City: Los Angeles
A self-confessed “wealth addict,” Sam Polk penned one of the New York Times' most popular op-ed articles about why he turned his back on his career as a hedge-fund trader on Wall Street after earning a $3.6 million bonus.
After eight years at the top, Sam realized he had developed a distorted sense of reality and was “wasting my life.”
A deep sense of shame began to replace his ambition when the market crashed in 2008 but he continued to profit.
Leaving his career was still incredibly difficult, but in 2010 he gave his employers an ultimatum and walked away, unsure what the next chapter would bring.
Upon adopting a plant-based diet and watching the documentary A Place At The Table about the staggering numbers of Americans facing food insecurity, Sam started his passion project, a nonprofit called Groceryships, with his wife, Kirsten, in Los Angeles to help empower poor families, struggling with obesity and food addiction, by helping them put healthy food on the table.
How did you discover your passion?
“On the cusp of what I’d worked for my whole life (a partnership at one of the top hedge funds in the world), I walked away. It was terrifying. With the help of a spiritual counselor, I reconnected with my heart. That may sound lame, but my whole life to that point had been in pursuit of ambition, but after working with her I became aware of how much more to life there is.”
How did you get started?
“I started Groceryships one day after watching A Place At The Table which inspired me to do something about hunger, poverty and obesity in America. I just kept taking the next right step, even though I felt totally unprepared.”
Was the transition difficult?
“It was about shifting perspective. The longer I was away from my traditional job, the more I came to see that I had taken on the value systems of a culture that I no longer agreed with. Time helped. “
Was Groceryships an instant success?
“Failure has happened nearly every day. Recently we got turned down for a $100k grant. I learned how to deal with rejection when I was trying to get my book published, so I’ve gotten better. But it’s still painful.”
How do you approach your fears?
"Fear is my biggest challenge. My biggest fear about living my passion is manifesting my idea into the world. Trusting that what I think makes sense, actually does. To overcome my fears I just walk through them, every day. “
How important is self-love?
“Hugely important. Self-love is about remembering that I’m valuable no matter what, that nothing I achieve or create is going to make me any more valuable than the day I was born. It is hugely important to me. When I remember that, it’s easy to try to create a gift for the world, rather than try to accumulate things from it in order to fill the hole inside.”
Who is your biggest inspiration?
“Father Greg Boyle of Homeboy Industries inspires me. Most people spend their lives accumulating for themselves. Father Greg spends his life giving to those who need it the most, and in the process he’s created an incredibly awesome and powerful organization. “
“I have a spiritual guide. I met her when I was 22 and had just gotten dumped, and broken-hearted, sought help. I’ve talked with her ever since. I have three siblings who I’m incredibly close with. And my wife, who is my partner in all things.”
Best piece of advice?
“Trust your inner voice. Walk through the fear. “
Written By: Aoife Anderson
Photo Credit: Mekael Dawson
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