"Adam is an organizational psychologist at Wharton, where he has been the top-rated professor for 7 years. He is an expert in how we can find motivation and meaning, and lead more generous and creative lives. He is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of four books that have sold over two million copies and been translated into 35 languages: Give and Take, Originals, Option B, and Power Moves. His books have been recognized as among the year’s best by Amazon, The Financial Times, Harvard Business Review, and The Wall Street Journal and been praised by J.J. Abrams, Richard Branson, Bill and Melinda Gates, Malcolm Gladwell, and Malala Yousafzai."
I highlight this for two reasons:
His interview is worth a listen on your next few commutes (2 hours long, but just take your time)
He raises the idea of building your own Challenge Network
So, what is a Challenge Network?
It's essentially your own private advisory board, consisting not just of cheerleaders, but also people that you empower to tell you what you're not doing right.
Too often, we don't seek enough feedback. Or when we do, it's from people that want to support out business and personal initiatives.
Whether you seek input from a group like this on a regular (e.g., quarterly) basis, or on a project-by-project basis, the benefits are real.
Or if you're a CEO or executive in the energy and environment sector, you could also get this kind of "tough love, with your best intentions in mind" via our Mastermind cohorts of 10-15 people in your same position.
Remember, diamonds are not created through dozens of hugs from pink Teddy bears. Instead, they need pressure and heat.
So turn up the dial, and get real with some honest feedback.
If you're like me, you get super excited about generating and executing on new business ideas.
Lots of them. Too many, really.
It often leads to my wife thinking, "Hey man, do you ever turn off? Here, have a beer tonight. I insist."
But when most of the ideas don't work out, I wonder whether I should just drop it all and go become a professional tap dancer. (You should see the picture of me tap dancing as a 6-year-old. Super embarrassing.)
Luckily, I've spent years memorizing hundreds of facts via my environmental science undergraduate degree many moons ago.
And in those mental gymnastics, I remember that most seeds, spores, shoots, krill, and animal species do not survive to adulthood.
OK, I know you were waiting for it. Here's one more acorn analogy to add to the dozens in the inspiration and self development world:
Only about 1 out of 10,000 acorns become giant oak trees.
Coming home each day, I see a fantastic white oak in our front yard.
It has a far reaching and ominous crown that seems to whisper to me, "I hope you appreciate my 100 years of growth from a tiny acorn because during the next ice storm, I might just drop a huge limb on your roof. #LoveYou"
Glass half full, I appreciate the small chance that any new idea becomes as impressive as a towering oak tree.
That reality should help me from becoming a deer in headlights when new idea don't work out as expected.
As Entrepreneurs for Impact, it might be helpful to remember that acorns don't cry when being eaten by the squirrel. (But that is a funny image.) Instead, it's just part of the process.
[OK, now cue some music from Saturday Night Live's Jack Handy sketches. For some laughs, check out samples here.]
Last night, I judged a business plan competition at Duke University. That's not unusual.
But the unique part was this...
Undergraduate and graduate students across the university were competing to go on to the next level in the international Hult Prize to win $1M.
OK, so that's cool, but why does this matter to Entrepreneurs for Impact?
All business plans -- from 1,500 campuses across 121 countries -- have to focus on "(1) a positive net impact on the environment with every sale completed, dollar earned, and decision made, and (2) a million consumers impacted within a decade."
So why the inspiration?
These students were rockstars relative to where I was at their age.
They were going above and beyond classes, combining environment and business in ways that took me years to learn post-graduation.
Their ideas were exciting.
Hydroponic urban agriculture
High tech to increase crop yields and reduce methane generation from rice fields in India
SMS-enabled market exchanges to turn waste products into fertilizers for niches in Africa
Smart tags that reduced food waste by telling consumers when their meat had gone bad
Apps to help Chinese Millennials to make more environmentally responsible choices and earn credits to exchange for cash-equivalent goods and services
Art exchanges that took trash-enabled creations of beauty to web platforms for monetization and building awareness of waste issues
And, moreover, the Hult Prize website made me aware of statistics suggesting the future leaders will behave differently when it comes to balancing environment, human health, and business.
80% of Millennials are looking for brands which provide solutions to both improve their lives and benefit the larger society
75% of Millennials will purchase more environmentally and socially responsible products among competitors
73% of Millennials are willing to pay more for sustainable products
Maybe instead of looking to those older and more experienced than us for guidance and mentorship, we should sometimes look in the other direction, to those younger than us.
In my role as professor at Duke University and UNC Chapel Hill, one course that I teach MBA and environmental graduate students focuses on corporate sustainability strategy, specifically reporting and certification programs.
What are examples?
LEED green building certification
GRI (Global Reporting Initiative)
SASB (Sustainability Accounting Standards Board)
TCFD (Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures)
CDP (formerly, Carbon Disclosure Project)
Another important way that an increasing number of companies are reporting on their environmental and social KPIs (key performance indicators) is the United Nations SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals).
Is this just about doing the right thing?
According to a report by The Business and Sustainable Development Commission, reaching the SDGs could unlock $12 trillion in business opportunities in these sectors: (1) food and agriculture, (2) cities, (3) energy and materials, and (4) health and well-being.
To learn more about how the SDGs might inspire changes in your business, check out these resources:
169 SDG Targets, with 232 unique Indicators (link)
How 17 companies are implementing the UN SDGs (link)
See how dozens of US companies are using the UN SDGs for their corporate goal setting and reporting (link)
In case that photo above is hard to read on your phone, here's the list of the UN SDGs, with more information behind each link.
(Just kidding. It's a blog, so please keep reading.)
A man walks up to three different bricklayers at work, and he asks them what they are doing.
"I'm laying bricks."
"I'm building a wall."
"I'm building a cathedral."
All of them are correct, but it's likely the third bricklayer who brings more commitment, passion, joy, and skill to the job.
Similarly, John F Kennedy supposedly asked a janitor at NASA what he was doing.
The answer: "I'm putting a man on the moon."
And the question for us Entrepreneurs for Impact is this:
What mission are we communicating to our team members so that they feel like their job is about more than the day-to-day blocking and tackling, and instead about doing something bigger, something to make their kids proud?
Thanks to Siobhan Kukolic at HuffPost for reminding me of these pithy stories.
New focus for impacts: Most climate change risk to date has focused on financial implications. This report, however, focuses on physical risk to buildings and infrastructure, essential components of any city and most businesses.
Geographic precision for risk estimation: Physical risks have historically been hard to measure, but "advances in econometric research, data processing, and scalable cloud computing make a rigorous, evidence-based, asset-level accounting of physical climate risk possible." So we're not talk about physical risks for, say, the Southeast region of the US. Now, analysis can get much more granular.
Rigorous scientific foundation: Their scenarios analysis builds on 21 global climate models and peer-reviewed science to analyze future risks.
Syncing with TCFD (got FOMO, yet?): Their research aligns with the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures, perhaps the leading authority on how to report to investors on the financial risks of climate change.
New business opportunities: With validation from the investment community via BlackRock, more companies will be paying attention to the climate change-related physical risks to their assets -- real estate, bridges, highways, water treatment, power production, and more.
And if you need more proof that investors care about the risks and opportunities in climate change, check these out:
Global Investor Statement to Governments on Climate Change - aka, The Investor Agenda(link)
475+ investors representing well over USD $34 trillion in assets. Globally focused.
United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment - (link)
1,750+ investor signatories from over 50 countries representing approximately USD $70 trillion in assets. Globally focused.
IIGCC – The Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change (link)
190+ investor members with €28 trillion in assets. EU focused.
OK, here are three examples to illustrate my point: Know when enough is enough.
1. Tesla's "Summon Feature"
I guess it's because we're often lazy, and don't like to walk. Or maybe it's an obvious extrapolation of the other "cool factors" in owning a Tesla. Or perhaps it's because we sometimes forget where we parked our car.
For whatever reason, Tesla's new Smart Summon feature is designed to let you "call" your car to come meet you in parking lots (from up to 200 feet away).
Perhaps, like me, you're now picturing a young child calling her dog to come play: "Here, Fido. Come here, boy!"
Question: Of all the new possible features to add, was Smart Summon needed to make/keep Tesla awesome?
2. Deal negotiation: Pig vs. hogs
If you live in the South and you work in business or finance, then you've likely heard this expression:
"Pigs get fat, but hogs get slaughtered."
If you negotiate for too much or for too long in a deal, then you might just become that hog.
So, please, know the difference in your farm animal analogies.
3. Company revenue projections
If you've been a Board member, investment banker, or investor, then you, too, have seen your share of financial projections that make you think you should quit your job and go to work for the company you're reviewing.
But sometimes the result is that we want to run the other direction: "How could the CEO and CFO be so unreasonable in these estimates? If this is an indication of how they make decisions, then maybe I should knock some sense into them, or walk away."
(Or course, the opposite can also be true. Many CEOs know that investors will automatically provide a "haircut" to their financial projections...often like turning a long-haired hippie into a Marine, in terms of hair styles. As such, it might be a negotiating position such that the final, adjusted projections match the CEO's real ambitions.)
So, as Entrepreneurs for Impact, please be aggressive, ambitious, and innovative...but don't forget to be reasonable, too.
It's time to be the bad news police: “Most of what you try will fail.”
That is, if you’re really trying to do something new, daring, and innovative.
But if you go into your new business, product line, or geography knowing that, then you’re better equipped to respond to the challenges which may arise.
(Otherwise, you could be a deer in headlights...Not a model for the most agile business leader.)
In visual form, it looks like this:
So, my fellow Entrepreneurs for Impact...stay focused on your goal, but remember that patience is a virtue, and perseverance is what often separates those who experiment and those who make big impacts.
Which ones feel like “blah, blah, blah,” running together with lots of other lofty corporate speak?
On the other hand, which might really motivate employees to get out of bed excited to come to work on purpose?
Which ones allow you to know if you’re making progress towards your goal?
Here are a few that caught my eye:
Back to the Roots – We’re on a mission to make food personal again and inspire families to ask “Where does my food come from?”
Conscious Brands – To help support the transition of 1,000 brands from the old economy to the new economy by 2020
CSRHub – To foster access to sustainability and corporate social responsibility (CSR) information. We aim to be an engine of transparency that encourages more consistent and actionable disclosure from all types of organizations.
Futurepreneur – To play an integral role in the entrepreneurship experience of Canadians 18-39 by providing financing, mentoring and tools that will help them build sustainable businesses and create value.
Green City Growers – Green City Growers transforms unused space into thriving urban farms, providing our clients with immediate access to nutritious food, while revitalizing city landscapes and inspiring self-sufficiency.
IceStone – To transform waste glass into something beautiful while taking care of our employees and the planet at the same time.
Plum Organics – Plum’s mission is to get the very best food to little ones from the very first bite. And we mean all little ones.
As Entrepreneurs for Impact, what does this mean?
Know exactly what you’re after. Find and communicate the “why” of your business. Don’t get lumped into the rest of the pack. There’s only one you. Own “your crazy” (good intentions).
Lest I begin to feel like your mother, I’ll stop there.
We’d like to believe that we as company creators and leaders are not flawed. But au contraire.
In this article from Inc.com, Martin Zwilling notes that most founders are wrong to say that lack of cash was the reason that their businesses failed. Instead, he points to six common challenges associated with “Founderitis.”
Here’s my summary.
To be Entrepreneurs for Impact that avoid the pitfalls of others, read closely. :)
#1 - Setting arbitrary goals without team input.
No founder has a crystal ball. Nor will she be doing all the execution. So, get the team buy in and crowdsource input from all those smart and motivated people that you hired.
#2 - Team leaders and advisors picked as “yes” men.
We all like to be surrounded by friends. But when creating and growing a company, we don’t just need cheerleaders. We also need devil’s advocates and constructive critics who have the company’s success as their priority, not soothing the founder’s egos.
#3 - Vomiting on “processes” to avoid “bureaucracy”
Very few people love the excess forms, meetings, steps, etc. that are associated with large organizations such as corporations or governments. However, some level of systems, planning, and checks and balances is the foundation of a well-run business. Managing purely by “gut feelings,” anecdotal evidence, and fire drills is often flawed and exhausting.
#4 - Regular team meetings are a roller coaster ride
Instead of status reports and realigning on near term action items, meetings go too deep into single items (to the exclusion of many other topics that need attention) or go too high (emotionally) urging the team to “really be committed” and push harder (which can’t last forever).
#5 - “I’m right” versus “What’s right?”
As founders, we are only human. As such, when someone criticizes our business decisions or the progress of our company, it may sound like they are “calling our baby ugly.” But unless you’ve picked some terrible human beings as advisors and co-creators, then their criticisms are likely meant to improve the business’s chances for success. So, it’s time to get a thicker skin, shut up, and start listening more.
#6 - Paranoia and frustration take over
Launching and running a business is hard. But when times get tough, assuming the worst from people and prospects is no way to right the ship. Instead, this tends to make matters worse and conform reality to match negative self-talk.
So, be honest…Do any of those describe you?
They certainly described me at various points on my path.
If so, don’t worry. There is a solution.
Stop doing them.
Your team, investors, and customers will thank you.
Then 4-5 weeks later, the researchers asked them if they completed their goals, or were more than halfway towards their goal.
Below is a summary of the group’s approach to goal setting, and the percentage who were successful, on the two extremes.
Group 1 — 43%
Think about their goals.
Rate them as follows: “Difficulty, Importance, the extent to which they had the Skills & Resources to accomplish the goal, their Commitment and Motivation to the goal, whether or not they had Pursued this goal before and if so their Prior Success.”
Write down their goals.
Same rating as Group 1.
Write down action commitments towards their goals.
Same rating as Group 1 and 2.
Group 4 — 62%
Send their goals to a friend.
Same rating as Group 1, 2, and 3.
Group 5 — 76%
Send weekly progress reports to that same friend.
Same rating as Group 1, 2, 3, and 4.
Alright, Entrepreneurs for Impact, it’s time for us to…
Get out that journal, or better yet Microsoft Excel, or even better, Google Sheets.
Write down our goals.
Write down some action items for each.
Send them to a friend.
And send that friend regular (weekly) progress reports.
It was a Wall Street Journal Business Bestseller and Amazon Best Business Book.
I read it with gusto and sleep with the book every night, cuddling it close like a security blanket.
OK, not really, but it is near the top of the pile of business books by work area.
The big idea?
As The Economist put it, “Deep work is the killer app of the knowledge economy: It is only by concentrating intensely that you can master a difficult discipline or solve a demanding problem.”
And this skill is all the more important as more and more tasks become automated or outsourced to lower skilled (or lower paid) workers.
In one example, he tells the story of Carl Jung, the Swiss psychoanalyst who “founded analytical psychology” and spent months each year, seemingly chillin’ in at a lodge in the woods because he was so successful.
In contrast, Newport argues that because Jung spent months in deep work in the woods he was able to make major breakthroughs in psychology. That is, he was doing deep work.
My copy of the book is loaded with pen highlights of passages that I aim to remember and put into practice in my own work:
Blocking off 90+ minute chunks of time to go deep
Religious “calendar blocking” (with the occasional heresy of unplanned activity)
A old-fashioned preacher might tell you that it’s a sin to be wealthy.
But before I tell you why I think that’s wrong, let’s indulge in the ways a good Christian upbringing might ruin our entrepreneurial success.
“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”
“For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.”
“Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you.”
Luckily, there are other perspectives on this, both from religion and secular society.
As this Wired article on impact entrepreneurship points out, successful entrepreneurs are often the ones best positioned to do more good in the world.
Consider Elon Musk and Richard Branson as examples.
Or how about the author of Harry Potter, J.K. Rowling.
She apparently lost her billionaire status, in part, because she gave so much money away. In her words, “You have a moral responsibility when you’ve been given far more than you need, to do wise things with it and give intelligently.”
It’s also worth noting that she has written three books for charity and raised $30 million in the process. Another great lesson: Once we achieve “master status” through deep work and deliberate practice, we are able to use these skills to make money explicitly for giving back, in addition to growing our core business.
For me, I also want to make lots of money (I hear some of you cringing) so that I can do fun things like…
Catalyze the planting of 100,000 new trees each year
Lift 100,000 people out of poverty by investing in microentrepreneurship
Reach 1,000,000 people per year with tips, tools, and templates for solving environmental problems through entrepreneurship and finance
Can the pursuit of wealth be a distraction from what really matters? Heck ya.
But if impact and wealth are aligned, then Entrepreneurs for Impact can create positive environmental and social benefits through their core business, and then do it over and over with the profits they earn.
These words come from today’s version of “Fonzie” or “The Fonz” (image below), a TV star from the late 1970s and 1980s.
Today, the actor Henry Winkler (bio), has moved on to more mature roles, and I heard this wisdom when he appeared on the hilarious podcast (and fantastic way to hear depressing news told via comedy) — Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me on NPR.
For Entrepreneurs for Impact, meditation can be a life- and work-hack that boosts our focus, endurance, resilience, insight, and kindness (hey, don’t knock it...this comes in handy when building strong customer relationships and internal team rapport).
On the podcast, Ariel Garten — neuroscientist, psychotherapist, and the co-founder of Muse, the brain sensing headband that helps you meditate — talks about the benefits of meditation described by over 1,000 studies.
Long-term meditation can increase the size and thickness of these parts of the brains, which often degrade as we age:
Pre-frontal Cortex – Our attention control center.
Amygdala – Emotions.
Hippocampus – Learning and memory.
Corpus Callosum – Bundle of nerves that connect your left and right brain hemisphere.
Temporal Parietal Junction – Compassion, empathy, and perspective changing.
Are we the frogs in a pot of slowly boiling water?
Let’s hope not, but, as it relates to climate change, it’s been that way so far.
The United Nations indicates that we have 11 years left to implement pretty drastic changes to our globally energy and economic system if we are to prevent “irreversible damage from climate change,” aka, “climate disaster,” “climate catastrophe,” and other “I’ll haunt your dreams” kind of phrases.
For an illustration of these impacts, check out this sobering graphic (Source link):
What’s the goal?
To reduce 45% greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, compared to 2010 levels.
But some climate scientists suggest that we only have until 2020 (uh, next year) to make serious policy changes if we are to avoid these scenarios. The reason: Major changes in infrastructure and policy take many years to implement.
According to the most recent IPPC report (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), global greenhouse gas emissions must peak in 2020 if we are to stay on track to limit average temperature rises by 2100 to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit).
Currently, we’re on a trajectory to hit 3.0 degrees Celsius (5.4 degrees Fahrenheit).
Some say the number is more like 5.0 degrees Celsius (9.0 degrees Fahrenheit).
P.S. As a reminder, the UN IPCC is not a group of tree huggers working up a quick analysis. Instead, the effort is a 700-page report based on 6,000+ scientific publications, contributions from 133 authors, and peer reviews by 1,000+ scientists.
If you’re like me, you might think you live in a bubble, surrounded by the minority of people that understand or care about climate change.
But if you saw photos from around the world on September 20 for the Climate Strike, then you might be thinking something very different now. (photos here from Vox)
Some called it the largest climate protest in history. While hard to measure the exact numbers, I’d say, “Duh, of course it was.”
Until recently, this topic has largely lived in the stratosphere (ok, technically in the lower elevation troposphere, but you get the idea). It’s only now coming to a boiling point. (Yep, pun intended.)
When 4 million people in 163 countries show up at 2,500 events to bring attention to climate change, I start to see some glimmer of hope that we’ll implement solutions to this problem before things get too bad.
[I have no doubt that some percentage of these young people will become future Entrepreneurs for Impact.]
If you're looking to improve your current business, or to find your next business idea, check out these two video series.
Both are created by John Lee Dumas, the man behind Entrepreneurs on Fire, a free podcast for entrepreneurs, with 2,000+ episodes, 70 million downloads. and 1 million monthly listens.
I count myself in this tribe. I’m a frequent listener, especially while driving or doing chores.
First, "Your Big Idea" -- This is a free, 3-part series on finding the nexus of curiosities + skills, of passion + expertise. It’s short and simple but helpful, especially if you have a blank slate, or just the opposite, too many ideas that you’re considering.
Second, "Real Revenue" -- This is a 13-module, $45 course that goes into far more detail, with a focus on building a community around a specific niche or industry, and then creating a high-margin business selling practical, action-oriented, well organized information.
You’ve heard it before, but I’ll summarize the question again for my own ears.
Are you working in a job that would make your kids and grandkids proud, if they really knew what you did?
I don’t mean that any of you are secretly undercover for the mafia.
I’m only thinking about my dinner conversations where my kids ask me how my day was.
As I excitedly start to recount my work fighting the good fight, training tomorrow’s business leaders in academia and Entrepreneurship for Impact, I expect them to listen intently, hanging on the edge of every word.
But for 8-, 11-, and 13-year-olds, it’s often a matter of seconds before I lose someone, with loud noise making, passing gas, inhaling their food, making weird faces with each other, or telling their own stories.
My wife reminds me, “They’re just kids.”
So, they don’t really know what I do.
But as they continue to understand more and more, I can’t wait to tell them all the details, minute-by-minute.
You think you need a gym membership, the hippest headphones, or the nicest bike to be in good physical shape?
Think again, says former NFL star running back Hershel Walker.
3,000 push-ups and sit-ups every day?
That was and remains today the core of his workout regime.
OK, how about a little translation to entrepreneurship?
Good vs. Perfect -- Don’t wait until you acquire the best equipment or the latest tools. Don’t hold back until your product or service is optimally refined. Get out there and talk to prospects that might need your help. Let them tell you what they like and what deserves more attention.
Commitment vs. Hobbies -- Hershel wasn’t doing 25 push-ups, or just doing this intense routine whenever he felt inspired. It was a “must-do,” not a “do if I’m motivated today.” Consider the analogy of the chicken, which provides eggs, and the pig, which provides bacon. The pig, of course, is the more committed of the two.
So, what are 2-3 things can you do every day, in a way that is unique and valuable, to stand out from others, and get the chance to make bigger impacts?