I have a theory I am postulating in The Book that once people disconnect from the "my corporate job sucks and I am trapped in cubicle hell" world and start a successful entrepreneurial venture that they naturally become more compassionate and interested in social change.
I think this is due to a number of reasons:
- Long-suppressed emotions, dangerous to expose in corporate life, rise to the surface and you begin to feel more deeply
- Having launched a successful venture, you realize that it is possible to take something from concept to reality
- You look at world challenges through an entrepreneurial lens: as a problem to be solved, not as something overwhelming and unchangeable
Although I don’t talk about this much, I admit that all my "freeing corporate prisoners" work is actually a secret plot to unleash smart people on world problems. In college, I majored in International Service and Development, with an emphasis on Non formal Adult Education in Latin America (say that three times fast!). The basic theory underpinning my work, which I studied in-country in Mexico, Colombia and Brazil, is that when people have access to education and supportive networks, they take care of their own problems.
Such was the case with mothers I worked with in an exceptionally poor neighborhood of Bogota who formed a collective day care center to tend to the children of the community. This was also the case with the young former gang members I worked with in San Francisco and Oakland, who radically turned their lives around after training martial arts.
While some people may think working with highly educated corporate employees with existential angst is the height of elitism, I actually see it as the first step to creating deep, widespread social change. (A commenter on my post asking people what it felt like to work in a cube, said "I guess I am in the minority. Working in the cubes at Hewitt Associates
gives me a feeling of protection and security. I don’t have to work out
in the harsh elements, I have the benefit of air-conditioning &
heat. We have it better than 2/3’s of the rest of Planet Earth’s
working class. Think before you gripe so much.")
So I was delighted, but not surprised, to see some of my favorite bloggers and "living the dream" entrepreneurs band together for a new endeavor which combines athletic training with fundraising for Darfur: Train for Humanity. The co-founders are:
- Leo Babauta, former corporate employee and now author of the hugely popular blog Zen Habits
- Mark Hayward, former peace corp volunteer, social entrepreneur, and co-owner (with his wife) of the Palmetto Guesthouse in Culebra, Puerto Rico
- Dan Clements, author of the sabbatical guide Escape 101
Leo really embodies the domino effect of change, as he revealed in an interview for my book. He started by quitting smoking and losing weight. Once he did that, he tackled debt, and clutter, and a lot of other things that made him feel better and stronger. Excited by his research and first-hand success with changing habits using positive thinking, he started his blog Zen Habits. With his blogging success, he was able to quit his day job and start writing full-time. Now he is working on this social endeavor, one of what I imagine will be many in the years to come.
What Leo, Mark and Dan demonstrate is that you don’t have to wait to amass enough fortune to give away 40 billion dollars like Warren Buffet. Or you don’t have to be a life-long activist like my dear departed friend Carlos Aceituno. By awakening your body, mind and spirit, you just may find that you are one step closer to your entrepreneurial dreams. And in the worst case scenario, you don’t raise one dollar for charity, but get that "I’m a hip entrepreneur and athlete" vibe going on. It won’t hurt!
In their words: How You Can Help
Helping isn’t just about money. If you
have a blog, a website, a Facebook or Twitter account, or just an email
address book, I’d like to ask you to take just a few moments of your
time to post, Digg, Stumble, forward, tweet, email, or otherwise help
spread the word about Train for Humanity. You can find pre-written blog
posts, badges for your site/blog, and other easy word-spreading ideas
We’ll soon be opening TFH to other
“everyday athletes”. Anyone with a desire to make a difference can
participate – the only requirement is that you take part in an
endurance event, such as running, walking, cycling, or swimming. The
distance isn’t important. Some TFH participants will run marathons,
others will walk a few miles, but they’ll all be making a difference. You can signup here.
Photo credit: I took this picture 23 years ago, when I lived in a small village in Mexico with a farming family. The pure joy on the faces of these boys, with their homemade spinning tops, still makes me smile.