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.

Is the Asian Dream the new American Dream?

The “Asian Dream” is the new “American Dream.” I gave lectures to young entrepreneurs in China last year and their thirst for information and motivation was obvious. I did the same a couple of years earlier in India and found the entrepreneurial spirit amongst the millennial dominant demographic inspiring. But even slow emerging markets like Russia present a curiosity about entrepreneurship that while more difficult to implement, are ripening–I spoke there twice in the last year, once before the Ruble collapsed and once after, and found the worsening economy to be more of a motivator than a detractor.

The world is becoming fertile for the millennial entrepreneur and a global perspective is the answer, especially for today’s American entrepreneur. The American Dream is alive, and the opportunity to share it around the world is better than ever.

Empathy in business, and the fear of flying

I recently had dinner with a family whose eighteen year old son has a serious fear of flying.  His fear is debilitating to the point where it makes travel near impossible.

Even as a pilot, I’ll confess to having fears.  However, learning to fly has converted virtually all of them into positive awareness of my surroundings, and has given me the essential perspective on how safe aviation really is.  Now, a flight without turbulence is boring and aviation accidents make for intriguing analysis.

During dinner, I fell into pilot mode and was rather insensitive toward how severe such fears can be.  I expressed how safe aviation is but gratuitously talked about specific accidents and disturbing training and cultural trends in the industry–the way we pilots often do.  It fascinates us, but frightens others.

In any position of authority–be it a business leader, politician, or teacher–we lose our position of influence if we alienate customers, colleagues, constituents, or students by losing empathy for them.

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For more on teaching with empathy, check out this 1 minute video:


Crowdfunding isn’t necessarily a business model

The fact that indie artist Amanda Palmer raised over a million dollars on kickstarter is fantastic, but cannot be properly evaluated as a business model without looking at how she spent it–which she outlined in her blog.

She set out to raise $100k–a perfectly reasonable budget for an indie artist to put out an album and tour to support it–but raised over a million. It’s easy to accuse her of pocketing a significant profit especially if she didn’t pay her musicians, which she is accused of. However, her expenses rivaled a typical major label budget.  It doesn’t cost $250k to make a great album with today’s technology…that was a typical major label advance for recording in the day.  Presumably she set out to create a top-notch artistic experience for herself and her fans/supporters well beyond the recording, with thank you packages, art books, and an art gallery tour for which she had to pay visual artists. She was committed to creating the most value for those who contributed to her project.

However, at the end of the day if one doesn’t turn a profit, it isn’t a business. It is too soon to promote this as a success story or even a viable model…that is a disservice and misrepresentation to the indie artists struggling to put food on the table.

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