“I’ve been on the floor and I’ve been heartbroken. I didn’t know how I was going to stand up. But I just gave it time.”
– Sandra Bullock
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”
– Nelson Mandela, 1918-2013
I’m feeling a bit somber and reflective today. There was a train derailment in my neck of the woods recently, killing people and injuring others (more on that in a bit). The world just lost a great man, a great thought leader, educational leader, and political leader. We are truly saddened to hear about the passing of Nelson Mandela, who singlehandedly taught present and future generations of children and adults what it means to be a self actualized human being, a thinker with self awareness of the essence of life and worth, and someone who practiced what so many just preach: stand up for what you believe in. I grew up learning about Mandela, and like many, waited for him to be freed from prison for not backing down and staying faithful to his ideals. I just created a tribute to him for my Slideshare channel, which you can access here.
I am also sad because I just observed the one year anniversary of the passing of my best friend and mentor Dr. Natalie “Nechah” Hochstein, child psychologist extraordinaire who positively impacted hundreds of children before losing her battle to breast cancer last year. Both people’s teachings have profoundly affected my humanity, my perspective i.e. Theory of Mind, and my Story. Human rights, especially children’s rights, particularly those with Autism/special needs, have become part of my entrepreneurial mission and raison d’être.
You may already know that I’m an iPad Evangelist and Mac girl, who considers Steve Jobs to be one of my first virtual mentors re: entrepreneurship, since the 90s when I was one of the first educational technology professionals trained to teach others how to integrate Apple™ Tech into special education curricula. Steve Jobs was one of the first bona fide entrepreneurs to promote the concept of technology as a harbinger of “singularity”, of customizable individualization to make one’s life better using mobile devices. As I wrote in my upcoming book and in previous posts, we are now living in the iEra re: a consumer mindset about tech. But it is Nelson Mandela, with his unwavering sense of right and wrong, strong and noble sense of self, and artistic, deceptively simple thought leadership that paved the way for us to live in an iEra spurring thought leadership and social reform.
The social entrepreneurship movement is an offshoot of the entrepreneurial revolution spreading worldwide. People are increasingly hungry to reclaim their humanity and bring out the best in themselves and others. It begins with an idea that gains momentum, spurs key “chess players” to make a move, and subsequently change the face of history. Like Helen Keller. Like Florence Nightingale. Like Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell. Like Amelia Earhart. Like Mahatma Ghandi. Like Nelson Mandela. Like Steve Jobs. Like Bill Gates.
Bill Gates wrote an interesting article for The Huffington Post this week entitled Technology Means Everyone Can Be a Philanthropist. He eloquently sums up his case as follows:
“Effective philanthropy is no longer the sole province of big foundations that employ teams of experts. With the technology we have today, and with the innovations that are still to come, anyone with an Internet connection, a few dollars to give, and the time to do a little digging can become a more-informed donor.”
Bill Gates is an excellent example of social entrepreneurship stemming from disruptive innovation entrepreneurship, using profits from his Microsoft Empire to help others. The mission statement for his foundation, created together with his wife Melinda, says it all:
“We believe every person deserves the change to live a healthy, productive life.”
This is a great example of philanthropy, social entrepreneurship, and empathy, all interwoven and embedded into one’s thought leadership; one of the most meaningful legacies a person can leave behind. Thought leadership is not only a digital marketing tactic and CEO’s strategy to provide a bird’s eye view into company culture. It is not only a way for writers/authors to get on a soapbox, to stand out and showcase their genius (or lack thereof 🙂
Thought leadership is both an architectural and artistic endeavor to provide virtual mentorship, to add layers/texture/matter to the grand plans of others, who learn from their Story, to enhance their own.
When done right, thought leadership can enhance one’s balancing of humanity vs. technology, nourish one’s cerebral thought processes with one’s emotional attunement, and propel a person’s career trajectory. This is especially true of entrepreneurship today.
That is why I respectfully disagreed with point #7 raised in Steve Tobak’s recent article about what entrepreneurs don’t do; “Entrepreneurs don’t have virtual mentors”. I think both are needed, to increase an entrepreneur’s skill set and experience. To provide intellectual and emotional teachable moments that resonate long after they are over. To nourish an entrepreneur’s creativity and soul; both of which are needed for collaboration with others.
As I wrote in my latest Tumblr post, entrepreneurship is much more than disruptive innovation and cerbral business gymnastics!
“I truly respect his business acumen and writing skills. I really appreciate what he is trying to say. Tobak’s architectural precision is flawless and his entrepreneurial prowess is self evident. But his cut and dry, somewhat pessimistic interpretation of the role of entrepreneurs lacks the artistry, the sensitivity, and yes, the grace, that propels successful entrepreneurs to actually become leaders, solve real problems, and incidentally profit from their creative disruptive innovation.”
“The greatest artists first learned about their own potential by being moved by the art of others and seeing patterns in that art’s “voice”, helping them find their own. That is the essence of Theory of Mind and Emotional Attunement, something female entrepreneurs have in spades, which is why Tobak’s predominantly cerebral article bothers me.”
“Fostering change; economic, social, educational, and technological is as much an internal thought process and emotive experience as it is an external marketing campaign. It begins with being influenced by virtual mentorship, and using those lessons to connect the dots for your own entrepreneurial trajectory. Real mentorship is invaluable and needed, but virtual mentorship i.e. thought leadership forums (blogs, social media marketing campaigns done with emotion, depth, and humor) give the competitive, solitary, emotionally fragmented and sometimes grueling nature of entrepreneurship its wings to be free, and be more in touch with humanity.”
So what does it really mean to be an entrepreneur today? I raise this question and attempt to answer it in my latest article for The Huffington Post, which you can access here. Kimberly Weisul also raises the question about the role of an entrepreneur in her recent article for Inc. Why Entrepreneurs Need to Be Pilots, Not Engineers. She writes about the Metro-North train derailment, and suggests reasons for being proactive to protect our mental and emotional wellbeing. They include the need to harness time for maximum success when completing our “to-do” lists, and increase our capacity to problem solve and make good decisions; two increasingly important skills in today’s fast paced, globally connected economy. Her insights are in keeping with mine, and give much food for people like me trying to balance humanity and technology; the theme of my upcoming book.
Nelson Mandela was a pilot in the truest sense of the word; for people in his country, but also for people worldwide. I am reminded of the famous poem, Crossing the Bar, by Alfred Lord Tennyson. I think Nelson Mandela would have made a fantastic social entrepreneur, and an even better mentor in Real Time. Alas, I never met him/heard him except digitally online in videos and blogposts/articles. I only have his virtual mentorship to guide me, his “voice” added to the many voices in my head, herding me on my own entrepreneurial journey. I am not alone in seeking takeaways from virtual mentors and leaders. What makes for great leadership and more importantly great literature? But that’s a topic for another day……I’ll leave you with this post on Nelson Mandela, Twelve Lessons We Can Learn From the Iconic Leader, courtesy of Babble blogger, and yes potential virtual mentor Sunny Chanel. I especially like this one, so applicable for entrepreneurship, not just friendship; both of which are on my mind today:
“I like good friends who have independent minds because they make you see problems from all angles.”
– Nelson Mandela
I wish you all continued growth in your own friendships and journeys towards the pursuit of balancing humanity and technology. I wish you all good fortune in finding both virtual mentors and real mentors to bring out the best in you, and help you find ways to use your Story to help others.