to donate to your favorite charity and AlphaBet Club is in that program. And we've had friends that have just said, including myself and, uh, a lot of my friends and we're in programs now. We just rolled out a new program called libraries for schools and we're identifying schools that are for impoverished communities and children and they don't have books. And we've got such a great partner ecosystem and we've got partners that are having arrangements, agreements, contracts with these big schools to run a change management program in the school around literacy and reading comprehension. So we found this win, win, win environment where we've already got a trusted partner in there running change management and part of that's literacy and reading comprehension and they don't have books. And for the price point of around 2000 US dollars or 1700 euros, um, we can make an amazing library in the right languages with the right levels, with a partner already in there, monitoring that it gets implemented correctly. And this school giving a great space and giving the kids access to it. So at a low price point we can have big impact. And we've got seven libraries funded already that will be opening. We just opened one. You were at kind of the opening last Saturday. We've got seven, six more that are coming by June. And we're looking to do, you know, multiples of that more at scale.

Heather Newman:  Absolutely. Yeah. So we were at an opening of a library and you know, you kind of make the assumption, you're like, oh, if there's a school, there's a library, of course. That's not the case, you know, necessarily.

Troy Swanson:  What's crazy is, um, a lot of these children back in their home environments, there's not a lot of toys and there's not a lot of other things, right?

Heather Newman:  Yeah. Well, you know, even electricity sometimes just to read.

Troy Swanson:  Yes. And space. I mean, even space alone to like have no noise and or animals or things around you. And, and you know, with a Western mind, our heads go to why aren’t you doing tablets and why aren’t you doing all those other advanced amazing things that don't seem so advanced because in the west they're not. But the reality is for kids that live in a, in a very impoverished environment, that they can get a book that teaches them about the outside world and/or their local, I mean, a lot of the books that we're doing will be in their local languages or there'll be books that are named kids that live in their community, family members. We're not like, we're going to send them US books to there like,

Heather Newman:  We're not reading To Kill A Mockingbird.

Troy Swanson:  No, I mean it's, it's got gotta be something they can understand but also will teach them about the outside world and they can dream and like, what's an astronaut and what's this and what's that? And like that's, that's important. A lot of these kids, the younger ones, and maybe they haven't been on an escalator, maybe they haven't been on an elevator. You know, maybe you know, probably or maybe they've eaten at a restaurant. I mean like, so it's, this is a whole paradigm shift. So you give these kids a book and access. This is a whole new world.

Heather Newman:  Right. Well, it's like us looking at the Time Life world map when we were kids, you know, and going, what is Botswana? What is, you know, Kuala Lumpur, those and the words that sound interesting in your mouth, you know, and I want to go there. Yeah. And it was interesting asking the kids about travel. Where do you want to go? And we got out of one of the schools, we got out a big map and all of us, you know, there was folks, I was from the US and we had folks from France and England and Scotland and you know, and everybody pointing out where they were from.

Troy Swanson:  Curaçao.

Heather Newman:  Curaçao. Exactly. And so that was really interesting to see that. So yeah, the, the libraries that was interesting and partners that, you know, paint the walls and, and putting an actual librarian and all of that, you know, it's, it, you just, it's not just, hey, let's put some books over here, there with anything. There's a lot of thought and care and change management that goes along with it. That I was,

Troy Swanson:  Yeah, we've built out a framework that we've created and we're co-creating with, and this is the big word, right?

Heather Newman:  Frameworks.

Troy Swanson:  Framework and transformation. The two big words. Um, so that we're building with our local partners to make sure that, you know, we're not building, we're not doing this our own way, but we're doing this collaboratively so that this isn't our framework, this is our ecosystem's framework and that we can fund x amount of libraries, but then other nonprofits can come in and take that and scale that. Adapt it and,

Heather Newman:  Yeah, absolutely. Well, speaking of transformation, I mean this is all of the work that you do, that it's transformational I think. And you not only have you been here, um, in India and the other countries for such a long time and doing this and, but I know that, you know, we, you and I share a passion for Burning Man being Burners and having done that together and been there out on the Playa. And then also, you know, just really working on, um, how you show up in the world, how one shows up in the world. And guiding others on that. And I know that you've been doing a lot of workshops and you're building some interesting content and, and will you share a little bit about that path and journey that you're on as well?

Troy Swanson:  Beautiful. Um, 11 years ago I was a very different person. I was very much living in my head and I was thinking a lot and I wasn't doing a ton of introspection and I decided I would do some introspection and I asked myself if I was having enough exceptional experiences in my life. I did not know what the word transformational meant. That's what I was really asking. And I said, well, maybe I am and maybe I'm not. Why don't you define what a transformational experience is and then why don't you run it against your past, past, and you can see if you've had a lot of them, or any of them or whatever. So I came up with the definition of a transformational experience as something that you do or somewhere that you go. And typically that's one to 10 days long. And then after you've done that, you have a different paradigm of the world or of yourself. And you have incredible energy. You're like really happy that you did that. You're like, Ooh, that was great. So that was the framework of the kind of my definition. And then I ran it on my past and in the five years prior I had only had like one and I'm like, wait a second, like I want this every week, every month. Like why are you not having more of these? Why could that be? And the only thing I could come up with was maybe it was my conditioning. Maybe it was the way that, I don't know, my culture, my country, my family, although my family is amazing, my religion, my, I don't know what taught me to see the world and maybe just maybe amazing transformational growth experiences were passing by my face and I was not recognizing them. Or I was saying no to them. So I came up with this rule, it's called the three knocks rule. And I implemented this rule. My whole life changed. Um, so the rule, super, super, super simple, anyone listening can implement this now. It's, listen, listen, pay attention. Someone in the next day, week or month is going to sit in front of you and they're going to say, I just went to this place. We can use Burning Man an example. Most people now kind of know what Burning Man is. When I started going 10 years ago, kind of not less known, but, and I was saying no before because I didn't have this rule in my life. And I'll explain that. So, um, someone will sit in front of me like, listen, I just went to this place. I went, it's in the desert of Nevada in the United States and it's the biggest pop up city and it's amazing and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Okay. And basically, and they're going to say, I see the world differently and I feel amazing. And I think you should go Troy and the old Troy before the rule would be like, wow, that sounds weird, or hippy or Druggie or whatever judgment. But what really happened there is someone came up to me and gave me an energetic knock of love and growth and expansion on my forehead. Hello, wake up. Bam, knock. That's one knock. Okay, so now maybe a week later, maybe a month later, I'm somewhere else and someone comes up and be like, Troy, and listen, there's a desert in Nevada and people go there for a week and this thing is so next level and there's so much art and creativity and people and you know, healing and all this other stuff like, okay, no judgment. That's knock number two on my forehead. So the rule super simple is if and when you get to knock number three, you're in.

Heather Newman:  You say, yes.

Troy Swanson:  Yes sir, yes, you're in. And realize, now here's the, here's the key. Realize that your monkey mind is probably going to tell you, that sounds weird, that sounds Druggie, that sounds hippy or that sounds religious. Okay, but it's working for your loved ones and your friends. So I implemented that rule. My whole life changed. I started saying yes to a whole bunch of stuff, which was amazing. Transformational, weird, religious, hippie. And all this. And so I was in the middle of a 10 day silent meditation called Vipassana a couple of years ago and it came to me in a meditation that, hey Troy, didn't you invent this rule to become experiential? Yes. Didn't that massively change your life? Yes. Shouldn't you be sharing that better with others because it will probably change their life also? Yes.

Heather Newman:  Hell yes.

Troy Swanson:  Hell yes. Yes. So it's Troy, you're writing a book. So, um, my, my big calling right now in the next month is to release my first book and it's that rule, what I just explained and then it's 15 experiences on the planet that I said Yes to thanks to the rule that I offer to my friends loved ones and anyone who's reading the book that these are knocks on their door, that might change their life because I had wished that someone gave me this book 11 years ago. It would have accelerated a lot of growth and expansion for me. Volunteering and impact just a lot of different, you know, sitting with Tony Robbins, sitting with Dalai Lama, sitting with Mooji, traveling the world. Um, volunteering and impacts, kind of the AlphaBet Club's story.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, for sure. So, Troy and I had the same Spanish teacher back in

Troy Swanson:  Dr. Sam Pear. Si señor, muchas gracias.

Heather Newman:  Yes muchas gracias, Hola. Um, and well Troy is way more fluent than I am. I'm still back in classes and everything. But um, do you think, just curious, like one of the things I talk about a lot is about sparks and moments and we have similar, your knocks are kind of where I feel like recognizing the sparks in your life and really collecting them and understanding them and going, okay, was that just a word or a sentence or this. Or sometimes it's a defining moment like getting married and graduating or whatever. Moments have macro and micro moments in our lives and recognizing those and what do you do with them? Right. So sort of a similar vein and curious, do you think sort of back in high school when we were in high school, was there a spark or a moment that you can sort of pinpoint where somebody said something to you or you heard something and it's one of your, it's, it's pre knock, maybe, first knock maybe or that first spark that

Troy Swanson:  Well, you know it's, it's, um, it's a beautiful question and something I've never thought about and, and, and no but I'm happy because there's stuff going in my head. I mean, we grew up in an amazing place, amazing, especially to, a safe place and to be nurtured in and be young and grow up in. And my understanding of the planet right now, after traveling the world the last 10 years and volunteering and impact projects is very different than DuPage county. Or Wheaton, Illinois. And I remember we did an exchange program, uh, in our psychology class when we were in high school where we partnered with a local high school in the city center of Chicago. And I don't recall the exact name of that program, but it was an exchange program where, you know, 60 kids who are seniors in high school, will go for one day to their school and you're going to be paired up with someone and then 60 children from their school or students will come and do one day with you. And I remember that being beautiful and amazing and a wakeup call about how this planet is different for everyone and the resources that people are allotted and schooling and education. And like that was one of the first times that I got out of that amazingly nurturing bubble of Wheaton, which is great to be 16 and 17 and all that. But then that, wow, there's seven and a half billion people on this planet and not everything's like Wheaton and or DuPage county. And like, so that was, that was expansive for me back in the day.

Heather Newman:  I don't think, because we didn't do that. I wonder if that cause you're, well you were a year behind me but yeah, we didn't do that program. But I wonder if that Mr. Fitz, maybe?

Troy Swanson:  I don't recall, I should recall.

Heather Newman:  I can't remember it now. I know I should recall too. We're, we're pushing on our 20 mrmrmr-dada high school reunion.

Troy Swanson:  It's been at least five years since we've graduated high school, yes. Maybe pre-mobile phones and pre-Internet. Exactly.

Heather Newman:  Oh yeah.

Troy Swanson:  Oh yeah.

Heather Newman:  I mean you and I both really like Atari.

Troy Swanson:  Exactly. Exactly. Exactly. That's true. That's very true.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, I know Pitfall was one of my favorites and Kaboom.

Troy Swanson:  Adventure

Heather Newman:  Adventure. Yeah, for sure. So that, yeah. And, and your trajectory after high school, you know, cause you and I, we still have friends, you know that. Hello, shout out, to all of our Wheaton Central Tigers by the way.

Troy Swanson:  Go Tigers

Heather Newman:  Yes, go tigers.

Troy Swanson:  Um, yeah, a ton of love for Wheaton. I think our lives just have brought us and our families have moved. So it's like we don't tap back into Wheaton as much as we would like.

Heather Newman:  Absolutely. Yeah. My family moved fairly. I mean, my family moved all over the place. I mean, I was the new kid at Edison Middle School and, uh, jumped in to everybody, you know, in eighth grade. And so didn't grow up there and then my family left. Um, but yeah, I think, and for you it was after college and then you move to Madrid.

Troy Swanson:  Yeah. You know, the, the most transformational moment of my life was moving to a foreign country and I got the opportunity to move to Spain and to learn Spanish and uh, that was going to be one year and now it's been about 20 years. And my soul just went on fire, uh, living in a Latin country and I was so into learning Spanish and traveling Spain and then it was Europe and just felt truly alive. And then tech happened to me. I got into tech, different antivirus, um, spam companies and then I worked at Microsoft globally, and then your life just kind of happens in Europe and your friends and your business value. And I, I'm the type of person that if something's different, like if that wall socket, which it is in India, it's different because they all have an on and off next to the socket as, as it should be probably everywhere around the world. Um, the differences for me I find fascinating. I'm not like mad about them. Like why is that different? So, um, I just kinda got hooked into learning new cultures and traveling. And feeling alive, being in those environments.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, for sure. Yeah. And I know that, along, so gosh, ABC and you've got, um, the book, which is so exciting and we've been, I remember talking to you about that. Jeez, a year and a half, two years ago in London. I think we were in London. And, um, yeah, and I think with that, do you, I feel like there's going to be, you know, with my marketing brain on, you know, having, you know, things come out of the book and hopefully seeing you speak other places. And you did, uh, um, I know you did a podcast on the Burner podcasts. Tell everybody about that so they can go find that and we'll put that in the show notes.

Troy Swanson:  Yeah. So, um, made friends with people that do the Burner Podcast. Big shout out to you guys. That was life changing. So, um, if you type in Troy Swanson and Burner B U R N E R, podcast. Um, that was my first podcast and that was life changing. And I say life changing for me because I started to get asked to speak at events and conferences and stuff that I didn't know existed. And that was amazing by meeting new people and not just spreading kind of what we're doing, but even more so is that people started sponsoring children, started sponsoring libraries and donating their birthdays on Facebook. And so, what I realized is, is I go out and share what I, and we, because this is much more than just an I, like, we're a big team at AlphaBet Club of volunteers. Um, that wow, the giving and the impact that we can have for so many others is, is much greater than just for me. And that for me is addictive. It's like, alright, I got to do more of this, we got to do more of this, we got to speak more, or we got it. So this podcast, thank you for having me on. And just stuff like this where we share what we're doing and give people access to different levels and ways of giving that they want to have in their life and in their being.

Heather Newman:  Yeah. And perspectives. Trying to, we don't get, we don't get to see each other very often, you know, and we, we kind of live and breathe with WhatsApp voice messages. And, and you know, keep up with each other. And where are you in the world and where are you in the world? You know, both of us traveling a lot and doing a lot of the, this kind of work and speaking and all of that. And it's been amazing to just sit and have some time with a, friend who is doing this kind of work and inspiring me and helping me level up the conversations I'm having in technology and when I'm talking about diversity,

Troy Swanson:  Women, diversity. Yeah.

Heather Newman:  All of that. And just the perspective of, you know, making sure I said hello and shook hands with and namaste to every woman that I could hear and asking them questions about their jobs and their families and all of that. And um, just

Troy Swanson:  It's beautiful to see you play in developing countries as well. Cause I watch you play so strongly in the US and in the Microsoft world and partner world, in the marketing world and all these other worlds in Europe. Yeah. But I mean there's a lot of need. There's seven and a half billion people on this planet and the inequality and the diversity issues and the woman stuff is, is, is greater in certain parts of the world. So it's great to see you spending time here and getting this and being a, being a big bright light here as you are there. That's really, beautiful.

Heather Newman:  Thank you, yeah. No, this has been quite a trip and I can't wait to come back for sure. Um, so let's see. Last question. What's next? Like, what's the trajectory of sort of the next little bit for you anyway? Because you had all of us here and

Troy Swanson:  I mean, so the AlphaBet Club world is very constant with me always for 13 years. So that's always there. We are funding new libraries and we're rolling out a framework to massively impact a lot of children in the, it doesn't have to be a $2,000 price point. Any multiple or variable or fraction of that means a lot of books for kids in projects that we're going to fund. So a lot of that is around our libraries for schools program. Um, visiting India February next year. We're, so what you just did here this week, we're going to do that. So if anyone's interested in a deep dive, a couple of days, get in touch. I think you will vouch for

Heather Newman:  It is unbelievable. Majestic, heart wrenching, epic. It is all of the things, you know.

Troy Swanson:  Yeah. And then, um, launch my first book. And around that a podcast, you know I'm really focused on transformational growth. You know, this whole three knocks on your door thing isn't because I have to write a book. It's because this is what I focused on. Like this is what I love here. I love meeting people and finding out, well what is it that sparked, a lot like you, what is this that transformed you and what would you recommend? So my favorite question, this is a good one for anyone that wants to play games with their friends is like if you had an 18 year old brother or sister, you know, what is the one transformational experience that you had in your life that you would most recommend to an 18 year old brother or sister that you would have. And um, it's fascinating because people will tell you what has changed them and what is changing them. And then if you listen, like you can be doing that stuff as well. So I love building out a platform where we all share that better. What's working and um, we ramp that quicker for everyone. It doesn't have to be, you need to go to some exotic top of the mountain wisdoms and master. You can also do that, but it can be stuff, you know, where you're at. And launching the book and then a podcast just around that and, and sharing that better is definitely, this is my, my year to come and.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, it's your content and sharing and spreading the word more and more. That's amazing. Very cool. Well, I just don't get enough time with you. I could talk to you for like another four hours, but you know, that would be pretty long podcast for Mavens Do It Better.

Troy Swanson:  No, it's beautiful to get time with you and get time with you here and watch you kind of spread your wings and grow more and be more in the marketing and the tech and the women and the diversity space and do this and show up consistently with this podcast. All the love that you're giving so many people.

Heather Newman:  Thank you. Thank you Troy and you as well. It's a, you know, it's always wonderful to see, we were talking about sort of bearing witness, you know, and, and get. People don't always see you do your thing, you know, work or you know, or some of your passions. Like you see pictures and you see, you know, things we post on Facebook and social media and stuff or things you write. And there is something to being with somebody. And you know, like we were talking about, my parents were, you know, for a long time, I don't know what you do. Well, I had them come work with me at the Path Summit. My, they were finally like, oh we get it. You're a producer. I'm like, yeah, this is, you know, and that was sort of my old life. But it is truly amazing to be with somebody and see an under and really get an understanding of what they're doing and why. You know, what's the, why, you know, all of that. So thank you for this.

Troy Swanson:  That's beautiful, no, no, I mean, we're just happy this is so many people pushing in the same direction, focused on impact, transformation, education, nutrition, that, you know, now that you're a part of the mix and anyone listening that wants to be a part of the mix, I mean this is, it's just a beautiful thing that we are all a part of. Thank you.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, you're welcome. And a big, I wanted to say a big shout out to all of the folks, partners and volunteers and everyone that we met here in India and that took care of us in Bangalore and in Hampi. And I will be talking to each individual and shouting you out on all kinds of social media because you have all been so kind and so generous and thank you so much from the bottom of my heart for that. It's just really been unbelievable. So thank you so much. Um, and uh, you know, if you would like to subscribe, we're on iTunes, we're on Spotify, we're on Stitcher, we're on the mavensditbetter.com website. Uh, you can follow us on Twitter and Instagram at mavensditibetta, B E T T A. Um, and we're going to make sure and put all of the places that, uh, Troy is connected into and AlphaBet Club. Um, if you want to learn more about the organization that Troy heads up, it's alphabetclub.org and it is troyswanson.com and you can look for him on social media as well. And if you need to connect to him, you can definitely do that through me as well. So Troy darling. What a pleasure.

Troy Swanson:  Namaste my creative maven Heather. It Is so beautiful to see the light within you.

Heather Newman:   Ahh, thank you honey. Namaste back to you. All right, everybody, here's to another day on this big blue spinning sphere.

 

Heather Newman

Creative Maven, 8710 Graton Road, Sebastopol. CA 95472, United States

Heather Newman is an award-winning marketing maven, technology entrepreneur and an epic connector that brings many worlds together. She has extensive experience marketing products and services for Enterprise businesses, startups and emerging markets. Heather builds plans and processes that are nimble, human and different. She is an adept storyteller and is passionate about growth for both employees and the corporate bottom-line. Heather hails from the arts and the bulk of her career has been working with the largest technology companies in the world (Microsoft, Google, Amazon, NetApp, Hewlett Packard, and Dell). Her nineteen years of experience working at technology companies and building global high-tech marketing strategy has driven millions of dollars of revenue and multiple award-winning campaigns. She has led global marketing teams for many technology companies including AvePoint, IT Unity & KnowledgeLake. Heather was a part of the original Microsoft SharePoint Marketing team. During her tenure, she helped launch multiple versions of the product, build the SharePoint Partner Ecosystem and conceived of and produced the first three Microsoft SharePoint Conferences. Creative Maven has produced thousands of global marketing campaigns and events. Currently CM is focusing on go to market strategies for Microsoft and its partners as well as a new site sister site launching in 2015 called Marketingfixer.com. Heather also serves as Co-Founder and Chief Marketing Officer of Content Panda, an innovative technology startup looking to actively disrupt how content is delivered inside software.