noun: outlier; plural noun: outliers
a person or thing situated away or detached from the main body or system.


The majority of us don’t stray too much from the status quo – we play it safe, go the traditional route. However, among us are true innovators, people who take risks, strike out on their own, never take the easy route- outliers. These are the people that are changing the world as we know it, often right under our noses. Hopefully, through us shining a spotlight on some of them, you’ll be inspired to embrace the outlier spirit.

Juan Carlos Guáqueta got started young. At an early age, he was selling his drawings in order to support his family, and by his teenage years, was already farming cattle. When he later moved onto studying for his engineering degree, it’s unsurprising that this entrepreneurial spirit led to him doing some amazing things. As the founder of AcuaCare, he’s improved and adapted the decades-old technique of vermifiltration (a method of filtering water that uses worms) to make sewage water safe for irrigation and fertilisation. He’s a pioneer in environmentally-friendly water purification technology, and while AcuaCare began operating only in Columbia, he envisions it expanding to the rest of the developing world.

Another innovative project of his is the creation of an online educational platform that aims to provide information about water and sanitation. The project is particularly aimed towards people in rural areas whose communities lack the proper facilities. Instead of having to pay for an expert to come in and resolve the issue, users of the platform can do so themselves. Guáqueta hopes that this will make way for more widespread access to food and clean drinking water in the developing world.

He’s also a member of the Global Shapers Community, a non-profit organization centered around giving young people an opportunity to fix problems in their communities- tackling issues such as homelessness and climate change.

It’s no surprise, then, that the MIT Technology Review named him one of their ten “Innovators under 35” in 2015.

Juan Carlos Guáqueta is undoubtedly an outlier. However, that doesn’t mean that we can’t learn from his example. At eight years old, Guáqueta was already an entrepreneur- now, at age thirty, he’s developed and refined his skills enough that he’s found success. If you’ve been doing anything for twenty-two years, you’re bound to get good at it. Many of us are procrastinators. We push back pursuing our goals because we believe that we need more training, or more resources. Guáqueta, and other “outliers”, don’t fall into this trap. They go after what they want, and learn from both their failures and successes. As a teenager, Guáqueta was interested in sustainable farming. While many of us would’ve been too scared to jump in headfirst, he started raising cattle- using worms to recycle their manure into fertiliser. When he later learned about vermifiltration, it all fell into place. His story shows us that it’s never too early or too late to try something new, to learn from doing. Often, we ourselves are the biggest obstacles in the way of our own success. But people like Juan Carlos Guáqueta teach us that it doesn’t always need to be that way.

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Alan | Outlier

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