KEYNOTE SPEECHES

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DON'T DIE BEFORE YOU'VE MADE A DIFFERENCE

[Focus:general audiences]

Thirty-four years ago, I was nearly killed when the cruise ship I was lecturing on burned and sank in the freezing waters of the Gulf of Alaska. Rescued at the last moment as a typhoon engulfed my lifeboat, I emerged with a sense of direction and purpose that hasn't wavered.. All of us want meaningful lives, I tell audiences, but we don't have to face death to find them. The guiding signs are all around us, most of them small and subtle—I just ignored them.,

No matter what your situation in life, don't settle for just taking up space—find the meaning you're looking for in service, in committing to ideals beyond your personal needs. Let me help you find or renew the passion for what you care about—then go after it with everything you've got.

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HOW TO LEAD--INSIGHTS FROM MANY SLIPPERY SLOPES

[Focus: leaders and leaders-to-be]

How can you improve your effectiveness as a leader, building on what you already know? As the author of Outdoor Leadership, I offer insights and practical tips from forty years of experience on mountain-climbing teams, in Vietnam, at the UN, as an environmental activist and in the nonprofit world. In my book, the core of good leadership is a lot more than making tough decisions and handling conflicts. It’s also about developing trust, communicating with sensitivity, balancing head with heart—and inspiring others with a clear and compelling vision of success.

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GIVING BACK IS THE KEY TO LIVING FORWARD

[Primary focus: general audiences, including entrepreneurs and high-net-worth individuals] Looking for ways to "give back?"

I lead off by telling the inspiring stories of "Giraffe Heroes"-people honored by his organization, the Giraffe Heroes Project for sticking their necks out to help solve pressing public problems. Why do these heroes do what they do? Why do they take these risks?

In 33 years of asking these questions, the answers are clear: Giraffe Heroes are motivated by the personal meaning their actions add to their lives, meaning flowing from helping solve important public problems, from making life better for other people.

After decades of climbing mountains and dodging bullets in wars and revolutions around the globe. I share my own stories of how I painfully learned the same lessons--that the secret to a life of meaning is giving back.

Then I challenges his audiences: what can each of them do to leverage the skills, contacts and resources that already sustain their business lives to help solve a public problem significant to them? MY challenges are tough but in the language my audiences understand. Everyone has unique opportunities to make a difference, he says. What public problem has your name on it? Find that problem, and then tackle it with everything you've got. It'll help solve the problem; and it'll add meaning, passion and deep satisfaction to your own life.

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STOKE THE FIRE

[Focus: organization conferences]

How do you keep the vision in your organization bright, the goals sharp, and the people in it working with passion and commitment? As author, storyteller, activist and former diplomat, I can help you build on the fire and purpose you started with. There’s tremendous motivation in doing work you know is meaningful—meaning is the source of vision, passion and strength, for individuals and for organizations. Connect with that meaning and you’re unstoppable.” My message is serious, but my style is informal and humorous, laced with stories from myadventurous life, and from the lives of the heroes honored by the Giraffe Heroes Project.

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WHY SHOULD YOU CARE?

[Focus: high school kids]

Teens pay attention when I ask them what they care about. As author of It’s Up to Us, a handbook for teens, I use an easy tone and style, and plenty of dramatic stories, to show students that nothing is more important than living a meaningful life, and that the surest path to that meaning is service. “You can find thousands of ways to make a difference,” I tell them, as I offer practical tools for the search. “Find the ones that excite you and go for them with everything you’ve got.”