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Firefighters vs. Autism


Turns out people like seeing pictures of half naked firefighters, throw in a good cause and people get really excited!

Justin Lewis, our crisis management expert, and author of Firefighter Self Rescue, recently started a non-profit that fights to prevent autism-related wandering incidents and deaths.


Wandering-When a person, who requires some level of supervision to be safe, leaves a supervised, safe space and/or the care of a responsible person and is exposed to potential dangers such as traffic, open water (drowning), falling from a high place, weather (hypothermia, heat stroke, dehydration) or unintended encounters with potentially predatory strangers.

As a firefighter, that information made Justin very uncomfortable. As a father of a child with autism, that information made Justin sick.
“It is physically and mentally draining to raise a child who is prone to wondering off from a safe environment and attracted to a potentially dangerous one, you always have to be dialed in, I had to do something…Hence, Firefighters vs. Autism.” Justin recently explained.


Well, what Justin did was recruit one of the most talented and creative photographers in all of Southern Arizona, Jason Lee Nolan, called a bunch of his fellow firefighters from numerous departments, and connected with families touched by autism, then shared his vision with them all.

His goal from the beginning has been to;

1. Train Emergency Responders how to best serve the Autistic community and children with special needs.
2. Sponsor Survival Swim Lessons for families touched by autism that are unable to afford them.
3. Raise awareness to prevent autism-related wandering incidents and deaths.


Social Entrepreneurship

To make a significant impact, Justin knew that it was going to take plenty of cash, community support, and sweat equity. Now, filing for non-profit status is no joke, he found that out when numerous lawyers he was referred to failed to return his calls. Another wonderful lesson he learned is that you cannot please everyone. The name of his organization seems to attract some raving fans as well as draw out plenty of critics. “Why does it have to be Firefighters VERSUS Autism, like it is a battle?” is a question he fields regularly.

Justin’s approach to solving problems in the marketplace is a perfect example of social entrepreneurship. Social entrepreneurs identify and solve social problems on a large scale. Just as business entrepreneurs create and transform whole industries, social entrepreneurs act as the change agents for society, seizing opportunities others overlook in order to improve systems, invent and disseminate new approaches and advance sustainable solutions that create social value.

Our mission at GAP is to inspire leadership and creativity in a manner that drives innovation, not only through our trainings and presentations but through our actions as well. Firefighters vs. Autism is a perfect example of the process of innovation.

Empathy->Perspective-Taking->Creative Process->Leadership=Innovative Solutions.

“Social entrepreneurs identify resources where people only see problems. They view the villagers as the solution, not the passive beneficiary. They begin with the assumption of competence and unleash resources in the communities they’re serving.” states David Bornstein, author of How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas

For those of you who may be in the midst of solving some complex problems or itching to influence society, I would like to share my 3 biggest take-a-ways from Justin’s journey.

1. Be The Message-Make sure your mission is congruent with the person you are designed to be. It will get tough, you are entering uncharted territory. The road map to success is know where you want to go but be prepared to take detours along the way. Changing people’s behavior is crazy tough and capturing their attention can be a frustrating process, if you are not deeply connected to the purpose behind your initiative, it will fail.

2. Go Where You Are Celebrated, Not Where You Are Tolerated-If your message does not speak to a specific audience, nobody will listen. People want to be a part of a community, communities are built from familiarity. Be specific, start small and build momentum. Most organizations jump over warm leads to get to cold ones. Focus on serving the early adopters, then empower them to help recruit supporters.

If you want to change the world…act consciously. Be authentic, but temper it with compassion.

3. People Care More About Your “WHY” Than Your “WHAT”-Everybody is competing for attention, there is so much noise in the marketplace, your message must be clear. Most people will not remember what you say but they will never forget how you made them feel. The more you can get people to feel and connect with your purpose, the easier it is for them to tell your story.

The Campaign
Justin has done a really great job at launching his indiegogo project. Through an active Facebook community, and by leaking teaser photos of some of the most jacked firefighters in Southern Arizona, he raised over 4k in less than a week. Now to have the impact he desires, he will need to raise 10x that amount, but he is well on his way and taking the first few steps are always the most difficult.

There are so many problems in the world but doing nothing is like waiving a big white flag. I have a deep admiration for Justin and the investment he is making into our community. Think big, start small, then you can grow them all.

Eric Thompson is the owner of Global Ascension Productions and founder of The Brilliance Project.  Eric has developed a plan that helps people to synergize their inner virtues, allowing them to discover and fully utilize the hidden strengths that so many people never use – their Brilliance.

For more information about Eric visit him at

2 keys to the Human Existence and unleashing your passion

At a recent speaking engagement delivered to a group of service professionals, Joseph Blair shared some profound insight about two very basic needs every human strives to fulfill. Regardless of the business you are in, understanding these two basic human necessities can help you gain a much deeper understanding of your clients, team members, vendors, employees, etc. Do not overcomplicate your business, serve your current relationships and you will grow your influence.

Joseph Blair is the founder of Blair Charity Group, philanthropist, retired professional athlete, professional speaker, and consultant. His charismatic personality coupled with his giving heart allows him to inspire acts of kindness in others. Most people know him because of his athletic prowess, but they love him because of his passion for improving his community.

Be Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable

When I was first asked to be a part of the Dancing with Our Stars event, benefitting the Southern Arizona Diaper Bank, I thought “NO WAY!!!” I mean, I can dance and all, but not ballroom dance!! I’m more of a, at the party while everyone else is too drunk to notice I’m dancing, type of dancer. But the thought that continued to tug at me was the cause!! For those that don’t know, the Diaper Banks that are now seen throughout the country were all originated and duplications of our Southern Arizona Diaper Bank. That’s right! WE started this great mission and movement! To know that type of innovation and dedication came from the community that I love so much was enough to inspire that same type of innovation and dedication in myself. Although, my innovation and dedication would take on a much more “rhythmic” face.

Once I finally agreed to participate, the first question asked of me was which dance I would like to attempt. My reply was very simple. “I have no idea!! Please just pick one for me that you think someone my size can pull off!” And this is how destiny decided to drop the foxtrot into my lap and my life.

After my first correspondence with my instructor, I felt pretty good about what was going to happen, that didn’t last long. It was only a couple days after that initial correspondence that I received another email from that instructor informing me that she would not be able to teach me and she would assign the dance to a substitute. First, I thought this was a sign for me to be very afraid and merely a indication of how things would turn out. Then I stated to reflect on my own life and how many great lessons and opportunities that were given to me because things didn’t work out the way they were planned. With that in mind, I became even more determined to make the best of this situation.

I’ve competed on basketball courts all over the world and never did I feel the type of anxiety that I felt the first time I stepped into the dance studio. The level of discomfort I experienced was enough for me to reconsider going through with the competition. My anxiety was compounded when I learned that my instructor/dance partner, Zhenya Kellar, measured in just under the 5 foot mark…heck, I could fit her in my pocket!! Being that I am 6”10, I am use to towering over people but this seemed a bit extreme. All I could picture was at weddings when the groom dances with the flower girl, it is cute but I did not see it translating into good scores from the judges. Thankfully, Zhenya was a pro and we instantly connected and shared many commonalities, especially our love for competition. So we created a practice schedule that we felt would prevent complete and total embarrassment.

The next few weeks seemed like a blur. I realized that those folks on the television show “Dancing With The Stars” had spent 8 hours a day working on their routines. We had only 1 hour, once or twice a week, depending on our schedules. Work never stops! Even when you’d rather dance the day away!

Just 3 weeks into the rehearsals I was feeling really good. In fact, we sat down and cancelled the bulk of my lessons! I have to admit that I feel like I was at the advantage when it came to this dance thing. You see, a choreographed routine in my mind is just like a basketball play or a workforce project. There is a rhythm to it and if someone is off a beat or out of step, everyone feels it. I took the mentality of it all being a play that I had to learn. I would have not have had the longevity in the sport of basketball I had without being able to adapt to new situations relatively quick. I have learned to take direction well, ask good questions, and put in the work. If I was going to break out of my comfort zone and try taking on a live ballroom dance competition in front of hundreds of people who will be judging me, I wanted to control as many of the variables as I could. What if I trip? What if I step on Zhenya? Or worse, what if I drop her? The only way I could block out those thoughts were through preparation and repetition.
Competition day came quick and the nerves hit me hard. I’m sure I seemed calm and cool on the outside but on the inside of was a mess! The one thing that calmed me down and gave me peace was the video that was shown before the competition portion began. The Southern Arizona Diaper Bank put together a wonderful video describing what they do in the community and the impact that this type of event makes in the lives of the people they serve. Seeing the passion behind those involved and the appreciation of those served became the light that lit my fire. With so many people stepping up to do so much, how could I not make my steps with pride and passion?

I finished the evening winning both the judges’ vote and the crowd’s vote for best foxtrot of the evening! I think that one of the other dancers described it best in the post dance interview. He said, “It’s kind of like military boot camp, you’re proud you did it, but you’re glad it’s over!!” Growth means change, and change involves risk, the circumstances will never be perfect. The road will be tough, so what? Get started now! I leaned that with each step I took, I grew stronger and more skilled and more confident. Find what makes you uncomfortable and take action!


Joseph Blair is the founder of Blair Charity Group, philanthropist, retired professional athlete, professional speaker, and consultant. His charismatic personality coupled with his giving heart allows him to inspire acts of kindness in others. Most people know him because of his athletic prowess, but they love him because of his passion for improving his community.

The Legacy of a Teacher

Who in the hell would want to be a teacher these days?  They get blamed for everything that is wrong in the world.  You know what I am talking about; we all have that friend who over shares about their miserable life and how that ninja-like dream killer of an educator ruined their only shot at happiness.  I figured a great way to celebrate National Teacher Appreciation Week would be to make myself vulnerable (something I don’t do easily) and share with you how one educator has shaped my life.  To this point, I have only shared how my high school baseball coach/social studies teacher changed the course of my life with my beautiful wife of 14 years (shout out to Cristina Thompson).  I realized that I was being selfish, and these experiences could very well add value to people’s lives and allow me to honor the world’s oldest profession…wait, I mean honor the world’s most underappreciated profession.

Let me first start by saying that I had a lot of great teachers throughout the years, and many invested their heart and souls into my development that led me to evolve into this incredible being that I am today, but I’m sure most would appreciate remaining nameless for obvious reasons.  However, I will out Mr. David Landrith and allow him to bask in the glory of contributing to my brilliance.

I was a fairly typical latchkey kid, a product of a divorce, which forced me to grow up quick.  I approached my education as a means to keeping me on the baseball field.  There were not many people yielding more influence in my life than the head varsity baseball coach because if you took baseball out of my life, I would have been lost.  This was my element; the baseball field was the only place that my talent and passion met, it gave me purpose.

As I reflect back on my memories of Coach L., I experience deep gratitude for him being in my life.  He had a commanding presence but was full of humility.  Rarely did you ever hear about how he was a part of a College World Series Championship team or how he played professional baseball.  You always got the sense that what happened yesterday did not matter; it was all about being consistent and putting in the work.  His pedigree was very impressive: his father enjoyed a colorful career as a major league baseball player.  His dad played along side of one of the greatest ever to play the game, Mr. Willie Mays.  Coach never bragged about how his dad hit a game-winning walk-off homerun off hall of fame pitcher Warren Spahn or how his dad jumped on Roger Maris’s back to protect the pitcher.  Nope, Coach kept all of these great nuggets to himself and let his actions do all of his talking.  I only know this information thanks to Google.  Of the many lessons this man has taught me, two had such a profound impact on me that they are now a part of my character.

Coach's Dad


Lesson #1

Celebrate Your Victories with Dignity and Appreciation.


Coach demonstrated this lesson unequivocally during a game my junior year when we were playing a very talented team from the south side of town. This team had some highly touted recruits who garnered national attention.  In the top of the fifth inning while the game was tied, I crushed a high fastball over the fence to put us up a run.  As I rounded the bases I was celebrating like my next stop was Disneyland.  Seriously, Kirk Gibson had nothing on me.  Coach Landrith signaled for me to come over to the third base box; I trotted over there with my chest sticking out expecting him to praise my wondrous athletic ability, and he calmly expressed his displeasure for my antics and reminded me that we have yet to win the game.  That pissed me off.  I was like, “Who in the hell does he think he is? I just delivered the very best outcome for our team, and he is criticizing my excitement???”

Well we went on with the game and, sure enough, lost the lead again.  In the last inning of regulation, I came up to bat again, and same as earlier, the game was tied.  I was still furious about what had transpired earlier but was ready to take some hacks.  Well, Déjà vu… same pitch, same result, I hit my second homerun of the game.  This time, though, I sprinted around the bases with a scowl on my face, refusing to show any emotion in protest.  Coach summoned me over to the third base box again. This time he told me in his booming voice said, “Son, it is okay to smile.”  Unfortunately, we went on to lose that game in extra innings, but coach made sure he taught me the power of humility.  I know that he was not trying to make me feel small but to expand my capacity for appreciation.  This lesson has always stuck with me and has changed my paradigm from looking up at the stars and feeling insignificant to appreciating the fact that I am included in such a universe.


Lesson #2

Show Up Everyday.


My senior year of high school was crazy and fun, but I was near the ledge a couple of times and needed to be pulled back.  My parents did not really have a great sense as to what was going on, but thankfully Coach Landrith said what needed to be said.  I had been missing some classes, and it finally caught up to me.  My parents were informed, and my dad reacted in a way that he thought he should: he went down to the school to get some answers.  The problem was that no one knew who he was, not even my baseball coach.  Before a game that I was planning on playing in, Coach Landrith sat me in the dugout and unleashed his full fury on me.  This was not a fun-loving intervention; this was a barrel-chested Grizzly Adams-looking man yelling at a decibel level high enough to ensure that not only my team heard, but the visiting team heard too.  Later I found out that the track team practicing on the football field 500 yards away were in the loop as well.

This is how I remember it...

He said a lot that day, but all I remember hearing was when he said, “And who is this guy who came into my classroom today claiming to be your dad?  You have been in this program for four years, and I am just meeting him now?”  It was like getting smacked in the face with the truth, and I was finally capable of comprehending it.  This was such a humiliating experience that I knew then that I would never let my children experience anything like that.  Coach was not trying to be hurtful; he was frustrated and genuinely concerned for my well being.  This man was not related to me yet still had a vested interest in my progression; he was rooting for me.  I have approached parenting from the perspective of just needing to show up everyday.  My kids do not expect me to have all the answers, but they know they can count on me to be rooting for them.

My contention is that we need to honor our teachers through meaningful and deliberate expressions of our gratitude for showing up everyday and making the continuous, laborious investment of shaping our students.  They work within constraints of a broken system yet are responsible for solving all that is wrong in our world.  These effective educators focus on serving their students’ unique needs as Coach did for me.  They may not bat a 1000, but when they connect, their influence has a compounding effect on the world.

I am a committed father who understands the importance of gratitude and being present.  That will never show up on some ridiculous standardized test designed to measure the effectiveness of a teacher.  However, it shows up in every interaction I have in my business, parenting, and coaching practices.  Coach Landrith continues to teach and coach at my high school, and I know our community is better off because of the virtues he willingly shares.

Now, I challenge you to invest some time into expressing your appreciation for an educator who has shaped your life.  If they are no longer living, how can you honor them?  Plant a tree?  Create a scholarship fund?  Send a letter to their loved ones?  Get creative; take action and build up some gratitude equity.  In the comments below I would love to hear ways that you have or will honor an influential teacher in your life.  It may not be convenient, but isn’t that the point?  Now show up and be gracious…it will change your life. Thanks Coach!

Eric Thompson is the owner of Global Ascension Productions and founder of The Brilliance Project.  Eric has developed a plan that helps people to synergize their inner virtues, allowing them to discover and fully utilize the hidden strengths that so many people never use – their Brilliance.

For more information about Eric visit him at

Our Engine of Belief

I am fortunate to be surrounded by amazing people who have created or are in the process of creating an extraordinary life. As a professional speaker, entrepreneur, coach, and father, people often compliment me on my ability to express my thoughts and how those thoughts inspire action in others. I appreciate these flattering observations. However, I am only able to inspire because I listen with my eyes and ears.

Life is complicated and convoluted; there is no one size fits all approach to arriving at our desired destination. However, I will say that a person’s relationship with their beliefs is the most influential relationship of their life. All you have to do is log in to Facebook or watch the news to see countless examples of people who fail to believe in the possibilities.

“For those who believe, no proof is necessary. For those who don’t believe, no proof is possible.” — Stuart Chase

I enjoy asking questions, but I love delivering solutions. I am a parent of four young children, I coach a youth baseball team, and I work with middle and high school students, collegians and professionals. What I recognize is how curiosity and wonder slowly dissolve as people get older. I get it…heartbreak, loss, embarrassment, and failure obviously influence our perspectives, and life can be cruel. Though, when I interact with adults who have accomplished incredible feats, I am always struck by how well they manage their beliefs. Despite experiencing failure, loss, heartbreak, and embarrassment, they continue to believe in possibilities. In trying to decipher their approach that delivers them to achieve greatness, I have found that they thrive off of challenging their own beliefs.

We are hard wired to believe before we reason. Once we form a belief, we tend to seek out evidence that conforms to it. We even go so far to protect our belief by ignoring contrary evidence or make up rationalizations to explain it away. Rarely do we admit we are wrong or change our mind. People who can manage their ego enough to challenge their beliefs are much more likely to discover truth and fulfillment.

Why do we believe what we believe?

It is critical to understand the foundation where our beliefs are formed if we want to successfully challenge them and gain a competitive advantage in this rapidly-changing world. The purpose of this article is to equip you with insight that may allow you to better understand how to test your assumptions, recognize your own biases, and ultimately, effectively decide when to change your beliefs. Our experiences obviously shape our beliefs, but it is important to recognize the sources that shape our assumptions, convictions, and fears.

Sources of belief
Internal-Emotional, Sensory, Intuition
External-Authority, Science, Logic

So let’s find out why you believe what you believe…

Write down your answers to the following questions:

To be successful at work, I need?

If my partner/spouse ________________ we would be much happier.

I am not in the shape I should be in because ________________.

These are just some very basic examples to prompt a discussion with yourself so that you can start being more aware of how your beliefs are serving or hindering you.

Kids love asking questions; you would think as we grow older, we would learn to ask better questions, but our interpretation of our experiences tend to reinforce our assumptions, leading us to stop asking questions. If you feel like something is missing in your life, ASK BETTER QUESTIONS!!! THEY WILL LEAD YOU TO BETTER SOLUTIONS!!!

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond imagination. It is our light more than our darkness which scares us. We ask ourselves – who are we to be brilliant, beautiful, talented, and fabulous. But honestly, who are you to not be so?” -Marianne Williamson
I battle everyday to capture wonder and to stay curious. It reinforces my belief in what is possible. Allow your engine of belief to deliver you to your beautiful suppose to be by challenging what you think you already know.


Eric Thompson is the owner of Global Ascension Productions and founder of The Brilliance Project.  Eric has developed a plan that helps people to synergize their inner virtues, allowing them to discover and fully utilize the hidden strengths that so many people never use – their Brilliance.

For more information about Eric visit him at


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To Continued Significance