Ethan Zohn blog article It's time to live your goals

BREAKING NEWS: US Women Win The World Cup!

The United States crushed Japan, the defending Women’s World Cup champions 5-2. This wasn’t just payback for losing to Japan in the 2011 finals. This wasn’t just a World Cup win for the first time in 16 years. This was a revenge of epic proportions, served sizzling hot on a platter! This may sound silly, but I have been patiently waiting for this moment since July 10, 1999. I’m so happy it hurts. My soul is bursting with fresh cut grass and bouncing soccer balls!

I’m not sure if everyone realizes the magnitude of this situation. The four weeks of competition brought to fruition the hopes and dreams of so many people around the globe. This is the greatest exhibition of female athleticism, pride, nationalism, emotion, creativity and competition our planet will ever see.

It is also a reminder that it’s time to “Live Your Goals.” This is the catchy FIFA campaign that aims to encourage more girls and women to play, participate, and stay involved in soccer. I love the concept and feel it can be applied to all aspects of life whether you are a student, professor, coach or parent.

One of my greatest goals in my life is to make happiness real for others.

Since I was a medium-sized terror growing up in Lexington Massachusetts, my mom always seemed to remind me that giving was a good thing. Give my birthday money to the town library, give my time to help shovel snow, give my clothes to Salvation Army. What was my mom thinking? I hated to read, the cold is miserable, and I’ve always liked to hoard my clothes. The concept of “give to get” seemed like a better strategy in my small, unedited book. This all changed when I had the opportunity to play the cut-throat game of SURVIVOR.

What the show SURVIVOR is really all about is this: I was part of a sociological experiment that happened to air on national TV in front of millions of viewers. I’m not an expert on human nature, but I did gain some insight into the way people work and the tools we use when placed in an unfamiliar environment.

What I wasn’t prepared for on SURVIVOR was the loneliness and isolation of being stuck on the equator in the center of Kenya with no family, no friends, and no Facebook. All I had with me were the clothes on my back and my one luxury item of choice: a hacky sack. This little soccer ball beanbag was the one item that I was allowed to bring that took me temporarily away from the game of Survivor home to the familiar.

The interesting thing is that once all my distractions were taken away from me, I was left with nothing more than the bare essentials of who I am. It was just me and my guts – because once you take away the food and water, and you’re tired and hungry, your true colors come into focus. All that was left was my character, my personality, and my personal values.

And once I became aware that this knowledge of self is all that one needs to survive and prosper, I ended up giving my hacky sack away to a little Kenyan kid. This was my most prized possession, and I just gave it away. This was a tough decision – a real moment of personal truth. But I realized that this small gesture of giving it away made such a huge difference – a toy to me was a luxury to him. And you know what? I was able to Live My Goal and it changed my life forever.

I was able to go on and co-found a charity called Grassroot Soccer – we use the power of soccer in the fight against HIV and AIDS. Currently, we are in 40 countries and have graduated over 750,000 at-risk boys and girls from our program. One of the coolest awareness programs we have is our 3v3 Pick Up Soccer Festivals. Last year, we had 60 events on college campuses nationwide.

So, as you navigate your way on campus this year, remember to take a moment and Live Your Goals. Because if we all make a conscious effort to Live Our Goal, imagine what life can be like, imagine how happy we could be and imagine the gift we could give to people who could use our help.

Credit // Author: Ethan Zohn


For Ethan Zohn, life’s opportunities and challenges are faced with confidence by drawing on his values and character. Character: The Ultimate Survival Tool is Ethan’s chance to share his extraordinary journey with students looking for a way to make a difference in the world. Learn more about Ethan’s keynote at campuspeak.com/zohn.