What is this Century’s Single Most Important Change in Work?
“Want to become a billionaire? Then help a billion people. The world’s biggest problems are the world’s biggest business opportunities.”
Peter Diamandis – Co-Founder, X-Prize
The American spirit was founded on optimism and that, my friends, is vastly different than hope. Hope requires no action at all. The famed psychiatrist Silvano Arieti once said, “The world’s mental institutions are filled with creative thinkers.” True creativity requires action and action introduces risk. Damn.
Optimism is nourishing the belief that our action leads to better lives.
No other category of work better symbolizes optimism than in our country’s rapidly growing ranks of the social entrepreneur. This amazing new category takes much of the “do good to the world outlook” that typically belonged in the non-profit world and fuses it to rigorous profit-making business models. This rapidly growing tribe views profit as the most sustainable way to solve a world problem. Want to create a green planet? Then make green energy production more profitable than the use of petroleum, coal, and natural gas.
Social entrepreneurs don’t view money as the root of all evil. We view money as fuel for our freedom. We strive to bring morality and integrity to the way that money is generated and used. Today, Masters Degrees in Social Entrepreneurism represent the fastest-growing category in business schools. This is great cause for celebration. Today, most highly educated young people are limiting job searches to organizations that are making our world a better place to live.
For 3 decades, my company has led thousands of people into transformed relationships with their work. What do they want? They want to establish meaning in what they do for a living. They want to love their work. They want to work with people who support their mission, values, and ethics. Many of the people graduating from our tribe are the ones who woke up one morning and realized that producing shareholder value for others wasn’t enough. They wanted to cast aside the cynicism and contempt that infects so many workplaces today, For example, Wells Fargo had to terrorize its workers into performing fraud for years against their customers. Volkswagen built diesel engines that produced 10 times more pollution than the competition. How many grocers treat their workers with such a lack of compassion that customer satisfaction is dead last? We encounter examples of the old industrial based model that created “it’s just a job.” This is no longer enough.
Social entrepreneurs us the value of bringing morality and integrity to the way that money is used and made. Are we changing? Masters Degrees in Social Entrepreneurism are now the fastest-growing category in business schools and many young people will only work for organizations that make our world a better place to live.
For the last 28 years, our company has delivered the Inspired Work Program to people who want to elevate their relationship towards work. They engage in a deep self-inquiry of what they want to do with their lives. From the very beginning, one of the common themes is in finding work that is more meaningful for them. That outcome is unique for each participant. For example, there is the marketing executive from a bank that spends the rest of his life successfully working in the art world. There is the marketing executive in another program who realizes his sole responsibility is to increase shareholder value. He leaves to launch his digital advertising agency, one that is devoted to serving social entrepreneurs, non-profits, and education. There is the CFO who leaves a major bank. He becomes a wealthy farmer who employs his family, a tribe of formally migrant workers.
For those of us who are particularly dense, it seems that brushes with mortality eventually push us to snap out of “the trance” of it’s just a job.
My producer dropped dead of a heart attack in 1989. On the day that I heard the horrible news, I realized that I had lived life for 12 years waiting to be happy in the future. I had worked in the staffing industry to live at the beach until a got that golden record contract. The day that I realized I knew nothing of value about being happy was my turning point. The biggest problem was the work. You see, I settled for the same reasons so many people today are not that happy. We settle for predictability and survival, the late great promise of the industrial revolution. Take a job that is rote and monotonous, perhaps even devoid of meaning and purpose. In return for that, we are rewarded with a predictable paycheck and a routine. Is it enough? For most of us, nope, it isn’t.
I left my last job in 1990. I was a successful staffing executive. Recently, I had lunch with my ex-boss. Gail was one of the most fearless bad-ass women business owners I ever met. She sold her company years ago and used her freedom to become one of the more celebrated artists in today’s culture. When we sat down for lunch last year, her first words were,
“What is it like to wake up in the morning and to be you?”
She watched my facial expression and added,
“David, I’ve been following you. Because of your work, thousands of people lead new lives. What is it like to wake up to that?”
Her ability to disarm anyone hadn’t lost one bit of an edge.
I opened my mouth as tears welled up.
“It feels like redemption.”
I grew up in an extraordinarily violent home. I escaped to Los Angeles to pursue a recording career. All of the wounds came with me. I had lived with great disappointments, I had grown through recovery, and I traded in a white-male-pissed-off-God for the one that I talk to every moment of the day. I live with a point-of-view that everyone is praying to the same God no matter how they define their spirituality. For me, it all began when I walked into the rooms of our programs and found my life. The very people I interally judged the most harshly, transformed just as quickly as everyone else. Over time, I watched that when anyone committed to change, a spirit stepped forward and they took the high road.
I was born to help people find their purpose and help them make their best living from that. I guess I’m good at something, because so far, it’s happened over 40,000 people. Now, we are designing a new platform to bring it to billions.
Today, in 2019, the world of work is undergoing the biggest restructuring since the printing revolution. When people walk in the doors of our programs, many are overwhelmed by change and concerned with how they are going to make a living in the future of work.
Right now, about half of our country’s workers characterize themselves as “underemployed.” For some, that means holding 3 jobs to keep a roof over the family’s heads. For others, it means hanging onto obsolete jobs terrified the human resources death angel will come around the corner. Change is represented by Legal Zoom upending thousands of well-paid law positions and making entire categories of work obsolete. Right now, half of our country’s workers are getting kicked to the curb by change and can’t see a reliable livelihood in the future. Of course, we have political turmoil!
Work is not going away. Let’s be clear. Technology is giving us freedom from rote and monotonous jobs. The challenge with the human brain is that it can make all kinds of crap up. We can believe anything. For some of us, we find the news of getting rid of task work as a good thing. For others, the belief is they will lose what little they had.
But, if we want to see the ideal future, look towards social entrepreneurism. These leaders don’t blame technology. They use it to change the world. They look for the problems they would most love to solve. They find a purpose that brings joy to their lives, and they set up the ideal business model to make everything work on a practical level.
I know how much joy that brings to people. Almost all of our participants came into our programs to define the spiritual side of work, the meaning of it, and to honor the unique career DNA implied by bringing that into sharp focus. But, we would be making a lot of people miserable without leading them into the insights of turning what they would love into practical and financially rewarding outcomes.
How does this love apply to the future of work? It is the future. Loving our work provides the incentive to deal with accelerating change. I find love is the most reliable fuel that drives us to let go of obsolete beliefs and to learn new skills, even the ones that require a bit of courage to take on.
Social entrepreneurism is not limited to the younger generations. People of all ages are recognizing that by making competence the first step of their endeavors, they can make visions work. 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.”
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 are all about profits. To that end, the most effective approach is to make even more money through sustainability. Today, Al Gore partners with Silicon Valley’s most storied venture capital firm, Kleiner Perkins. They 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.
Social entrepreneurs are speeding the conversion forward by reshaping the purpose of business to not only satisfy shareholders but to restore equal importance to the customers, employees and the world around them. This conversion is no longer in the future, it is already happening.
Because work is our biggest relationship.
Squeezing our hearts, minds, and souls into obsolete jobs has turned many of us into small versions of our true selves. How can we become visionary when we are hiding in that?
Social entrepreneurism is somewhat of a very big antidote to that malaise. Years ago, tech pioneer Peter Diamandis, co-founded X-Prize. The organization inspires billionaires and large companies 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 patient illness and injuries in 3rd world countries, a non-toxic way to clean up oil spills, and recently, a form of Artificial Intelligence that will protect women from violence. Just this past year, a revolutionary machine was towed out of San Francisco. It is now the Great Pacific Garbage Patch to begin cleaning plastic 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.”
The dawn of social entrepreneurism introduces some splendid new questions for all of us to answer:
- What do you want to do with your freedom?
- What is your perfect blend of meaning and wealth?
- How can you let go of the past in time to do it?
- What do you need to learn?
- Who do you need to help you?
Schedule 15-Minutes to Discuss Your Workplace or Career with David (Here)
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