2.5 minute read
Eugenie is an animated and extroverted student Entrepreneur Owner-Manager who attended the Mindset:Entrepreneur discussion I led in Kigali, Rwanda recently. I was visiting there with a few other members of the Southern New Hampshire University (“SNHU”) governing board, it’s senior leadership team, and SNHU students.* Our goal was to learn and think about the SNHU pilot program delivering online education there at the UN Refugee Camp at Kiziba, and in three other locations. The pilot program was a startup in 2013, and had its first graduating class earn Associate and Bachelor degrees in 2015, so this year is the fourth year of successful graduates.
Eugenie lost her parents during the Rwandan genocide, came to SNHU-Kepler to unlock her potential; attending our afternoon session was definitely extracurricular and extra work for her. I was last in Rwanda four years ago when I taught the same session. The changes in the country since that last visit are positively exponential. Rwanda has a Gross Domestic Product (“GDP”) of about USD $748 per
person (The World Bank).
Francine was the star student in the Mindset:Entrepreneur forum in Capetown a few days later. She is a displaced person originally from Berundi, a single mom with an adolescent daughter. She is endlessly honing her Unique Ability in jewelry design while learning entrepreneur tools.
Francine goes to old fashioned in-person classes during the day while her daughter is at school, beads at night when her daughter goes to bed, then completes assignments at home and posts them online for her online classes when she gets to a place that has connectivity. She is impatiently anticipating how her life will be transformed by earning an Associates of Arts degree this December. Francine is on fire
to graduate, build her enterprise, and contribute to her family and her refugee community. South Africa has an official unemployment rate of 27% (the unemployment rate in the U.S. during the Great Depression is generally accepted as 25%). South Africa has a GDP per person of about USD $6,200 (The World Bank).
I met Remy immediately following the Mindset:Entrepreneur class I held in the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) Refugee Camp in Dzaleka, Malawi. Remy’s parents were killed in the troubles in Berundi when he was 15. He somehow found his way to the Dzaleka Refugee camp in Malawi where he has lived (with 34,000+ other displaced persons) for the last seven years. He taught himself to code on his ancient cell
phone, going to sleep when the battery died every night. He’s now an Entrepreneur Owner-Manager of TakeNoLab, a for-profit coding camp for young students who live in the Dzaleka Refugee Camp.
And hear me, this isn’t merely a nascent wannabe EOM, this is an industry game changer now, check this out: https://www.unhcr.org/afr/news/stories/2018/9/5b96719e4/refugees-learn-code-new-future-malawi.html. They all do this work with limited connectivity. When they get genuine high-speed connectivity (e.g. from OneWeb, Google Loon, SpaceX’s Starlink)—look out. There will be a massive unleashing of entrepreneurial energy and drive. 90% of all people in the country of Malawi have no access to electrical power nor running water in homes. Malawi has a GDP of about USD $340 per person (The World Bank).
I accept that GDP per person is an imperfect crayon measure, but comparing apples to apples, the US has a GDP of about USD $60,000 per person (The World Bank).
It’s a curious irony of our current popular culture—crazy isn’t it? — that often students from the most privileged socio-economic backgrounds are less motivated—less curious—while those from the least advantaged environments are brimming with curiosity, thirsting for learning, growing. They absolutely clamor to take personal responsibility and earn their way to bringing about massive positive change.
Remy, Francine, Eugenie, and their classmates are visibly flourishing and thriving. They are successfully unlocking their Unique Ability and their confidence in the entrepreneur domain to make an enduring positive difference in their enterprises, their families—their world. Skin in the game. They credit their access to higher education beyond what’s available locally for them as the portal to that. Sure, I shared some insights with them, my belief in them, and confidence in their ability to build on their strengths to become blooming entrepreneurs. Yet it turns out, they are the ones who were energy creating for me.
Does it take the deprivation of refugee camps in our poorest
countries to challenge us to unlock our potential and live at our highest level? What is it about our popular culture that keeps us so comfy that we are afraid to dig down deep inside ourselves to reach our infinite potential? Is it scarcity that transforms a simple rock into a rare gem?
Whoa, did I ever re-learn that lesson in Africa recently—and how working with those curious, passionate, badass student-EOMs makes my heart sing.
Dzaleka Students Sing
*I am personally very grateful to Paul LeBlanc, Amelia Manning, Chrystina Russell, Kirk Kolenbrander, Connie Yowell, Nina Weaver, Gabrielle Gonzalez, and all their teams behind the scenes for their tireless leadership and work, along with SNHU students Diana Walcott, Daniel Kennedy, Sam Schreier, and Jessica Livingston that made these life-changing experiences an unqualified success at learning, growing, giving. Read Paul LeBlanc’s post on this trip.
What I am Reading / Listening to
Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David Epstein
This new book is a compelling argument that those who are skilled at “connecting the dots across domains”—not specialists in one domain—are primed to excel. "Generalists often find their path late, and they juggle many interests rather than focusing on one. They’re also more creative, more agile, and able to make connections their more
specialized peers can’t see." Range challenges our popular culture’s mindless movement toward specialization (easy way) and brings alive to us the value of exploring and building our skills in the entire world (hard way)—not just the tiniest parts of it.
Epstein is a long-time writer for Sports Illustrated so it’s no surprise that the work leads off with, and contains lots of, sports stories and analogies (the first chapter is titled "Roger vs. Tiger"). His prior book is about continuous improvement in all performance, particularly sports performance. (I skimmed it and gave it to my partner Stephen McGee who read it and applied it.) Other chapters include the theme of thinking fast and slow (Daniel Kahneman) and too much Grit (Angela Duckworth).
Specialization is easy and almost always a less intellectually rigorous strategy for individuals than broad, abstract learning. I’m reminded of my hero E.O. Wilson who, in his book Consilience, says he is disappointed in the degree to which society, and particularly higher education, has responded to the broadening of the mind by pushing specialization (what Danny Kahneman calls "the inside view") rather than focusing deliberate practice on conceptual learning, that is the "how to learn" practice fully applicable across domains. Bottom line, great read.
Entrepreneur Owner-Manager Quote
“When you start a business, you have a lot more considerations [than Enterprise Value]. But if I had to do it again, every business decision we made, I would have had a seat at the table that was advocating for “what does this do for our valuation as well as [what does it do for] the business decision at hand?”
-Chet Jordan, Former CEO of Digital Architecture, Inc.
Frequently, but never less than once every ninety days, I look at my daily calendar and ask myself three sequential questions about positive energy:
1. “Am I spending time in my Unique Ability (“UA”)?” If I am investing my time in my Unique Ability, I am confident I am unlocking potential in myself and others and contributing value. If I am spending time where I am good but less than uniquely capable then that is taking energy away from my UA. If I am spending time where I am merely competent or worse, incompetent, then well…I guess I deserve the energy suck that I will get from that.
2. “Am I investing my time and positive energy with energy creating people?” You sense it and then it’s confirmed for you, right? There are some people whom for you are energy creating, and some who are energy draining. Which do you want to invest your time and energy with?
3. “Am I investing my time and positive energy in (what are for me) energy creating activities?” Do I even know with certainty what my energy creating activities are? Sure, we all have to spend some time doing stuff that’s doesn’t create energy, but am I being purposeful and deliberate about where I am investing that time and as purposeful and deliberate about where I am discarding energy draining activities?
If you are an Entrepreneur Owner-Manager, it’s not only UNnecessary to spend time out of your Unique Ability, or with energy draining people or activities, worse, it depletes your positive energy. And when you have a surplus of positive energy you throw it off you onto everyone around you. And the opposite is also true (I’m told). Only if we purposefully, intentionally spend time in UA, with energy creating people and activities, do we experience our EOM freedom.