You have gifts to share with the world and my job is to help you get them out there.read more
Warning, this episode will contain a discussion of some sensitive topics.
Hey, it’s Marie Forleo, and you are watching MarieTV, the place to be to create a business and life you love. Now, if you’ve ever been curious about how empathy and technology can change the world, this is the episode for you.
Nancy Lublin is currently the Founder and CEO of Crisis Text Line, which has processed more than 65 million messages since 2013 and is one of the first Big Data For Good Orgs. She was the CEO of DoSomething.org for 12 years, taking it from bankruptcy to the largest organization for teens and social change in the world.
Her first venture was Dress for Success, which helps women transition from welfare to work in almost 150 cities in 22 countries. She’s the author of four books, a young global leader of the World Economic Forum, and is married to Jason Diaz and has two children who have never tasted chicken McNuggets.
Nancy, thank you so much for being here. I have to tell you, as I’ve been preparing for this I’m like, “Nancy is a real-life superhero.” No, it’s the truth. I know you’re going to be like, wha, but for real. So, people, you’ll get to understand that as we go through this conversation.
You know, superheroes always have fatal flaws, terrible families …
No, they don’t have terrible families. You probably have … Well, you have an amazing family, which we’re going to talk about in the Scooby Doo stuff a little bit later.
The parents are usually dead. Anyway, go on.
Okay, so let’s go back to when you were in law school and you had an idea based on something your dad told you about how he would decide to hire secretaries.
That is true. He hates when I tell this story, but I will tell it again, because I love the story. Yeah, he would look out the window and watch people go from the car to the building door, and he said he would know before they reached the building whether or not he would hire them, just based on how they looked, which is horrible. And that’s what I said to him. And he said, “But it’s true. It’s how the world works, so go comb your hair.” So that was really the idea behind Dress for Success, was how can you make it in the world if you can’t meet my father’s standards?
So, and then I was in law school and hated it because law school is awful. And I came home one day in February, like a cold, New York February, and there was an envelope with the return address from a lawyer in Hollywood, Florida. Apparently, there’s a Hollywood in Florida, and there was a check inside for me for $5,000 from the estate of my great-grandfather, which was awesome and sad because he was still gone and this wasn’t going to bring him back. And I thought, “I didn’t earn this. This isn’t my money.” So in the elevator I had the idea for Dress for Success to honor his memory.
So the idea was just, “Hey, okay I understand this is how the world judges people. I saw how my dad does it. Is there a way to figure out how to help women who don’t have access, to –”
The original idea was actually there would be like one closet, like your big sister’s closet that you try something. There would be one closet, and people would bring back the suit, and it would be like that one closet of rotating outfits. This was pre-Rent the Runway. It was like very fresh in. And when I brought the idea to other people, they were like, “No, no, no. The women should keep the suits, because if they get the job they’re going to need to wear the suits to the job.” Now in fairness, this was the 1990s when people still wore suits.
And you really had to wear a suit to a job interview, especially in New York.
Yeah. I thought it was interesting, though, one of the things that you learned, because you started this with nuns in Harlem.
And the fact that one of your lessons was, you know, they told you … What did they tell you to do with that $5,000 initially?
Yes, one of them told me to put it in a 6-month CD in the bank so it would accrue interest, which I did, which meant we started with no money. So don’t take financial advice from people who’ve taken an oath of poverty. So, everything was on my American Express card, and there’s a reason why American Express is always the card of entrepreneurs, because there’s no APR. If you don’t pay, they just shut you off.
Which they did, like multiple times. But that little green AmEx card got us through everything.
And tell me about when the organization started to grow. I read that you would go to Goldman Sachs, and you would get dresses that were a size 6 or a size 8, and yet that didn’t match the population you were serving.
It’s true. It’s true. So, I remember when Goldman Sachs went to what was it, like Friday business casual?
And I remember when Arthur Anderson went … I mean, it’s not even around anymore, but I remember when Arthur Anderson, the accounting firm, went to business casual. We were just inundated with navy blue skirt suits. It was amazing. Yeah, so corporate America is about a size 6 or an 8. America, on average, is about size 12 or 14, and then the women we would see at Dress for Success are more like an 18 or 20.
And so how did you – I thought it was fascinating. How did you leverage those connections, and even that inventory, how did you make it all make sense?
So I mean, we’re grateful, and Dress for Success is still grateful for donations when people clean out their closets and give. I mean, that suit might have meant something to you, that jacket might have been your lucky jacket. So to pass it on to somebody else is really amazing. So Dress for Success is grateful for all of that, but Dress for Success needs like size 24 suits and blouses. And so I talked to everyone. We just went to a lot of companies and asked them.
I even – I remember at one point in time I was going to be on the Today Show, and I said to Eileen Fisher, who was just so good, the first donor to Dress for Success. And I said, “I’m going to be on the Today Show tomorrow. I will wear something from Eileen Fisher if you’ll give us a bunch of large-size suits.” And so she said sure, and it was freezing.
It was like kind of drizzling snow, and I was outside with Katie Couric, shivering, and I would not put on a coat. And she said on air, like, “Why aren’t you wearing a coat?” And I was like, “Because Eileen Fisher gave me this outfit and she’s so good to us.” So we would do stuff like that. We would leverage media and thank our sponsors, because I was grateful.
Yeah, and I thought it was interesting, too, with the women from Goldman, for example, who donated those jackets, that lucky suit, whatever it was, they then developed an affinity and a connection to Dress for Success.
And then when it came time, “Hey to write a check.” Or to do something else, I just thought that was really one of the things that I’ve been so fascinated by just tracking your journey and why I was so thrilled to have you on today is, just your ability to kind of see and look at connections, leveraging relationships, and building those relationships over time that even if someone, again, gives a dress or something that’s not immediately applicable or doesn’t serve the population, how can that connection serve the larger mission.
I think that what I’ve realized is that that Friends episode where Joey and Phoebe are talking about altruism, and it’s like a competition, “Does altruism really exist?” It’s like not only one of the best episodes of Friends, but also true, and that the people who give want to feel something in return. So when you give a suit, you want to feel connected. When you give money, you want to feel connected. We all just want connection in the world, and so social change is part of that.
So after six years, and you grew Dress for Success. Incredible. I think now serving over a million women, 150 cities in 30 countries. Absolutely incredible. You left to take over DoSomething, which at the time you called a hot mess in 2003. Why that choice?
Yep, a hot mess as a word choice?
No, why that choice to leave? Why that choice to leave Dress for Success when things were going so well?
Well, I left Dress for Success because I’m a wartime CEO. I like when everything’s kind of in disarray and you need vision and clarity and something bold. I’m not a great peacetime CEO. I get bored. I like new things. And Dress for Success was in great shape.
And there was a great leader ready to take it over, who was running the New York office, so I left, and I really left. Like, I left and then I went to Australia with my then boyfriend, now husband, because I was like, “That’s the farthest place we can go where I won’t show up in the office.” So we went to Australia for a few weeks.
And I really haven’t looked back. I think I’ve popped over to Dress for Success in what, I think it’s been 17 years something like that … I don’t even know how long it’s been, a long time. I think I’ve visited them like two or three times. I really am pretty … I’m pretty good about letting go.
And I think you know how I describe it as Scooby Doo syndrome.
Yes. Tell us about that. So, for people that don’t know, you have Scooby Doo syndrome. Tell us.
I do, so Scooby Doo, so basically every episode of Scooby Doo is the same. If you’ve seen one episode you have seen them all. There’s like a church or a movie theater that’s about to be torn down to become a strip mall, and there’s a zombie or ghost haunting it, and Mystery, Inc is called in to find the zombie or ghost. At the end, they always … it’s always Shaggy and Scooby who find the zombie or ghost, but somehow Velma knew what was happening the entire time. And then they unmask the zombie or ghost, and it’s not a zombie or ghost. It’s like the janitor of the movie theater, or the granddaughter of the original pastor of the church, who just don’t want it to become a strip mall and can’t leave. It’s essentially the founder haunting the building. So every episode of Scooby Doo is basically about founder’s syndrome.
I had no desire to be a zombie or ghost. I’m not particularly micromanagey that way or controlling. I like building things, and then I like seeing them flourish and like seeing what other people can do to change them, grow them, and so I really did leave. I’m not on the board. I’m a fan. I mean, I totally creep on it online. But I’m really, completely hands-off with nothing to do with it. And it’s doing great. It’s more than doubled since I left, and it’s impressive.
They’ve also pivoted. You know, when I was there, it really was about suits, and a little bit about keeping the job. And now, Joy the CEO there has recognized that in this day and age, there’s you know, resume skills and using LinkedIn and teaching people more of those skills to keep their jobs. So she’s focused a lot on that, and hats off to her.
Yeah, so going over to DoSomething, and that being a hot mess when you stepped in, because you’re like, “Okay, I like the chaos. I want to bring clarity. I want to bring vision. I want to get things done.” So I think the state of affairs, right, they were about a quarter million dollars in debt?
Yeah, so tell us about what you walked into over at DoSomething.
Well, I stepped off a flat earth from Dress for Success, and I didn’t go to DoSomething. I took like a year and wrote.
Oh, I didn’t know that.
Yeah, and I wrote. So I didn’t go from one to the other. I really had no idea what I was going to do. And then Andrew Shue called me. And, I mean, I had watched Melrose Place, and I was like, “Ha ha, this isn’t Andrew Shue.” And it really was. So I went and took a meeting with him, and I giggled the entire way through, because he’s still gorgeous. And so I found myself giggling. And they were really … I mean, it was really a mess. Like you said, $250,000 in debt, they just laid off 21 out of 22 people, they lost their free office space, and everything had been put in boxes and sent to a storage facility in Queens and no one knew who had the key to the storage facility. I mean it was really, it was a hot mess, and I was like, “Cool. I’ll do that.”
I thought there was a need for an organization that was fun for young people and social change, that wasn’t about wearing uniforms. I’m a life member of the Girl Scouts. I love me some Thin Mints, but there was – to make social change cool. To make volunteerism like sports, which was Andrew’s vision.
So I came in in 2003, which is the year after Friendster and the year before Facebook, and I said, “It’s the internet. This thing is here to stay, and that’s where DoSomething should be.” And they almost fired me.
Because I shut down the local offices and said, “I’m putting it online.” And they were like, “This is crazy. We have all these contracts.” And I was like, “I just don’t think that’s the future. You’ve got to be able to say no to stuff. Give me six months.” And in six months, we were half a million dollars cashflow positive, and we were really off and running.
Because you’re a badass, major badass.
No, because the internet is … No, because I’m-
Well, yes. I’m not going to let you get away with that. Yeah, you can say “yes, yes, yes the internet,” but again, as we go through this, you are a badass. That’s just going to be my position and I’m not changing it.
All right, well then I’ll be back tomorrow.
Yes. So you were there, and I read that one of the things that you did besides the internet to turn DoSomething.org around was pivoting to texting.
Yeah, so first we pivoted to the web. And like in the old days, we would talk about it as “hits” sort of like, “Oh, how many hits do you have?” Like, “Oh, 60,000 hits this month.”
Yeah, it’s like, wheee! Yeah.
Now, I don’t think anybody talks about hits. Like, there were no clicks or click-throughs. It was really a different place. And like people were still using Comic Sans and were not embarrassed.
And then, I was on a conference call, and I look and everybody in my office was like high-fiving and hugging. I’m like, “What’s going on?” And they said, “Well, we polled 500 defunct users,” like people we had emailed 20 times over the last six months and had not heard anything, like dead users. We texted them. We had their mobile numbers, and we sent them a text, and in nine minutes we had a 20% response rate. Which is like “Laaa!” Angels were singing. It was amazing.
And so I was like, “All right, let’s do that. Like, let’s go in that direction.” This is my point. I didn’t come up with that idea. I was just smart enough to create a work environment where it was okay to experiment, and when these kids came up with a great idea, say, “Right, let’s go in your direction. You lead I’ll follow.”
And so we did. Now, it took a little while to convince funders to back it and to get everything in line, but then we pivoted to text and now DoSomething is six million members. That’s bigger than the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts combined. It’s bigger than the NRA. Pay attention to the youth.
And they’re not all pro-gun, anti-gun, whatever, but they are organized, and it’s not a political organization. This is an organization about volunteering. So, anyway, so they do things like fill food pantries with peanut butter and … and send cards to seniors who are homebound and alone. They do really beautiful things. Massive scale, that a lot of grown ups don’t know about because it’s like this secret mission on kids phones.
I was on the website this morning and I was just so moved by all of the different campaigns.
They’re doing a great job.
They’re doing an amazing job.
They’re doing a great job.
So, you eventually did leave that and obviously, let’s talk about that one text that you received from a girl you didn’t know, and it wound up changing your life and the lives of thousands of other people. Can you tell us about that text?
So, we’re doing all this texting and huge open rates. You open every text you get, but there would … you really only text with your parents, your friends, and DoSomething. A lot of brands are not … most brands are not texting. And there would be a few dozen messages every time we sent out a text that had nothing to do with the campaign, but were personal ’cause you feel close to DoSomething ’cause you’re only texting with DoSomething, your parents, and your friends. People would respond telling us about terrible things like they were being bullied or that their best friend was addicted to crystal meth. And so, those are called out of flow, right?
So, we would triage them, like, “Here’s a hotline number. Talk to your mom,” with whatever we could. And then we got a message that said, “He won’t stop raping me. It’s my dad. He told me not to tell anyone,” and the letters, “R U there?” Which someone brought in and put on my desk, printed out, like, “I don’t know what to do with this one.”
So, we sent back the phone number for RAINN, the Rape and Incest Organization. They’re great. I came in the next day and was like, “Hey, have we heard back from her.” “No.” I said, “Send it again.” And this has been almost seven years now since that message and actually it was in August, seven years ago. And never heard back. I don’t know if it was a burner phone and she just switched phones. I don’t know if her dad saw the message. I don’t know if she’s dead or alive, and what was pointed out to me a few months is, I don’t even know that it was a she. I don’t even know that this was a female and I always just assumed. I’ve tried to call lots of times and text and no word back.
It was within a couple of weeks of that first message that I was like, “Look, if they’re gonna reach out to us by text, if this is how this generation is gonna share, someone needs to make a hotline for them by text.” And so, I set out to do it and it was like my side hustle for awhile. I did that and DoSomething for awhile, and then it got too big, and also there was another great leader waiting in the wings to run DoSomething. She’s incredible. She was the COO at the time and I was like, “I’m gonna leave and you’re gonna run this.” She was like, “No, you’re never leaving.” I was like, “I’m really leaving.” And that was it. I was out.
And so, I read that it was hard to grow at first, that it took a few years to secure that funding.
So there was a two year gap between the idea and launch. I’m like supposed to … you’ve said such nice things about me, right? Like you think I’m good at this. It took me two years to get this thing off the ground.
Okay, can we just have a little perspective Nance? I mean like, okay, I was just talking to the team before you got here and I always like to tell them who my guests are. I told them … ’cause we have really awesome people that come and are gracious enough to spend some time with us, I started to say, “Do you guys know about Dress for Success?” They’re like, “Oh my god.” And they thought that was it. I’m like, “Do you know about DoSomething?” They’re like, “Oh my goodness,” and then I explained Crisis Text Line, then we’re going to get to Loris in a minute. All of them were just like on the floor versions of this, “She’s amazing.”
So, I was basically on the floor like that for two years trying to get it off the ground.
But this is good for everyone to hear because we have an audience in 195 countries. We have people that care a tremendous amount about changing the world. We have entrepreneurial, creative people.
Yeah, it’s hard.
All different ages, right? But often times, you know this, you just see these success stories. So, I love that we’re talking about you were on the floor like that for two years.
With ice cream.
Yes, as one should have ice cream and brownies, and for me, some cookie dough.
Oh, that sounds like lunch.
Yeah, we’re gonna talk about a place around the corner later.
That you might not know about, but it’s important to hear those pieces at well. So, it took a bit of effort, obviously, to get the funding, took two years, but then when it started taking off your growth was-
But it was hard. It’s hard to get people to believe in new things. So, I would pitch people and they would be like, “Oh, I don’t fund that area.” I’m like, “It’s not an area. No one has done this before.” Or they were very nervous. There was all the reasons why it wouldn’t work, and I was like, “But we’re already triaging it out of DoSomething,” like, “It’s kind of already happening. Now we just need to make it a real thing.”
And so yeah, not everybody … not everybody wants to take that leap and then I made the same mistake I make every time, which is the first people I start with are my friends and family. ‘Cause you think your friends and family love you. They’re gonna love your idea, and that’s not how it works. So, it’s like banging your head against the wall trying to convince your friends and family. What you should do is start with other people who will love your idea no matter how they feel about you.
And how do you … ’cause I can hear my … I’ve developed this gift for hearing questions that my audience asks in realtime.
Nice. That’s another skill.
Yeah. So, they’re asking right now, “But how?”
Friends and family are obviously the folks-
Right, ’cause they’re near you.
They’re near us. And I love the sound of that. It’s like “other people that will believe in your idea,” so my mind goes to, and I’m curious because you’ve had this experience multiple times. It’s like people that are potentially interested in that subject matter, topic, or whatever. Would you agree?
Yeah, totally. You find them online. There’s … there’s … there’s … yes. And then I hired a CTO and a Chief Data Scientist, were the first two hires. Then we sent them on the road and so they went out and looked at all of the other crisis lines, call centers. They looked at other similar stuff, and so we started really, again, not by talking to donors and not by talking to foundations, but they started by looking at the space.
And you first started kind of outsourcing, right?
Yes, you really have done your homework. This is fun.
I do … I was one of those young people in school who did all the homework, yeah, no I love this.
Yeah, that’s good. All the things. Okay, so … so, yes. We started thinking we would just be the technology and so we’d be the pipes, and other would do the content. We put out a RFP and selected three crisis centers. Then it was growing really quickly. So, three more crisis centers, and then three more. Pretty soon we were at 11 crisis centers and we were paying them. They were handling all the messages, and what we saw was that they were very different. They all had their … they each had their own training. Some would ask every single person, “Are you feeling suicidal today?” As the first question. They’d be like, “No, I’ve got a calculus final. I’m gonna be okay.”
And then some would … just the language would be different, and so we said, “What happens if we called the best practices that we see and look at our data and train our own people?” So, we trained this magic 12th cohort and very quickly saw that they outperformed on every key performance indicator. So, every KPI they blew out of the water: quality, wait time, and of course they were free. They were volunteers.
How did you find those first 12? Is it just asking around like, “Hey, who wants to do this?”
Oh yeah, it was like people from the DoSomething staff and friends and family and we just kind of put the word out that we were gonna train our own people and experiment with this.
And did you develop that training based on what was working and what wasn’t from your outsourcing?
Yeah, that’s right. So we just … we just called best practices and then we were like, “This is the way to go.” And so we pivoted. And so in … in 2015 we basically pushed off those 11 crisis centers and leveled up our own crisis counselors and training them, which is all online. It’s all virtual. We’ve now trained over 15,000 people, which is a huge, basically, army of people trained in mental health and crisis intervention.
In the last … I can tell you as of today, in the last 28 days, 4,101 have been on the platform. So, it’s a large, active, volunteer force. And all … in their jammies on their couch.
I love that. That’s one of the things I was always attracted to when it comes to having an online business, is part of the reason why I do what I do because I was so excited about being able to build something from my couch, which is where I love to be, and … and being able to reach and connect with people all around the world that otherwise I might not be able to.
This is strangers counseling other strangers in their most dire … most … you’re having a real impact on another human being in their worst moments of their life. You’re on the couch with that Häagen-Dazs coffee.
Or that cookie dough.
Or that cookie dough.
And I can hear folks, so just so you guys know that we will put links to – if you are passionate about Crisis Text Line and you are interested in potentially becoming a volunteer. It is something that you have to apply for.
It is a … a rigorous, as it should be, process, but we will have links to that so if that’s something that you want to investigate and potentially share or share with your communities, we’ll have that information for you.
Great. US, Canada, and UK. So, we really need volunteers in the UK. Interestingly enough.
Yes? Oh, great. We have a great audience over there.
Great. We really need volunteers there.
So, I wanna talk now about some of the insight you began to gain after you added the layer of machine learning and that at first you guys were … ’cause it was human tagging, right? The text would come in and you guys would start to tag things and you would think words like die or suicide or overdose, put that into the algorithm, and you were like, “Okay, these are the hot keywords, take them first.”
Take them first.
Like a hospital emergency room. Right? Like a hospital emergency room. If you come in with a gunshot wound or a heart attack they they wheel you right in. And if you’re the kid with the sprained ankle they’re like, “You’re gonna wait a half an hour until we have space for you.” I mean, everything should work that way. Customer service should work that way, but certainly all the phone hotlines, all the hotlines should work, should triage. Take the imminent risk stuff first.
Yes, but you guys thought that those key words were gonna be it.
But then you learned that there were other words and potential emojis.
Can we talk about what you learned from machine learning?
Yeah, so we added on a machine learning layer and found thousands of words and word combinations that are more lethal than the word suicide. So, the word military is twice as likely that we will end up calling 911. Now, when we call 911, if someone has the plan, the means, the … and the timing. So, the ideation, the plan, the means, and the timing, and we can’t de-escalate. So, we’ll sometimes … we’ll say, “How about putting the gun in the drawer?” So, they’ll de-escalate. “How about safety planning with us for the next 24, 48 hours? What can you do to stay safe?” If they can’t agree to any of that, if they’ve already swallowed a bottle of pills, that’s when we call 911.
So, the machine learning layer measured: when we call 911, what are the most common words and word combinations we see? Military is twice as likely for us to call 911 as the word suicide. So, someone texting in and saying, “I’m in the military.” It’s more likely that we will call 911 than if they texted and say, “I wanna commit suicide.”
I also saw that Tylenol, Ibuprofen, Aspirin, Advil – 16 times more likely.
Pills. Any named drug are between five and 16 times more likely, even the words CVS where you get the pills, those are the most lethal words that we see, and as you said, an emoji. The unhappy face crying emoji is four times as likely that we will have to call 911 than the word suicide.
I think this is extraordinary. One of the ways that I opened this episode is about if we’re curious how technology and data can be used as a force for good, this is the episode for you. And I feel like this is so just incredible what you and your organization are doing, because sometimes frankly, I … I look at the phone and I look at technology and again, I’m so grateful for the internet. I’m grateful for what it’s provided, but I have a love, hate relationship with a lot of it.
And so, that’s the other reason why I was so excited to have this conversation, because this is shining a light on how we can improve our society and how we can be more connected to each other, and hopefully solve some of the big problems we face through using data and tech.
It’s true. It’s true. I mean, I … I sometimes say it’s like a light saber. It can be red or it can be blue. So, it’s for good or for evil and … and so we’re using machine learning and technology to try and save lives and help people through their hardest moments. Our team is terrific. They’re wielding those skills to help us solve things like this.
So, the latest one is yesterday … yesterday in the office our conversation was about quality. Right now, the way we quality is a satisfaction rating. So, we send a message to texters at the end of the conversation saying, “Hey, we’re always looking to get better. Do you mind giving us some feedback?” They fill out a little survey. 19% of people fill that out, so that’s pretty good. And so, we know that 85% of people found the conversation helpful.
That’s a satisfaction rating, but instead of … I would really like to know 100% of conversations, how’s our quality? Not satisfaction, but our quality. So, according to our standards, can we create an algorithm that measures empathy? And that … that measures 100% of conversations. Did we do a good job? Are the conversations matching our training and our standards?
And so we’re building that, looks like we’ll ship that by the end of July. And we’ll be able to see in 100% of conversations, ’cause now that we’re doing so many conversations also, you can’t rely on humans. If you’re gonna really do something at scale, it’s gotta be on rhythmic. Not the conversation itself, we will always be humans.
We think if you reach out to us in pain, you deserve another human to hear you. And that empathy, a robot can’t do that.
But the robot can measure it.
What kind of volume are you guys looking at right now?
Right now we’re handling about 100,000 conversations a month, or every 28 days. That’ll double by the end of the year.
Wow. So in 2015, a talk that you gave, you said you were doing 2.1 active rescues a day. Is that still accurate, or is that fluctuating a little bit?
30 active rescues a day. So from 2015, 2.1; to 2018 which we’re in right now, 30.
A lot more volume. We’ve grown that much. It’s, I mean, we’re talking during a particularly tough period, I think, in America. The tragic losses of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, and before that, others, make people really feel pain themselves and question things. It’s been a hard time.
And I don’t wanna leave it with that. And the best thing that your viewers can do is, I’ve been seeing a lot on Facebook about “Tell people you love them! Be there for your friends!” And that’s all good, and if you think there’s someone in pain, ask. It’s not suggestive or harmful to turn to someone and say, “Are you thinking about killing yourself?”
It’s okay to ask that, and to phrase it that way. It gives them an opening to answer, and it also makes them feel seen. That’s much better than saying “I love you, I care about you.” That’s an I statement. “Are you thinking about killing yourself?” It’s really asking them to take their temperature on how they’re doing. So please ask.
Thank you for that.
One of the things we talk about in a business context is that it’s not your customer’s job to find you, it’s your job to go out and find them. And I love that you guys have started to embed your service on platforms. So let’s talk about that. Talk to me about the choice, especially when we’re seeing so much difficult content online, and so many people just saying the most freaking horrific things ever. And also, privacy. There’s so many layers to this.
It’s true. So we really wanna partner with all the social media and search companies. We think we need to be inside those platforms, and many of them have been wonderful. So YouTube was the first. If you search “Suicide and depression” inside YouTube, we’re one of the first things that come up. YouTube has been great. After School, Kik. Snapchat has been terrific, actually, to work with. And now Facebook also. These companies are taking this stuff seriously. Many of them are paying us, actually to handle some of this for them, because they recognize that people need another level of support. And with Facebook, we’re actually embedded inside Messenger. With Kik, we’re inside Kik. And I’m like waiting. By the end of the summer, apparently the WhatsApp API is gonna be available and we’re excited to be inside WhatsApp.
We wanna be where people are, like you said. We wanna go, we wanna make it so easy that it’s easier to get help than to avoid getting help. We wanna be in your pocket on whatever platform you use, all the time. I wanna be right there.
I love it. Speaking of that, let’s talk about your new venture. ‘Cause you just can’t stop, which we love! Loris.ai, what is it and why is it important, and tell us how it relates to Crisis Text Line.
So companies started calling us and saying, “Can you teach our employees empathy? You’ve trained 15,000 people in these skills. Can you teach our employees?” And we were like, “Well, that’s interesting.”
So we raised capital, we raised a venture round. And we’ll be in beta this summer. Basically what we’re doing is taking the training from Crisis Text Line and making a shorter version of it, and using our algorithms, and training customer service reps. We’re working with three very large, well-known companies this summer in the beta, and then I think we’ll roll out more in the fall.
But to train customer service reps, right now if you think about it, customer service reps are very good at finding your package, or getting you the right size, or other things like that. They’re not so good at feelings. And we have this corpus now of 70 million messages at Crisis Text Line that are all feelings, and as you said, tagged by humans on both sides. So it’s an unstructured data set that’s labeled, and it’s juicy.
We’ve learned what are the best words, the best sentence structure, what are words to avoid. We’re gonna take that and teach that back to companies, so that they can be more kind too.
And that, if I read correctly, will also help support the continued growth of …
It gave the founders equity to Crisis Text Line. So Crisis Text Line owns it. And so when Loris does well, Crisis Text Line does well.
It’s incredible. I’ll tell you, with our company, customer service is the most important thing for our entire team, and we deal a lot with feelings, because we’re creating content and helping people build businesses and lives they love. So inevitably, and I am so proud, and I was so excited actually about what you’re doing, ’cause I’m like this is what more of the world needs. And even just as a consumer, going out in the world, I’m always so blown over when anyone treats me like a human.
Kindly! Yes, like a human. Totally.
Like a human. And actually takes an extra minute, even if I am not in a stressed out situation, that I’m just wanting to have an interaction, and there’s that level of heart and care.
It matters so much!
It matters so much.
We’re talking about Loris is “helping humans be more human.”
Yes! Yes, congratulations. I love it.
And when we started, everybody thought we were gonna build bots.
Yeah, and there are lots of bot companies. That’s, yeah. Not us. Humans.
I thought it was also interesting too, a layer of, you shared “We’re modeling a new path to sustainability for not-for-profits; simply put, why sell T-shirts when you can sell the thing that your organization does best?” And I felt like that was a really great perspective for people to hear. Especially non-profits.
Look, I also don’t wanna do dinners. I’m not a wedding planner. No, but truly, that’s when you do charitable dinners. It’s basically throwing a wedding every year. It’s hard. And there’s always some angry aunt who’s not talking to some other cousin in the room. It’s rough.
Yeah, the business model for not-for-profits is crazy. It’s, “I do good work, please give me money.” And that’s it. It’s not connected. So many not-for-profits are also selling something else on the side, or doing a dinner to try and sustain themselves.
The one place that sells T-shirts that I really respect is TWLOHA, To Write Love On Her Arms. They do a good job, but their T-shirts are inspirational and quotes, and that’s what the whole organization is. That makes sense to me. That’s genius.
But I think, that’s right, monetize what you’re really best at. There are a couple of homeless organizations that have created job training programs, so they run a restaurant. Famously there’s Greystone Bakery, which creates the brownies and cookies that go inside Ben & Jerry’s. And it’s a homeless shelter. So that’s awesome. Give people jobs and skills, so it’s connected.
But when I see some terrific organization then have to throw a dinner, or a series of dinners, or I don’t know, sell something else on the side, I just think “Now you’re in two businesses. And they’re both gonna be hard to run.” Yeah.
Anything for our audience? ‘Cause I know people are gonna get fired up. If they want to either volunteer, we’re gonna have that. Anything that you wanna let people know about what they can do to support you, your work, or even if they’re passionate about data and technology as a force for good?
Great. I would say that we don’t necessarily need more organizations, we need more solutions. There may be existing organizations – like not everybody is an entrepreneur, and I wouldn’t wish this on anybody. It’s a weird life. I know, somehow now it’s become sexy and people know how to spell “entrepreneur.”
It’s hard as hell.
I wouldn’t wish this for my kids. No way. So I mean, I don’t necessarily want them to be a dentist, but I don’t … ’cause that’s just putting your hands in other people’s mouths, and that seems weird.
But anyway, being an entrepreneur is weird and not for everybody. And so. But there are so many other ways to create solutions, and be part of solutions. And you don’t have to start something.
So you can go to an existing organization, just make it better. You can ask an existing organization what they do with their data. They won’t even realize the data they’re sitting on, but a lot of what they have is timestamped. Or it’s dated. And so they’re sitting on stuff that they’re not even thinking about using and repurposing in other ways, and that’s where some of the best systems change work comes in. And if you’re someone who has these skills, if you know Python or R, things like that, go to organizations and offer to help.
And, yeah, be involved. Be on a board. Create a board for something. Create an event for something. Offer to do the social media for something. There’s so many young people, who like, that’s, you’re native to that. A lot of organizations still are not. Create a new audience for someone.
There’s so many – there’s no shortage of work to be done in these organizations. I will say, forget the like “Make a Difference Day.” This is not a one-day thing. There’s no organization out there that is actually grateful for your one day. They will say they are, they’re not. You are a pain in the ass to that organization. Because if I said, I have a team of four data scientists and great engineers, and if we were like “We’re gonna go give a day to Goldman Sachs,” they would be like “Are you kidding me?” First of all, they wouldn’t let us past the firewall or anything. Why would you let in strangers for a day to like, all of your mess? But also, how much impact can you really have in a day? You can’t.
So stop with the “Make a Difference Days.” Make a Difference Life. This is not a one day thing, this is an ongoing thing. Commit yourself to something. Ask them what they need. “How can I be helpful to you?” Some of them have volunteer programs. Some of them don’t. And don’t be frustrated when an organization doesn’t know what to do with you; they’re just trying to keep it together.
It’s hard. We happen to have an incredible volunteer base. Our crisis counselors are our everything, and they really are the best humans. They’re amazing, amazing people who are on our platform 24/7, like I said, talking to strangers in hot moments. And they’re incredible. But it’s not for everybody. It’s highly selective. It would be easier to get into most colleges than it would be to become a crisis counselor.
I love that. Quality matters.
Highly selective. But if it’s for you, it’s life altering. For you and the people you help.
Thank you so much for making the time, and taking the time today. And I’m really excited to continue to support you and everything that you create.
Thanks. Appreciate it.
Now, Nancy and I would love to hear from you. So this was a very rich conversation. I’m curious. What’s the biggest insight that you’re taking away, and most important, how can you put that insight into action right now? As always, the best conversations happen after the episode over at MarieForleo.com, so go there and leave a comment now.
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If you or someone you know is in crisis in the US or Canada, please visit CrisisTextLine.org.
If you’re outside of the US or Canada and need help, please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention’s website at IASP.info/resources