Tonight I attended a talk at The Commonwealth Club of California on Social Entrepreneurship. I have been actively exploring careers so this talk by Sally Osberg sounded like a good way for me to investigate entrepreneurship as evidenced by powerful women. As for social, well everything today is about social media so I figured it was about leveraging new tech.
Had I read a little more carefully and researched who she was, I would have learned that it is not really social entrepreneurship as in social media, but instead it is more like social justice, socialism, social movements, etc. If you are familiar with companies like Kiva, which gives microloans to entrepreneurs in Africa, that’s closer to what this is. Apparently it is the intersection of the passion of social action coupled with the business sense of an entrepreneur AND the wealth of a foundation.
So even though this talk was totally not about anything I was interested in, many of the concepts were very useful. It helped me clarify that I feel the last 20 years of my life have been charity and social activism, so the next 20 will be ones where I will negotiate hard to get what I’m worth. It also helped me realize that my focus, discipline and drive can have a place in the new economy.
She also emphasized the importance of resilience. That thick hide. She quoted Gandhi:
First they ignore you, then they mock you, then they fight you, then you win.
To further prove the need for not taking business personally, one story I try to keep in mind is the story of David Neeleman. http://money.cnn.com/2010/07/13/news/companies/azul_neeleman_jetblue.fortune/index.htm
What blows me away was that every failure he had would have made any of us mere mortals dead in the water. And he had at least 5 massively public humiliating flops. I’ve done a lot of embarrassing things in my life but nothing rivaling forming my own company and being tossed out by the Board. It’s this realization that to succeed big, one must be willing to flop REALLY big, that comforts me while I explore careers.
And part of exploration means learning the lessons from life and not avoiding them. Those life lessons have their own agenda. The most important thing to do is to flow with those life lessons. Think of it as Tai Chi with a recovery plan. Using the flow to channel the energy to something which has the potential to succeed even if the path is not the one originally planned.