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Thirst : A Story of Redemption, Compassion, and a Mission to Bring Clean Water to the World - Scott Harrison


A Story of Redemption, Compassion, and a Mission to Bring Clean Water to the World

By: Scott Harrison, Lisa Sweetingham (Contribution by)

Hardcover Published: 2nd October 2018
ISBN: 9781524762841
Number Of Pages: 336

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An inspiring personal story of redemption, second chances, and the transformative power within us all, from the founder and CEO of the nonprofit charity: water.
At 28 years old, Scott Harrison had it all. A top nightclub promoter in New York City, his life was an endless cycle of drugs, booze, models—repeat. But 10 years in, desperately unhappy and morally bankrupt, he asked himself, "What would the exact opposite of my life look like?" Walking away from everything, Harrison spent the next 16 months on a hospital ship in West Africa and discovered his true calling. In 2006, with no money and less than no experience, Harrison founded charity: water. Today, his organization has raised over $300 million to bring clean drinking water to more than 8.2 million people around the globe.

In Thirst, Harrison recounts the twists and turns that built charity: water into one of the most trusted and admired nonprofits in the world. Renowned for its 100% donation model, bold storytelling, imaginative branding, and radical commitment to transparency, charity: water has disrupted how social entrepreneurs work while inspiring millions of people to join its mission of bringing clean water to everyone on the planet within our lifetime.

In the tradition of such bestselling books as Shoe Dog and Mountains Beyond MountainsThirst is a riveting account of how to build a better charity, a better business, a better life—and a gritty tale that proves it’s never too late to make a change.

100% of the author’s net proceeds from Thirst will go to fund charity: water projects around the world.

About the Author

Scott Harrison is the founder and CEO of charity: water, a non-profit that has mobilized over one million donors around the world to fund over 28,000 water projects in 26 countries that will serve more than 8.2 million people. Harrison has been recognized on Fortune's 40 under 40 list, Forbes' Impact 30 list, and was ranked #10 in Fast Company's 100 Most Creative People in Business. He is currently a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader and lives in New York City with his wife and two children.

Industry Reviews

"Thirst is a story about all of us. In sharing his own remarkable journey, Scott shows us how to find the extraordinary in the ordinary, how to find hope in despair, and how simple acts of generosity can transform everything from what we believe about ourselves to how we connect with each other. In the end, Thirst is about what matters most. Love."
--Bren Brown, Ph.D., author of the #1 New York Times bestseller, Braving the Wilderness

"This book does for the soul what water does for a parched throat. Scott Harrison shares his extraordinary transformation from party animal into the visionary leader of one of the world's most creative and crucial charities. His story will inspire you to think bigger, feel deeper, and give more."
--Adam Grant, New York Times bestselling author of Give and Take, Originals, and Option B with Sheryl Sandberg

"Scott Harrison's Thirst is a hope-filled book about finding your purpose in life and pursuing it against all odds. From the many unbelievable stories Harrison shares from the field, to the moments when charity: water's survival was in question, this book will inspire you to believe that you are more than the obstacles life has put in your path, and the world is more generous than it often seems."
--Arianna Huffington, founder of HuffPost, founder & CEO of Thrive Global

"If you've ever dreamed of changing careers or changing the world, read this book."
--Michael Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg LP and former mayor of New York City

"Thirst is a powerful reminder of the difference one person can make in the lives of millions of others, if only they surrender to putting others before themselves. What a gift Scott Harrison and his vision are to the world--to provide clean drinking water to every single person. May we all value people the way Scott has--and may we leave such a life-giving legacy."
--Christine Caine, founder of A21 and Propel Women, author of Unexpected



New York City, Fall 2003

It started in my arms and legs. The nerve endings would go dead for twenty or thirty minutes, like I’d woken up on a limb that fell asleep. Sometimes the fingers of my right hand lost sensation, and then a prickly blanket of numbness would spread to my wrist and up my arm. I could’ve banged on my hand with a hammer and still felt nothing.

At first I thought there must be a simple explanation, like a pinched nerve. I was twenty-eight years old, with no history of serious illness. But when the episodes became more frequent, I got the name of a neurologist in Manhattan and made an appointment.

Sitting in the dingy waiting room, I nervously flipped through a half-dozen dog-eared magazines, hoping to take in some news from the real world. It was mostly bad. Bombings in Istanbul, suicide attacks in Iraq, the passing of Johnny Cash.

A nurse called me to the reception window and handed me a stack of forms to fill out. Name, age, height, and weight were easy--Scott Charles Harrison, twenty-eight, six foot one, and a slim 170 pounds, thanks to a steady diet of Marlboro Reds--but the long list of questions about my lifestyle wasn’t so simple. Looking through the packet, I realized that I didn’t dare answer truthfully, lest the doctors think the presentable college grad in front of them was some kind of degenerate.

Do you smoke cigarettes? (Two to three packs a day. Is that too much?)

Do you consume alcohol? How many drinks per day? (Up to ten drinks, but I try not to mix. My current favorites, in order: Champagne, beer, and vodka and Red Bull.)

Do you use recreational drugs? If so, how frequently? (Well, that really depends on how much I’ve had to drink. Cocaine, two to three times a week; Ambien to come down; MDMA whenever I can get my hands on it.)

Anyone who knew the full extent of my partying would’ve said it was no wonder I was finally having health problems. But I’d come here for a brain scan and a quick diagnosis, not a lecture. And the fact was, getting wasted every night was my job.

For the last ten years, I’d climbed the ranks of New York nightlife to become one of the top club promoters in the city. Most nights, you’d find me at the hottest party in town, sitting at the owner’s table with beautiful women, drinking expensive Champagne (or occasionally spraying it), and looking like the guy who had it all. And for a while, I did.

I was making about $200,000 a year but living like a millionaire, thanks to the perks. The place I called home was a big, industrial Midtown loft with a baby grand piano in the living room, a killer stereo system, and a private rooftop patio. Bacardi and Budweiser each paid me $2,000 a month just to be seen drinking their brands in public. On my wrist, I wore a Rolex Oyster Perpetual, which I loved to flash at club photographers with a knowing smirk. The watch had been a gift from my then-girlfriend, a nineteen-year-old Danish model whose face graced the covers of Vogue and Elle.

I hadn’t always lived like this. Ten years earlier, when I moved to the city and began collecting these superficial markers of success, one of my first mentors in nightlife said, “Scott, you’re too nice. If you’re going to do this right, you need to be seen out every night, spending money, with a hot model on your arm.”

Mission accomplished. But somewhere along the way, the sameness of nightlife--booze, drugs, girls, repeat--made me restless. I wanted change, and the more things stayed the same, the more booze, drugs, and girls I’d needed to force my mind and body to show up for work with a smile. It’s like what Ernest Hemingway said about going bankrupt: It happened gradually, then suddenly. For me, “suddenly” would involve a gun, a bottle of Scotch, and a cobalt-blue Mustang. But that comes later.

Over several weeks in the fall of 2003, I endured a battery of medical tests, searching for the cause of my numbness. Technicians examined my brain and spinal cord with an MRI and a CT scan, looking for possible culprits: tumors, blood clots, bone and tissue irregularities. Doctors put sensors on my arms and legs, monitoring the electrical activity from my brain to my muscles and nerves. Nurses stuck me with needles, drew blood, and ordered me to urinate in small plastic cups.

But in the end, all my tests came back normal. They couldn’t find anything wrong with me. I was simply going numb.

“Maybe it’s the cigarettes?” I said to my business partner, Brantly Martin, as I fumbled to open my third pack of Reds for the day. We were on our way to a club.

“Why don’t you try to cut down to two packs and chill on the booze?” he offered.

We joked about it, but inside, I was gripped with a quiet certainty that I was dying of some terrible disease that the doctors and their tests had missed. I used to find humor in darkness. I even laughed in the face of death once. It was a few years back. I was high on ecstasy and trying to get a friend’s attention, and I crashed my hands through the floor-to-ceiling windows of a building at New York University. The pane shattered into pieces, and shards of glass rained down, making cuts all over my face and hands. I bled all over the backseat of the cab on my way to the ER, but I couldn’t stop laughing about it. I didn’t care. At twenty-five, you think you’re going to live forever. Until one day, you don’t.

Alone in my loft later that night, I typed “numbness” into Google, trying to self-diagnose my condition. Trying to find a solution that the doctors couldn’t. There, high in the results, among the generic medical advice, I was surprised to see a religious essay. I clicked the link and got lost in a sermon about spiritual numbness, about how one’s conscience can become seared to the point where it no longer works. Near the end of the sermon, the author asked, “Are you right with God?”

As a child, I’d heard that question a hundred times from the pulpit, but now it filled me with existential terror. I wondered what would happen if I actually died. Would a childhood full of fervent bedtime prayers, Bible study, and church band still count? I wasn’t so sure. I turned off my computer and climbed into bed, my right arm still tingling like a pincushion being poked by a thousand needles.

My father’s worried voice filled my head. “Please pray for our son. He’s gone prodigal,” Dad would tell his friends at church.

It was true. When I left home at nineteen, I’d turned my back on faith, virtue, and just about everything else that mattered most to Chuck and Joan Harrison. I still called my parents every few weeks, though. Mom would always ask about my spiritual life. Dad would ask how the nightlife business was going, and then he’d pass along words of wisdom from the Bible, trying to reignite my interest in faith. “Uh-huh,” I’d say, before changing the subject. That’s how our conversations went for almost ten years. But now, at twenty-eight, although I’d never have admitted it to my father, I knew I had to change.

Just start over, I’d think to myself. Do something different with your life.

But I was too numb to make a move. And what would I do, anyway? You don’t just leave nightlife and become a successful doctor or lawyer or banker. I felt trapped in the shallow end of the pool.

And so, every night, I’d snort another line of cocaine and pass the rolled-up bill to another pretty girl and think to myself, This is not who I am. This is not who I want to be. This is not how I thought my life would turn out.

ISBN: 9781524762841
ISBN-10: 1524762849
Audience: General
Format: Hardcover
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 336
Published: 2nd October 2018
Publisher: Currency
Dimensions (cm): 24.13 x 16.51  x 3.18
Weight (kg): 0.64

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