How Social Entrepreneurs Will Save Our Asses
“The world’s biggest problems are the world’s biggest market opportunities. And that’s a huge thing. Solve hunger, literacy and energy problems, get the gratitude of the world and become a billionaire in the process.”
Peter Diamandis – Founder & Chairman, X-Prize Foundation
America was founded on optimism, which is vastly different than hope. While hope tends to breed inaction, optimism is the belief that our actions will lead to better lives and greater outcomes. No other category of work embodies optimism than the social entrepreneur. This rapidly growing tribe develops, funds, and implements solutions to social, cultural, or environmental issues.
These are not starry-eyed do-gooders. They are vigorous visionaries out to show the world that doing good is also good business. The movement is producing profound social change as well as jobs that are more meaningful than engaging in the single-minded pursuit of increasing shareholder value.
Social entrepreneurs are among the world’s most successful role models in making the shift from work defined by repetition to work defined by change. This is the biggest revolution since the dawn of the Agricultural Revolution.
Social entrepreneurs don’t view money as the root of all evil. They show all of us the value of bringing morality and integrity to the way that money is used and made. The fastest growing new segment contained in this seismic shift is found in recent college graduates who insist on finding jobs or launching businesses that make their world a better place to live. They don’t just want to change the world, they must change the world.
While some of us are complaining about technology taking away task work, social entrepreneurs recognize that technology is giving us the freedom to have a far greater impact in the world.
Social entrepreneurism is not limited to the young generations. Muhammad Yunus, Founder of Grameen Bank, introduced microloans and financing to the poorest regions on earth. He is 78 years old. His work has helped hundreds of thousands of our poorest citizens become business owners. He tells us, “Making money is no fun. Contributing to and changing the world is a lot more fun.” His bank has a 97% recovery rate on these loans.
Al Gore has lost all interest in campaigning for a future political office. Through social entrepreneurism, he made between $200-300 million through sound investments in green energy. Gore often talks about how the resistance to converting from petroleum to green-based economies hinges on making green energy more profitable than petroleum. To that end, Al Gore formed a partnership with Silicon Valley’s most storied venture capital firm, Kleiner Perkins. The partnership has designed a vetting process in which green energy entrepreneurs have to meet exacting competency standards in their business model, marketing plan, leadership capabilities, and talent strength.
My journey into social entrepreneurism began in 1990. As a staffing executive, I had made a great deal of money. But, I found the venture fairly meaningless. Our purpose wasn’t to improve people’s lives. We were paid to move people around. In the 13 years that I worked in that industry, I found that most candidates were driven by themes of predictability and survival. I found that most people were not equipped to have a great relationship with their work. Nor, did they have the most necessary fuel to change. Because loving our work is the only reliable energy that will push us to stay ahead of change. Loving our work produces courage. Loving our work makes us willing to learn the life skills that make all of us successful.
Since 1990, my company has helped over 45,000 individuals find the work that they love and build the skills to be successful. We live in a culture where the predominant theme is to pursue security and in return, put up with monotony and repetition. Technology is giving us freedom from task work we can look to social entrepreneurs for insights in where the world of work is headed.
Just what kind of role modeling does the social entrepreneur offer?
Here are a few characteristics:
There isn’t an abundance of time in cleaning up our environment, ending poverty, or eliminating underemployment. The problems are real and growing.
Select a Problem That You Would Love to Solve
I was a close friend of the late Dr. Howard House, founder of the House Ear Institute, where over 300,000 patients have had their hearing restored. I asked him why, at 90, he continued to come to work every day. He smiled and said, “I want to see their face when they hear for the first time.” I responded, “I do it because I want to see their face when they discover their life’s work.” For us, that moment, a miracle, never grows old.
When we select a role that impacts the world, our lives change the most.
Learn How to Get the Best Possible Help
I’ve been at the game of successful work for almost 30 years. The #1 reason people fail in isolation. We are launching a new company and its development was trudging along until we completed the board. Now, leaders from a wide variety of backgrounds are pushing us to live as if our hair is on fire.
Many of us don’t define exactly what we want to do with their lives because we assume the right people will not help us become successful. Once we define what we want, our success is almost purely based on the quality of our support systems. Understanding how to build support systems is learnable and can be done in a short period of time.
Learn How to Be Visible
Hiding under the radar is ruining quite a few careers. Learning how to draw healthy attention to ourselves and our mission is crucial. Many people avoid this because they are afraid of getting hurt. However, when we become less visible, we raise the probability of starving. Jobs for life are gone. So, learning how to develop effective visibility supports us even if we opt to just get another job.
Work is our biggest relationship. We spend most of our waking hours getting ready for, getting to, being at, coming home, and recovering from our work.
Today, we are in the midst of the greatest retooling of work in human history. Every day we hear messages about the greater waves of change around us but we rarely hear people talk about the extraordinary value of changing themselves. The national unemployment rate of 3.8% is a political number. The real crisis in our country rests in the fact that almost half of our workers characterize themselves as underemployed. They are not learning how to change. Many believe they cannot change. I know this isn’t true because I have watched over 40,000 people change in just 2 days.
Social entrepreneurs are the world’s greatest role models in the global shift from repetition to change. In my hometown of Los Angeles, we find Peter Diamandis, the co-founder of X-Prize. The organization inspires billionaires and organizations to offer cash awards for those who solve some of the world’s greatest challenges. The innovations from this venture include a portable CT/MRI that diagnoses patients in remote areas, a non-toxic way to clean up oil spills, and recently, a form of Artificial Intelligence that will protect women from violence. Recently, a revolutionary machine was towed out of San Francisco. Now, it is in the South Pacific removing plastic and trash from our oceans.
Mr. Diamandis tells the country’s workers, “Your mission is to find a product or a service that will positively impact one billion people because that is the game we are playing today.”
Not everyone has to be a social entrepreneur. If you want a job and want to feel a sense of meaning and passion, go work for a social entrepreneur.
Some might respond to this movement as having our heads in the clouds.
Actually, it is far more dark to keep our heads in the sand.
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