The reading level for this article is All Levels
Below is an excerpt on Giving Back from the updated version of Zero to One Million, coming out in February through Mc-Graw Hill…
I did an exercise when I was 20 years old that changed my life forever. I wrote down how I wanted to use my life to make a difference in the world—to help build stronger communities and societies here at home, and also work to end poverty and hunger globally. When I learned from reading an annual world health report from the World Health Organization that over 18,000,000 people die every year (49,365 per day) from preventable diseases and starvation the gravity of some of the most important issues in our world hit me.
When I learned from a World Bank report that as of 2001, 2.7 billion people lived on under $2 per day (42% of the humans in the world), the realization made me want to spend my life working entrepreneurially to address these issues. When I read The End of Poverty, by Columbia Economist Jeffrey Sachs in 2006, I further committed to being a leader of my generation to address the problems and ensuring that by the end of my life at least 95% of the wealth I create goes back to creating societies with greater access to opportunity and sustainably assisting people who have not had the opportunity I have been so fortunate to have.
As I added to my knowledge through travel, reading, and speaking with people who live in developing nations, I updated my mission statement and began to write what I call a Purpose Statement. Along the way, the added depth of purpose has given what I strive to do every day deep personal meaning. For me, entrepreneurship is not about making lots of money and living an extravagant life, it’s about being able to make a positive impact in the lives of thousands, and hopefully someday, billions. If you can find how starting and building a successful business can help you have a larger meaning in your life and allow you to give back to your community, you will be able to more easily find your core motivation and align what you do with what you love.
Finding a deeper meaning and core motivation for doing what you do is a critically important part of getting through the difficult times along the way to becoming a successful businessperson. I have found this meaning for myself. My Purpose Statement is:
I wish to spend my life working through entrepreneurship, social entrepreneurship, investing, philanthropy, public policy, and politics to end poverty in developing nations and at home, ensure environmental sustainability, help people understand that we are one humanity and that our commonalities are much greater than our differences, and help expand access to opportunity, healthcare, and education across the world for every human of every nation.
Right now, please take a moment to write down how you hope to use your talents, resources, and time on this planet to make a positive difference in the world. This can be a powerful exercise, so please take a couple minutes to complete it.
Action Item – Finding Deeper Purpose in Your Life
Take a moment and write on a piece or paper or printout of this article how you hope to use your business, time, energy, and resources to make a positive difference in the world.
I wish to spend my life&ldots;
Many extremely successful industrialists and entrepreneurs over the past 150 years have chosen to give back. Andrew Carnegie funded libraries all over the United States and created his foundation to ‘promote the advancement and diffusion of knowledge and understanding.’ John D. Rockefeller created the Rockefeller foundation to ‘promote the well-being of mankind throughout the world.’ Henry Ford created the Ford Foundation to ‘promote democracy, reduce poverty, promote international understanding, and advance human achievement.’ Bill Gates has created the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to ‘enhance global healthcare and reduce global poverty and expand access to educational opportunity and technology.’ Gates has said many times that he will give 95% of his wealth back to society before he dies. He considers himself a steward of wealth, as should any successful entrepreneur.
As an entrepreneur, score is kept by who can create the most value. Money comes to you directly in proportion to how much value you create by rearranging the resources of land, labor, capital, and entrepreneurial ability into the outputs that society desires. If we are successful, we can create millions, perhaps billions of dollars of value to society and in turn become wealth through stock appreciation, going public, or selling the company.
I hope you will give back as well what you can, along the way as you build your company—and especially after you have become wealthy. It is our job as enlightened entrepreneurs to give back to the society and world that has enabled us to succeed, to work to create fuller access to opportunity. Giving back can make our lives full of meaning and purpose, and make us more driven entrepreneurs at the same time.
I know if you set your mind to it you will become an extremely wealthy individual and make millions of dollars in your life. You may not see the way now, but if you commit to the goal and believe it, you will achieve it in time. It may take ten or twenty years, but if you choose to be, you will become a multi-millionaire. Knowing that you will become a multi-millionaire someday if you make the choice to be, I ask right now that you commit to contributing at least 90% of any wealth you make by the end of your life into a foundation or endowment of a charitable organization that can work to make our world a better place. Write the following statement down on a piece of paper, or print this article out, and sign below.
Action Item – The Enlightened Entrepreneur’s Commitment
I, _______________ _________________ commit to contributing at least ninety percent of any wealth I earn during my lifetime into a personal foundation or endowments of charitable organizations that will work to address the major issues of our world such as poverty, hunger, education, healthcare, environmental sustainability and any other area that I believe will make the world, my nation, my state, and my community a better place.
X __________________________________ Date: ____________