Community, Leadership

Remember to Change the World

Remember when you were in elementary school and wanted to be President, a firefighter, or in a similar public-serving profession? How good-willed, we were… So what changes as we get older? Or does it? I’m not talking about the effect of disappointed parents whose children did not become doctors or lawyers or scientists (though I am sure that this has an impact) – more so the result of the introspection one goes through thinking about one’s “purpose in life” (not to be confused with the question of the meaning of life).

Similar to the argument that Sir Ken Robinson gave with regard to creativity, this type of altruistic mentality seems to be pressured out of us as we get older. In our careers, it becomes all too easy to slip into the mindset of promotions, raises, and position as well as the power, prestige, or utility that comes with them. But these two goals need not be mutually exclusive, even (and I would argue especially) in a for-profit environment.

Consider the example of Apple (a previous employer of mine). Built very early into Apple’s OS were accessibility features that enabled individuals with special needs to use Apple products (later iOS, as well). These core features help break down societal barriers for certain individuals. Coca-Cola, a company that produces relatively simple products, completed a project in Dubai and in Pakistan and India focused on helping cultures and families connect. MasterCard (my current employer) leverages technology to open financial accessibility to those who previously had none or little, helping individuals and families do things that many (but not all) westerners take for granted. No doubt these projects and associated stories were beneficial to the core business of these organizations, as well.

All of these projects, technologies, and initiatives were not made in some corporate vacuum – they were done by individuals who realized that there were opportunities for corporate and social good. It can be easy to get caught up in day-to-day tasks, but from time-to-time it is important to remember and imagine the possibility of doing more for the greater benefit. Ample opportunities exist to make lives and societies better, but success requires people with the will to pursue them. Be one of those people.


My Birthday Wish

Today is my birthday. Fortunately for you, I am going to tell you exactly what I would like (being greedy, I am asking for three things):

Request #1: Think about a social or community issue you are passionate about. It could be something like improving quality education access to children in inner-cities, supporting returning veterans, preventing the spread of disease in developing countries, supporting your alma mater, helping natural disaster victims recover… the list goes on and on. Take a few minutes and think about it: an issue, problem, or opportunity that is truly meaningful to you and to your community, however small (your neighborhood) or big (the world). Now go to Charity Navigator, find a nonprofit organization with a high rating and a website, and make a donation to them. It doesn’t have to be a lot of money, just something you feel comfortable with. Note that not every legitimate nonprofit is rated (like the UConn Foundation, for example).

Request #2: Your financial contribution to an important cause is terrific, and I thank you for doing it. No matter how small your donation, you will make a positive difference. There is something else I would like to ask of you. There are many nonprofit organizations close to where you live that are doing some terrific things on both large and small scales. Contact one of those organizations, find out how you can volunteer to help them accomplish their mission, and spend at least an hour in 2014 doing so. One out of the 8,765 hours of 2014; that’s all I’m asking for. The work you do can be immensely helpful, and is possibly even more valuable than a financial contribution. If you can’t find an organization that does something you’re passionate about, just do it yourself!

Request #3: My final wish: share this post. The greater the positive impact we can have, the better birthday I will have!

Thank you for all the birthday wishes. Here’s to a great 2014! As always, feel free to tweet at me and let me know what you are planning to do!