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17 Jun

Ep. 145 – Shane Feldman – Social Entrepreneur & Founder of Count Me In

“I realized really quickly, now that I was waking up happy in the morning, excited to go to school, actually enjoying my life through something so simple, it kind of hit me as a Freshman in high school that the only reason I felt like an outsider initially was because I was acting like one.”

Shane Feldman – Social Entrepreneur and Founder of Count Me In; Dealing with loneliness; Looking for opportunities to connect with other students; Starting a student run organization; Storytelling with a purpose; The power of community; Charitable causes.

Segment 1: (Length :04:00) – General Updates; Introduction to Shane Feldman; Dealing with loneliness; Looking for opportunities to connect with other students; Starting a student run organization; Creating Count Me In.

Shane’s finer points:

“Yeah if you don’t take care of yourself you can’t help make an impact or drive your business as much as you can. The more you take care of you, the more you’re going to have to offer others and your business.”

“So Count Me In was really born as this project back in high school and was really born out of a challenging transition I had into my Freshman year.”

I had moved around a lot since my parents' divorce and one of those moves was right before I started high school, so I'm starting in this new school. 1500 students. Feel completely alone. Don't know anyone. Having a lot of trouble finding my place and any sense of belonging. Essentially I just felt like I had landed in the worst high school in the country or the world. I just felt all kinds of lost and lonely.

“Finally after weeks of feeling totally sucked into this black hole of emptiness, I went to my school counselor, truly just to try and transfer to a better school, somewhere I’d fit in and have friends and be happy and low and behold my school counselor, who is kind of undercover awesome, kind of tricked me into signing up for a handful of clubs and counsels.”

“Things that he felt would match my interests. I was signing up for these things thinking it was some formality I had to get out of the way in order to get that transfer, but really it turned out to be the gateway drug to making friends, finding my place, my sense of belonging, and really flourishing and designing the high school experience of my dreams.”

“I realized really quickly, now that I was waking up happy in the morning, excited to go to school, actually enjoying my life through something so simple, it kind of hit me as a Freshman in high school that the only reason I felt like an outsider initially was because I was acting like one.”

“Because nothing about the school changed. Nothing about the students or teachers changed. I changed. And I just plugged into my community but that shifted everything inside of me which shifted everything in my environment. So the more I got involved, the more I realized how many students in my school were not involved in anything.”

“And I guess that just struck a nerve in me because I had acknowledged early on how critical community was for me in my life. It really was what was keeping me feeling whole and healthy and human and alive.”

So I had this idea to plan a school event, like this assembly that would motivate students in my school to get involved and then help them connect with opportunities that were the right fit for them.

“And we started planning, the goal was for 50 students to attend and we found a way to really create this by the people, for the people, really grass roots, student driven and that really gave our team ownership over it.”

“So what started as, what we thought was gonna be an assembly for 50 students actually turned into 400 kids showing up from seven schools.”

“And fast forward about a decade, Count Me In has now evolved dramatically over the last 10 years jumping just in our first year, from 400 students to 1,000 students and then over the past 10 years we’ve had the incredible growth and opportunities from producing broadcasts and major conferences to school tours and global media programs that have now enabled us to reach over 10 million youth in over 104 countries now and county.”

“The primary purpose and driving mission of Count Me In today is really helping students connect with one another and with their communities in a meaningful way, through this digital hub of inspiration, along with our school tours and in person camps and leadership training programs. We really inspire students to get involved, to be engaged in their community.”

Segment 2: (Length :08:00) – Talking with Shane Feldman; Discovering what students want; Storytelling with a purpose; The power of community building; Charitable causes.

Shane’s finer points:

“I mean, looking back, ’cause it was so hard at the beginning, at first no one wanted to come. People were literally saying I’d rather go to math class which I still don’t quite understand, but maybe that’s because math and I have never got along. But then we start to realize, okay, if we don’t get shut down, if we actually ask students, “Okay, why don’t you want to come?” And we don’t get defensive and try to persuade them, we just stand back and listen.”

“Pretty soon we were getting all kinds of incredible feedback, like the kinds of speakers they want to hear, the kinds of things they were interested in, so we really were able to create this program, this event, even in the very early stages, that was something our students wanted in the first place.”

So what celebrities are they actually interested in? What kinds of speakers do they actually want to hear? What kinds of charities are they actually in to learning about?

“So by curating this event, in a way that gave our prime audience ownership of it from day one, we kind of knew they were going to show up. We didn’t expect 400 to show up, but that was just kind of the icing on the cake.”

“But if you look at any successful brand or company or organization out there, I really feel like it’s not just about solving a problem, you know, coming to … showing up with a creative new solution to some kind of problem, but also making sure that you are really helping your audience or your clients, your customers see a part of themselves within your brand.”

You know I call it transmedia storytelling because we're really telling stories over multiple mediums but they're all congruent but the thing that every single element of our program has in common, one of the ways I believe we've really been able to transcend so many geographic boundaries and different age categories is really because we're telling these emotional stories that our audiences can relate to very deeply. Right?

“There’s a piece of them in every element in our program and they see that and acknowledge that and get excited about it and not only do they want to get involved, but they want to tell all their friends about it. All their colleagues. All their peers. So because they see a part of themselves, they feel a sense of ownership.”

“It’s not like we have this reach of 10 million, it’s more like we have 10 million members, 10 million stake holders in our program. That’s genuinely what it feels like being on our team.”

Well something that I was able to recognize really early on was that my story was far from unique. That feeling of being disenfranchised and so separate from my community. The feeling of being lost or lonely is something that more and more people, teens and adults are struggling with today.

“And in some respect I credit a lot of that today, especially with younger people, teens and millennials, the more connected we become online, the more disconnected many of us become in person and with our communities so one of the biggest elements of success that I see within our programs is that we’re really helping students build real relationships with one another and with their communities in this more meaningful way.”

“They’re actually connecting online and they’re getting an emotional connection that they can’t really get digitally in that digital world. So it’s almost taking some of these things that kids are enjoying online or virtually and helping them find the parallels that they’ve been missing out on, right? And once you feel that element of connection, it’s something you get hooked on, right?”

We all love. It's human nature to love that sense of value. Value in yourself, value in something you're able to contribute and an impact you're able to have and so one of the things that our program really is a catalyst for for these students is them realizing that they do have value, they have what to offer today and that fills a void in them that many other things don't feel, especially in this virtual, digital heavy in many ways, unbalanced world we're currently living in.

“There was one student we were working with who was really inspired by our leadership camp, the Count Me In leadership summit and she acknowledged that she grew up in a family that couldn’t always afford presents over the holidays so she bound together a group of her friends, ended up packing hundreds of gift boxes to bring to the local shelter and they turned it into this whole volunteer day.”

“We were able to actually send our whole camera crew out to film it, which was awesome. We actually created a short documentary about this project she was doing in her town which was so cool.”

“And another student recently, a senior in high school who is hard of hearing and recognized the struggle of getting hearing aids when he was little, realized that there’s some students that actually can’t afford hearing aids at all, and don’t have that kind of support. So he decided to take it upon himself to put on this community wide fund raiser to help disadvantaged kids who are struggling to find the funds to get hearing aids or another hearing device, the funds to do so and he raised $10,000 in one night with this community concert that he planned.”

Those are two awesome stories but the projects that have come out over the years are truly boundless and endless. It's just remarkable. It's so far beyond me and our team. It's so grass roots, it's taken on a life of its own and I just love that I get to be a part of these stories and help them be shared even wider so they can inspire the masses.

“That’s what it’s all about. Listening and then sharing. I’m so grateful that a component of my job right now puts me on tour as a speaker. I spent about half of my year on tour, not just speaking to students and educators and parents, but also companies and just helping them copy and duplicate what we’ve seen such success with at Count Me In in terms of our growth and scale.”

“It’s so simple to me, it really is. It’s hard but it’s simple. It really starts with listening. Finding those parallels between what’s already working digitally and making sure that you’re emulating it in real life to drive those meaningful connections. That’s all that anyone wants. Right?”

We all want to be heard. We all want to feel a sense of value. I don't care if you're a brand, a parent, a mentor, a teen. Your job every single day is to see value in yourself and then try and help someone else see value in themselves. That's how we're going to create a more connected world that feels that sense of fulfillment and joy ever single day.

“Segment 3(Length :03:00) – Hustler Thought of the Day:

The biggest lesson has been that I thought I was supposed to look for happiness out there. I thought that happiness was something that happens to you. Something you wait around for and expect to show up. What I learned is that happiness grows inside of you as a result of something you do. – Shane Feldman


Shane Feldman – Social Entrepreneur & Founder of Count Me In

Shane Feldman is an internationally recognized global youth empowerment expert, motivational speaker, producer, and social entrepreneur

As Founder and CEO of Count Me In, Shane is the creative strategist and visionary behind the world’s largest youth-run organization that has impacted over 10-million youth in over 100 countries

Shane is currently appearing on A&E’s new docuseries, “Undercover High,” where he is joined by six other young adults who all went undercover as high school students. The groundbreaking series takes a first-hand look at the inner workings of the universal experience of life in a public American high school.

As a child of divorce, Shane was constantly moving with his mom, lacked consistent male role models, experienced relentless bullying, and felt socially isolated. He had moved upwards of eight times before entering high school. After moving to yet another brand new city, Shane was rejected by his first-choice school, and entered 9th grade desperate for a positive experience, but instead felt lost and invisible

With the help of a very committed guidance counselor, Shane became active in local clubs, theater and volunteerism. Getting involved turned Shane’s life around, and inspired him to launch a school project to help his peers find their passion through community involvement. What started as a small project remarkably went viral, and has since evolved into the global phenomenon known as Count Me In

Born out of Shane’s own challenges and experiences, Count Me In inspires youth to be positive change agents in their community. With Shane at the helm, Count Me In is a global leader in immersive and practical student leadership, training, and community building.

Once socially isolated, Shane is now a renowned youth advocate committed to energizing those who feel lost or disenfranchised as he once did. As an expert on the power of positivity and human potential, Shane travels the globe sharing his story, inspiring corporate and educational audiences to create an inclusive culture of connection, and helping them uncover their value and potential

Shane has consulted for Microsoft, the Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA), GEAR UP, the International Student Leadership Conference, and Pencils of Promise. He has appeared on national media, was recognized by The United Nations Youth Assembly and the President’s volunteer initiative, Serve.Gov, and was named on Youth In Motion’s 20 Under 20 list top of the New York Times Best Seller list

Check out Shane HERE |  Social for Shane Instagram


Matt Gottesman

Matt Gottesman is a global digital strategist and technology advisor, creator and editor-in-chief of Hustle & Deal Flow™ - an online magazine dedicated to the world's entrepreneurs, creators and makers, a Social Media Influencer and a consultant on New Media and go-to-market strategies for investments in digital marketing, technology, websites, mobile applications, eCommerce, social media and content.

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