Eagle Scout candidate John Shell learns the power of word of mouth and ‘luck surface area’

Posted On August 20, 2022

Have you ever wanted to have that big idea that captured people’s imaginations? We all have.

John Shell, a high school junior in Mobile, just wanted to become an Eagle Scout and help the environment along the Alabama Gulf Coast. And it appears he’s stumbled across one of those big ideas.

A lover of the outdoors, Shell wanted his Eagle Scout project to be something that would help the environment. In researching potential projects, he came across the work of David Wolff, an environmentalist in Florida who developed a unique artificial floating reef system that provides homes for oysters and barnacles that can filter sediment and pollution from rivers and waterways.

Each of the reefs can filter millions of gallons of water a year. So he decided to try to get some of them and deploy them along the Alabama Gulf Coast.

In the latest episode of “What’s Working with Cam Marston,” Shell shares how he took this idea and not only met his goal of finding 100 people to order and deploy the reefs, but far exceeded it.

Shell, an avid fisherman, said he was drawn to the project because he hoped it would restore the sea grass that once thrived in Mobile Bay and that it might result in more fish in local waterways.

But the reefs are expensive and Shell realized he would need to raise money to meet his goal. With his father’s help, he established a website, theeaglereef.com, applied for grants, and spread the word about his project.

And the results were amazing.

Shell has raised about $33,000 – and counting – toward his project. He currently has orders for 155 of the reefs, which are designed to float beneath docks. He’s collaborated with researchers at Dauphin Island Sea Lab on the project, but has installed many of the reefs himself. The project has grown to the point now, as school has started again, that he’s looking for volunteers to keep it running.

What has Shell learned through all this?

  • Word of mouth is a powerful thing. “What I learned about people is that they talk a lot,” Shell said. “So when my project first started, I tried to get the word out through my friends and neighbors who are also on the coast. I was shocked how quickly it spread just by word of mouth alone.”
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help. From asking for money in the form of grants and donations to fund the project, to asking people to order the reefs, to now asking for volunteers to assemble the reefs and keep the project going, Shell has learned he couldn’t have done this by himself.
  • There is such a thing as “luck surface area.” That’s the idea that when you pursue something with passion and don’t take shortcuts, the world seems to find a way for you to succeed.

It certainly seems to be finding a way for John Shell.

Categories: Blog, Podcast, What's Working with Cam Marston