Harnessing Your Position for Good

 

Harnessing-Your-Position-for-Good-

Harnessing Your Position for Good

Last month we looked at how cross-cultural competence impacts workplace effectiveness.  The topic of cross-cultural competence is featured in most of my keynotes, and while my primary points are consistent, I tailor my keynotes to each audience and incorporate current events.

One of these trending topics is “privilege.” Privilege has always been a delicate topic. Whenever you mention the word, it can evoke strong reactions depending upon the context. The word carries connotations of power and often is discussed from racial equity, level of education, or family dynasty perspectives.

I have first hand experience with this as I am part of a prominent Indian family dynasty; I am the first American born member of the family that created the world's largest democracy and governed it for over 40 years.  I have often reflected upon how this has impacted me and what I do with this position.

A question I am often asked is: Can privilege ever be a good thing? And a related question that I believe is important: Is it possible to harness our position for good?

I believe that, yes, those who have privilege have a golden opportunity to use that position to combat social injustices and make the world a better place.

Positioning for Good

There are four steps involved in harnessing position for the greater good:

• Understand the meaning of privilege

If you are to make good use of your privilege, you must begin by learning what privilege means.

Put simply, privilege is an unearned advantage, access, or power reserved for an individual or a group of people. The University of Michigan, College of Literature, Science, and the Arts defines it as a “society-granted” advantage accorded to some people and not others. It is not chosen and is independent of attitudes or belief systems.

More important, we cannot run away from privilege once we have it. The only choice we have is what to do with it.

• Own your privilege

Once you have understood what privilege means, it is time to own whatever advantages you enjoy.  Moreover, these advantages are valuable tools in your toolbox that can be used to change the world for the better.  Do not dismiss or negate your privilege. Make the choice to use it for the good of society.

There are many factors that put us in a position of privilege: sex, gender, race, religion, nationality, sexuality, disability, class, body type, level of education, and so on. What privilege(s) do you have? You need to reflect on and understand your privilege.  Accept that it gives you a unique opportunity and you must embrace it and use it for greater good.

• Open up to feedback

This simply means opening up to the opinions and experiences of those who may not possess your privilege. What do they have to say? For instance, if you are wealthy, listen to what those living in poverty have to say. Some say they possess a different kind of wealth or happiness and are not interested in material riches. What do they think about the rich and wealth in general?

Opening up to feedback is often the most difficult part of engaging with our privileges. However, it is equally important because it is what will give you the strength and motivation to get up and do something with the advantages you enjoy.

• Harness your privilege for the benefit of all

The last step is to leverage your societal advantages to positively impact yourself and those around you. Use the privilege to grow as a person and reach across the divide to offer support and opportunity to those on the other side.

• Harness Leadership through Ravi Unites Schools

As a cultural catalyst who has helped bridge hostile cultural and religious divides in India, Indonesia, Iraq, and Lebanon, I started the Ravi Unites Schools program to help future leaders harness their leadership positions for the benefit of all.

By connecting schools from different countries, cultures, and time zones, and allowing them to interact, we are able to expand their minds, open their worldview, and grow in cross-cultural competence.  These students then gain the cultural capital required to make them successful leaders of the future. However, unless we engage and help them open up to new ways of thinking and seeing the world, they might never fully utilize these unique powers. At Ravi Unites, we draw from personal and professional experiences to equip young students with the tools needed to transition their cultural capital into cultural competency.

What are your thoughts on this?  

Are you interested in hearing more and having me speak to your audience on this or one of my keynote topics?  

Let’s talk!

Teaching the Value of Failure Today

 

Teaching-the-Value-of-Failure-Today

Teaching the Value of Failure Today

No one starts out wanting to fail. In fact, owing to the achievement-oriented nature of our society, the prospect of failure is one most people cannot stand and definitely try to avoid at nearly all costs. Many will even trade potential big long-term successes for immediate gains just to evade short-term failures.

I would like to challenge this notion and pose the questions:

Is this the right approach? Is failure bad? Should we be putting forth every conceivable effort to avoid failure?

I firmly believe the answer is no. Having an “always learning, entrepreneurial mindset,” which includes appreciating and teaching the value of failure, are central elements of my work as a cultural catalyst and global keynote speaker for educators and young leaders. I have reinvented myself and my profession at least three times. When failures present themselves as they inevitably do, I play it SAFE: State the problem, Assess the options, Fix the problem, and Evaluate the result (part of my flight training, and from my most popular breakout topic, The Pilot Mindset). Treating failure as an option can be beneficial in many ways, as you’ll see below.

While failing can be painful, it turns out that failure is actually good for the mind and our overall well-being. Whether for an entrepreneur striving to grow a business, an athlete aiming to win an upcoming tournament, or a student trying out a new extracurricular, failing can not only strengthen your character but is, in most cases, a tremendously valuable way to learn what it takes to be successful.

Thomas Edison is one of the most celebrated innovators of the 18th century. Edison had to try over 1,000 times before finally coming up with a working prototype of the light bulb. But, according to Edison himself, he would not have been successful without the 1,000 failures, which were really just steps along the way to success. He noted that every failure opened his eyes to something new; something he didn’t know initially, and thus was valuable for the learnings it offered. This way, when he finally succeeded, the light bulb was far superior to the ones he had been trying to make early on.

In the educational environment, the importance of teaching the positives of failure can be very important in the overall development of students so that they can best interact and impact our world in a positive way tomorrow. Treating failure as an option can also be beneficial in these additional ways:

Students learn not to quit or settle when a failure occurs

After a few failures, and the realization that the world didn’t end, there is just no giving up going forward. Students will learn to push on, adapt, and move forward no matter what. By teaching students to learn from setbacks, we give them life skills that will serve them well.

Students refine character traits

A major failure can help refine the ego. And, once egos are more properly balanced with strength and also sensitivity, students have a greater potential for future successes and for positive contributions to society.  The young person who is shielded from failure is unprepared for a world of change, upheaval, and significant competition.

Students begin to appreciate a sense of community

It’s easy to get lost in success. As well, surviving failures on your own, again and again, is nearly impossible. It is often in failure where we learn a sense of community as others reach out to us and support us. It is in failing that we receiving support and open ourselves to a community, enabling us to then offer support and community to others in their moments of failure.

Failure forces students to plan and improve

Very often, students give little thought or planning to their journeys.  For those who do give some thought to their goals, the majority of those tend to do it casually. Failures take us back to the starting line, forcing us to have moments where there can be self-reflection, evaluation, and the opportunity to look ahead with a plan that improves upon and is impacted by the lessons learned in the failure. Getting a trophy for showing up--as the millennials did--needs to be rebalanced by instituting an acceptance and appetite for failure.

Failure helps students appreciate time

The most successful people on earth are those who understand the value of time and invest their time wisely. Failing is one of the experiences that force persons to re-evaluate their use of time. As well, how it relates to how it contributed to a failure.  Students can learn the value of working ahead, preparing for exams, and putting in the needed effort ahead to ensure they are prepared at the time needed.

Failure helps students redefine their priorities

When a student fails, something unique happens. Students begin to redefine what matters most. There is a deeper reflection that can occur.  They have an opportunity to pause and think about areas of importance such as family, studying, education, and teamwork. Failure helps them discover these values and priorities. Unsurprisingly, once priorities are redefined, the path to future successes becomes more much clear.

Final Thoughts

As educators, instead of sheltering our students from failures, we have to expose them to failures. As a result, help them to learn to focus on how these experiences can benefit their future. Whenever someone stumbles, rather than letting their spirits be crushed by the occasion, let us help them understand how energies can be channeled through disappointments. If we can begin to see failure as a valuable and necessary learning tool, we will empower a new generation to rise to the highest heights of their potential.

Learn more about my keynotes and topics here.

The Future Requires an Entrepreneurial Mindset

 

The-Future-Requires-an-Entrepreneurial-Mindset

The Future Requires an Entrepreneurial Mindset

People with an entrepreneurial mindset are driven to innovate and create new opportunities regardless of whether or not they are entrepreneurs or employees. With this mindset, one can also make a positive impact in the world at the same time. The focus on innovation and the possibilities of “what could be” drives entrepreneurs in business and life.

Many lack the entrepreneurial mindset, which at the core requires a growth mindset, the acceptance of failure as a learning process, and the intrinsic value of helping others.  It is my belief that an entrepreneurial mindset is the hope for our future and will create a better world, and today’s education system needs to be infused with these collective ideas.

A Focus On Innovation And Building A Better Future

A simple definition of innovation is that it is a new method, idea, or product. Innovation is the driving force through much of humankind’s accomplishments. This includes every area of knowledge including the sciences, mathematics, healthcare, technology, arts, and more.

Fear of failure prevents many innovations, both large and small, from occurring. No great innovator in human history did so without a few missteps, do-overs, and outright failures. If great innovators gave up after their first failure, they would not have changed the world. The ability to see failure as a chance to learn and do better drives further accomplishments which lay the groundwork for a better tomorrow.  So, how do we help students grasp this in the classrooms of today?

This mindset needs to be taught in our education systems. Millennial leaders will inspire the goal of helping the world become a better place through innovation and entrepreneurship, but education must support this by focusing not just on achievement, but also encouraging and embracing failure (i.e. taking calculated risks). I believe that with adjustments in our educational philosophy to encourage this mindset, a new generation can be unleashed to lead with a goal of creating new businesses, organizations, and systems that help the world.

The Consideration Of Possibilities

The entrepreneurial mindset focuses on possibilities. It considers “what could be.” The current notion of "this is how education is" does not foster a better future; it perpetuates stagnation.

A society that never considers how it can change is one that never does. By considering the possibilities and striving to create positive change, we take the first step toward making change possible.   

Inclusiveness

Recognizing the unique talents and insights of each student is an essential part of building a better future.

Paying it forward and sharing your own good fortune drives further innovation. The entrepreneurial mindset not only fosters the ideas of inclusiveness, it also helps build a future where such ideas are further implemented.

It is this kind of thinking that I seek to help educators discover through my keynotes on the subject.  We need to disrupt education significantly, and I welcome the opportunity to discuss my ideas more with you with the hope to add value to your next conference or event.

Learn more about my keynote speeches. Contact me to set up a first step phone call today!

The Challenge of Future Entrepreneurship: Making Peace Profitable

The Challenge of Future Entrepreneurship: Making Peace Profitable

The Challenge of Future Entrepreneurship: Making Peace Profitable

The business of war is profitable. In 2011, for example, the top 100 war-supporting companies made in excess of $410 billion in arms and military services. According to a report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), the top 10 of those companies made grossed $208 billion in that period.

While war is profitable, our aim should be world peace.  The question then becomes, can peace be as profitable if we have companies and organizations supporting peace initiatives and turning profits?

According to many experts, this is possible but just not fully operational at this time. In fact, some studies show that peace can be more profitable than war. According to findings from the Australian Institute for Economics and Peace released in 2011, reducing violence by as little as 25%—an attainable goal for most countries—would reap the world at least $2 trillion in peace savings yearly.

So, how do we build profitable, peace-focused enterprises?

This is easier said than done given that war already dominates the economy with governments spending up to 20%+ of their budgets on military projects.  However, it is possible.

The United States Institute of Peace Special Report on How Business Can Foster Peace provides a sneak peek of what is needed. According to the report, a peace-promoting business should be founded on five key principles;

  • Promoting economic activity

    Studies by both the World Bank and the United Nations show that poverty begets violence. Thus, by providing jobs and diversifying economic opportunity, entrepreneurs can alleviate a region’s poverty. A good example is when Cisco invested $10 million in Palestinian programmers and included both Palestinians and Israelis on the same programming teams. Such little efforts can go a long way in reconnecting conflicting groups.

  • Respect for the rule of law

    Instead of exploiting asymmetrical power relationships, entrepreneurs can contribute to peace by respecting the rule of law and abiding by international labor and environmental standards. As corruption can trigger instability and violent conflict, companies with zero-tolerance policies and strong ethical principles move the needle toward peace and stability.

  • Support for truck-two diplomacy

    Truck-two diplomacy is all about businesses and entrepreneurs standing up for the rest of the society when the going gets tough. To this end, if they are to profit from a peace economy, future businesses and entrepreneurs must be ready to broker peace in the face of conflict and defend the rights of the common man.

  • Implementing corporate citizenship

    Businesses can also promote peace and later benefit from it by encouraging corporate citizenship. Corporate citizenship essentially means making the citizenship feel that they are part of the corporation. Coca-Cola has done that well in Vietnam where it provides pushcarts to disadvantaged female entrepreneurs—a practice that benefits both parties. Corporate citizenship enhances social, environmental, and economic well-being of societies.

  • Leveraging unique practices and risk assessment

    For businesses that work in war-prone zones, practices and risk assessments unique to the specific environment may be needed to prevent conflict. These practices usually include paying careful attention to the needs of suppliers, customers, employees, and other stakeholders immediately involved in the conflict-sensitive environment.

With peace comes increased business profitability

If the future entrepreneur can embrace these five principles, then we are certainly on the way to greater peace—peace that would go a long way in improving the business environment, leading to faster economic growth. Even better, increasing peace would help lower the $14.3 trillion that businesses lose to violence yearly, all while boosting business profits.

What are the human transactions of the future?

I am really looking forward to keynoting the All Ohio Counselors Conference next week—a combined audience of career and mental health counselors, helping our youth navigate an increasingly complicated world.

The impact of Artificial Intelligence and technology on the job market is going to change the careers available to graduates and transform the way we interact. With a predicted 38% of today's jobs being automated in 10-15 years, we must consider that human exchanges revolving around goods and services may no longer be the norm.

What are the transactions of the future? I believe we will have a cultural economy—an exchange of cultural values and activities that form the basis of human interaction and the advancement of society. However, with globalization comes cultural dilution, and therein lies a conundrum that educators and counselors must address. Otherwise, we risk devolving into animal instincts and survivalist mentalities.

Combining the idealism of the Millennial generation with their size, which will be followed by the equally large and idealistic Gen Z, we now have the opportunity to naturally grow out of many of society's greatest injustices. However, that will require Baby Boomers to quietly hang onto their baggage and not unload it onto the Millennials. The generation that grew up with segregation being the norm must not inadvertently pollute the generation that grew up with Obama being the norm. If that happens, our noble efforts to extinguish implicit biases will only result in perpetuating them.

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To book a keynote, please contact: info@RaviUnites.com or 1-202-838-7088

The Future of Education

As four-year university education in America continues to push people into debt without delivering real world value, market forces will put the power of educating in the hands of the student (i.e. customer). For educators, the primary role will be to promote a thirst for knowledge and a blueprint for learning, as the students of tomorrow will drink from the bottomless well of information available in the palms of their hands. I look forward to the future of education.

Institutional brands of education will give way to relevant knowledge regardless of its origin, though that origin may very well be community colleges where vocational training prevails and costs are kept in check.  However, for the sake of innovation, entrepreneurship, and the economy, we cannot not just prepare students for the jobs of today.  We must also prepare them to create the jobs of tomorrow.  This requires integrating a liberal education into today’s two-year programs, which includes experiential and peer-to-peer learning that will also develop “soft skills.”

The arts must also come back into focus. The current buzz around STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) brings many good skills to the surface, but suppresses perhaps the most “critical.” STEAM is more important, because without the arts, we suppress critical thinking as well as stifle creativity and empathy…the ingredients of innovation and leadership. This may very well be by design, but it isn’t going to do society any good in the long run.

Teaching Children Entrepreneurship

Teaching entrepreneurship at the grade school level is a great opportunity with a simple formula, yet difficult to implement in today’s society. Nurturing natural curiosity while allowing for boredom plants seeds of creativity which blossom into entrepreneurship. If left alone, the cycle is quite natural.

However, here in the US, schools are pressured by parental values to keep children busy—busy is equated with learning. This flaw in thinking should be obvious.  However, Baby-Boomers and Generation X’ers grew up in environments where you kept up with the Jones’ for social status and out-worked your boss (in hours, not productivity) for career advancement. Millennials are more open-minded and as parents, they will recognize that being busy doesn’t equal learning more.

As anything institutional continues to give way to activities that allow for individual expression, the freedom to explore one’s own mind should find renewed importance in our education systems.  Modern day classrooms must do three things to teach entrepreneurship and cultivate job creators of tomorrow: nurture talent, inspire curiosity, and provoke critical thinking.

Entrepreneurship, a weapon against radicalism?

This week’s horrific events in Brussels (following the November attacks in Paris–my home away from home) reinforces my belief that cultural diplomacy with a message of entrepreneurship can be a strong weapon against radicalism.  Entrepreneurship is a pillar of democracy.  Inspiring a dream and providing the tools to live that dream offers an attractive alternative and counter identity to jihadism.  The growing disaffected youth population around the world needs to hear and recognize this message.  We must plant the seeds that inspire a positive identity within each of them, and most essential, follow through by teaching them how to turn their passions into professions.

It is incumbent on every artist, teacher, and entrepreneur to use “business as a force for good” (borrowed from Richard Branson).  We can complain about our leaders’ political and economic motivations, or we can use our skills and talents to change the world despite political and economic motivations.  The military must not be the only boots on the ground.

The Millennial Conundrum

Millennials live in a dichotomy.  Much of what they desire is the consequence of what they were not given, and this places their interests in disharmony with their strengths.  Surveys report that music is the millennial generation’s number one priority, yet they have witnessed the arts being devalued in public education throughout their entire lives.  Broken promises of employment and job security makes them crave entrepreneurship while standardized testing and government mandated curriculum have arguably educated them out of creativity.  Millennials want to change the world but have grown up in a society where corruption (government, wall street, and charity) has produced a high number of disaffected youth.

Do millennials feel entitled to succeed?  Certainly.  Many have been told since pre-school that they are on a track to Harvard.  Moreover, “earning” ribbons and trophies simply for participation has removed possible failure from the equation, negating the value of taking risks.

Ultimately, millennials want to be defined by their passions, not their careers.  “Who you are” as opposed to “what you do” is paramount.  However, they have been kept so preoccupied by helicopter parents needing to procure the family brand that most millennials have never been bored enough to discover their true passion in the first place.

Minimum Wage and Outsourcing Jobs to Technology

Many argue that raising the minimum wage will encourage outsourcing of jobs to technology (i.e. menu  kiosks in McDonalds), but I contend that there is no connection between the two.   Wages will never influence technology implementation if it adds value and efficiency, or simply doesn’t detract from it.  The cost of automation will continue to decline while cost of living increases; most trades will eventually be automated.

Rather than try to stop such uses of technology, we should encourage it. That frees more people to do what technology can’t—invent, create, and generate ingenuity—but only if we provide the tool for them to do so, which is a good liberal arts education. This is the key to jobs: education that fosters critical thinking which includes the arts and favoring STEAM over STEM (Science Technology, Engineering,  *Arts, and Math).

Let’s not dumb down America or technology to keep jobs.  Let’s educate America to create more, and ones that move us forward.