January 1, 2021
"Do your little bit of good where you are; it's those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world." - Desmond Tutu
Latin for Agile, “Agilis” defines the everyday Executive pursuing extraordinary goals. This month, we have the honor of sharing the Extra(ordinary) journey of Richard DiPilla, Founder & CEO of Global Goodwill Ambassadors Foundation (GGA). We travelled the world with Richard to explore his humanitarianism and his mission to solve real-life problems in the most disadvantaged parts of the world. He has brought people together from across the globe who selflessly give their time and energy to make the world a better place. Identifying needs following the United Nation's Sustainable Development Goals’ model, GGA is hands-on at the grassroots level to assist women, children, the hungry, the homeless, and the disadvantaged; from every nation, color, race, and socioeconomic caste. Thanks to Richard’s vision, GGA has created a large family of humanitarians in over 200 nations and territories globally.
Richard reveals what led him to inspire others through his journey, and why he chose to follow his purpose and his heart…changing real lives of real people in need around the world, one continent at a time.
“My family came here from Sicily,” he starts sharing. “I was born in New Jersey. My father had passed away at just thirty-six years old, so it was just myself, my mother, my three siblings and my grandparents. I grew up in a very loving, warm household. We ended up moving to another city to be close to more family, so I had my education all in south Jersey”. Richard was close to his mother as a child; she became a role model for him early in life. “It was not unusual to wake up on a Saturday morning and see people sitting on our couch of every ethnicity, color or religion. My mother would open our home to everyone and listen to people. She took on a lot in being a single mother, but she also wanted to take care of the town that we lived in. For instance, if someone was getting married, they would ask my mother to set up all of their wedding arrangements. And she would do it with no hesitation!” He smiles fondly. “Our house was filled with a lot of people who did goodwill, and my mother never asked for anything, but she always provided everything. We grew up very poor, but I didn’t know or understand that until many years later. I had no idea; I never even thought about it. I never thought about things we didn’t have because our house was so full of love and people. I always encourage people to get to know other people. And when I say get to know, it’s not to have as just a friend - it’s to actually listen to people.”
Richard’s upbringing encouraged and supported a diverse and inclusive community; leading by example through their own actions and interest in others’ lives and stories.
Diversity: traits and characteristics that make people unique.
Inclusion: behaviors and social norms that ensure people feel welcome.
“Our family unit was very warm. We were surrounded by many cultures. We were very open, and never saw the prejudice that existed. I didn’t grow up with it. My entry into college was on a full scholarship. I was one of the first Caucasians to receive a Martin Luther King Scholarship! My aptitude for learning was very high. I was on a program called LAP - a Learning Aptitude Program. Throughout my life, I’ve set that bar for myself in what I want to accomplish. I have tried to be a good person; I have tried to live a good life; and I have tried to live responsibly. Have I made mistakes? Yes! I have made dozens and dozens of them. From some, I learned more quickly than from others. But that’s what human life is all about – making mistakes, going through them, and learning.” Richard’s commitment to a culture promoting diversity and inclusion early into his career branded his leadership, and its rewarding effect on leaders globally. “I encourage leaders to be more open and tolerant to people that are of different races, different cultures, different ages, different colors, different generations because you need a little bit of everything with an open dialogue, so that everyone can learn from one another and the business will be healthy. That's it. Live by what you say. Everyone has a good mission statement, but very few companies live by the beautifully written mission statements that they have.”
Richard proceeded to study Marketing, Communication, and Journalism. “It was my first career! I started primarily in marketing and advertising. As the years progressed, my knowledge became more functional and I worked for companies that provided resources for additional education. I went on to complete further advanced degrees; most of which were in the digital world. I learned I had a real interest for the digital world that I didn’t even know existed when I was young. I enjoyed new technologies, so this became the primary thing that I was involved in throughout the greater part of my career.” Richard takes us through the evolution of his inclusive leadership style, and its impact. “I was teaching people how to utilize digital technologies, in place of traditional technologies. Doing this, I had to travel every single week - I would leave on a Sunday and return on a Friday. I spent a lot of time in hotel rooms! Because I had a degree in Communication and Journalism, I also loved writing. A publisher then encouraged me to go into sales, and support others in growing their confidence in sales as well.” Richard discusses leadership qualities he developed and discovered through others’ experiences. “A good leader will enable others. A good leader will make sure that people have a chance to have a voice. A good leader will help build character, and a trait that I think is solely missing in a lot of people today, which is humility. I think that having humility is a good thing for people. You shouldn’t have to learn this through a life lesson - a hard life lesson that hits you and forces you into it. It should be something that is part of the learning process, part of the life process, part of society’s process.”
Richard’s success continued as he moved throughout the United States. “I saw different areas of the country and was teaching more technology, and how to integrate technology into sales and marketing. During the early to mid-2000’s, I moved to San Francisco, where I stayed for ten years. While here, I had met a lot of people during the early stages of LinkedIn, Google, and Facebook. One day, I met a woman who was a biochemist in a country where the only thing I saw in the news about this country was that they didn’t like America! She was so very pleasant and open-minded; she shared with me that she worked on the weekends at orphanages. I’m pragmatic enough to know that there’s good people everywhere, but I found myself being embarrassed that I had not invested my time yet in learning more about other countries and their cultures.” Richard continues to share with passion. “I thought: ‘this is not like me’. The next day, I created a graphic that introduced this wonderful lady from this incredible country, and her passion in spending her weekends going to orphanages, which gave her great joy. I would normally communicate and receive about thirty to forty messages daily from people across the globe. The day I posted this graphic, I received over five hundred messages! Reading through those messages, I discovered that they were gracious ‘thank you’s’, appreciating that I had highlighted humanity, and the things people do quietly are impacting others tremendously. This was the early start of what continued to be a passion for me - to send out messages about tolerance and compassion and understanding of other people. The growth became exponential, and people across the world started contacting me asking to support getting these simple messages out.”
Richard is proud of his successful business career, and the achievements recognized by his clients and team. “I took it all in,” he says, “And you feel good when you receive accolades. I felt very proud about my corporate career. Since retiring and launching GGA, the rewards of doing simple things each day and receiving messages thanking me for being an inspiration puts a smile on my face. This is not about the selfish pat on the back; it’s about having a positive effect on people. The mission of GGA is real - we live what we do. We love what we do. It’s open for people who want to be a part of a family. We don’t want to give out titles to anyone. If others are joining us and supporting this organization for the right reasons, then we are here to welcome them. I started to receive a lot of requests from our members to become a part of the United Nations, and so we joined their Sustainable Development Goals, and continued to do such great work. For instance, one hundred and fifty dollars feeds an entire orphanage three meals a day for an entire month – that is twenty-six cents a meal! We are doing all of these little things thanks to the kindness of people, and their donations. We recently started a monthly E-magazine, where every night we are on the phone receiving stories from our team and volunteers to send messages of goodness and humanity to share with the world. It’s anything we can do with our hands, our minds, and our hearts – this is how we accomplish things.”
Richard shares his thoughts on the future, “I live in Ocean City, Maryland, which is a half hour drive to my daughter’s house. She has three beautiful children - my grandchildren. She and her husband are both teachers, and I have an opportunity to be a part of their lives on a regular basis. I live nearby on the oceanfront, and watch the beautiful ocean everyday as the sun rises and sets. I know I won’t live to see the results of what GGA will become because it’s a sustainable, growing, and living organism that actually promotes understanding, tolerance, and all the good things that help people interact with one another. In between enduring, however, it’s doing all of these wonderful things for children and other people who have been disadvantaged in their lives. The results of our work today will positively affect future generations.”
Richard is changing the lives of those in need of a change in life.
His vision is palpable. His commitment to connecting people across the world and spreading a message of unity, respect and love is beyond admirable. Daily, we connect through a text message that reaches an individual across a continent within seconds; or, an email that reaches an inbox across the globe within minutes; or, a video call that allows us to see someone across the country within moments; leaving us to experience a flood of emotions at the thought of not feeling so far away…all at our fingertips.
Richard reminds us of the little things we have that we often unknowingly take for granted. Those in need of a change in life have hope through Richard’s vision, his philanthropy, his leadership, his team...
Our ability to support those in need can change a life forever.
“I want to continue to make stories and I want the stories to be real. I want them to be about other people’s happiness because of something that I’ve done. Do something that you love and your legacy will not be defined by dates on a calendar, where you worked, or your resume. Your legacy will be remembered in the people that are around when you’re gone - those you have given a positive effect on life to. There is no greater legacy than this.”
How do you measure success?
-Written by Reena Khullar Sharma, Founder & CEO
Agilis Executive Consulting is privileged to partner with:
We share thought leadership through written articles on business strategy, executive coaching, and entrepreneurship to FORBES™, one of the best-known business authorities in the world; and ENTREPRENEUR MEDIA™, the definitive guide to all the diverse challenges of business ownership.
As an Advisor to HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW™, we also offer insight and contributions to content developed, enriching perspectives on ideas from HBR's publications on executive leadership.