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iSchool Student's Photo Lands on Time Magazine Cover

By: Diane Stirling
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As if a 107-day adventure backpacking and backflipping around the world this summer wasn’t dramatic enough, Sam Morrison, a senior at the School of Information Studies (iSchool), marked the end of his trip by getting his picture on the cover of Time magazine.

The magazine’s August 27 cover features Sam’s photo of his backflip in front of the Giza pyramids in Egypt among 288 other thumbnails. The photos had been sent to Time from all over the world via mobile devices. Sam submitted his photo by marking it with a designated hashtag on the photo sharing service Instagram.

The collage accompanied Time’s “The Wireless Issue” story, “10 Ways Your Phone is Changing The World.” Time said it composed the cover by requesting in July that readers the world over take pictures and submit them via their phones and the app, Instagram. The magazine received 31,429 submissions from more than 120 countries and all seven continents, the magazine reported.

Morrison (known as SamTheCobra on Twitter), left on his minimalist trip around the world early in May, and returned to his New Jersey home last week. He stayed mainly in hostels and carried a backpack with a few changes of clothes and the gear to record his journey. That included an ipad with 4G, a Nikon D90 camera, a video camera and gorilla pod stand, plus cardreader, google drive and his mini longboard, a 22-inch means of travel that fit into the pack.

Before departing, Morrison wrote about his expectations. “Armed with just a backpack and my intuition, I will travel to Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia during my summer break in order to find myself by getting lost in the world. And since I like to do backflips, I want to see the world, and backflip all over it.” Sam blogged, tweeted, and kept in touch via foursquare all along the way. Scores of friends, family and iSchoolers followed his trek, photos, and comments.

Sam was famous in popular culture even before his Time magazine cover, though. His notoriety began with a $100 bet with his Dad. Sam did a backflip every day for a year, and compiled many of the flips into a video that went viral on You Tube. That led to his creation of a website,  backflip.me, a project where Sam now envisions helping others share and document their every-day-for-a-year goals.

“You may figure that a backflip takes all of 4 seconds to do. But it’s more difficult than that. This feat isn’t about testing my physical ability to do a backflip each day. It’s more of a mental feat. As easy as it is to do, it’s equally as easy to forget,” Sam wrote.

Morrison said he discovered that only 3% of people have clearly defined goals that are written out and that they have shared with their peers; and that 14% of people have goals that are clearly defined but they don’t share with their peers. Those who share their goals publicly are ten times more likely to achieve their goals, he noted – something made easier today because of the ease of sharing information widely through online communication.

Inspiration for the solo world tour Sam came from his family. His grandfather made a similar trip to all the continents, and his father made four trips across the United States on a bicycle, Sam reported. He also wrote that his trip was an overwhelmingly positive experience. “This trip reconfirms that I can accomplish something I set my mind to. I don’t know where I’m going or how I’ll get there, but I’m confident enough in myself and my practices, that I know I’ll figure it out.  And I think that’s a strong quality for a leader of a company to have…hopefully.”

For the next semester, though, Sam is back to studying information management and technology with a minor in global enterprise technologies and continuing his backflip.me initiative. It is “a platform that allows for people to creatively set goals and follow through with those goals by letting others passively follow their projects,” he said. “The idea is you have one box a day to fill with whatever kind of media you want. Whatever goal you have you can fill with that box and others can follow you.”

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