Many years ago, Joseph Epstien said: “We do not choose to be born. We do not choose our parents or the country of our birth. We do not, most of us, choose to die; nor do we choose the time of our death. But within this realm of ‘choicelessness’, we do choose how to live.”
I am extremely grateful for all of the good luck I have encountered in my life, and the choices I have been able to make. I have had the good fortune of meeting and sharing ideas with some amazing personalities which have completely changed my life and made me the person I am today. Now I would like to share a few small parts of three of those conversations with you.
MOHD. YUNUS – 2006 NOBEL PRIZE LAUREATE AND THE FOUNDER OF GRAMEEN BANK and more than 50 other for profit sustainable social businesses ( including joint ventures with Danone, Adidas or Veolia ) which are managed professionally for solving the very real problems of poverty and development and investors get their investment back but no dividends except for the social issues they solve. I met Mohd. Yunus in Prague recently, and again in Singapore at the Global Leadership Summit of YPO – WPO. He started in 1976 with loans of $27 going out to 42 people in one village and today, as the father of micro-finance, he has built Grameen Bank up to lend $1.5 billion per year to over 8.3 million people (an average of $220 per person). Recipients are most commonly women (97%) who live under the poverty line and are unable to give any form of collateral or guarantee. But despite this, and Grameen Bank itself having no lawyers, the programme has an over 99% payback track record – the best of any bank anywhere in the world.
When I asked him how he operates these more than 50 very large social businesses (of which Grameen Bank is one) he humbly replied, “Sanjiv, people have a lot of potential; they are self-motivated and want to make a real difference in the world, no matter how small that difference may be. We just need to TRUST THEM & get out of the way and give them autonomy.” We have pulled more than 4 million people and their families out from under the poverty line to become people who can not only support themselves, but can also create jobs for others. My goal is to be happy, and my happiness comes from servant leadership and ‘responsible capitalism’. In my case, the creation of social businesses that solve specific problems – and alleviate human suffering – brings me happiness. “Happiness is a state of mind that comes more from ‘giving and sharing’, although we are under the illusion that it comes from ‘getting and consuming’”. The model of GDP growth through consumption, therefore, needs to be reshaped for the future. Profits without purpose become a goal in themselves, rather than a means. The purpose is then lost, leading to a lot of greed and little happiness.”
BEN ZANDER – CONDUCTOR OF THE BOSTON PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA SINCE 1985, AND AUTHOR OF THE BOOK, “THE ART OF POSSIBILITY”.
I was lucky enough to have lunch with Ben in London last year, and I asked him the secret of his success. He replied: “Every year 50-60 of some of the world’s best musicians come to me to take their talent to the next level. On the very first day, I gather them and give them their grade – an A+. Irrespective of how they do, they get to keep the grade. Each musician is expected to mail me a postcard within 14 days, telling me where they see themselves in May (at the end of the term) and explain why they got an A+. No-one has ever deserved anything other than an A+. You see Sanjiv, when you TRUST people, they always live up to the expectations they set for themselves. So, the world may become a better place to live in because we make a difference by trusting & creating an environment for a child, or an adult, to set high expectations for themselves, and then have the confidence that they will meet them.”
He went on to explain that “ although a conductor does not make a single sound himself, but is all-powerful because he helps bring out the best in everyone else.”
TENZIN GYATSO – THE 14th DALAI LAMA OF TIBET, SPIRITUAL LEADER, AND 1989 NOBEL PRIZE LAUREATE.
I am very fortunate to have had various conversations with the Dalai Lama and will share with you some teachings that have stayed with me over the years. When asked what a human being’s ultimate responsibility was, he responded: “The ultimate responsibility of a human being is to raise his or her level of consciousness to connect with the ultimate energy that exists inside each one of us. All other issues, like world peace or human rights, take care of themselves, as we have people who are happy and satisfied dealing with these issues. “Happiness is a state of mind that comes from giving and sharing.” (Not very different from Mohd. Yunus’s words earlier.)
I then asked him how he leads a life without getting angry at a government which has tortured and raped and tried to wipe out his peoples’ way of living from the face of the Earth. This very humble man responds: “I am a Buddhist. My goal in life is the practice of spirituality. “The people in my life do not get in the way of my spiritual practice; they are my spiritual practice. The challenges and times of my life which threw me out of my comfort zone were the times when I was able to grow as a human being, so I thank them for being my teacher and Guru. The universe always gives you what you need (although you may not think so at that time), not necessarily what you want.” The problems I have faced in my life have been disguised opportunities for growth, and I am grateful for them. I would not be the person I am today if the events in my life had not subjected me to what I considered to be suffering at that time.”
I started on my personal spiritual journey four months ago, and as I start to change my perspective and look at problems as “opportunities to grow”, and people who cause me pain as my Spiritual Gurus, I see some amazing things happening around me.
We at Zatisi Group are committed to maximizing value for all stakeholders [the environment, society, partners (some of us call them employees), suppliers and shareholders alike] and are taking small steps each day to move the business into creating ‘shared value’ for all of us.
We are also committed to adding the arts, in a meaningful way, into basic education, as well as actively promoting lifelong learning with an emphasis on creativity and innovation in everything we do. This will allow people to find their passions, and give all stakeholders the possibility to set high expectations for themselves.
It is our strong belief that as conscious and responsible business leaders grow in numbers throughout this decade, we will reach a tipping point and fill the need for responsible global leadership through creating ‘shared value’.
Come and join us in our journey together as we see some amazing possibilities to live into and HOPE to live for – not just for us but for all future generations to come
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