This weekend I attended an amazing entrepreneurial summit in New York City, which allowed me to hear and collaborate with leaders at the most prestigious venues in the city, United Nations and the New York Stock Exchange. On Saturday afternoon, after seeing an exposition on upcoming student ventures we broke out into round-table discussions about various social and economic issues in society. The first one I chose to attend was on Global Entrepreneurship that was attended by prescient and intelligent students and lead by executives and university professors. One particular professor was an Entrepreneur Professor from USC, which I will refer to later.
During the open discussions there was a lot of talk about getting ideas out and how to collaborate work across countries to develop those ideas. After hearing a student from China talk about education, I wanted to further the details as they related to philanthropy as a whole and the barriers with doing so without proper financial stability. How could I skip the process of worrying about getting a financial return on investment and just focus on the social benefit as the main output, not the money that comes from it? How can I convince venture capitalists to donate to the cause for the cause and put their financial return on the back burner? Analogously, how can I create the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation without having to build the Microsoft Empire to fund it?
Now, surely I know that there are philanthropists that do donate a plethora of money without the expectation of a financial return, but I wanted to pose the question to the group that I was with. The discussions persisted, but the next question raised was the ability to lead such an organization. To induce the leadership barriers to entry I decided to present a personal take on the matter.
So I used personal accounts to explain the hardships of being a philanthropic entrepreneur. Often times, becoming a social entrepreneur is seeded by a profound amount of empathy to the hardships of society. This profound empathy is not only due to a “big heart” but arises from personal hardship and experience in fighting the odds, whether by choice or circumstance.
To depict this concept I tried to describe a little of my own situation growing up as a first generation American. I referenced my father, and explained to everyone that there’s something that he told me that I will never forget… “It’s true that one day you’ll die, but if you do something great, if you leave a legacy behind…you’ll live forever”. Then I proceeded to explain how I’m taking risk with my own well being to work on developing the educational system of the future. I’m not creating a product or service, but I’m attempting to recreate a system. That requires a lot of patience, confidence, organization, social observation, communication, creative analytical skills, and the list goes on…
Getting engulfed in the requirements to create a system can sometimes leave you behind the ball on your personal health. So I referenced the necessities from philanthropic entrepreneurship to be the ability take care of Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs, essentially food and shelter. I said that I would be willing to dedicate my life to the cause if those meets could be met, they are hard because I have a lot of student loans that need to be paid off and instead of worrying about the cause and building a team to execute a plan to tackle the problem; I am distractedly worried about the money and keeping up my health. That is merely what I was trying to express while describing personal hardship as the barrier to entry in venturing into philanthropic entrepreneurship.
Personal Reflection during the Discussion:
After I voiced my opinions, as the discussion moved on, I kept thinking about my father and how much of my inspiration comes from his need to be proud of his sons living the American dream. How all he cared about was my brother and I not having to run away from wars, or having the opportunity to finish our education and not need to stop half way, not having to worry about putting our own children in debt to get an education, not having to fight with our spouses for lack of having a social life, financial stability, and constantly being stressed because of being overworked and not having enough time to spend with your family. Finally, not having to be obligated to see our children grow up too fast and essentially raise themselves because the time passed by your vary eyes from the long hours at work. I started to get emotional with all these thoughts racing and I fought to hold back my tears.
My family thoughts continued, and I prayed that my father would not only have his dream come true but live to see it. Live to see his grandchildren, live long enough so I that I can make sure he can stop working, not worry about mortgage payments, and get a personal health coach so his diet and exercise can get on track again. Of course there’s my mother, every day she worries about me and holds back her weakness to give me support, although she is scared out of her mind because I can’t even explain to her what I’m doing.
How can I tell my mother that I’m not getting a job or chasing a career because I’m trying to intelligently martyr my life in an attempt to create a system that will redefine the way human beings learn and communicate with each other? Where her only conditioned way of measuring success is by seeing that I haven’t lost weight, I don’t have circles under my eyes and that I am making a steady stream of income to support myself and the rest of my immediate family. Is she alone in this notion? Absolutely not, I’d say every middle class parent in the US follow the same notion whether immigrant or not. But, hey, that’s just my hunch.