As Entrepreneurs for Impact, we like to grow, to challenge ourselves, to achieve new goals, to make bigger impacts.
For the most part, those are great qualities.
But when will it be enough?
As the 2020 began, I started thinking about goals for our Masterminds and for the readership on my blogs.
Like the CEO for Semco I wrote about a few weeks back, I aim to be a Chief Enzymatic Officer (an uber catalyst), not a typical CEO.
But on MLK Day, I attended an all-day Buddhist retreat. During eight hours of walking, sitting, chanting, and laying meditation, plus the tea ceremony and mindful eating, my goals seemed to "take a chill pill."
I reflected on times I have spent backpacking or living in monasteries in years past. So simple. But so content.
I thought about the often frantic pace of life, juggling my Mastermind ambitions, writing, investment banking, teaching at Duke and UNC, and being a father of three young kiddos, among other commitments.
My business coach recently asked about my BHAGs, Big Hairy Audacious Goal.
Together, we questioned whether they were big enough. After all, I want to make large-scale positive impacts in the world.
But am I (or do we) sometimes strive for big impacts because of ego and status,or because I (we) "want to make the world a better place"?
It's time to take a few more deep breaths and get on the right side of these two options.
#2 US consumers do not report high confidence in purchasing EVs
According to a Q4 2019 J.D. Power survey, the Mobility Confidence Index was just 55 for battery-electric vehicles (on a scale up to 100).
These consumer sentiments are categorized as follows: low (0-40), neutral (41-60) and positive (61-100).
Not impressive. But not the only, nor final, word.
#3 AAA finds it more expensive to own an EV than a regular combustion vehicle
According to a recent AAA study, as reported by Inside EVs, the fully loaded cost of owning an electric vehicle is higher than owning an ICE (internal combustion) vehicle. This math includes fuel, maintenance, insurance, depreciation, taxes, and finance.
Their study shows the following benefits for EVs:
Fuel = 57% cheaper
Maintenance = 26% cheaper
Taxes = Way cheaper, due to tax credits at the federal or state level
And importantly, it also shows that EVs are more expensive for the following categories:
Depreciation = 214% higher
Finance = 140% higher
The biggest difference comes from depreciation, which suggests that EVs lose their value more quickly after purchase, as compared to ICE vehicles.
However, as the author notes, the AAA study only looked at EVs from Chevrolet, Hyundai, Kia, Nissan, and VW.
For executives in companies focused on solving big energy, climate change, and materials problems, the takeaway is this...
We have to be our first critic, before others (doubters, haters) can criticize us.
Instead of cheerleading exciting trends, we need to be our own devil's advocate. Our Masterminds aim to provide this balanced "pro vs. con" perspective for CEOs and founders.
That Kool-Aid is sweet, but we have to be careful about how much we drink.
Last week, Larry Fink, head of BlackRock, the world's largest investor with $7T of assets under management, sent a message to corporate leaders that he sees climate change and sustainability as major new filters for how his firm will invest dollars.
Here are some key excerpts:
"Climate change has become a defining factor in companies’ long-term prospects."
"The evidence on climate risk is compelling investors to reassess core assumptions about modern finance."
"Indeed, climate change is almost invariably the top issue that clients around the world raise with BlackRock."
"In the near future – and sooner than most anticipate – there will be a significant reallocation of capital."
"As a fiduciary, our responsibility is to help clients navigate this transition. Our investment conviction is that sustainability- and climate-integrated portfolios can provide better risk-adjusted returns to investors. And with the impact of sustainability on investment returns increasing, we believe that sustainable investing is the strongest foundation for client portfolios going forward."
Will this all happen tomorrow? Of course, not.
Wholesale change takes time.
But it feels like we're at the beginning of an S-curve for widespread adoption of ESG (Environment, Social, Governance), impact investing, sustainability-minded, and climate change-aware investment strategies.
Carbon dioxide is a problem of abundance. (Is that "glass half full" enough for you?)
So, how do we get rid of it?
Well, one way is to suck it out of the air.
But most solutions for this purpose require high concentrations of carbon dioxide, such as the concentrations present in the smoke stack of a coal-fired power plant.
Or they are too energy intensive and expensive to be deployed at scale. And, oh boy, do we need scale. Like, yesterday.
How does it work? Here are some excerpts..
"The device is essentially a large, specialized battery that absorbs carbon dioxide from the air (or other gas stream) passing over its electrodes as it is being charged up, and then releases the gas as it is being discharged."
"As the battery charges, an electrochemical reaction takes place at the surface of each of a stack of electrodes. These are coated with a compound called polyanthraquinone, which is composited with carbon nanotubes. The electrodes have a natural affinity for carbon dioxide and readily react...at room temperature and normal air pressure."
"In the lab, the team has proven the system can withstand at least 7,000 charging-discharging cycles, with a 30% loss in efficiency over that time. The researchers estimate that they can readily improve that to 20,000 to 50,000 cycles."
"The researchers have set up a company called Verdox to commercialize the process, and hope to develop a pilot-scale plant within the next few years."
With our Mastermind, we aim to highlight this kind of innovation, and inspire bigger thinking and greater collaboration to solve the big challenges that define our time.
If you ever feel like you're pushing a slippery wet noodle up a very tall hill -- my version of the Myth of Sisyphus -- then take a gander at the winners of the Bloomberg New Energy Pioneers awards for some inspiration to keep fighting the good fight. There is hope.
Below is the summary by BloombergNEF, along with my additions via research on Crunchbase and Pitchbook. CarbonCure - Captured CO2 in concrete manufacturing to improve structural properties and reduce environmental impacts. [Canada]
Capital raised: $11M
Sample investors: Pangaea Ventures
Desktop Metal - 3D printing systems for mass production of high-resolution metal parts. [U.S.]
Capital raised: $457M
Sample investors: Koch Industries, Riot Ventures
Metron - AI-driven IIoT (industrial internet of things) platform that optimizes energy usage for industrial facilities. [France]
I was recently watching the Golden Globe awards show with my wife. A lifetime achievement award went to comedian and talk show host Ellen DeGeneres.
She's funny, for sure.
But more importantly, when I saw her live at a Brad Pitt-led gala to support the building of net zero energy homes in the lower 9th ward of New Orleans after the hurricane, and during this awards show, I was reminder of her use of "power and platform for good."
During her show's 15-year history, she's purportedly donated, or catalyzed the donation of, $50 million to charities and individuals in need.
Below is a list of some of her good deeds, in collaboration with her corporate partners and film/music/athletic celebrities.
Paying off $20,000 in student debt for a Sudanese refugee
Giving $30,000 in Christmas gifts to a struggling family
Raising $1,000,000 for the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles
Donating $1,000,000 for Hurricane Harvey relief
Paying for 42 students from Brooklyn to go to college ($1.6M)
Donating $500,000 to upgrade a "decrepit" elementary school in Detroit
But for me, and for us Entrepreneurs for Impact, I think it's a reminder of our responsibility to do more good in the world, with the power we have or that we create through our business ventures. This becomes a focus for our masterminds, too.
To those ends, one of my favorite quotes is this one: "To those to whom much is given, much is expected in return."
I've been lucky regarding when and where I was born, as well as the kind of education and gifts I've been given. Accordingly, as I tell our kids, we've got a duty to give back, and not just with our income.
As a Japanophile myself, having lived there for three years, it's easy to love shinrin-yoku, or "forest bathing" (shinrin = “forest,” and yoku = “bath”)
But lest you think that I've been hanging out too much in a state with lax marijuana laws, let me elaborate.
The Japanese government began promoting forest bathing in the 1980s, and today there are over 60 Forest Therapy Bases that promote and facilitate this health practice. Clients even include big names such as Nissan Motor Company and Mazda Motor Corporation.
Why does forest bathing matter?
In addition to the normal benefits we associate with hiking in the woods -- exercise, quiet time, quality time with friends -- shinrin-yoku has been shown to catalyze hidden biochemical benefits in our bodies, too.
In 30 years, over 65% of the world's 9 billion citizens are expected to live in urban areas.
This leads to many benefits, of course, including lower carbon and more convenient mobility, greater innovation, and more diversity.
But living in cities also comes with negatives, including less personal space, less green space, and more noise and air pollution. This probably means that shinrin-yoku will be even more beneficial to our health in the years to come.
Why does forest bathing work?
One explanation is that phytoncides, organic compounds emitted by the forest, can stabilize human hormonal secretion and autonomic nervous functions.
Study the economics of biophilic design, which attempts to mimic the health benefits of forests and apply forms and lessons learned to our built environment -- The Economics of Biophilia (also from Terrapin)
Neha Palmer (head of energy strategy, global infrastructure; Google)
Alexandra Palt (chief corporate responsibility officer, L’Oreal)
Jennifer Silberman (vice president, corporate responsibility; Target)
Valerie Smith (managing director and global head of corporate sustainability, Citi)
Vien Truong (CEO, Dream Corps)
Katharine Wilkinson (vice president of communications and engagement, Project Drawdown)
Cathy Zoi (CEO, EVgo)
But reading a list is not enough.
If they inspire you, or could be a collaborator or mentor, find them on LinkedIn or Twitter. Start a conversation. Give them something useful to expand their insight and impact. Build a relationship. Be inspired. Become a badass yourself.
Written by an inspiring guy that nearly died in a serious car accident, the book puts six simple practices into a potent morning ritual represented by the acronym SAVERS:
In the original version, this was the order, and the time for each step was 10 minutes, which was meant to create your "hour of power" each morning.
Today, Hal talks about a 6-minute version, with 1 minute each, because who can spare 7 minutes after all? And the order of the activities changes from person to person. So, if you're into it, experiment to make it your own.
Is this rocket science? Not quite.
Have I tried it? Yep.
Have I learned to stick with it? Nope. Something about getting three kids ready and out the door for school has a way of creating less than peaceful and productive mornings. #SavorTheChaos
Am I still trying to do pieces of this practice on a regular basis? Heck ya.
Fun fact: If you were to read just 10 minutes each morning, then over a year, you'd end up reading about 3,650 pages per year. If the average book is 275 pages, then that's about 10 books per year. Not too shabby.
Or you could go hog wild and try to read 100 books per year like the Founder and CEO of Unmistakable Media. This Inc.com article shows the steps used by Srinivas Rao to accomplish this feat of fun and productivity.
As CEOs and executives, your work day is very busy. No doubt.
And then on top of that, there are your commitments as mother, father, husband, wife, brother, sister, friend, person of faith, community member, and a person with (gasp!) hobbies.
So, when things don't get done, or when someone asks you to do something, it's natural for your response to be, "I'm too busy."
I'm right there with you.
In addition to my mastermind work with Entrepreneurs for Impact, I have the pleasure (and often challenge) of juggling other roles as husband, father of three young kids, professor at Duke and UNC Chapel Hill, Managing Director at IronOak Energy Capital, and ringleader of our local "dude's group." Plus a host of other social, health, and spiritual commitments, in which I'm often slacking.
As we start off in 2020, this quote from American writer Laura Vanderkam seemed like a relevant reframing for our "too busy" culture:
Instead of saying "I don't have time," try saying "It (or you) are not a priority," and see how that feels.
Ouch? Awesome? Impractical?
Your response is probably some combination of all three, as it was for me. I'm going to try choosing the first two for the next 30 days and see what happens.