So find your passion, get involved, volunteer, educate oneself, practice presence, be self-reliant, never depend on anyone, follow your passion, learn how to make a living from your passions, put people before profit, life before money, don’t judge others and just be nice to everyone (especially oneself)
As part of our series about ‘5 Steps That Each Of Us Can Take To Proactively Help Heal Our Country’, I had the pleasure of interviewing Wil Master
Wil is a Social Entrepreneur specializing in Fundraising, Data & Digital Media Management and Business Consulting for over 20 years, as well as a Disaster First Responder since 9/11, Community Leader and a Volunteer with the American Red Cross since Hurricane Katrina.
From a Wall Street Municipal Bond Specialist and Hollywood Film/ TV Executive to a Professional Fundraiser (non-Profit) and Emergency Preparedness Coach, he has raised, risk managed and facilitated nearly $100 Million for global clients and causes. In the wake of the September 11th terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, he served as a Safety/PPE Manager for 150+ workers and was one of only a few civilians to participate in the Honor Guard Ceremony for helping the NYPD, PAPD and FDNY locate, recover and carry out the fallen from Ground Zero.
From there, Wil has repeatedly responded and received numerous commendations from the American Red Cross as a National First Responder to some of the largest natural disasters in history, including Hurricanes: Katrina (2005), Sandy (2012), Harvey (2017), Dorian (2019) and multiple CA Wildfires. Wil Master currently lives in and operates his businesses from Beverly Hills, CA where he is also a well-respected Civic Leader.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?
My childhood was quite tumultuous and full of life lessons every step of the way. When I was about 8 yrs old, my grandfather and godfather (dad’s best friend) suddenly died within months of each other.
Shortly thereafter, my father — who we celebrated for leading his family out of Hungary during the Revolution in 1956 with a bullet in his leg and for KO’ing Hurricane Carter as a pro boxer in 1960 — disappeared without a trace [in the 1970’s mob entangled NYC]. His status as a missing person is still an unsolved mystery and cold case today.
Because of the nature of my father’s “death,” there was no insurance money and our family of 6 endured great economic challenges because we were simply NOT PREPARED.
Needless to say, we were inspired to come up with solutions to manage daily life and survive. We became well-versed in cooking, cleaning, washing, ironing, etc., as well as project management and raising money: raking leaves, moving lawns, delivering newspapers, etc.
Despite all the efforts, there were still lingering challenges with finances, relationships, health, etc., however, the determination and will to rise above remained ever-present and attending college was realized by all of us. Thanks mom!
Ultimately, I learned that people must always be:
- Aware of all the possibilities (good & bad) at any moment,
- Confident in our capabilities for handling any and all of them,
- Prepared (mentally & physically) to handle any possible outcome.
I also learned that not everyone realizes that so I’ve directed my efforts towards helping people in various capacities as a community leader, business consultant and preparedness coach.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
The Winning Life — It’s about how to become happy without relying on anyone or anything outside of yourself or being affected by situations beyond your control (like a family death, divorce, car accident, job loss, natural disasters, pandemic, etc.).
It is based on Buddhist foundational principals and philosophies that serve as a guide in understanding why we react (emotionally) to those external forces and how to create value in such situations instead of reacting negatively.
Take this simplified example (of emotional states or “Worlds”) directly quoted from the book:
“Think of a man obsessed by the desire to find someone to love him (World of Hunger). When he at last does meet that person, he feels ecstatic and fulfilled (World of Heaven). By and by, potential rivals appear on the scene, and he is seized by jealously (World of Anger). Eventually, his possessiveness drives his loved one away. Crushed by despair (World of Hell), he feels like life is not worth living.”
We tend to throttle between these “worlds” all day long and how we respond to each situation will determine our happiness (or the effect on others). By understanding ourselves better, we learn how to “navigate” and/or raise our state of life to a higher or more manageable (compassionate, empathetic, wise, etc.) level.
This way, as obstacles inevitably appear, we are not always reacting, but utilizing them as fuel for growth and a path to create value and happiness.
It’s the basis of how I navigate through my own life and share with others through my actions, behaviors and advice.
Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?
I have two that are very interrelated in today’s environment:
- “Crisis Doesn’t Create Character, It Reveals It” — (James Lane Allen, Dennis Leary).
This is simply Awareness.
When your back is against the wall, your true self appears. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen many people, particularly leaders, husbands/wives, parents/children, etc. get fully aware to their true strengths and/or weakness.
It’s not until one’s real character is revealed that we can safely & confidently chose who are best suited to lead, as well as identify what it is about ourselves that we need to focus on AND then, transform it.
2. “For Every Thousand Hacking at the Branches of Evil, There is Only One Hacking at the Root” — Henry David Thoreau
This is also a level of Awareness, however, it points more towards the Action we must take in order to truly transform ourselves and society as a whole. It’s a deeper level of Commitment to whatever cause we are fighting or cheering for its resolution or victory.
Donating, protesting, volunteering, praying and many more, including preparing for emergencies cannot be treated as lightly as snipping leaves or branches on a deadly “tree;” they will simply grow back and continue inflicting whatever damage it has, and thus not deeply addressing the issue, let alone solving it.
We cannot solve today’s problems by simply making a few calls, carrying signs for a day or two, looting in protest, worshipping only on Sundays, etc. We have to fully enroll in stopping racism, gun violence, political posturing, pollution, climate change, mental illness, etc. at its core by “hacking at the root” or firmly addressing the heart of each of whatever these evils may be.
It’s likely an attitude, frame of mind or way of being AND half measures have never produced anything but half results. We must fully commit.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
Taking initiative and being an example for others (to follow) is the key to leadership. There is no leadership in hiding in the crowd, second-guessing or depending on others.
That lack of courage is typical when you are unsure if you can handle the task at hand and is most likely a result of the lack of preparedness training, compassion or confidence.
In encountering any situation: natural disaster, pandemic, live shooter, domestic abuser, bully, etc., if leaders do not take immediate action and set an example, people get hurt and often die.
At the same time, true leadership is educating oneself and getting basic training so that when the need arises, your inner leader will naturally emerge. Being prepared gives leaders confidence and helps develop courage, strength, relevant needed skills, as well as reinforces commitment.
Please don’t get me wrong, untrained individuals that answer the call are also leaders, but again, it’s important to be knowledgeable and in good physical & mental condition (for your own safety and that of others).
Excellent programs are in place for free training all over the country: Red Cross, local Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT) and even professional mentoring or coaching programs just to name a few.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. The United States is currently facing a series of unprecedented crises. So many of us see the news and ask how we can help. We’d love to talk about the steps that each of us can take to help heal our county, in our own way. Which particular crisis would you like to discuss with us today? Why does that resonate with you so much?
As an active Disaster Responder and Preparedness Coach, the COVID-19 pandemic has been the ultimate test of leadership, emergency preparedness and mental health.
It resonates so much with me because it truly shined the light on the fact that people, communities, nations (for the most part) are simply not prepared, both physically and mentally.
This is likely a huge topic. But briefly, can you share your view on how this crisis inexorably evolved to the boiling point that it’s at now?
The general lack of preparedness is quite universal as most believe that:
- “It’s not going to happen to me”
- “I’ll just call 911”
- “The government will take care of us”
- “I trust my chosen political leaders and/or related news media sources for information and guidance”
This, unfortunately, is the general emergency baseline response for most individuals and is simply not reliable or sustainable. You must never, ever rely on others for anything.
Before any emergency situation, we must start with an understanding that “Nobody is coming,” “Nobody is going to ‘save us’” and “We are all on our own.”
That autonomy must be the mentality for the first 72 hours to 1–2 weeks as there are only about 1–2 first responders per 1000+ people in any given community in American. That math (+ past experience and science for pandemics) dictates self-reliance and common sense when managing your emergency preparedness plan.
The crisis rapidly evolved because the US government did not act quickly enough, left the national stockpiles depleted of PPE supplies and did not invoke the Defense Production Act to fix the problem. To make matters worse, a political blame game ensued and mixed messages from government leaders, opportunistic businesses and the news media rapidly circulated and because nobody had a plan, supplies or training on how to respond, the American people panicked, horded and picked sides.
All of this political polarization was exacerbated by conspiracy theories, mass hysteria and self-prescribed reactionary measures (many by leadership), which was further fueled by highly researched confirmation biases to prove one party over the other and ultimately leading to mass disagreements on social distancing, testing, contact tracing and wearing masks.
The bottom line is regardless of one’s politics and given the uncertainty of information, common sense must dictate that everyone Err on the Side of Caution and employ the currently prescribed scientific protective measures until the pandemic is under control and/or the correct information is verified.
In the meantime, Americans are making life & death decisions based primarily on politics (and of course, money) is an eye opening indication that something is more deeply troubling than we thought in American society today, and unfortunately, when parents are even willing to risk their own child’s life to reopen schools (without testing, tracing, masks, etc) is just plain crazy!
We need to hit the pause button and get our act (minds) together.
Can you tell our readers a bit about your experience either working on this cause or your experience being impacted by it? Can you share a story with us?
Because helping others and preparedness are a central theme in my daily routine, I realized that I needed to turn down the political noise around me and focus on doing the most good for the most people.
I’m sharing this because I want people to seek causes where they too can help others with whatever expertise they may have acquired. There’s always something more that can be done.
Here’s what I felt I needed to do and have been doing since March 18th:
- Handed out lunches with the LAUSD and American Red Cross (ultimately 25 million were served across Los Angeles).
- Lobbied Beverly Hills City Council to re-open two closed community centers to hold 3–4 blood drives in the middle of the “Stay at Home” Order. Blood supply across the country declined to very dangerously low levels and had to be replenished. Many first time donors contributed and over 600 lives were saved.
- Became certified as a blood supply Delivery Specialist and couriered blood from Red Cross blood distribution centers to hospital blood banks all over Los Angeles.
- Facilitated the donations of 2,000+ bottles of hand sanitizer to the American Red Cross, the City of Beverly Hills Fire Department & Police Departments, the Youth Mentoring Connection (for at risk youth) and Therapeutic Living Center for the Blind.
- Created a COVID-19 fundraising partnership between the American Red Cross and Fin-Tech App company GivBux — a contactless payment/philanthropy app that pays rewards for everyday shopping to users, merchants and charities. The Red Cross is a featured charity until August 15th.
It’s been a very busy 5 months for me and can also be for others as there are still many opportunities in most communities to volunteer.
Ok. Here is the main question of our discussion. Can you please share your “5 Steps That Each Of Us Can Take To Proactively Help Heal Our Country”. Kindly share a story or example for each.
Here is a basic (short) list of steps that anyone can take to begin the healing process. Apply them to your life itself first, then see how they affect every other area of your life (job, relationships, health, etc.). A deeper (longer) exploration will be detailed in my upcoming book TBA:
- Get Awareness — Everything Starts with i (me or you). “Know Thyself.” Who am I…being right now? How am I showing up every day? Am I Present? Am I aware of my surroundings at all times? Am I taking full responsibility for everything my life? One must get a solid understanding of who they are being as a general state or condition of their lives. You can ONLY be who you want to be if you know who you are.
- Take Responsibility — Understand that we are ALL interconnected with each other and our environment so absolutely everything that happens IS OF OUR OWN DOING. Everything.
- Document Your Behavior by writing down scenarios in your life from today, yesterday, 10–20 years ago or whenever you created conflict, harmed someone, let someone down, lied, cheated, were late, etc. AND regardless of how wrong that other person may have been, focus on YOUR ROLE in each of them. Was I…fearful, arrogant, selfish, negative, manipulative, lazy, inspiring, reactionary, proactive, etc., etc. ?
- Practice Makes Perfect — You can either decide to find a solution to the behaviors you’ve just identified in #2 or decide to eliminate them. “Hack at the Root.” Both are viable solutions.A daily spiritual practice is key: Prayer, Meditation, Chanting. Use your own inner strength, faith and/or will to raise your awareness or life state so you can overcome or transform these “newly discovered” character traits into something useful. The key is to use them (and all other obstacles) to create value instead of suffering. It’s the Good & Evil Rule meaning everything has both good and evil in it — What part are you seeing now? Then? You will, immediately, begin to experience things that seemed negative in a much more positive light.
- Be Resolved to Win/Prepare — Commit to what you want to support, contribute or change. Make a plan, get the tools, recruit fellow believers, take a stand and never give up. Join or start a healthy or transformational community, if necessary. In some cases, therapy and/or coaching are smart options to consider as well. Having an integrity partner is also a great option.
- Be Consistent — Apply, Rinse, Repeat this every (ritualistically) morning and every night. Create a daily rhythm; it will synch up with others in the world around you and watch your environment change with you, as well as towards what you want in life.
- Only when I change does my environment change — That’s it. Full Circle. Transformation. Healing. Repetition of these positive measures will naturally guide you in all other areas of your life (job, relationships, health, etc.). Enjoy the Happiness!
It’s very nice to suggest ideas, but what can we do to make these ideas a reality? What specific steps can you suggest to make these ideas actually happen? Are there things that the community can do to help you promote these ideas?
My program is based on self-motivation so each of the steps (or stairs) is very easily implemented right now. You don’t need anything but a pen and paper (or computer) and the willingness to look deeply at yourself, identify what’s not working, transform what needs to be transformed and help others to the same.
We are going through a rough period now. Are you optimistic that this issue can eventually be resolved? Can you explain?
I’m very concerned about how extremely polarized our society has become in this crisis, however, I’m also optimistic it has opened many eyes and awakened the masses to what’s driving that division. I believe that people will begin to hold themselves and elected leaders more accountable and through that, a beautiful transformation will occur.
If each and every one of us takes time out of each day (morning and night) to take care of ourselves first by setting goals & intentions and developing & executing a plan for living, we will each have an excellent chance to transform our own lives and those around us (and without depending on any one outside of ourselves for our own happiness and wellbeing).
From there, we will have the wisdom, empathy, compassion and fortitude to inspire our communities.
If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?
Again, become aware of who you are first and foremost AND know that your own, unlimited capacity is available and possible right now. Since “Right now” happens in every moment, then the mantra “From this moment forward” must become a living reminder that it’s never too late to start your journey (of transformation, education, career, relationships, service, etc)…
… so find your passion, get involved, volunteer, educate yourself, practice presence, be self-reliant, never depend on others, follow your passion, learn how to make a living from your passions, put people before profit, life before money, don’t judge others and just be nice to everyone (especially yourself).
Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Daisaku Ikea — World Peace Leader, Poet, Author, Scholar, etc. and President of the Nichiren Buddhist’s World Peace organization called the Soka Gakai International (SGI) (www.sgi-usa.com or @sgi). He started the organization as a youth volunteer in the 50’s and grew it to over 12 million+ people worldwide in over 192 countries and territories for the sake of world peace through education, culture and personal spiritual development.
He has submitted Peace Proposals to the United Nations for the past 30 years and has also received more honorary doctorate degrees than anyone in the world for his work for peace through one-to-one dialog.
He’s 93 years old, lives in Japan and I consider him my life mentor who provides daily guidance & encouragement to inspire, motivate and educate me on ways to be happy from within by helping others do the same.
How can our readers follow you online?
@iWiLLMASTER on all social media and each link is on my website homepage.
FYI, my name is Wil Master (with 1 L), however, I use 2 L’s in my brand (iWiLLMASTER…) and online presence as has a much deeper mission is helping people “Master” something in their lives. It’s also, otherwise, commonly misspelled ☺