How to Use Your Unique Skills to Make a Difference
In March of 2019, I had the opportunity of attending Cisco Marketing Velocity, a Cisco-hosted conference that brought marketing professionals from all over the world together in New Orleans, Louisiana. Amongst the many great and talented speakers, one stood out to me more than the rest: Mick Ebeling of Not Impossible Labs. His session started out with a story of a talented graffiti artist from Los Angeles called Tempt One who was paralyzed from ALS and hadn’t created anything in seven years.
Mick began his journey with what would later become Not Impossible Labs when he met Tempt’s family at a fundraising event. Mick was so deeply touched by Tempt’s family’s longing to communicate with him again that he made a promise right then and there to help Tempt get a speech-generating device (SGD.)
That promise got him thinking. If he got Tempt an SGD and he was able to use his eyes to move a cursor across the screen to select letters and make a machine talk, how could he take that a step further? Could he somehow use that technology to help Tempt create art again? Was there a way that Tempt could use his eyes to move a cursor that would allow him to draw? This lightbulb moment, along with the will to make someone else’s life a little bit better, was all it took for Not Impossible Labs to be born.
After his lightbulb moment, he called in for backup. Mick reached out to the founders of the Graffiti Research Lab who had created technology that allows the user to “draw” on large scale objects such as buildings using a green laser, a projector, and an astronomer’s camera. The only missing piece was connecting the existing technology in the SGD with the technology that the Graffiti Research Lab had created. Pooling his resources, Mick flew in friends, internet strangers, programmers, and anyone who was touched by the story and wanted to help. They gathered in Mick’s Los Angeles home.
These “mad scientists and misfit geniuses” spent weeks on end hacking, programming, and building. These people didn’t have to be experts in medical technology. They were programmers, hackers, artists, people with a variety of skillsets who decided to use their brain power for good. They worked long nights, pushing past the boundaries of what they had always been told was impossible. If you’re familiar with the term “hacker-maker culture,” this is it: You do whatever you need to do to make it happen.
Just one day before everyone was scheduled to fly out, they all gathered at Tempt’s hospital with his family and friends. That night, using the prototype, light, and projectors, Tempt wrote his name on the side of a large building, using only his eyes. They had done it! They changed this man’s life after his passion had been so tragically ripped away from him. “It feels like taking a breath after being held underwater for five minutes,” Tempt told them.
Mick went on to tell the inspiring stories of many others that he has helped since starting Not Impossible Labs, but the reason I felt compelled to share this story is because Mick made a promise before he had time to figure anything out. He was so touched by this individual, that he made a commitment to making it possible – then he figured it out. He made the jump before he knew exactly what it would entail, making a promise to himself to connect the missing pieces. If you feel passionate about a certain type of technology, product, or software, I encourage you to think about how you could use your skills to go a step further. Is there an elderly neighbor you could help? What about a distant family member who has lived a hard life due to a disability or illness?
It’s not always about being the smartest person in the room or having the most certifications. It’s about those who are willing to think outside the box and push the boundaries of what is “impossible.” In the words of Mick himself, “If you want to change the world, start by questioning things that are absurd.” Those are the people that create change in this world. It’s not always the latest and greatest, fastest piece of technology, but what you do with it that matters. It’s how you change people’s lives and leave the world better than you found it.
Kirsten joined the ABS team in 2017. She was born and raised in Richmond and attended Old Dominion University for her Bachelor of Science in Communications. When asked why she chose ABS, Kirsten tells us it was the culture and the people. “ABS is full of people who are hardworking, genuine, and passionate about what they do. Everyone looks out for each other. I could tell from my first interview that ABS is going places, and I wanted to be a part of it.”