A Countess with a cause

June 13th, 2009 by Admin

So it turns out the princess that every little girl dreams about being actually exists.

Countess Albina du Boisrouvray — a Bolivian tin magnate’s granddaughter who’s related to Monaco’s ruling Grimaldi family — has a big heart to go with her deep pockets. In 1988, her 24 year old, helicopter-rescue-pilot son was killed in a helicopter crash in Mali.

Devastated by the loss, the Countess decided to continue his work of rescuing people. She sold her business holdings and real estate and put $50 million towards creating FXB (her son’s initials), a Swiss charity that helps children that have AIDS, or could be orphaned by AIDS, by helping their families build microenterprises.

So far, 86% of the families funded have earned enough to rise above their country’s poverty level. Read the rest of the story here… (link to Forbes article)

| More

Posted in Entrepreneurship, Inspiration, Leadership, Life Entrepreneurs, Social Entrepreneurship | No Comments »

Seek meaning, service in life

June 10th, 2009 by Admin

From The Washington Times, Wed., May 20, 2009

As millions of American students graduate from high schools and colleges in cap-and-gown ceremonies both solemn and festive this spring, perhaps now is a good time to reflect on their prospects for successful living and working. Of course, those entering the working world are doing so at a time of great uncertainty and financial distress, with tight employment and credit markets.

It’s possible, though, that the recession could be a fleeting concern compared to a more personal and lasting challenge they face: finding their moorings amid a sea of choices in a culture that sends them profoundly mixed messages. Decades ago, the life and career paths of the young largely were spelled out in advance, but today’s youth must forge their own path. That can be liberating and unnerving for young people without much basis for making such vital decisions.

Graduation speakers across the land already are dispensing lessons learned and wisdom earned. What have we learned in recent decades about how to live – about how to lead productive, successful, rewarding and fulfilling lives?

Fortunately, a lot.

Not long ago, a sea change swept through the field of psychology, flipping the focus from debilitating conditions and diseases (i.e., what makes people suffer) to happiness and success (i.e., what makes people thrive). The emergent “positive psychology,” led by such luminaries as Martin Seligman (author of “Authentic Happiness”) and Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi (author of “Flow”), resonates not only with new research on youth and adult development, but also with surveys of key factors leading to success in life (from books such as “Success Built to Last”) and studies of people in their twilight years reflecting on how they lived. It also gibes with ancient ideas of happiness dating back to Aristotle and his concept of “eudaimonia,” or a full flourishing of self through excellence and virtue.

One could synthesize this convergence of research and thinking with two key words: meaning and service. That is, find ways to have meaningful connections with and make significant contributions to others. Meaning and service.

Fortunately, there is evidence that the rising generations get this. Countless surveys have indicated they are civic- and service-minded, and that many are not only “life shoppers” – searching for a lifestyle that suits them – but seekers of meaning and connection as well as success and wealth.

Take, for example, two high school seniors who recently received AXA Achievement scholarships: Joshua Wortzel and Brittany Bergquist. Mr. Wortzel started the Garden of Giving, which grows and donates organic produce to local homeless shelters via a solar-powered greenhouse located at a Pennsylvania retirement home, with 20 students and 10 senior citizens running it. The project fosters intergenerational connections while serving homeless people and cultivating environmental stewardship in the community.

Ms. Bergquist started Cell Phones for Soldiers with her brother, Robbie, when they were 13 and 12, respectively. To date, they have raised almost $2 million and distributed more than 500,000 prepaid calling cards to soldiers overseas. The project started when they were getting ready for school one morning and saw a TV report about an Army Reservist in Iraq who unknowingly racked up a cell phone bill of more than $7,600. Outraged, they ran upstairs, drained their piggy banks, hit up their friends at school for donations, and got to work. (continued…)

| More

Posted in career development, Education, Entrepreneurship, Leadership, Life Entrepreneurs, Method | No Comments »

10 Talks that will knock your socks off

May 28th, 2009 by Admin

Need a shot of inspiration? Then head over to this top-ten collection of last lectures and commencement speeches, which is sure to get you excited, inspired, or maybe both. 

You will not regret it. Check it out here

Many thanks to Kelly Sonora for putting this together.

| More

Posted in Inspiration, Leadership, Life Entrepreneurs, Musings | No Comments »

Properly set goals aid success

January 15th, 2009 by Admin

by Christopher Gergen and Gregg Vanourek

Now that we’re into 2009, it’s a good time to assess how we’re doing on all those New Year’s resolutions. So, how are they coming?

That bad, eh? Just like last year — and the year before? According to a 2002 study, 75 percent of resolutions are maintained past the first week, but the stick-to-it rate drops to 46 percent after six months. Why do so many of us struggle with this?

Most people assume the problem is willpower. What most people miss is the process of setting effective goals.

Read the rest of this Washington Times blog here.

| More

Posted in Life Entrepreneurs, Musings, Personal Development | 1 Comment »

Rewards of service plentiful

January 6th, 2009 by Admin

by Christopher Gergen and Gregg Vanourek

When she was 10, Inez Russell learned a lesson from her grandmother about service: “You just help people who need help.”

Simple as that.

Through the years, Inez became a wife, mother, businesswoman, Sunday school teacher and grandmother. As she volunteered in various capacities, she kept wondering, “What if this could be my job?”

Read the rest of this Washington Times blog here.

| More

Posted in career development, Life Entrepreneurs, Musings, Personal Development | No Comments »

Infusing Service into Our Work, or the Case of the Singing Orderly

January 2nd, 2009 by Admin

by Christopher Gergen and Gregg Vanourek

Talking about whistling while you work. Lindon Beckford, who works in the patient transport department at a Boston hospital, takes that adage to a new level. Not satisfied with schlepping gurneys from room to room, this native Jamaican has turned the hospital into his own personal concert hall: he strolls from ward to ward singing–from Kenny Rogers to Jamaican reggae, R&B, and gospel. He infuses the hospital hallways with soulful melodies to bring a touch of grace to people in their hour of need.

His goal, according to an NPR report, is to make the medical center a happier place for the people under his care–every day. That, he says, gives his job a greater purpose than simply transporting people in wheelchairs and stretchers.

Read the rest of this Harvard Business blog here.

| More

Posted in Life Entrepreneurs, Musings, Personal Development | No Comments »

Human capital concerns stifled by shifts in volunteerism and culture building

December 30th, 2008 by Admin

by Christopher Gergen and Gregg Vanourek

As a final installation of our blog series catching readers up on our recent writing, we offer two more pieces that we wrote for the Washington Times – both dealing with important human capital concerns.  The first addresses the opportunities to harness the full potential of “volunteer capital” and highlights two organizations that have created national models for realizing the full potential of volunteers in highly creative ways.  The second shares the story of a remarkable shoe company that turns culture building and leadership development on its head – and offers a lesson to other organizations looking to recruit, develop, and retain the best and brightest.

“More Than Licking Envelopes,” Washington Times, June 7, 2008.

Two years ago, Nick Cotter retired as a senior executive at Exxon Mobil. Before retirement, he had managed activities in nearly 200 countries. Yet when he volunteered for a local nonprofit, his role was restricted to sorting food and “lugging boxes around.”

Confident he had the energy and experience to have a greater impact on those in need, Mr. Cotter started exploring other ways to help. He got tapped into Greater DC Cares, an organization that coordinates volunteering and business philanthropy in the District.

With the organization’s guidance and support, Mr. Cotter came up with a game plan to develop a set of governance workshops for area nonprofits, drawing on his years in the for-profit sector. Based on a successful pilot program last year, he is scaling up the program through a network of fellow executive volunteers who serve as management coaches and mentors to local nonprofit leaders.

Alas, stories like Mr. Cotter’s are too few and far between.

To view the entire blog, click here.

“Zappos Culture Sows Spirit,” Washington Times, July 16, 2008.

In today’s challenging economy, business and social entrepreneurs are becoming reacquainted with the importance of “culture,” of addressing the spirit of the place and not just the numbers. Developing a culture of excellence and engagement is notoriously difficult – yet critical for organizational performance.

One jaw-dropping example – with salient lessons for organizations across the sectors – comes from Zappos.com, the leading online shoe retailer. There, all new corporate employees receive four weeks of customer loyalty training – answering phones in the call center – before starting their actual job, whatever that may be.

After the training, they are offered $2,000 to leave the company – no questions asked. This “quit now” bonus, which started at $100, is designed to ensure employees are there for the right reasons. About 97 percent of trainees decline what the company calls “the Offer.”

To view the entire blog, click here.

| More

Posted in Entrepreneurship, Leadership, Life Entrepreneurs, Musings, Personal Development | No Comments »

The Triple Bottom Line – One Book at a Time

December 26th, 2008 by Admin

by Christopher Gergen & Gregg Vanourek

We recently discovered that our book is now being sold by online bookseller BetterWorld.com. Digging deeper, we discovered that these guys are the real deal in terms of the “triple bottom line” of people, planet, and profits. (Be sure to check out our interview with co-founder Xavier Helgesen in the audio player below.)

BetterWorld was started by three friends and ultimate Frisbee teammates at the University of Notre Dame — Helgesen, Jeff Kurtzman, and Chris Fuchs. Looking for a way to make some extra cash, they started selling their used textbooks online. The idea gained momentum and, in partnership with a local community center, they launched a more aggressive book drive – this time collecting 2,000 books and raising $10,000 for the center. Sensing they were onto something, they submitted a business plan to the McCloskey Business Plan competition and won the “Best Social Venture” category. With their winnings, these budding entrepreneurs launched “Book Drives for Better Lives” on college campuses across the country.

Read the rest of this Harvard Business blog here.

| More

Posted in Entrepreneurship, Life Entrepreneurs, Musings | No Comments »

Fitness center develops into much more

December 20th, 2008 by Admin

by Christopher Gergen & Gregg Vanourek

Imagine this: a place dedicated to the enhancement of the individual. A place where people are challenged to set personal goals and a community has been established to help them pursue those dreams – free from judgment by others and reinforced by mutual respect. Sounds pretty good, right? It is.

For a lucky community of young people in the San Francisco Bay Area, this place is a reality they can enjoy every day. Starting it out of his home in the late 1970s, Gary Riekes created the Riekes Center for Human Enhancement to build self-esteem in young people through a strength-and-fitness academy. Woven into the model was an emphasis on providing outlets for personal expression through the creative arts and a set of values that reinforced teamwork, confidence-building, goal-setting and lifetime wellness, regardless of skills or background.

Read the rest of this Washington Times blog here.

| More

Posted in Life Entrepreneurs, Musings, Personal Development | No Comments »

Classic Mistakes

December 16th, 2008 by Admin

by Christopher Gergen & Gregg Vanourek

Here we offer three blogs we penned for Inc.com, one on how entrepreneurship has some pitfalls that budding entrepreneurs should guard against, another on why entrepreneurs should pay special attention to creating their organizational culture, and the other on how entrepreneurs should go about recognizing opportunities in the marketplace.

“Classic Mistakes, Part 1: The Over-the-Top Entrepreneur,” Inc.com, August 29, 2008.

We’ve all seen data on the high failure rate for new enterprises. But it’s not always external factors that doom an enterprise. Sometimes it’s the entrepreneur him or herself. With this in mind, we will focus our blog entries on avoiding classic entrepreneurial mistakes—highlighted by revealing stories and real-world examples. Through it, we will tease out the lessons of entrepreneurial excellence.

The essential traits of an entrepreneur—ambition, optimism, feistiness, confidence, independence, tolerance for risk—have potential downsides that can undermine success. As such, knowing what to avoid is essential.
Based on our research and hard-earned experiences, we offer up the following shortlist of classic pitfalls that sabotage many entrepreneurs.

To view the entire blog, click here.

“Classic Mistakes, Part 2: Ignoring Your Company’s Culture,” Inc.com, September 3, 2008.

For an entrepreneur consumed with the countless tasks of start-up, it can be tempting to ignore culture–to allow, in other words, the new enterprise to organically develop its own culture without deliberate attention. But that can be a big mistake. Developing a culture of engagement and excellence, while notoriously difficult, is critical for organizational performance in the long run.

Entrepreneurs are not immune from the war for talent that has been raging in our economy for decades. Today’s leading organizations make bold investments to attract, develop, and retain the best and brightest, recognizing the link between culture and talent–and how they drive performance.

To view the entire blog, click here.

“Classic Mistakes, Part 3: Opportunity Recognition,”
Inc.com, September 10, 2008.

A defining characteristic of entrepreneurship is opportunity recognition. The successful entrepreneur is constantly alert, looking for new ideas, trends, and opportunities to do things better or differently. But how much is art versus science?
Though there is a natural flow to this that sometimes clicks on its own, there is also a process that can help entrepreneurs recognize, assess, and exploit opportunities. This begins with awakening to possibility, and it helps to adopt what has been called a “beginner’s mind.”

To view the entire blog, click here.

| More

Posted in career development, Life Entrepreneurs, Musings, Personal Development | 1 Comment »