Adom Appiah: Never Too Young to Change the World #38

Warwick Fairfax

October 6, 2020

In 8th grade, after dreaming for years of competing in the finals of the National Spelling Bee, Adom Appiah got knocked out of the competition early. Instead of wallowing in the disappointment of that crucible, though, he turned his attention to consoling the other kids who had also fallen short. That’s just one example of how this 16-year-old — author of two books and founder of the fundraising nonprofit Ball 4 Life — is living a life of significance and already focused on building a legacy of service to others.
To learn more about Adom Appiah and Ball4Good, visit www.Ball4Good.com

Highlights

  • Where Adom’s passion for serving others originated (4:45)
  • How the example of his mother inspired him to give back (5:40)
  • His first passion: the National Spelling Bee (7:00)
  • The crucible of not making the Spelling Bee finals in 8th grade (9:55)
  • How helping others helped him (10:18)
  • The lasting impact of youthful crucibles (13:41)
  • Pursuing his vision to found a nonprofit — as a school project (18:36)
  • The vision of Ball4Good (21:57)
  • The significance of helping even one person (23:41)
  • The impact of Ball4Good (25:25)
  • Why listening is critical to living and leading with significance (27:25)
  • The importance of “just doing you” in building a legacy (28:51)
  • The seeds of his book Kids Can Change the World (34:10)
  • The power of encouragement to ignite the passions of youth (39:24)
  • Adom’s one tip for taking the first step beyond your crucible (40:26)

Transcript

Gary S:
Welcome everyone to this episode of Beyond the Crucible. I’m Gary Schneeberger, the cohost of the show and you have clicked on play. We hope that you’ve subscribed to a podcast that deals in crucible experiences. Those experiences, crucible experiences, you probably know them a little bit too well. They’re setbacks, failures, traumas, tragedies, things that don’t always go right in your life that can knock the wind out of your sails. It can feel like it changes the trajectory of your lives.

Gary S:
And we talk about those things here on Beyond the Crucible, not so we can wallow in them, not so we can just share war stories about them, but we talk about them so that we can identify those things that we might learn from them and use those in moving, as the title of the show says, beyond those crucibles. And here with me to explore that is the founder of Crucible Leadership and the host of the show. And as I have taken to call him in the last few episodes, the Lego master of Crucible Leadership, Warwick Fairfax. Warwick, we have truly a remarkable guest and a remarkable show today.

Warwick F:
Absolutely. I couldn’t agree more. I’m very much looking forward to it.

Gary S:
And the reason that it is remarkable, listener, I always read the biography of the guests before we start, but zero in on this one, and I’ll tell you when I’m done just one of the reasons as if what’s written here isn’t remarkable enough, but there’s lots of remarkable aspects to this guest story. This guest is Adom Appiah, who is a student, author and founder of Ball4Good, a nonprofit that supports communities through sports. A two-time National Spelling Bee competitor, Adom’s books have received high reviews from teachers and community leaders.

Gary S:
He is the 2019 South Carolina high school honoree for the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, and a recipient of the Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes. In 2018, he received the Presidential Volunteer Service Award and the Mary L. Thomas Award for Civic Leadership and Community Change. He was appointed to the Points of Light Youth Council in February 2020, and is also a board member of the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Upstate. He’s the recipient of the 2020 William R. Sims Award for Outstanding Youth in Philanthropy. A Roc Nation honoree, Adom has been featured in local state and national media.

Gary S:
He is the host of Kids Changing the World, a biweekly show highlighting youth in business or volunteerism. I love this next part, Adom, I love how this next sentence begins. In his free time, having read all that, I’m wondering, where is Adom’s free time? But in his free time, he enjoys producing music, reading and playing video games. Wow. Warwick, that is quite a list of accomplishments, and this young man is indeed a young man, 16 years old and a high school junior, just both amazing and inspiring.

Warwick F:
Wow, well, Adom, thanks so much for being here. What you’ve done and who you are, it’s almost overwhelming. My kids are a bit older, they’re in their 20s, but my gosh, what you’ve done at 16, the two books you’ve written; Bouncing Back from Failure, Kids Can Change the World, I love both of them, but Kids Can Change the World, what a vision, and what you’re doing with Ball4Good, it’s mind blowing really. So thank you so much for being here. So before we get a bit into your crucible and bounce back and what you do for Ball4Good, tell us a bit about yourself.

Warwick F:
I think you live in South Carolina, Spartanburg, I believe, just tell us a bit about yourself, your family, growing up, just who is Adom? Give the listeners a bit of an idea of that.

Adom A:
Thank you. A little bit about myself, I’m 16 years old, a high school junior, and I really just enjoy helping others. And just a part of me has been just working with my family to help other people. Ever since I was young, we’ve just had this mentality of giving back to our community and making sure that others are fortunate and others are able to thrive and prosper. And so through my experiences growing up, that’s just become a part of who I am. It’s been ingrained in me to always give back. And so beyond my books, beyond the things that I have accomplished, I’m really just someone who loves to help others.

Warwick F:
Where did that come from? I mean, sometimes, it’s a mom or a dad, a cousin, an uncle, a grandparent, a teacher. Where did that, just this mission to serve others, where did that come from?

Adom A:
I really think it’s a family thing because it was ingrained in my mom, ingrained in my dad, and they just passed that down to me ever since a young age. Ever since I was able to walk, we’ve been able to walk for certain causes or give money or food or whatever we’re able to do in that time to help others who don’t have the same things that we have, and we’re able to provide them with that opportunity or that health. And they’re just focused on giving back and helping others.

Warwick F:
Wow. Some of your early memories, can you think of a particular example of where your mom or dad or just some family member was doing something you thought, “Boy, this is amazing.” Give us an example of what was modeled for you, the kind of activities and behavior.

Adom A:
Well, I know that when I was very young, we went on walks for a kidney disease, we went on homelessness walks, and getting into the nonprofit world was just through osmosis really because mom was in the nonprofit world and she inspired so many people with her work, gathered people that are local libraries and different places to teach things like coding or reading to youth. And so being in that environment just had me in this nonprofit and giving back mindset from such a young age, I just grew up like that.

Warwick F:
So what did some of your buddies think because not everybody grows up in a family like that? They might just want to hang out, play, I don’t know, school, whatever it is, what does some of your buddies think of your family and just that mindset of just wanting to help everybody? not everybody grows up in that kind of family.

Adom A:
Sure. I’m definitely blessed to have the family that I have with my friends. I know that there’s a mutual respect there. We don’t always have the same families or the same things that we participate in, but we always find a balance and they’ve helped me out with some volunteer work and I’ve had some fun with them playing some video games or whatever that might entails. So it’s just a mutual understanding and we understand how our families operate and how to work together.

Warwick F:
That’s amazing. One of the things you said is from an early age, you just had this desire, this passion to be in the spelling bee competition. Talk about, why the spelling bee? Some people want to do… not everybody wants to go in the spelling bee competition.

Adom A:
Sure. Yes. The spelling bee was something that I watched ever since maybe third grade, because as soon as I entered real school beyond kindergarten, I used to love the spelling bee and seen it performed in my school, because in my school there was a third grade spelling bee and that was the pinnacle of spelling. And so ever since the first grade, I saw those people and I wanted to be that champion that they announced every year. And in the second grade, I started going through class bees.

Adom A:
And then in third grade, we actually had our class competition based to determine who would go into the third grade spelling bee. And I had people talk to me about how it’s not common for boys to spell, it’s not common for people who like a certain way to spell. And so that was discouraging for me, but then my third grade teacher encouraged me to watch the Scripps National Spelling Bee and see the number of people represented in that bee. And it’s just such a diverse group and a bunch of people just having this great time contributing themselves to words and understanding the dictionary. And I fell in love with it. I was inspired.

Adom A:
And so I ended up winning the third grade bee, and after that, I was just hungry for more spelling, but my school didn’t have the opportunity to enroll in the national spelling bee until sixth grade. So that’s when I started going back to spelling, reviewing the packets that my teachers would give me. And I was fortunate enough to go to the regional bee in sixth grade, even though I didn’t win my school bee because I got second place. And our winner was gracious enough to give me the place to go to the regional bee because she had a conference that day.

Adom A:
And so going to that regional bee was just a great experience for me, I got way further than I would have ever expected. My parents helped me study, but I had no prior experience with it. I was able to get third place in that bee as a sixth grader, which was just wonderful to me and I was so thrilled and so shocked, but that also encouraged me to work harder the next year, given that I had seen what the layout was like. And so I knew how I had to study, I knew how I had to prepare. I was able to win my school bee the next year, and won the regional bee and progressed to the national bee.

Adom A:
And in that national experience, I got to meet so many people who were like-minded, who loved spelling, who just loved learning altogether, and I still have those connections to this day. And I was able to go again in my eighth grade year, and it was just a wonderful experience, learning about the spelling bee and going full circle and eventually making it there.

Warwick F:
But I think from what I understand, there was a competition in which you were trying to get in the semifinals and didn’t make it, which grade was that?

Adom A:
That was eighth grade.

Warwick F:
That was eighth grade. So talk about that because from what I think you’ve said is, that was a tough thing to go through, a tough blow not making it. So talk about what happened and why it was tough and that whole experience.

Adom A:
Yes, sir. Going into the eighth grade spelling bee, there was an expectation because as I mentioned before, I realized that as I got to go and experience the regional bee, I was able to progress beyond that. So I was thinking that in seventh grade, as I went to experience the national bee, I’d be able to progress further than I had the last year. And that ended up not being the case. So that was very disappointing to me because of how much I had poured my heart into learning to spell and learning to make my way around the dictionary, learn the roots of words, just learn the ins and outs of the bee.

Adom A:
And so it was disappointing to me and disheartening when I got my word wrong and wasn’t able to progress to the next round that everybody sees on TV. So it was upsetting to me, but in that very moment, I put it to the side and just decided that other people were going to feel down, other people are going to feel sad, and so I was going to uplift those people. And as they got off the stage, I decided to comfort them and encourage them and put my own struggling and disheartenment to the side. And eventually, at the end of that night, I went back to my room and I was thoroughly upset that I hadn’t fulfilled the experience that I had dreamed of.

Adom A:
And so I began to write when I got home and I just started to reflect and started to understand how far I’d come and how much it had meant to me and what this failure had ultimately become. And that really just evolved, those words that I was writing evolved into Bouncing Back from Failure, my second book.

Warwick F:
What’s remarkable about that is sometimes you go to a gut-wrenching experience you’ve wanted your whole life and you don’t make it. And in that moment, you might be angry, sad, depressed, very few people in that moment have enough self-awareness or enough altruism in a sense to be thinking of other people. I mean, like people 10, 20, 30, 40-years older than you, wouldn’t behave the way you did, wouldn’t have the maturity you did. And how old were you back then?

Adom A:
14, I believe.

Warwick F:
Right. I don’t know too many 14-year-olds let alone 40-year-olds would have that level of maturity.

Gary S:
I’m 55, it’s hard for me to get there.

Warwick F:
Yeah. It’s sort of unheard of, so what led you in that moment, the first thought being, “I need to care for the other folks here who haven’t made it too. I need to comfort them.” What led you to do that because that’s off the charts remarkable?

Adom A:
I just try to apply the golden rule, treat others how you want to be treated. And I knew that in that specific moment, I was feeling down, I was feeling bad, but I decided to not let it just weigh me down and let me sit in the corner. And so I decided that other people are going to be feeling the same way and they might need someone to look out for them, someone other than their parents to console them, lift them up as a peer and look at them and just say that, “It’s going to be all right and you’re going to be able to grow beyond this experience.”

Adom A:
And I was able to console some kids who had further years ahead of them. And I saw them go through and years following, the year that I got out and be even more successful than they were before. So I just thought that it was going to be really important for me to reach to those kids who were feeling down because I knew how they felt in that position.

Warwick F:
Wow. Well, not to repeat myself, it still blows me away. I just can’t believe it. I don’t know pretty much anybody that would react as maturely and honorably, really lifting up other people.

Gary S:
And that is, if I can, that is a unique experience, but your experience of having that eighth grade failure of not achieving the goal that you were after is surprisingly not unique. We’ve talked to many people on this show, Adom, one of them is a successful Hollywood writer, director, producer, actor, the whole thing. He just signed a two-year deal with Netflix. This guy’s career is going well, we had him on this show. We thought his biggest crucible was going to be that his wife was pregnant with triplets and there were some complications and they almost lost the baby.

Gary S:
So we thought that’s what he was going to talk about, but instead, the first thing he brought up was in eighth grade, he did not make the basketball team and all of his buddies did. And here’s a guy, he’s in his late 40s, early 50s, and he still remembers that moment as a pivotal moment in his life where he had to learn how to bounce back from failure as you had to learn at your age. So listeners, as you hear Adom talk about his experience and say, “Okay, he was in eighth grade, which was only three grades ago. He’s going to have a lot of more.”

Gary S:
I’m pretty sure that moment’s going to stick in his heart because of the way that he prepared for it, and the same way that it did for the guests I was talking about, Robert Krantz, the filmmaker. It is okay, it is common for experiences when we’re young to carry forth as crucibles. The beautiful thing about what Adom has described, is he moved beyond that. And the way that he moved beyond that, first and foremost, the first step was to help others.

Warwick F:
So well said. That is exactly right. So Adom, as you’re back in your hotel room and like all of us, you’re human, you’re starting to just feel sad, were you down about yourself? All sorts of thoughts could have gone through your mind, “If my school had a spelling bee from third through eighth, maybe I would have been better prepared.” Did you start feeling angry at yourself or bit down on others or what was going through your mind as you’re in your hotel room, just reflecting on all of that?

Adom A:
I’m a kind of laid back person and a reserved person. So I didn’t really express anything, but going through my mind, it was like reflecting on what I could have done better, what I could have understood or what I could have gone back and done. And then with a couple of days passing, I just came to the conclusion that I can’t go back, I can’t change that. There’s not going to be another opportunity for me to approach the spelling bee, but there are going to be other opportunities for me to do other things in my future. And so I just took that into consideration, that’s what helped me get out from that point of feeling down and feeling sorry.

Warwick F:
Again, I’m just blown away by that.

Gary S:
I am too.

Warwick F:
I don’t know anybody of any age that so quickly would say, “Well, that was awful. Yeah, maybe I shouldn’t have missed that one or maybe… ” I don’t know, if there’d be more spelling bees over the years, but just to say, “Well, past is the past, I can’t change that, let’s move on.” Easy to say, but I don’t know too many people that would have done what you did. That’s, again, that’s an unbelievable maturity. Yeah, it boggles the mind really. So that’s incredible. You have a lot to teach people, I can tell you, of anybody of any age. So that’s amazing. I’m going to to keep repeating myself. It’s like, “Wow.” I don’t even know how many times I got to say wow.

Gary S:
This would be a good time, Adom, to tell you something. When I talked to your mom, okay, I’ve got notes here from talking to your mom. And she told me a lot of the things that you’ve told us here, and you’ve told the listeners here. And at one point, I had a similar reaction to what Warwick has been saying, “Oh my goodness, wow, it’s incredible what this young man, the maturity he has shown and the care for others he has shown.” And I said to her, “You must be so incredibly proud of your son?”

Gary S:
And this is a direct quote written right here on my page. She said, “I am absolutely proud,” then she laughed, and she said, “But he probably doesn’t care.” Spoken like a mom of an exceptional child.

Warwick F:
Yeah. Well said. So I want to move on to maybe another defining moment, so talk about… Ball4Good came out of a project in school, but there was another project from what I understand working on like a computer project for high school seniors, and you were part way through it and decided to shift gears. So talk about what the project was and why you decided to shift gears halfway through?

Adom A:
Yes. So my first project that I was going to take on that I never quite took action on was going to help our neighboring and possibly even more senior living facilities, help them with their technology and understanding the things that they have around them such as laptops or iPads, just getting to work with them and getting to understand that. And I thought that that was a great cause, and I see some people doing that today and in the past, but I just thought that it wasn’t something that could fully get behind. So as I was going through the process of outlining what I would do for this project, I just lost interest and decided that I would shift gears and rethink what I was doing and start with a passion.

Adom A:
And looking back, I’m so glad that I did, because this was able to grow to something beyond what I ever imagined just because I was starting with the passion of sports.

Warwick F:
But talk about just what happened. You had a conversation with your teacher, and it’s the way you kind of changed gears. But basically I was going to say, “It’s going to cost you. It’s going to cost you a lot.” So talk about that conversation. What did your teacher say and what was the cost that you had to agree to if you wanted to move forward?

Adom A:
So with that first project, we had already done a pitch, we had already done everything for the project grade. And so that’s what I had earned, I had earned a pretty good grade on that project without actually starting it because we had pitched it because we had done those initial steps. And going back and erasing what I had done and moving forward with something new, I will lose those initial points. So I had lost the points from the project that I had earned and I had to regain them through Ball4Good.

Adom A:
So that was another way of encouraging me to keep on my toes and update my teacher, making sure that everything was in line because I had to make up for something, because I had to make up for lost ground.

Warwick F:
That was probably weeks, maybe months of work that you lost, right? I mean, you went from a good grade to zero?

Adom A:
Yes sir. In a sense.

Warwick F:
Zero points. It’s almost like being in a, I don’t know, 800 meters and you’re 600 meters through an 800 meter race, and was like, “Okay, you’re going to have to go back to the starting blocks again.” It’s like, “Seriously, really?” That basically is what happened, which is incredible. Now, what led you to make a shift that not too many other kids your age would have made? It’s like, “Well, I’m going to lose all those points. I’m going to have to do all this work again. I’m going to have to go it double time, triple time.” What led you to be so convinced that you wanted to make that shift?” Because the cost was very high.

Adom A:
Now, in discussions with people around me and my parents, family members, I just realized that if I was going to do something and I wanted to do it to the best of my ability, I wanted to have something that I was passionate about, that I can invest in. And so, I decided to reboot when I figured out that I wasn’t feeling this project the same way that I thought I would. And so that took me back to square one, took me back to the brainstorming stage. And this time I took it with more care and more understanding of what I was looking for rather than just looking for a grade. And looking back, I’m so glad that I did.

Warwick F:
It’s funny, it’s not like providing technology to senior living places is such a bad idea. It’s a pretty noble cause it’s not like, “Oh, well, who cares?” That’s noble, that’s a wonderful thing to do. But talk about why Ball4Good, the concept of it really appealed to you and just fired you up, really? What about it made you say, “I got to do this?”

Adom A:
With, the concept of Ball4Good, I’ve always seen sports as a unifying measure. People have always been unified or divided about their sports teams, but overall, the sport itself brings people together. And so I thought that through my passion that I had for sports, specifically basketball at the time, I could bring a whole community together, even if it was a small community gathering. And it ended up being a much larger gathering than I would have ever imagined packing out the gym, but I just thought that I could bring people together and have a way to raise money with a joy behind it and have a community behind it, and just have this overall fun spirit going with the project.

Warwick F:
That’s a remarkable vision, from what I hear you say, raise money through sports, but by bringing people together, by unifying them and letting them have fun. I mean, that concept of bringing people together. Obviously, the world is a pretty divided place in so many ways. When it’s easy just to give up and say, “Well… ” I mean, people a lot older than you just tend to be cynical, and, “What’s the point? Nothing will change.” Everybody’s entrenched in their corners,” and what have you. But yet you had a different spirit, you had more of an optimistic, so where’s that come from? Because I don’t sense that you’re cynical, I sense to you’re somebody filled with hope, right?

Adom A:
Yes sir.

Warwick F:
I think you’re probably realistic, you’re not in denial about the challenges of our world, but yet there must be a sense of optimism that fueled Ball4Good. Where’s that sense of optimism come from?

Adom A:
I try to remain realistic in everything that I do. And I have a realistic vision of, what are the capabilities of this, what’s the possibilities of this? And with Ball4Good, that kind of optimism and happy spirit really came with the idea that I would be helping somebody. If it wasn’t a huge impact, I’d be helping somebody. It’s not that it had to be something so magnificent, something that I would get so many awards or have a certain dollar amount, I just knew that somebody was going to benefit from this project. And even if it wasn’t somebody that I would ever know of, they would benefit, and that just gave me hope, that just gave me drive, and it still does to this day.

Warwick F:
I think listeners really should hear what Adom is saying because it’s so profound. Often, we think, “Oh, we want this big vision to change the world,” which is great, but a big vision, if you just change one life, that’s a big vision. And so we should never be discouraged saying, “Well, I can’t change the world. I can’t change my town. I can’t change my neighborhood. Let’s all get up.” If you can help one person, that’s a big vision. You’ve ended up helping a lot more than one person, but you were willing to accept whatever would come. You give it your all, and if it was one person, you would be good with that. That’s a remarkable, again, I’ll use that word again, incredibly mature way of thinking that people decades older than you don’t get.

Warwick F:
There’s probably a whole lot more thoughts that you have that could help people besides the two that you’ve done, but that’s just a remarkable attitude. So talk a bit more about Ball4Good. You’ve talked a bit about uniting people through sports. Who are some of the people that you help? Just talk a bit more about that.

Adom A:
Yes. Through Ball4Good, we’ve been able to help several nonprofit organizations in my community and beyond. We’ve helped causes of child abuse, we’ve helped causes of advocacy, children’s cancer, child camps for boys and girls clubs. We’ve just been able to help so many different causes with homelessness, or just people who aren’t as advocated for, and we’re able to reach those people through this collective community passion.

Warwick F:
How do you choose which groups to help?

Adom A:
Well, we actually have a very talented grants committee that’s comprised of youth throughout our community. We’re schooled by the Spartanburg County Foundation staff, and they teach us how to review grants. And then we’re able to look at all of these applications that people submit to us, nail it down to four organizations, and then submit it to our various school districts. And they vote for the number one and the three finalists.

Warwick F:
Again, this is an organization a lot of people, again, decades older than you wouldn’t know had to do. How do you pull the list together? Grants committee and a whole process to review, again, it blows my mind. How do you pull all that together?

Adom A:
Really a lot of listening because there was so much that I didn’t know. And being a young person, I knew that there were going to be aspects of the nonprofit sector and just the business world in general that I had zero experience in because all my experience was school. And so going through this project, going into this real world scenario, I just had to have an open mind and open ears ready to listen to people and take different things from different aspects of the world and put them in my organization and the way that I would like to see fit.

Warwick F:
Wow. Again, remarkable.

Gary S:
I think this is the most times you’ve ever said wow in an episode, Warwick.

Warwick F:
It is. Normally at the end, there’s two or three things that listeners need to listen to, there’s probably 10 or 15 things that listeners need to listen to here. So here’s another one. Speaking of listening, you mentioned listening. There’s many successful, so-called successful executives, political leaders, whatever, most of them are terrible at listening. They have massive egos, thinking, “I know everything. I’m the foundation of all wisdom.” They don’t listen. And there’s certainly a lot of young people, teenagers, 20s, who think, “Okay, I don’t want to listen to my parents, I don’t want to listen to my teachers, I don’t want to listen to anybody. I’ve got it, I’m going to make my way.” But you had the wisdom to know, “I don’t know about nonprofits.” How could you at your age? “I want to listen to the experts, to the best advice to pull us together.” That requires remarkable humility. Where does that come from?

Warwick F:
I don’t know, that’s probably a tough question to answer, that desire to listen, the curiosity, the humility. I don’t know, you probably can’t answer where it comes from. You’ve probably have always been that way, I’m guessing. Is your mom or dad, they model some of these things for you, these desire to listen and be humble?

Adom A:
Definitely. I know that my mom always tells me the importance of respecting people and respecting where they come from. And so I’ve just worked that into my life and how I can take different aspects of the world and put them into what I do in the most productive way possible. My dad always tells me the importance of just doing you and doing what you need to do, what your legacy should be. And so he’s taught me how I should listen to others, how I should take into account what everybody has to say and then pick what I believe to be important and ingrain that in my life.

Warwick F:
Another amazing word. I don’t think I’ve heard pretty much any 16-year-olds mention is legacy, what your legacy to be. That’s something people think about on their death bed. It’s typically, “Man, I made lots of money, or whatever happened. And, oops, I neglected my family, I was so driven,” whether it’s in any field of endeavor; business, sports, the arts, but you’re thinking about legacy right now. Do you have any inklings of what you want your legacy to be? It’s probably a massive question, but since you brought up-

Gary S:
I bet you do. I bet you do.

Adom A:
I have some broad aspirations as to… I just want to be able to help, definitely more people that I’ve helped now. I want to be able to get to a point where I can consider myself a true philanthropist and be able to allow people to benefit, be able to help with the issues of the world in whatever way I can, whether that’s in leadership or in financial contributions. I just want to be able to say at the end of my life that I was able to make a difference, I was able to help.

Gary S:
And that is in the parlance of Crucible Leadership, listeners. That’s what we mean when we talk about leading a life of significance. What Adom just talked about is his ship where he’s not exactly sure what port it’s going to land at, his ship is pointed, the compass is pointed toward a life of significance.

Warwick F:
Yeah. That is a pretty amazing legacy. Let’s talk a little bit more about Ball4Good. And so I get all the amazing things that you’re contributing to, so how do you raise the money? Is it like sporting events? Or how do you maybe… I think you brought in some different, maybe NBA players, how do you do that side of it, the sporting events and create interest in what you’re doing and raise the money?

Adom A:
Sure. Our first year we started with what is now our annual celebrity basketball game, that’s where we tie in local celebrities as well as other celebrities to join us and play basketball against one another, and they just pitted against each other and teams. In the first year, we just raised money through grants, sponsorships, concessions, tickets sales, and then in the following years, in order to raise more money, we had competitions for the players to see which player could raise the most money, and they’d get a plaque for that. And so it was just encouraged players to get behind this cause and tell their friends about it.

Adom A:
So that spread the word about Ball4Good as a whole, and beyond the basketball game were able to raise money through a different streaming services, were able to raise money through soccer events, different school programs we’ve partnered with that are able to receive donations or donate physical items such as like winter hats for children or women with cancer. We’re just able to do these various things for different organizations through avenues with sports and other avenues. As the quarantine hit, we were unable to have our annual basketball game, so we transitioned into something different this year.

Adom A:
We had a music fundraiser in which we streamed music on Instagram and Facebook, and our viewers tuned in every week for almost a month and a half. And they donated to the GoFundMe, were able to raise a substantial amount of money just by playing music and having a party every weekend.

Warwick F:
That’s pretty creative. That’s adaptable. Another important life quality is when life throws you a curve or like the whole coronavirus being able to figure out, “Okay, what do we do now?” So that’s critical component for listeners in life.

Gary S:
This would be a good time, perhaps I think to do a couple of things. One, we’re getting close to the time that we have to, I would normally say, land the plane, but let’s say, rack the basketballs. So we’re getting close to the part where we got to rack the basketballs and wrap up, but we’re not there yet. But the other thing I would be very remiss, Adom, if I did not give you the opportunity to tell listeners where they can find out more about you, your books and about Ball4Good, how can they find out more?

Adom A:
Yes. My social media handles are all @iamadomappia, and you can also find us on Instagram @weball4good or Ball4Good on Twitter. And you can go to ball4good.org for more information about our organization. My books are also available for sale on Amazon, they are, Kids Can Change the World and Bouncing Back from Failure.

Gary S:
Fabulous. And we will spell for you listener both of the Adom’s names so that you can find those handles in the social media accounts for sure.

Warwick F:
One thing I’m curious about is obviously your first book Bouncing Back from Failure, and it’s so needed in our world today, but Kids Can Change the World, that’s an amazing title. What’s the concept there? Why’d you write that, obviously, you’re changing the world and you’re still in high school, but what prompted you to write that book? Maybe that’s an obvious question, but I’m just curious.

Adom A:
Sure. Kids Can Change the World, actually didn’t start as a book, it just started as me writing down ideas based on my experiences with aspiring to be involved for good. I just felt like that specific year for me was just so profound and so awakening that I decided to write down my ideas. And eventually, a couple of words turned into a full page, page turned into a chapter, and before I knew it, I had this book with these written out steps to how kids can make an impact. And the title says, kids can change the world and people view that as such a large and such a profound statement, but I truly think that if everybody has the mindset that they can change the world, the world can actually change, because if people have the mindset that I can’t change the world, the world is so large, then nothing is going to get done.

Adom A:
But if people have the mindset that me as a person, if I do one small thing every day, the world will change in a small way, then eventually, a lot more it gets done because a lot of more people are purpose driven and excited about going out to make a difference in the world.

Warwick F:
Absolutely. And I think kids have unique opportunities because sometimes you get few more decades in life and you get downtrodden, you get cynical, maybe you’ve suffered failure, maybe sometimes it can be not your fault, you’ve been mistreated, a lot of things can happen, and you start getting angry and sometimes understandably, you start giving up and just, “Oh, what’s the point? The world isn’t fair,” which obviously is not. But sometimes as a kid, you might know that, but you haven’t had a few decades of, I don’t know, being mistreated or downtrodden or failing.

Warwick F:
And so, sometimes that sense of optimism hasn’t faded yet that later on… And it can be very understandable why it fades, but it’s good when hope and optimism doesn’t fade. And sometimes with kids, you know what I mean? It hasn’t faded yet. So there’s a unique opportunity. So what’s next with, obviously you’ve got a junior, you’re probably thinking of life after high school and college and all sorts of things, but when you think about Ball4Good, what’s the next step and the vision for you?

Adom A:
With Ball4Good, I’m looking, especially this year to have something to wrap up, I don’t know, the scale, we were able to accomplish, but we’re looking to do something with a streaming service that we’ll be able to raise money through Ball4Good. It won’t necessarily be me streaming, it could be someone else that we’re partnered with, but we’re looking to raise money through that. And then going forward, we’re looking to have meetings with our various committees, check in with them and brainstorm as to how we can adapt, assuming that we’re not able to return to what we normally do and anytime soon.

Warwick F:
Wow. Well, thank you, Adom, that’s so many remarkable things and Gary, you’re probably going to try and sum up here, but I think if there’s some things that we can really learn from Adom, often what leads people to be great leaders is character. I love history, and one of the things we talk about a bit on here is Abraham Lincoln and historians regularly rate him as the top president. And he had this self-belief, but he also coupled with supreme humility, you could say, “Mr. Lincoln, in this era, you’re an idiot.” And he’d say, “Well, you’re probably right, but tell me why.”

Warwick F:
So what leads to greatness is really, obviously, as I’m sure your parents probably say all the time, is character, is that self-belief, but that sense of humility, the willing to listen and to learn, thinking of others. That’s really what makes great leaders and great characters, and you’re already living that way at 16, so it’s mind blowing. So thank you. It’s an honor to have you here. It really is.

Gary S:
I’m going to change the way I normally end the show. Listeners, you know how I normally end the show, Adom does not, but it’s because of you, Adom, I’m not going to end the show like I normally do. Normally I say, “Here are three tips that you can learn from what we’ve just had in our interview with our guest.” I’m not going to do that because I don’t believe I can do justice to some of the truly insightful things you’ve said. So what I’m going to ask the listener to do is go back and replay this episode because there’s a reason why Warwick stopped several times in this conversation with this young man and said, “Wow.” Because there is great insight.

Gary S:
And his book may have been called Kids Can Change the World, but there are tips in this conversation where you at any age can change the world by simply following these simple examples. One of the things I love about this conversation, Adom, is that you don’t talk a lot, you’re a man, a young man of few words, and the words that you say have great impact. And I’m going to end, instead of doing the recap of trying to add extra words to your word, let people go back and listen to your words because they apply them to their lives, and listeners, you’re going to be well on your way to overcoming your crucible and achieving a life of significance.

Gary S:
But I want to end on this quote that I found, because when you were talking to Adom about your initial journey, about wanting to be in the spelling bee, there were some people who were saying that boys aren’t very good spellers. And that could have discouraged you, but your third grade teacher, you mentioned, encouraged you and got you going and got you into the spelling bee and lit that fire in you again that maybe some people had tamped down. And it reminded me of this quote from Franklin Roosevelt, FDR, the former president, who said this about youth, “We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future.”

Gary S:
That’s what your third grade teacher did, that’s what your parents have done, and that is what you even still in the context of being a youth are doing for youth and for all of the adults who’ll listen. I’m going to let you have the last word here, Adom. What’s one tip you would give to someone who’s going through a rough time, a crucible, a setback, a failure, what’s the first step you would recommend someone take, who finds themselves in that position?

Adom A:
I’d say, in an experience where you’re feeling hopeless, you’re feeling bad, you are down, that you have failed, I’d say, take a moment just to reflect, think about all that you have, think about all that you’ve been blessed with and think of this failure as a blessing, because it serves as a lesson. It serves as a lesson that you can apply to your life in the future, and you can implement that in your life and always remember that failure, and it’s going to lead you to further successes in your future.

Gary S:
Fabulous. I’ve been in the communications business long enough to know when the last word has been spoken. As we say in journalism circles, we put it at the end of our stories, #30#, end of story. Adom, you said it well. So listeners, thank you for spending time with us on this episode of Beyond the Crucible, we hope that you’ve gained some insights from our conversation. And we hope that it helps you recognize and understand that your crucible experience while painful, and it can be something that “is simple,” that other people might not think would be painful, like not winning the spelling bee that you had trained for three or four years.

Gary S:
Some people might dismiss that as not really being a crucible, it is a crucible. And you may be in that crucible moment right now and feel like you’re off balance, your life has been knocked off track, Adom has proven it through what he’s, not only gone through, but what he’s explained that that crucible experience, that pain, that failure, that setback is not the end of your story. In fact, if you learn the lessons of it, if you apply the lessons of it, if you flip the script and learn to serve others as you move beyond it, that crucible can become the launching point to a new story, a new chapter in your life that can be the best chapter in your life because what it leads to is something truly remarkable. And that is a life of significance.

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