Introducing the Ramey Reach Higher Grants
Last year, I helped sail a boat in an overnight race from Key West to Cuba – which for me was literally and figuratively sailing into the unknown. Not only had I never sailed a boat out of sight of the shoreline, I had certainly never sailed through the Florida Straits to a communist country where my visit still technically fell into a semi-gray area of legality.
I’d experienced similar adventures outside of my comfort zone in the past: navigating the souks of Marrakech, canoeing 100 miles in the Canadian wilderness, and making my way through the traffic jams of Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
In each case, I returned with the belief that when you get far outside of your comfort zone, it’s possible to experience growth and transformation in new and unexpected ways. I learned to let go of little things – or things that I could do nothing to change. When I “let go” of the safety of the shoreline, for example, I was able to let go of a lot of petty stuff – and focus on the things that really matter.
When I returned from Cuba, I pitched my business partners at The Ramey Agency on setting aside a portion of our year-end profits to fund a grant program that would help fund similar experiences for members of our team here. I felt that if we could help others get outside of their comfort zones, we could not only nudge people closer to their fullest potential, but that the agency would benefit from a more engaged and fearless team. To their everlasting credit, my partners enthusiastically endorsed the plan.
We set about launching the Ramey “Reach Higher” grant program and solicited submissions from the Ramey team. We asked them for big, audacious ideas. We asked them to think about the thing that would force them outside of their comfort zone – and help them see the world in a different light. We asked them to consider the thing that they’ve always wanted to do, but were too afraid to act upon.
We had no idea of what to expect. So when the submissions came in, we were blown away by the stories. They came from all parts of our agency. We heard from someone who had faced a personal failure and was looking for redemption via a do-over. We heard from someone going through a major life change event and seeking a form of renewal in order to grow from it.
Our runner-up had been offering financial support to a child in Tanzania, Africa – and was interested in stepping outside of her comfort zone in order to go meet this child face-to-face – in a place where she doesn’t speak the language or know a soul. As runner-up, she will be eligible to receive a grant if either of the two winners is unable to pursue their trip.
Our first Reach Higher Grant was awarded to a Ramey team member who had sent her kids on service and mission trips around the world – but always found a reason not to travel herself. She said, “I always passed on going myself, standing behind the excuse of finances. But the silent excuse was fear: fear of going, fear of traveling, fear of roughing it, and fear of being out of my comfort zone.”
She said that it was the Reach Higher Grant that finally took away the excuse of finances and forced her to face those fears. She said that if she was awarded a grant, the only barrier left was to face her own fears.
What impressed the selection committee was that this person actually went ahead and paid a deposit to go on a trip – without even knowing whether or not she was going to be a Reach Higher grant recipient. In other words, she was all-in, regardless of a grant. She plans to travel to Galette Chambon, Haiti, to serve women and children for a week at a malnutrition center – helping to restore the health of kids whose lives are at risk. So we awarded her a grant that will cover approximately half of the costs of her trip.
Our second Reach Higher Grant recipient had an equally moving story. She shared the story of being given up for adoption as a small child at an orphanage halfway around the world. And while she went out of her way to talk about the rich, content life that she leads now – especially as a wife and mother – she really moved the selection committee with the complexities of wondering about her birth family.
She said, “while my life here has been blessed, there’s a part of me deep down that has been scared to seek out information on my heritage – what I might find, what I may not find, what rejection I may encounter, and what disconnect I may experience.”
She went on to talk about the questions that she has asked herself about her birth mother: “Did she have a difficult labor, What emotions was she feeling? How long did she stay with me in the hospital?”
As you can imagine, this is big stuff – to want to explore these kinds of questions in a faraway land. So we awarded her a grant that will cover approximately 70% of the costs for her to visit the Holt International in South Korea.
We announced our winners at Ramey’s annual crawfish boil. It was a very moving experience to see our entire team cheer on the winners. There were tears, high-fives, big smiles, and the exchange of stories that come when we allow ourselves to be a little more vulnerable to each other and get to know each other on a deeper level.
We plan to post on The Ramey Agency blog, stories and photos of the trips that these team members plan to take in the weeks and months ahead. I hope that you’ll follow along and that you’ll enjoy seeing them as much as I will.