A $36,000 Birthday Gift (Plus: Free Roundtrip Anywhere in the World)


I’m turning 36 years young! Here in a village in the Tigray Region of Ethiopia.

My 36th birthday is here!

It’s going to be a great natal year–I can already feel it. Perhaps it will be good luck for you, too. In this post, I’m giving away a round-trip ticket anywhere in the world.

But back to that strange birthday gift…

Much to the chagrin of my momma-san, I’ve become quite difficult to buy presents for. Some friends even think I’m impossible to find presents for. Not so. I love handwritten letters, homemade brownies, girlfriends in next-to-nothing, and–most of all–when people do something nice.

You, my dear readers, have an awesome track record of doing nice things.

For my b-day in 2010, you all raised more than $100,000 for high-need public school classrooms in the US.  In 2011, you helped build libraries overseas (Cambodia, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam), and last year, you helped poor youth in developing nations finish school.

In lieu of gifts this year, my birthday wish is to provide clean water to the people who need it most. I’m doing it on this page. There are fun prizes involved, so keep reading…

I recently traveled to the Tigray Region in Ethiopia with the incredible Charity: Water team. I witnessed, first-hand, what life is like for people living without clean, safe water.

Nearly 1 billion people worldwide fall into this group. For me, it’s not just a health issue. That’s not the most interesting part. If you want to offer a hand up (education, work) and not a hand out, water is highly leveraged for breaking the cycle of poverty.

In fact, every $1 invested in improved water access and sanitation can yield an average of $12 in economic returns.

Here’s how:

In Africa alone, people spend 40 billion hours every year (e.g. the entire annual workforce of France!) walking for water. Women and children usually bear the burden of water collection, walking for miles to the nearest source. The solution? Installing simple water wells for clean water in strategically close locations.

Children can then spend more time in classrooms learning, and women can contribute to their communities with their minds instead of carrying jerry cans most of the day.

A jerry can, 40 pounds when full.

Clean water creates more capable problem solvers in places with persistent problems. If you want to empower people instead of doling out aid indefinitely, this is a powerful starting point.

Here’s what I’d love to ask, and where the free roundtrip ticket comes in:

1. Join my 36th birthday challenge by clicking here. It’s worth clicking through just to check out the site. Donations are tax-deductible.

2. To get your engines started, I’ve put in $3,600 of my own money.

3. If the spirit moves you, please make a $36 donation (or whatever you can: $1, $36, $1,000, etc.) to providing clean water to those who need it most. Even a $1 can make a big difference!

4. Charity: Water sends 100% of every donation directly to fund projects in the field. No “administrative fees” or anything–every penny of every dollar goes to the field. Cool, right? And because I was just in Ethiopia, they’ll be sending it there. The best part: Charity: Water will report back in 18 months with GPS coordinates, photos and information about the communities we’ve impacted.

– If you all help raise $36,000, I will personally add another $5,000.
– If you all help raise $100,000 (100% doable), I’ll add on a total of $10,000.
– The deadline is 5pm PST on Friday, August 2nd, 2013.

Sweetening the Pot…

– I’m giving away a free round-trip ticket anywhere in the world that Star Alliance flies, which is just about everywhere. There is no expiration date on the trip, so no rush on deciding where or when to go. If you like, I’ll fly you to San Francisco to have dinner with me, but other places might be more interesting :)

Here’s how to get it:

– Spread the word however you can. Send people to this post or to my Charity: Water birthday page. Here’s the URL for copying and pasting: http://my.charitywater.org/timferriss

– Leave a comment below telling me what you did (Facebook, Twitter, blog post, e-mail blast, e-mail signature, encouraged employees/friends to do the same, company donation matching, etc.). Measurement of any type gets huge bonus points. This comment must be put up no later than 5pm PST on Friday, August 2nd, 2013.

– Lastly, answer one question at the very top of your comment: “What does education mean to you?” Begin your answer with “To me, education means…”

Based on comments, I’ll pick the top five promoters. Then, you’ll all vote on the winner of the round-trip.

But the best reason of all to participate…

Beyond the bribes, you’ll feel awesome about yourself for doing real good for people who have so little. People who, without water, might not have much of a future at all.

Trust me. It feels great.

Will you pause for a moment and step up, even if for $1? It would mean the world to me. I’ll share updates as I get them.

Again, here is where to go to donate $1, $36, $360, or whatever you can.

Thank you for reading this post. You are all rock stars, and I continue to write on this blog purely because of you.

Pura vida!


Posted on: July 24, 2013.

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Comment Rules: Remember what Fonzie was like? Cool. That’s how we’re gonna be — cool. Critical is fine, but if you’re rude, we’ll delete your stuff. Please do not put your URL in the comment text and please use your PERSONAL name or initials and not your business name, as the latter comes off like spam. Have fun and thanks for adding to the conversation! (Thanks to Brian Oberkirch for the inspiration)

315 comments on “A $36,000 Birthday Gift (Plus: Free Roundtrip Anywhere in the World)

  1. Happy Birthday, Tim! What a great opportunity to help the world. I’ll promote, but if I win, donate the miles to another worthwhile cause and I’ll pay my own way to SF for dinner. :-)


  2. To me, education means leveling the playing field. We are all part of one human family and there have been too many tolerated ways of separating us that are believed in. To Believe means to BE ALIVE in. I AM alive in a world where we all have access to everything we require and we all have the encouragement and education to discover as much about ourselves as we can. It is only when we truly understand and love ourselves, that we can understand and love one another. Thank you for doing this.

    I shared this on FB.


  3. Hey Tim, you might want to consider moving the URL to its own line under the “Sweetening the Pot…” section in this sentence just to be safe:

    Here’s the URL for copying and pasting: http://my.charitywater.org/timferriss

    The appended “/timferriss” at the end breaks onto another line for me so people may not grab the full URL.

    Happy birthday! And thank you for setting this up.


    – Spread the word however you can. Send people to this post or to my Charity: Water birthday page. Here’s the URL for copying and pasting: http://my.charitywater.org/timferriss


  4. Happy Bday Tim, you rock! posting this to my FB, twitter and Google + accounts as well as donating. Hope you have a great day and thanks for all that you do. Also Thanks for motivating me I have been on the 4 hr body and am down to 187 from 260.


  5. To me, education means a person has the ability to create opportunities in one’s life, and the ability to take advantage of those opportunities to better herself and those around her.

    I’ve tweeted your blog and info to get additional support for this cause, and I’ve shared it with my coworkers as well (500+ employees).

    Happy birthday, Tim, and thanks for spearheading this effort!


  6. Happy Birthday Tim! You should look into mangrove desalination. Apparently 1 young plant can transpiration 300 gallons of fresh water per day. I don’t have any financial interest in the company but it seems like a really innovative method of producing clean water from sea water. Check out the website. http://newwateraquaculture.com/the_process


  7. Hey Tim,

    I just donated $100 to your cause; this isn’t the first charity I donated to that you suggested.(Room to Read).

    Lets be real, $100 is not going to hurt a single 25 year old male who lives in DC. More than happy to contribute.

    I posted about it on Twitter and will blog about it, once I remove the SPAM bomb that went off on my feed. I also annoyed a few coworkers about it.

    I was actually in Tanzania last month and I got to witness first hand how poor people really are. I mean like 3rd world poor, not, “I can’t buy shots at the bar this week,” poor.

    I saw toddlers filling up buckets of mud water and people living in the worst conditions imaginable, and I was in the nice part of Africa! It’s pretty hard to witness in person. Those Feed The Children ads don’t do it justice, no matter how many Sarah McLaughlin songs they throw in it. I believe everyone should travel to see how most of the world lives. It gives you a perspective.

    To me, education means a way out. It means a chance to get out of the socioeconomic class you were born into.It means opportunities. It means choices. It means social mobility. It means freedom.



  8. To me, education means opening of possibilities and empowerment. Education has inspired and empowered me greatly. I have taken a none traditional approach to education ( as I had suffered from psychiatric disabilities) and education has provided me with more options , knowledge and empowered me to move forward and contribute instread of become a burden to others.


  9. To me, education means power. “Knowledge is Power,” said Sir Frances Bacon, and I truly agree. If the younger generations are well educated, then they will be equipped with knowledge that no person can take away, knowledge that can transform their entire community.

    Two years ago, I took a small part in an educational revolution, helping a school developer build a new public charter school in San Jose, California’s. Their mission statement is: “preparing underachieving students who will be the the first in their families to go to college to thrive at a four-year university.” This particular internship was very special for me because it changed my perspective on education, and I was able to make an impact in what used to be my own backyard, the East Side of San Jose, the part of San Jose that is predominantly ethnic minorities and impoverished people. We are lucky to live in the United States, where, even if your family is struggling to pay the bills, the law will do their best to ensure you stay in school until you finish high school or turn 18. Many other countries do not have this luxury, and projects like these are what is helping the world’s citizens get this powerful tool, the tool that multiplies itself as more and more children are able to give back to their communities when they grow up. Thank you so much for doing this Tim.

    P.S. I shared this link with all 200 of my e-mail contacts. :)


  10. To me, education means the opportunity to cultivate one’s natural gifts and interests.

    I shared your link via Facebook and Twitter and will pass it on via mail to my english-speaking contacts.