Finding Fulfillment in NuHope’s Mission

I didn't realize it all in a single moment of clarity. There was no great or obvious epiphany that changed my life, or an early childhood calling to philanthropy beyond the general desire to be a part of something good--something bigger than myself. Instead, my sights were firmly set on the exciting and new world of computers and technology. At the age of seven, I knew exactly what I wanted to be: a computer programmer for Microsoft. From my first experience with my father's Altair, to experimenting with Basic programming, to that initial glimpse of Windows 3.0, I was hooked, and I would do whatever it took to make that dream a reality.

Access to technology was radically different when I was growing up and attending school in the 80s and 90s. The computer science and engineering curriculum at these levels was literally being born in front of my eyes. I watched as the industry grew, millionaires made (and lost), and the pace of learning accelerated unimaginably. I couldn't wait to be a part of it--terrified the new world would pass me by if I didn't get there in time. When I was 23, I had a moment of realization—I had achieved my childhood dream. But at the same instant, and I had no idea what was next.

The last 15 years have been an amazing mix of personal and professional growth experiences. Microsoft has proven an incredible adventure, taking me to Fargo, ND and back, and offering up new challenges around every corner, as the industry continues its insane and unending change. This childhood dream is all I imagined, and I’m excited to keep on riding this crazy wave--if not starting a few ripples of my own. Yet, despite living my dream and having the ability to change the world at one of the top software companies on the planet, the feeling of giving back and being a part of something bigger, has remained largely unfulfilled.

I have been blessed with some truly amazing people around me throughout life. My father, with his insatiable thirst for knowledge and drive for success, enabled an incredible array of life experiences. My best friend, whose polar opposite professional direction took him into a world of public health and  philanthropy, and who introduced me to a truly global perspective as he dragged me around the world to participate in his life's ambition. My wife, who maintained a core belief in me and who is a constant reminder of the greater picture of humanity, which she works every day to instill in others. It should come as no surprise that my biggest sense of identity and pride--as well as humility and personal reflection--has been in starting my family and watching my children grow, learn, and find their own way in life.

Through both tragedy and love, so many people around me have slowly pulled back the veil on this new, grander opportunity to affect the world and achieve more. This transition from solely corporate to a more humanitarian focus has taken place over the course of decades and continues today. It has included several starts and attempts to insert myself into various causes and directions, but I always lacked the sense of ownership and purpose. I continued to get lost in the sea of possibilities.

The epiphany, if I ever had one, was a result of all of these experiences, culminating in a single Linked-In post from a friend who shared an update about her new position on the board of NuHope Street. I was immediately struck by a sense of empowerment. This simple act set off a chain reaction of events leading me ultimately back to where I started: a dream of being a part of something bigger. What I found different in this opportunity, though, was the tangible sense of attainable impact. A platform for realizing a dream in a way that harnesses the best of my professional skills with my personal life experiences. The mission of NuHope Street, its inspirational leadership and simple genius in leveraging the best of what we are to make a mark on the causes we care about most, is different from other organizations I have been a part of.  I have felt supported to lead, to contribute in the ways I am able, and to graft the vision of my dreams onto a flexible yet focused organization of capable people--and we are getting the results.

It has taken a long time for my transformation, and it is still very much in progress. But, it's absolutely true that it's never too late to do the right thing. Not all of us are fortunate enough to know what we want to be when we grow up--even when we're grown. I am learning to embrace the journey, and one-at-a-time, take steps that will build that legacy we all feel the call to be a part of. My dream is that my sons will one day reference my experience as one that helped them find their path down their own NuHope Street.

-- Brian Lounsberry, NuHope Street Board Member