'I Imagine': Origins

"It started as a methodology for a nonprofit project in West Africa then evolved into a philosophy about life. Origins can be interesting but the thing I really I want to know is…how will it end?"

– Adam Radly, Founder of 'I Imagine' Tweet
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‘I Imagine’ was founded by Adam Radly.

He developed a philosophy called Maximum Positive Impact after helping a village in West Africa. The philosophy is outlined in the first chapter of his book ‘I Imagine’. 

Here is an excerpt from his TEDx Talk:

“What happened next was a process of elimination that unfolded over a 4-year period– and here it is in 60 seconds.

There’s a lot of people in the world that need help but who should I help? Helping one group of people meant not helping others so it was a serious decision. I decided that the poorest people need the most help. 

I found a United Nations report that ranks all countries from richest to poorest. The country that was lowest on the list but safe enough to visit was Mali in West Africa. 

The people in the north get less rain than the people in the south so I decided to help a village in the north. The village needed a million things but my resources were finite so what should I do for them? 

At the time they had no electricity and 1 one in 5 children died before the age of 5 from malaria and childbirth complications. So I provided some solar power and a health center and, sure enough, the child mortality rate improved significantly.

When I look back on that sequence of decisions, I could see that I was always trying to answer one question – what could I do that would have the maximum positive impact (MPI).

Over time, I thought – maybe all nonprofits should use this MPI methodology. Then I thought, why not all schools and governments and even corporations? In fact, why not make it a way of life? 

That’s a more philosophical concept but, I was at a point in my life where I was desperate to break everything down to its most fundamental level and it led to passion number 3. 

If there was a philosophy buried inside those three words (MPI), I wanted to discover it by only considering what I can observe and reasonably know to be true. So, this was my thinking.

What does MPI really mean? If it literally means putting 100% of my time and effort into saving the planet, then the philosophy breaks down immediately because living that way is not sustainable. At the very least, I need breaks for food water, and sleep. So, what else does a human need? I found some answers in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and I did some research and ended up with this. Life broken down into 21 elements [image of Lifewall].

I found research telling me that I only need $60K year to be happy, that bad friends are as bad for me as bad diet, that being present and meditating would add years to my life and that getting into flow and expressing my individuality are ridiculously enjoyable.  

So, if I focus on these needs I’m selfish and if I focus on saving the planet I’m selfless. But is that true?

Because, it seems that if I theoretically perfected all of these elements, I will have the biggest impact myself – and also have the biggest impact on the planet – so MPI on myself and MPI on the planet are the same thing. And I do believe that we’re all part of one organism – so they should be the same thing.

So I thought, let’s test it out. This is my Lifewall [lifewall image] on the day I asked myself if money had made me happy but felt like there was something missing. You can see why I wasn’t happy. Income is only one out 21 elements and I overdosed on it. What was missing? A total lack of attention to the other 20 elements.

OK, this Lifewall tells me what I should do but why should I do it? In fact, I thought to myself, why do anything?

For me, the selfish, primal and simplistic answer had to be – I really just want to be happy and everything else is just an act for the outside world. So, I’ll start by imagining doing something that I think will make me happy. Then I’ll do it and see if it worked. Then I’ll use that information to decide whether to do it again.

It’s like an ongoing cycle of trial and error experiments but the interesting thing was that, regardless of success or failure, I would always end up with information – information about whether it made me happy, how happy it made me, how it compared with other ways to make myself happy. Another name for this information is self-discovery.

It seems like pretty important information to have. If, at the most selfish, primal, and simplistic level – I just want to be happy and this is the information that tells me how to do it, my purpose must be to get as much of it as possible. So my purpose must be self-discovery and happiness is the reward.

OK, now I know what I should do and why I should do it. But what should I do next? I mean right now, while I’m standing here in front of you.

Well, for me, self-discovery seems to be infinite – so it cannot be a destination and, if there’s no destination, I have no choice but to enjoy the journey. A journey only unfolds in the present. So, I’m standing here “enjoying myself”. This is a trial and error experiment unfolding in real-time. When I get off this stage, nature has preprogrammed me to make a mental note about whether it made me happy and which Lifewall elements it contributed to.

So there it is – a very brief summary of my philosophy of everything. Of course, I felt very strongly about putting it into practice. But how?

I imagined a new way of thinking where success was measured by impact instead of money so I created a project called ‘I Imagine’. Its impact comes from helping people to maximize their own impact. In order for it to succeed on the biggest possible scale and have the biggest impact, I made it totally free to use and it has no profit motive. MPI is its only purpose.”

Watch the TEDx Talk above to see the entire talk.

Find out what you can do on on ‘I Imagine’ for: