Life is nuanced, subtle, and highly contextualized. Very little in this world is black and white. However, many aspects of society today are viewed through stark polarities. Good vs. bad, right vs. wrong, democrat vs. republican, socialism vs. capitalism... There is a huge amount of nuance in between each of these examples, but since it is harder to build the world in shades of grey, we simplify things into opposite buckets that are easier to comprehend and act upon. The tragedy is that the nuance and the subtlety is also the beauty. It is where we find our commonality, our shared values, and our humanity.
Individuals are increasingly trying to align their careers with making an impact, changing the world, or improving the lives of others. While "changing the world" is undoubtedly a noble ambition, the concept inherently starts with the assumption that there is something that is wrong and needs to be fixed. It psychologically takes us out of a place of contentment and ease and moves us into discord with the world.
There is technically no such thing as a free market. We are always putting boundaries, constraints, and social contracts upon it. For example, both child labor and slavery are now illegal (although we do have more slaves and child laborers than at any other point in history). These constraints act as a moral compass and, hypothetically, make the market work more effectively.
We recently returned from a week in the desert at this year's Burning Man festival. It was a profound journey, something we will remember for the rest of our lives. Burning Man is a unique and fascinating place. The breadth and scale of it is quite extraordinary, something that can only be experienced to comprehend.
I recently took a five-week trip to India, a pilgrimage to experience the country that for many years I have heard and read about. It was an incredible journey encompassing the full gamut of experiences and emotions. It was wonderful and terrible, beautiful and ugly, easeful and hard. I'm already planning my next trip back.
The Four Aims of Life is an ancient Hindu concept referring to the four goals or pursuits of human existence. They present a profound and useful method for personal development and spiritual growth. The Four Aims are Artha, Kama, Dharma, and Moksha. A quick translation, respectively, is livelihood, pleasure, purpose, and liberation. Focus and progression in each of these areas is necessary for an individual to feel whole and live a fulfilled and happy life.
A recent NPR article talked about Benefit Corporations and B Corps as a growing trend, with many states adopting the use of this new legal structure. For those that are new to it, a benefit corporation status basically means that a company considers environmental and social concerns, in addition to financial, as part of their decision making and operations. Benefit Corporation is a legal structure, an alternative to an S-Corp or an LLC. There is a difference between a Benefit Corporation and a B Corp. B Corp is a stamp of approval, provided by the non-profit B Labs, and Benefit Corporation is a legal structure. You can be both a Benefit Corporation and a B Corp, or just one or the other. Confusing, I know.
If you watch the news, read the paper, or generally take in any media about business or politics, you'll know that everyone is always talking about jobs. Does this bill kill jobs, or does it create jobs? Are these pollution standards going to kill jobs? We can't afford to do this for our country and the world because it will kill jobs. Jobs, jobs, jobs.
Impact investors work with companies all over the world, oftentimes in emerging markets where it is difficult for local entrepreneurs to raise capital from traditional sources. They also work across many different sectors, such as health care, agriculture, environment, and education. They must navigate a varied and nuanced investment terrain where traditional equity and debt investments are often not the right fit for their portfolio companies. As a result, they utilize new and creative investment approaches to focus on making a return and also making a positive difference in the world.
Brands are certainly very helpful. They are how we organize information, tell one company apart from another, and build loyalty among our customers and fans.
Our way of life and business would not operate without the millions of brands in the world today. After all, if every fast food restuarant was called "hamburgers," it would be impossible to know the flavor of the burger you are going to get as well as the reputation of the people making it.
During a recent trip to India I had the pleasure to spend time in Rajasthan, a beautiful desert region in western India, and visited Udaipur, one of the regions most beautiful and culturally rich cities. In Udaipur I spent a couple of days at Shikshantar, a grass roots community center in that offers programs and events for people to be self-empowered learners, change agents in their local community, and more autonomous in their daily lives.