Lesson No. 1:
Life throws you curves
From an auto accident victim to being a prematurely discharged Marine to becoming a cancer patient, I can tell you that I didn’t see those things coming.
But those experiences weren’t all bad. Not even close. Those “curves” gave me life. They gave me a new perspective. They gave me a tremendous amount of advantages that others don’t have: The ability to think different.
When life doesn’t go the way you predicted it would, you have to readjust, re-evaluate, retool. Frankly, you have to get the hell out of what you’re used to and get into a new zone.
And that’s when the magic happens. That’s when you begin to think more about why you do what you do.
Hitting the shift button
Throughout my career, I have generated a lot of success — and at one time I thought I was pretty spectacular. But that’s not the case. Sure, I worked hard, but I was also really lucky.
Today I’m more passionate about making a positive social change through business, and countless other CEOs and entrepreneurs are starting to do the same. These “socialpreneurs” are making a significant difference and producing massive results for environmental, religious, social, educational and international causes.
Being in advertising and marketing for two decades, I’ve studied and analyzed lots of people, their personalities and behaviors, as well as the inner workings of businesses. And I’ve noticed something. Entrepreneurs are starting to think about philanthropy very differently; it’s not just for tax write-offs anymore.
The only way for philanthropy to have any real meaning or lasting effect is to make it socially responsible and sustainable. It’s one thing to affect the world with brilliant, innovative entrepreneurial ideas, but it’s another to change the world for the better through philanthropy.
It’s not as difficult to pull off as it might sound. I’m doing it with my TH!NK DIFFERENT Foundation, trying to solve major problems in housing and healthcare, but I’m doing it piece-by-piece, layer-by-layer, and you can do it too.
Here are five ways I’ve found for becoming a stellar socialpreneur:
1. Decide what philanthropy means to you
For me, it’s something that improves lives, community and society as a whole. For you, that could mean providing clean drinking water for the millions who don’t have it, or providing financial assistance for those battling cancer. Whatever the case, knowing what philanthropy looks like to you is the first step.
2. Follow your passion
We all have causes that are close to our hearts. Being a cancer survivor, cancer research just happens to be one of mine. That’s why I’ve chosen to partner with USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center. I’m passionate about finding better ways to diagnose, treat and care for testicular cancer patients, and passion is a big part of what drives us to choose a particular cause.
3. Solve a problem
Approach philanthropy like you would any other entrepreneurial endeavor. If you see a problem, develop a solution. There are kids and young adults on our street who have nowhere to go, nowhere to sleep. That’s a problem. It’s also a problem that can be solved, with the right infrastructure and support.
4. Think like an investor
If you’re planning on investing your money, you’re planning on seeing a return on your investment. View philanthropy like you would any other business endeavor. It needs to have both short and long-term strategies and the charities’ efforts need to be measured so you get a keen understanding of what works, what doesn’t and what needs to be modified.
5. Take risks
No one becomes successful by playing it safe. Don’t be afraid to break rules, to do things differently. Be just as fearless in your entrepreneurial philanthropy as you would be in any other entrepreneurial endeavor. Those risks will pay off and when they do, that’s when you know you’re doing it right.
In the coming months, I’ll be interviewing some of the most successful socially responsible business leaders who have done all of these things. We’ll be discussing topics such as entrepreneurial philanthropy, impact investing and creating blended teams. I’ll also be discussing my own cancer journey, why it matters personally to me, and why it should matter to you. Join me each month as I interview a new, innovative and breakthrough socialpreneur.
Originally posted on The Business Journals (December 3, 2014)