Speaker 1: Welcome to The Dr. Gundry Podcast. Each week, Dr. Steven Gundry, a cardiologist, medical innovator, and author of New York Times bestsellers The Plant Paradox and The Plant Paradox cookbook, shares the latest in cutting edge health information. He brings you into the conversation with industry elites, and shares intimate discussions with real people who have turned their health around. His mission is to help you live your best, healthiest life. He’s excited to be a part of your unique health journey, so let’s get started.
Dr. Gundry: So, welcome to The Dr. Gundry Podcast. Today we’re sitting down with nightclub owner turned philanthropist, Scott Harrison, who’s been a friend of mine for a couple years now. He’s got a remarkable story about how he found a way to bring clean water to 8.5 million people. Scott’s the founder of the clean water non-profit charity Water. We’ve actually worked together on a number of projects. Thanks a lot for joining us Scott.
Scott Harrison: Hey, it’s good to be here. Thanks for having me on. It’s nice to see you.
Dr. Gundry: Good to see you again, and we’re gonna see you in a little over a month for the annual fundraiser.
Scott Harrison: Yes. We’re so excited. I’m so glad you and Penny are coming up for it. It’ll be great. We’ve been working on it for months. We have a big idea.
Dr. Gundry: Alright, great. Here’s Scott’s book. It’s called Thirst. It’s gonna be available actually right about the time you’re viewing this podcast. Scott I was telling you before we started that I read this on the plane a couple weeks ago, and Penny my wife read it, and we couldn’t put it down. Tell me in 25 words or less…no not really. How this came about? Tell me your story because this is not about just water. This is Scott’s history. Take us on the rollercoaster.
Scott Harrison: Yeah. Okay. I think kind of three acts to my life. The first act was growing up in a suburban family. I was born into a middle class family, my dad was business guy and my mom was a writer, and when I was four, we moved into this house, a new house in south Jersey, and unbeknownst to us, there was a carbon monoxide gas leak. Now this was almost 40 years ago. They had not yet invented the detector that we go buy and blister packs at the Home Depot. We just didn’t know this. My dad and I started getting some symptoms, my mom on New Years Day 1980 walks across the bedroom and she collapses unconscious. It took a series of blood tests to identify huge amounts of carboxyhemoglobin, carbon monoxide in her blood stream. Thankfully she didn’t die, but her immune system was irreparably destroyed, so she never…she was never the same again.
Scott Harrison: I watched my mom go from this healthy, vibrant…a picture of health to an invalid wearing charcoal masks, walking about with oxygen tanks, living in a containment room covered in tinfoil. Weird stuff. Her body became unable to fight off anything chemical, whether it be perfume or car fumes, it be ink from books. Some people thought this was in her head, but she knew it wasn’t. Family planning stopped and I grew up that good kid taking care of mom, doing the cooking, doing the cleaning. I played piano in church every Sunday and I played by the rules. I didn’t smoke, I didn’t sleep around, I didn’t drink, I didn’t cuss. Then 18 happened. Act two.
Scott Harrison: Moved to New York City, joined a band, grew my hair down past my shoulders which was a terrible idea, looking back at photos now. After moving to New York City as…to be rich and famous, sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll. Really to explore the opposite of my life. I became a nightclub promoter and I just couldn’t believe there was an actual profession where you could get paid to drink. You could professionally drink and make hundreds of thousands of dollars, and all you had do was fill up the right nightclubs with the beautiful people and the people with money. You could charge $20 for a vodka soda. You could charge $1,000 for a bottle of champagne that cost $50. For the next 10 years, I began climbing up the social ladder trying to become the kind of New York nightlife. I worked in 40 different nightclubs over that time.
Dr. Gundry: Work, work, work, work, work.
Scott Harrison: Well, it didn’t feel like work, right? You’re partying three nights a week. I’m flying around to Milan and Paris and it’s fashion week. I’m collecting all of the different things that I thought would make me happy. The BMW, the Rolex watch, the model girlfriend, the cover of fashion magazines, the grand piano in my New York apartment, the Labrador retriever. You could also imagine I picked up all of the vices that would come with the territory. At 18 I start smoking Marlboro reds. I smoke two to three packs a day for 10 years. I develop a massive drinking problem. A massive cocaine problem. Ecstasy, MDMA, Special K. Gambling, pornography, strip clubs, you name it. I’ve got it all.
Dr. Gundry: The American Dream.
Scott Harrison: The American Dream, right? Then, you’re gonna love this, ten years in, half my body goes numb, inexplicably. My business partner in the nightlife is like, “Dude, why don’t you chill on the coke? Why don’t you chill on the cigarettes? You’re not exactly a picture of health here.” I start seeing neurologists, they give me brain scans, they’re attaching wires to my arms and my legs. I just can’t feel anything. I’ll have these episodes where I put my hand under boiling hot water and I can’t feel it. I could’ve hit it with a hammer. This was a real awakening for me. In some ways I was faced with mortality. I was living like I was gonna live forever, nothing could stop us. Coke to come up, Ambien to come down, then we’d do it all over again.
Scott Harrison: I go to South America around this time and I have this amazing vacation. We rented a compound and there are servants and there are horses and there’s…we spent $1000 on fireworks that we just blow up next to the pool. Magnums of Dom Perignon, it doesn’t get any better than this. I realized that, kind of suddenly but almost in a moment, I had actually become the worst person that I knew. I was morally decrepit. I was morally bankrupt. I was spiritually bankrupt. I had come so far from any shred of faith or spirituality, that I’d actually been brought up with. Besides the health problems, if I actually continued down this path, if I even lived to the age of 40, which was dubious, the legacy I was leaving was perhaps the most meaningless legacy on Earth. My tombstone might actually read “Here lies Scott Harrison who’s got millions wasted”. I knew I needed to make a change.
Dr. Gundry: Let me interrupt you with that. All through this, as you write in the book, your devout Christian parents…I don’t wanna put words in your mouth, but you’re kind of mocking them and at the same time they’ve got prayer groups organized for you.
Scott Harrison: Yeah they’re on their knees. They have churches on their knees. They have those little old ladies wearing a hole in the carpets. Praying for the prodigal to come home. I’m living out the cliché of the prodigal son right? I gave my finger to my family, I gave my finger to the church and said, “Now it’s my turn.” I wound up in the proverbial pig pen. It didn’t work out well. I wanted to come home. That’s what happened. At 28 I asked myself, “Well, what would it look like to come back to faith? What would it look like to come back to morality, to virtue?” And what would the…the question, the specific question I asked myself was, “What would the exact opposite of my hedonistic, sycophantic, selfish life look like? What would the 180 degree turn, not the pivot, not the 20 degree turn, or the 45, what would it look like to walk so far in the other direction?” The only thing I could think of was to quit nightlife, leave it all behind.
Scott Harrison: There’s an incident I read about in the book that made that pretty easy with guns and drugs and lots of stuff involved. To leave it all behind and to try to give one year back in service to others. To go serve the poor, to see if I had anything to offer. I wanted to do that in the poorest country in the world, in my mind. I also realized I would have to quit those vices. I would have to quit smoking and quit drugging and quit gambling and porn and all that stuff. I would have to clean up my life in a dramatic way to even allow a new story to unfold. That whole thing took about six months, but being a pretty radical guy, there was a moment where I sold all my possessions, I put 2,000 DVDs up on eBay in a single lot. I began applying to –
Dr. Gundry: Porno DVDs, right?
Scott Harrison: Dude, like all of it. It was just a big…pay this big amount and you’re gonna get the surprise chest.
Dr. Gundry: Let me stop you again. I take care of lots of addicted individuals or formerly addicted individuals, and there’s usually this epiphany where you hit rock bottom. It’s usually…it’s often financially. You’re on the street, you’ve lost everything. When I read your book, you kind of did this…you didn’t have that sort of rock bottom epiphany. One of those things that struck me, you had taken a video camera down to South America. As I recall you, I guess, were watching your friends through the lens of the camera and were kind of appalled at seeing what you and your friends had become. Was that a big turning point in your life?
Scott Harrison: Yeah. It was a moment of clarity. I think in some ways I hit bottom at the top. I hit bottom in a compound with the beautiful people, and I remember one guy with us was gambling $10,000 hands of blackjack. He just didn’t care if he won or lost. It was almost this veil that was lifted that I realized it would never be enough. Somebody would always have a more beautiful girlfriend, somebody would always have a better watch, a better car, better status, a private plane, and that this pursuit would lead to even deeper and deeper unhappiness. There was something about having the camera as that shield between me. There was a moment where someone was like, “Yo, film this. Film this,” and I was like, “What’s this? It’s just a bunch of drugged out people. There’s no this. There’s no there there.” “This is amazing.” “What’s amazing? We’ve been up for 14 hours. It’s 2 pm. Other people are going to yoga. We should be going to bed.” And yet the DJ is pumping and the drugs are pulsing.
Scott Harrison: Yeah, it was this moment of clarity. I had this amazing foundation that my parents had provided for me. I had the backing of 10 years of prayers. I was able really, to turn on a dime and embrace the grace that was there for me, and in a way, turn a clean page and say, “I get a do-over.” I’m 28, what would act three look like? What’s been so interesting, and one of the reasons I wrote this book is, I really believe now no one is beyond redemption. No matter how bad your past might be, the mistakes you’ve made, the shame, or any sort of guilt in that. Chances are you’re not as bad as me, unless you’ve killed somebody. You’re gonna read this and be like, “Oh my gosh. If this guy could go from the depths of depravity to lead a non-profit that’s raised a third of a billion dollars and is out there teaching about compassion and empathy and radical generosity, there’s a pretty good chance for me.” What’s been fun is…so where the story went then, I sold everything I owned, I applied to these famous non-profit organizations that I’d heard of, then of course nobody would take me because how would a nightclub promoter in any way be useful to a serious humanitarian group, right? They’d take you. Doctors, we know how they’re useful, but guys who sell $20 vodka sodas, not so useful in Darfur, on the mission to Sudan. So finally one organization writes me back and says, hey if you’re willing to pay us $500 a month, and if you’re willing to go live in Liberia, West Africa, this was a country I’d never even heard of. I didn’t know –
Dr. Gundry: Where’s that, right?
Scott Harrison: What Liberia was or that it even existed. They said, “Look, we’re leading a team of doctors and humanitarian surgeons and we need a photojournalist.” I said, “Well, I actually take good pictures. I have a journalism degree at NYU that I’ve never used, and I’m a pretty good writer.” So maybe I could tell the 15,000 people on my mailing list, on my guest list, maybe I could actually tell them a new story, a story that mattered, a story that helped people and didn’t just get them wasted. I accepted this position. The beauty was, I had to pay this group $500 a month to serve. If I was looking for the opposite of my life, I found it. Not even volunteer for free, no. Pay to volunteer, and then go live in a war torn country, the poorest country in the world with a group of amazing doctors who’d volunteered their time.
Dr. Gundry: So you’re on a medical boat, right?
Scott Harrison: Yeah. Five-hundred-twenty-two foot hospital ship. Imagine an ocean liner that someone decided to gut and turn into a state of the art hospital, and bring the best doctors and surgeons in the world to people who just couldn’t afford access to…the cruise liner would actually sail up and down the African coast, would pull into port. We would’ve advertised our coming, and thousands of people would be gathered to see our doctors. More people than we could even treat, that we could bring on the ship.
Dr. Gundry: I’ve done surgical missions to Africa, to Zimbabwe, and to China and India, and you’re right. It’s…there’s more people than you can possibly serve, and the conditions…we would actually operate in hospitals, not on a boat, but even there the conditions are horrendous. Okay, so there you are, nightclub promoter, knowing nothing about this, and you’re paying rent…so what happened to you doing that that you said, “I’ve found my calling, but maybe this isn’t quite my calling”?
Scott Harrison: Yeah. I think, and this might help people that are struggling with addiction or might have some failed attempts at getting out of that. For me, the environment mattered so much. I changed environment. I went from a bunch of people doing drugs and party to a bunch of Christian humanitarian doctors who had forsaken their vacation time to live out their faith and operate on the poor. Nobody was smoking, nobody was drinking. People went to bed at 10 o’clock at night and got up at 5. The environment changed and this, it felt right to me. It felt healthy, it was wholesome, it was a place of compassion and grace and service. The cool thing for me was…I immediately start running around with a camera, I take 50,000 photographs that first year. I’m documenting patients before their surgery and after surgery. I’m living in the leprosy colony. I’m traveling around the country trying to learn as much as I can about the conditions that we’re seeing, about the root causes of some of the sickness. I’m emailing the 15,000 people on my club list these photos and these stories, and of course some people are like, “Unsubscribe. Didn’t sign up for that.”
Dr. Gundry: Too much information.
Scott Harrison: Way too much. Where’s the Prada party again? Where’s that party at the Chanel…but most people said, “This is amazing. How do I help? I didn’t know there were doctors out there giving their time. I didn’t know that there was this ship and that we could sponsor a surgery and –
PART 1 OF 3 ENDS [00:17:04]
Scott Harrison: That there was this ship and we could sponsor a surgery and help somebody get their life back. I was almost instantly able to redeem the decade of relationships. That guest list. Email open rates back then were like 100%. The feedback loop was coming in. I wound up doing one year. That stretched into two years. I saw a lot of stuff. I talk about some of this in the book, but the one thing that just stuck with me was when I saw people drink dirty water. When I went into the villages and saw that children were drinking from swamps and from ponds and from rivers, brown, viscous, chocolate milk looking sludge. Ponds filled with algae and bugs actually crawling on the surface of the water, but yet this is all that they had. I learned that these weren’t isolated villages. Fifty percent of the country was drinking bad water. So half the people in the country where we were bringing doctors into didn’t have the most basic need for health met.
Dr. Gundry: I think you watched a little girl who her clothes were brown because everything was washed in brown water. As I recall, you watched this little girl drinking some of this brown water, and she immediately vomits it up.
Scott Harrison: Imagine seeing that. Imagine seeing a child, forced to drink from a river because of the condition she was born into by no fault of hers, but yet that’s the only available water, and then watch a child drink this and then vomit on her shirt. It was horror what we were seeing.
Scott Harrison: I learned that 52% of the disease throughout the developing world, or what some people might call the third world, half of that disease was directly caused by unsafe water, a lack of sanitation, a lack of hygiene. So if I really cared about health, instead of funding another 50 or 60 million dollar hospital ship, what if I went and just tried to provide people with the basic need? What if I tried to go into that country and help the 50% of people drinking contaminated water get clean water to drink. To me, this was the question behind the question. It was the root cause that I had stumbled into. I didn’t have to be that smart to put it together. Thousands of sick people, 50% of people drinking bad water. So I came back to New York at 30, and this was gonna be my mission, was gonna be to improve peoples lives, to end extreme poverty by helping everyone in the world get clean water to drink.
Scott Harrison: At the time, there were a billion people living without it. It was one in six humans alive 12 years ago that didn’t have clean water to drink. Well, we gotta start somewhere so let’s just start.
Dr. Gundry: So now you’ve had this epiphany. You realize you’re gonna help the world and blah, blah, blah. So how does Scott Harrison, knowing nothing about this except how to get a lot of people together to go to a party, translate that into this amazing journey on okay how do I save the world. Scott Harrison.
Scott Harrison: I had the issue. The circumstances at the time were not ideal for starting a charity, was not the ideal charity start up climate. I come back and I find that I’m $30000 in debt because my business partner never paid our taxes, nor dissolved our company. He’s like bro, all the mail is in the bathroom. I don’t even open that stuff, so if you wanna deal with it, that’d be great. I immediately get on a payment plan with the IRS, and he lets me sleep on his walk-in closet floor of this loft that he was living in. I actually had free rent at the time, which was something. Thanks.
Scott Harrison: I’m running around showing people the photos that I’d taken on my laptop, trying to get them to care. Trying to say look. There is suffering going on and we can end it. There’s a solution. We could go drill a well or build a water system in this village and we could change everybody’s health. We could change everybody’s lives. Do you wanna partner with me in this? Do you wanna give? What I learned, again having the unique benefit … On paper, I was uniquely unqualified to ever be successful with this, but in some ways I was actually uniquely qualified because I came from outside the trappings of the institutional system.
Scott Harrison: I didn’t know how big charity was supposed to work, and as I talked to my friends, I realized they didn’t trust big charities. They were not giving to the huge charities that we might hear about. People would have so many problems. Where does my money go? How much of my money actually gets to people? I bet the CEO is making millions of dollars and hiring his friends and his cousins and his nephews. I bet they’re just gonna sit on my money and use it for something else. I would hear expressions like the black hole of giving. I learned there was data behind this. USA Today came across a poll that said 42% of Americans don’t trust charities. NYU polled Americans and found 70% of Americans believe charities wasted money or badly wasted money.
Scott Harrison: So this shocks people. There are people listening right now that are like, but America is the most generous country in the world. Who is more generous than Americans, but yet 70% of the people in the country think charities are misusing funds. I thought this is ripe for disruption. If I’m gonna made a significant impact on the global water crisis of a billion people, then I’m gonna need to completely create a new model, a new construct. We’re gonna have to reimagine the giving and the experience to get these people back to the table. I wasn’t interested in poaching other charities donors. If you were happily giving to another org, that’s great, but I wanted to get someone who wasn’t giving and say look, you can trust us. You should be giving. You’re depriving yourself by not giving out of your abundance and out of the blessing, the privilege that you’ve been born into.
Scott Harrison: I had a couple ideas on how to do that. The first was just to create a model whereby 100% of every donation we would ever take from the public would go directly to projects. As you’ve read in the book, opening up two banks accounts, keeping the overhead separate and trying to find people to actually pay that was incredibly difficult, but we believed that if a child sold lemonade and turned in $6 and we can send all $6 to help people get clean water, it would be incredibly powerful. Whether that was $6 or $600000.
Scott Harrison: The 100% model became this pillar where we said we’ll raise all of our overhead separately. Our office costs, our salaries, even our flights, the toner for the Epson copier. That’s gonna come from a very small group of business leaders and entrepreneurs who don’t mind paying for that stuff. So the 100% model was powerful.
Scott Harrison: The second thing was let’s just prove what we do with the money. Let’s just tell people your money went here. Here is the water project that you built. At the beginning, we were just putting all these projects up on Google Earth and Google Maps. We would show people the satellite images of these projects as they were built. We’ll prove your money time and time again.
Scott Harrison: The third thing, I wanted to build a beautiful brand that was not shame or guilt inspired. So many charities manipulated people into feeling icky. You remember those commercials from the 80s with the flies landing on kids faces and with sad eyes, they look up at the camera and the 800 number comes. They work, but no one tells their friends about those commercials. No one wears the t-shirt. There is a zero word of mouth movement when it comes to a charity that makes people feel like that or manipulates them into giving. The brands I respected, the Nikes, the Apples of the world, they inspire people. Apple would run campaigns of innovators and challenging people to think creatively. Nike would say there’s greatness within you. You may not think you would ever run that marathon, but we believe in you. You may not ever think you could climb that mountain if you lost an arm, but we know you can. These were the brands that were hope-filled, that were imaginative, that were inspiring.
Scott Harrison: I wanted to do the same thing with charity. Invite people to be a part of a party. A party where the world gets clean drinking water. Just think about fundraising. What are the first three letter?
Dr. Gundry: Fun.
Scott Harrison: Not downer. Downer raising. Not shame raising. Not guilt raising. Fundraising. It should be a blessing to get involved in important causes and to help others.
Scott Harrison: The fourth thing, the fourth pillar would have been, we’ve got to work through local partners. No guy that looks like me should be anywhere near a drilling rig in Africa or India or southeast Asia. We could raise awareness. We could get people to care. We could get them to be generous, but the work must be let by the locals in each of these countries for it to be culturally relevant, for it to be sustainable, it had to be locally let. Our job would be to find these local partners, grow their capacity, and they would get the credit. They would be the heroes. As I played it forward, success would be spending $100000000 and helping millions in a country and going there and them having no idea who we were. But knowing and celebrating the local partners who actually made that possible, who turned our money into clean water.
Scott Harrison: We put these things together, and I say this now, and it just doesn’t sound that innovative. We are not landing rockets on platforms in the middle of the ocean, but it just worked. It just really worked. People started to give. We would hear time and time again that people were making their first ever gifts, often in their 40s, their first ever gifts to charity because they knew where their money was going and they believed in the cause.
Dr. Gundry: You know, listening to your story, it’s amazing. You call it fun, but in fact, as you talk about in the book, there’s really nothing fun about digging wells. One of the wonderful things in the book is you talk about some of the personal challenges with certain wells that turned out to be nightmares. One of the things that … It’s fun, but tell me about this … It’s a horrible story about this young 13 year old girl who broke a pot of water on the way back to her home and one of the things that’s so empowering about Charity: Water is, and I’ll let you tell the story, but this is more than anything about empowering women and girls. That’s one of the things that really motivates me with two daughters and a wife and three female dogs. Tell me about this little girl and what effect she had on your life and who you had to find this little girl in the village.
Scott Harrison: Let me start with water as a women’s issue. I’ve been to 69 countries. I’ve been to Ethiopia 30 times now. I’ve never seen men get water. It is culturally the job of the women and the girls to get the water, and often that water is five hours away or eight hours away. Often these women are raped on the way to the water source. They’re attacked by wild animals or hyenas. They’re often giving birth down by that river or swamp because they need the water. It’s a real challenge. One stat that I remember from early on had such a deep impact on me was women, just in Africa, waste 40 billion hours fetching water. You know, 40 billion hours you numb out. I don’t know how big that number is. It turns out that it’s more than every single human being working in the country of France for an entire year. I do realize the slight irony there.
Scott Harrison: It’s a huge unrealized economy of just wasted time. Imagine the GDP that you could put together if that time was turned into productive work. I’ve learned this, that water is hugely empowering to women. It’s hugely empowering to girls.
Scott Harrison: There was this story. It really came at a time when I needed to reconnect with the urgency of the work. I’d been making a lot of speeches. I’d been out fundraising and trying to build the organization and dealing with recruiting and all the stuff that really wasn’t the field work at the time. I was in Ethiopia. I was staying at a really crappy, what we call zero star hotel. Although, one of my donors called it a negative one star hotel. You go into the hotel room. It’s maybe five or six bucks a night. You turn off the faucet and it just comes off in your hand. You turn on the other faucet and that comes off in your hand.
Scott Harrison: We’re staying in this room and I walk out into this little restaurant and the hotel owner sits down and he recognized me because I was with our local partners and he said, “You guys do all the water work around here.” I said, “Yeah.” He said, “I’m from a village very far away. It’s called [Maida 00:34:02]. Couple thousand people live there.” He said, “Growing up, there was this woman in our village, and she would walk with the other women eight hours a day.” He said, “One day at the end of her journey, she slipped. She fell. She stumbled. The clay pot that was attached to her back with a rope breaks. She watches her water spill out.” He said, “She didn’t go back for water. She took a rope. She tied it around her neck, and she hung herself from a tree in our village. The village elders found her body swinging there.” I remember, he just let that sit for effect in this little restaurant with fluorescent lights. He said, “The work you’re doing is important.” He walked back into the kitchen.
Scott Harrison: I remember not believing him. That’s not true. You tell an international donor a shocking, sad story, but certainly no woman is hanging herself because she spilled her water. But it really nagged at me, and I asked my wife permission to really go and live off the grid. This was so far out. There was no coverage of any kind. I wound up flying back to Ethiopia after confirming with our local partners this story was true. Flying up to the north, driving five hours, and then hiking nine hours over the mountains to reach this village. I spend the next week learning about her story. I met her mom. I saw her grave. I met the priest who gave her funeral. I met her best friend who actually walked with her for water that day. She took me down to the water source. At the very end of it, I saw the tree. For me, there was no more visceral representation of the urgency of this work than a frail tree that help a 13 year old’s body because she’d slipped.
Scott Harrison: I asked her friend. I said, “Why do you think she actually killed herself.” Her friend said, “Well, shame.” She said this through a translator. Shame translates well. She said, “Her carelessness meant that her family would have had to go without water that night.” It was even worse. She also broke the clay pot, which was a valuable asset.
Scott Harrison: She’s spilled the water, she’s broken the clay pot, it would have been too much to face them. I know every single person that’s with us right now believes 13 year old girls should not be hanging themselves from trees because they spilled their water. In fact, 13 year old girls shouldn’t be walking for water in the first place. Walking to some disgusting swamp. I came back just fired up. We’ve gotta go faster. We need to help more people. We need more donors, more supporters, more volunteers, more partners. We need to make sure that no one is walking, that one is drinking dirty water.
Dr. Gundry: That’s exactly right. That’s a good segue. As you know, Gundry MD has so far donated half a million dollars to do-
Scott Harrison: Fifty plus wells. Fifty plus communities.
Dr. Gundry: Fifty plus wells, and it’s all through the generosity of everyone who buys a Gundry MD product. I’ve been so impressed. I don’t fly to do missions anymore, but I’m living vicariously in the mission field with you because again, 13 year old girls should be in school, number one, and one of the-
PART 2 OF 3 ENDS [00:34:04]
Dr. Gundry: Girls should be in school number one, and one of the things that none of us realize is that these girls, because they’re carrying water, sometimes four hours, six hours a day, aren’t in school, and they certainly shouldn’t be hanging themselves because they broke their pot and just what you’ve done with all of this. I mean it’s a remarkable story and not only that, it’s really kind of a fun read, particularly if you like despicable characters folks.
Scott Harrison: I deliver there. I deliver.
Dr. Gundry: Yeah, He delivers really you really end up really either wanting to party with this guy or really wanting to bring him down.
Scott Harrison: But it’s funny, one of our chief water officers who’s in the book was sitting with two kind of older conservative donors in Chicago that had just read an advanced copy and he calls me and he’s like, he said, he asked them what did they think of the book? And they’re like, “He was so much worse than we ever thought.” Wow. But I feel like transparencies our thing. I mean we made a big bet on hyper-transparency many years ago and I think that you lead with your failures and your mistakes and hopefully that actually helps people because you’re just honest about it.
Dr. Gundry: Yeah. Now, let me touch on something you mentioned, but I want, I think this is so important that you’re right. I am very, very distrustful of charities. Particularly every few years a big thing of somebody high up in one of the charities, and I won’t mention names, is living this lavish lifestyle, is flying first class, great cars, great clothes, great foods, dining out every night. You’re in the back of the bus on the airplane. You’re not in business class. Even though-
Scott Harrison: Unless someone else is paying for me.
Dr. Gundry: Oh, well, there you go.
Scott Harrison: If Google’s paying for it, I’ll take it.
Dr. Gundry: You’ll go.
Scott Harrison: So that’s true. Yeah. We’ve raised over $300 million. We have never bought a business class ticket for myself or anyone else at the org because we take stewardship, really that’s a value of ours. And I think that’s important.
Dr. Gundry: Yeah, the other thing that’s important is this crazy business model of yours is, you literally do have two accounts. There’s some of us idiots, including me, that say, “I’m going to give you some money to buy pens and staplers and turn the lights on so that when somebody gives you money for building a well, it’s not going go to keep your lights on or even to buy you in economy class ticket.” And I think that’s such an interesting way. How did you ever figure this out?
Scott Harrison: Just a lot of listening, really a lot of listening to people, and what they wanted and so you’re, you’re being modest. I’ll brag on you. Steven and Penny have actually joined a year ago or so, the 130 families that keep our 100% model intact. So beyond everything you’ve done with Country MD that’s really useful. It’s clear though, right? So we owe you and Penny transparency. And we need to win your trust and I just believe that people are open to a lot of value propositions. If I told people right now that my copy machine was broken and we really needed for $450 to fix it, $450 would come in right away. People want to meet needs. It’s the not knowing, it’s the opacity, right? If I tell you, Steve and Penny our greatest need right now is to hire the next water engineer, to hire the next accountant, you are willing to give to that.
Scott Harrison: So for us, it was just this perfect clarity. There’s 100% of the public’s money directly to go into projects. Then there’s this overhead account and you always know what you get. And now 131 generous families like you have made it possible for over a million people to donate. And people don’t know this, but we actually pay back credit card fees. So if someone went online right now and gave 100 bucks with American Express, I really wish I got the $100, but I get 97. And you guys, 130 families make up that $3.
Dr. Gundry: What?
Scott Harrison: And we send the intended hundred dollars to the field. So you actually get a fraction of some water projects every single year. But for us, 100% really means 100%. And I think integrity is the core value when you’re trying to win trust. And there’re stories in the book of how we could have compromised that so many times we could have … we were going to go bankrupt at one moment before we touched one penny of the public’s money. We missed payroll at other times. We didn’t pay ourselves because we said we can never touch that. That is sacred. Our promise is sacred. Integrity has to be at the core of everything that we do. And I think it always worked out for us. There was always when you were willing to die for your values, it’s amazing how someone always comes along and kind of, it just works.
Dr. Gundry: One last thing, because I think it’s so important. Charities, okay, and you talk about building a well and the waters gushing out and everybody’s clapping and cheering, and we’re having a party, not like Club 54 or whatever but here’s what is so interesting. You realize that it’s one thing to dig a well, but it’s one thing to keep that well working and so you don’t just say, “Okay, we dug you a well, goodbye, have a nice day.” You now have this incredible system, that you guys designed from the ground up, to report to you what, via satellite, what’s happening with the well does it need a piece, is it nonfunctional? And I think maybe that’s, I think you’re modest in that, that’s probably the biggest differentiator between this charity and others. You’re continually committed to what you produce.
Scott Harrison: I mean, look for us, if we’re going to build Gundry MD Wells and then we’re going to leave and they break, that’s not a win for you or your customers is not a win for us. But yet that was actually the status quo in so much of the water sector. We build, we train the community we hand it over and then we wipe our hands, we move onto the next. And we said, “No, we actually want to know that these things are functioning over time,” and we tried to solve that problem with technology. We won a big grant from Google, actually, and we started putting our wells online so we now have over a billion liters that we’re monitoring just from Ethiopia as well as are talking back to us saying, “Here’s how much water we’re generating every single day and here’s when we’re broken.”
Scott Harrison: And then when they’re broken, a local team of mechanics, that we’ve been training now across many of these countries, turn up, respond. So imagine like Geek Squad or Apple Care, like imagine actually if your iPhone broke and a few days later someone knocks on your door saying, “Hi, it’s Apple Care. I’m here to fix your iPhone. Yeah, I’m here to fix the broken glass.” That’s the system.
Dr. Gundry: Oh great, it’s broken.
Scott Harrison: That’s the system that we’re trying to actually design around the world because we think people should have a high quality of service and then the repairs are actually paid for by the local community. So we kind of subsidize the setup of Apple Care that turns up at your house, but we think you’re willing to pay for that screen and we just want to make sure that we know. We’re now, the whole sensor project is open-source and incredibly cheap. So a charity water sensor now costs 100 bucks that’s protecting a $10,000 well. And we’re now hoping to roll them out in five countries beyond our projects, beyond our portfolio. So the vision for this is actually much more generous. I mean, it’s beyond our impact and we hope that this technology can help millions and millions of people.
Dr. Gundry: Okay. Enough about Charity Water. People who are watching you, people who are going to get the book, what are personal takeaways from your life-changing experience? What can people get from all of this?
Scott Harrison: Yeah, well I wanted to share my kind of I guess personal redemption arc because I believe no one’s past define them. So I talked to so many people who feel like they’re stuck. That purpose has been so bandied about and they’re like, “Well, I don’t know how to find my purpose. I do this job every day that I don’t like,” or I would hope that there’re some glimpses, there’re some things that people can grab onto in the book and say, “Oh, wow, this is what that might look like for me.” And I really would hope to say to people that, “You could really redeem anything bad and dark in the past. You can turn that for good.” Some of the first wells were built by nightclub owners and by DJs.
Scott Harrison: The same skill that I’d really developed. I was a promoter. I always just promoting something that was wholly dark and, and redemptive. I was saying, “Get past the velvet rope, get inside my clubs, spend thousands of dollars on booze and your life has meaning.” The last 12 years I’ve been saying, “Care about others. Use your time and your talent and your money to end needless suffering,” right? “Reach your hand across an ocean. Be a good neighbor, care about your brothers and sisters suffering around the world and your life will have more purpose, and your life who have meaning.”
Scott Harrison: So I think you know that one of my favorite quotes that I kind of talked about at the end of the book is this idea of not being afraid of work that is never-ending. This idea of work with no end. And I think that if you can position your life to care about others, to figure out what can I do with the blessings in my life with the abundance, with the new health, right, that some people are discovering, how can I use that to help others? And you will live a much freer and joyful life. I mean when I was serving myself, I was rotting inside, it was absolutely rotting, and even though I had the car and the watch and the girlfriend the … I was rotting inside because it was positionally wrong. It was all about me and it wasn’t about others.
Dr. Gundry: Yeah, it’s, in the end, it’s all about others. And as you know, the only way you finally love yourself is to give your love away to others and it comes right back.
Scott Harrison: Yeah. One of my favorite expressions is, “The more you give, the more you give.” I actually want to get people addicted to giving. Now, when you give and you get that positive feedback loop and you know that something positive has actually happened, it makes you want to give more. And we need more. We need more giving in the world. We actually need more charity in the world. Even though the word is become tainted for so many. Charity means love. It means to serve your neighbors in need and get nothing in return. And I think at any time certainly that I have lived, we need more love in the world, we need more generosity, we made need more grace, we need more people looking after others. And I think at the end of the day that’s really the message is to find your own path and a way to do that. To do that authentically and you will live a very different life.
Scott Harrison: And if you come in, if you’d run into me over a plate of cocaine 14 years ago at five in the morning, you know, smoking my third pack of cigarettes and someone said, “This guy, one day, is going to be speaking in front of 20,000 people talking about clean water and generosity and this guy’s going to have raised $330 million for clean water.” You’d be like, “No, no, not that guy.” Right? And now I have a beautiful wife and I have beautiful children and I get to do this for a living. I get to advocate for others and I get to invite people to bring the best parts of themselves, their passion, their creativity, their generosity into this life-giving thing, and it ends with a day on earth when all of us have clean water to drink. Where every single person alive has their most basic need for health met.
Dr. Gundry: Unless anybody thinks that you’re going to give a preaching about God directing all this, which you do, an atheist was one of your original big contributors.
Scott Harrison: And our biggest. Look, there’s an element of personal faith in it. Charity water has always been a secular organization. Yet the thought to me that you would have to pray to the God I pray to or do what I do on a Sunday to either work here or contribute is just crazy to me. The vision is just too big, so I get to live out my personal faith and my personal theology through my work through serving others, through bringing clean water to people. But you know, we have Muslims, Muslim school kids during Ramadan, sending $60,000. We’ve had synagogues write us letters and say, “This is the first non-Jewish organization we’ve given to in the history of our synagogue,” but water and 100%, it’s too compelling. As you said, like our biggest donor whose given over $50 million dollars, he thinks I’m praying to a figment of my imagination, but he’s been with me to 11 countries now and he’s brought his children along and he’s one of my closest friends. So yeah, that’s been, it’s been a very big tent. Everybody can agree to agree on clean water. People shouldn’t be thirsty.
Dr. Gundry: And I think we should end with that. Folks get this book. It’s a good read. You’re going to you’re going to get involved in this. It’s even got pictures in it if you want to see pictures. And normally we answer reader’s question, but I think in the interest of time I’m going to save it for our next time.
Scott Harrison: Let them know, all the money goes to Charity Water. So I turned over the book advance, the all my author proceeds. That is all going to actually help people get clean water. So just by buying the book, they’re actually helping people.
Dr. Gundry: I mean this guy, is that big a nut that everything, every time you buy this it’s going to go make some wells.
Scott Harrison: I’m extreme. I mean you got to, you have 100% model. You’ve got to be pretty extreme.
Dr. Gundry: You got to love this guy so and I loved the book, so get it. It’ll be out in your bookstores, Amazon, Barnes and Noble. Go for it. And, Scott, pleasure. I’ll see you next month and keep up the good work.
Scott Harrison: Can’t wait.
Dr. Gundry: All right.
Scott Harrison: Thanks for having me on.
Dr. Gundry: This is Dr. Gundry and I’m always looking out for you and Charity Water.
Dr. Gundry: Thanks for listening to this week’s episode of the Dr. Gundry podcast. Check back next week for another exciting episode and make sure to subscribe, rate, and review to stay up to date with the latest episodes, head to drgundry.com for show notes and more information. Until next time, I’m Dr. Gundry and I’m always looking out for you.
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