I first met Kevin Adler in 2016 about 18 months after he founded Miracle Messages. At that time he had $600 in the bank and Miracle Messages was on the brink of ceasing to exist. Four years later, Miracle Messages is thriving and is a nationally recognized nonprofit. They are on a mission to end relational poverty on our streets by reconnecting people with their loved ones. In contrast to 2016, they are financially secure with a year’s financial runway in the bank. And more importantly there is a strong leadership foundation with co-founder Jess Donig.
When I interviewed Kevin for the ‘Leadership Is No Accident’ podcast, I asked him what advice he had for someone starting out in his position. His initial reaction was ‘don’t do it’, and then he added unless ‘you are steadfastly committed’. Kevin has given up a lot over the past five years in the service of Miracle Messages. So what drove him to get started and keep going in the face of many challenges that would have overcome most people?
In Kevin’s case the answer is purpose. He wasn’t born to lead Miracle Messages and he also didn’t wake up one day with a calling. His Uncle Mark was on the streets for over 30 years until he died and that started Kevin’s journey. He was curious to understand why people were living on the streets and what could he do about it. That led to a small project giving homeless people GoPro cameras to record and share their experiences. On one piece of footage he heard someone say ‘I never realized I was homeless when I lost my housing, it was only when I lost my family and friends’. This was the moment when Kevin found his purpose. It led to their first reunion, and since then they’ve achieved over 350.
As you can tell above, it hasn’t been smooth sailing since. After almost ceasing to exist, they’ve had many ‘bet the farm’ moments. They prevailed because, in my opinion, their sense of purpose is so strong they can’t fail. They have to do this, they don’t have a choice.
These Leaders Stand Out From The Crowd
I see the same thing with many entrepreneurs. They are willing to bet the farm to achieve the outcome they are completely committed to. They aren’t going to try, they will succeed. As an angel investor, I attend many pitch meetings and the leaders that stand out are the ones that are on a journey. It isn’t a job, it isn’t about getting rich, it is about leading change in something they care deeply about. Like Kevin, these leaders stand out from the crowd.