Tom Everitt has a strange claim to fame. He helped his daughter set an unusual world record: most national anthems sung in as many countries in a calendar year.
“The logistics are nuts. Insane. And could you imagine doing it now?” Everitt says with a laugh. “I mean, it’s impossible.”
From 2015 to 2016, Canadian real estate professionals Tom and Kerri Everitt accompanied daughter Capri (then 11) and her brother (then 9) as the former set out to sing national anthems in as many different countries as possible.
The goal? Use the anthem-singing to raise funds and awareness for SOS Children’s Villages, an international development organization providing aid to children in need on a global level.
The result was even more than they bargained for: 80 countries, starting in Canada and ending in Guatemala; 41 languages; countless hours spent traveling by air, bus and rail; and, as fate would have it, one Guinness World Record to formalize the achievement.
All in one calendar year.
In the COVID-19 era, it’s a record whose breaking seems unfathomable, like the travel and logistics equivalent of a Joe DiMaggio 56-game hit streak—perhaps untouchable in this life or the next.
“It’s just crazy, which is one of the points,” Everitt says.
Capri Everitt, who now at 17 has a burgeoning career as a singer and social media influencer, is the one with her name in the record books. But Tom also got something from the experience: the chance to redefine success on his own terms.
“For me it’s always been, what is the definition of success?” Everitt says.
For years, Everitt says he was largely preoccupied with professional success. But then something his father, who died of brain cancer at 64, said on his deathbed changed him.
“He had a moment right near the end where he sat up in bed, and very clearly asked, ‘Is this it?’” Everitt says. “Those were the last words he ever said to me. And that, man—you can’t witness that and not have it change your life. That to me was a moment where I was thinking, No matter what your spirituality is, no matter what your beliefs are, you know, on this planet, on this earth, this is it. This is it.”
Later, when the idea of taking off around the world to sing as many anthems as possible was conceived, Everitt knew it was too good of an opportunity to squander.
“What started off as this funny little thing just grew and grew, and it was just amazing,” Everitt says.
During their travels Everitt brought a copy of SUCCESS with him, pausing to stop and take selfies with it along the way. To him, it represented the evolution of his own ideas about the meaning of success.
“When I look back on it, that’s success. And we were doing so many little things with my daughter—this was my little thing, this SUCCESS-magazine-in-each-country thing,” Everitt says. “To me, this was also success—going to 80 countries and doing some good. That’s success to me. And that’s why I brought the magazine.”
Now living in El Segundo, California, Everitt says these are his main takeaways from the record-breaking experience.
1. The world is more good than bad.
Everitt says he went to great lengths to ensure the real message of his family’s world-record achievement wasn’t lost on people.
“It was vitally important to me that it wasn’t about us,” Everitt says. “It wasn’t even about my daughter. It was about children singing with children around the world.”
He says his travels around the world also forced him to consider life from the point of view of the people who lived there. But perhaps his most important insight into human nature from the trip was realizing there are far more good people out there than bad.
“My main takeaway? I’ll tell you right now—the world is not filled with hate,” Everitt says. “The world is filled with frickin’ amazing people who love their children, who want to help.”
2. Use your advantages to do good.
“My daughter has this knack for national anthems. I paid her $10 to learn the American national anthem,” Everitt says. “She was 8 years old and just nailing that anthem.”
Then came the Chinese national anthem, which Capri learned in Mandarin during an exercise with her piano school.
“Clearly we had something here, and I’m the music freak—Freddy Mercury, Celine Dion—but then my wife just goes, ‘Around the World in 80 Anthems?’” Everitt says. The rest was (record-breaking) history.
“You can’t make your daughter learn 80 national anthems in 41 languages,” he says. “But you had to know what you were singing. You can’t just waltz into a country and phonetically sing that song. You’ve got to know what you’re singing, and why you’re singing it. When she was interviewed, the first thing they would ask her is, ‘Do you know what you’re singing about?’ And she would always be able to tell them.”
3. You have to fight to define your version of success.
“In reading SUCCESS when I was younger, it was absolutely a financial motivation—how am I going to achieve this, how am I going to make my mark and do all these things,” Everitt says.
After the moment with his dad, though, that view changed. The trip around the world with his family and the pictures with his copy of SUCCESS was the synthesis of his changing perspective on life.
“This is it—you know, like my father’s last words,” Everitt says. “The world is learning that anything can happen. The world can change in a heartbeat, because of COVID or political unrest or your own personal health. So don’t mess around. Now we’re getting an opportunity to really take a shot with our lives and what we really, really want to achieve.”
This article originally appeared in the May/June 2022 Issue of SUCCESS magazine. Photos courtesy of Tom Everitt