Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it.
It’s been 30 years since the release of the iconic movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, proving to me that life moves pretty fast.
What has changed? My cassette tapes. My mint green push-button phone. My blue AZIZA eyeshadow.
What hasn’t? Over the past three decades as an educator, do-gooder and social entrepreneur, I’ve discovered that the desire to understand one’s purpose or mission has not altered. While interviewing young social entrepreneurs around the world, I was mesmerized that each of their missions led to one BIG question. This wondering kept them up at night. It made them feel weird. It made them uncomfortable enough to finally do something.
What would happen if people in prison were given just one opportunity?
Why are there so few women CEOs in the Fortune 500?
—Lily Sandler and her mom Renee
What is your mission? Well, let’s start with, What is your BIG question? Or as Simon Sinek asks in one of the greatest TED Talks of all time, What is your WHY?
When you were in elementary school, what did you wonder about? What did you question? What social problem disturbed you?
How can children in chronic pain be comfortable in the hospital?
How can I use my privilege to help children who are trafficked?
Now that you have an idea of your WHY, what are your passions? What do you love to do? What could you do all day? What are you especially good at? What creates flow?
Studying law in Costa Rica as a teenager, Lauren Diaz visited a local prison with her mentor. After seeing and feeling the hopelessness in the cells, she wondered, “Have these prisoners ever been given a chance in their lives? What would happen if they had just one opportunity?” She and her friends created Nueva Oportunidad (New Opportunity) to train prisoners to be entrepreneurs, so they can not only have a job but a business when they get out of prison.
In 2007, Lily Sandler’s mom Renee read there were only 12 female CEOs leading the Fortune 500 and immediately thought of her daughters Lily (9) and Melanie (10). She challenged her daughters to create a business, and from their kitchen, BLAMtastic lip balm was born.
What is your social entrepreneur equation?
PURPOSE + PASSION=POSSIBLE
After winning a design contest to help people with disabilities feel enabled in Singapore, Esther Wang desired to use her design talent for compassion. When medical personnel at a local hospital approached her about their challenge with children’s fear of needles, Rabbit Ray was born.
Compassion + Design =
While visiting Thailand at 14 years old, Madi Lommen met children who were rescued from human traffickers and now needed a place to go. Uncomfortable with this injustice, she used her secret childhood banana bread recipe and started Madibanani Bread Co. to help raise funds and awareness to build an orphanage in Thailand.
Social Justice + Secret Bread Recipe =
Life is moving pretty fast.
What are you missing out on?
What is your POSSIBLE equation?
[PASSION ________________ ]
[POTENTIAL ________________ ]
[POSSIBLE ________________ ]
Give yourself space to play with it by using the downloadable Mission Sketchpad to guide your brainstorming.
If you already have nailed down your WHY, use this exercise to strip away all the clutter, to get back to the basics, and to more deeply understand your mission. Don’t let life and the crazy pace of being a social entrepreneur keep you from reflection, inner understanding of your deepest questions, and child-like joy that will further fuel your passions.
When I was eight years old, I wanted to play the drums and was told, You can’t do that. It is for boys. Growing up, it seemed all the cool things were for boys: the Bunsen burner, Future Problem Solvers of America, weightlifting, being first in line. My BIG question turned from Why are the cool things only for boys? into Why do awesome women and girls shrink in a classroom, boardroom and conversation? I applied my passion and experience as an educator and certified coach to this problem and founded AWE – Academy for Women’s Empowerment to empower girls and women to do cool things like play the drums, start a business, get the promotion, travel the world and live their possible. Gender Equity + Education = Academy for Women’s Empowerment