It Takes an UnReasonable Person to Change the World

A few weeks ago I was speaking here in New York City to a large group of people working to change the world in which we live.  We had over 80 green and social entrepreneurs, a few investors, politicians, educators, authors and media representatives.

What quickly became clear was the ones most successful at changing how things were being done in the world were the ones where obstacles never phased them.  They always find workarounds and solutions to whatever got in their way.

The “It can’t be done” mindset not only is not in their vocabulary, it actually pisses them off when they are around someone with whom it is.

Listen, I’m tired of hearing all the excuses from social and green entrepreneurs about it being so hard to be green (and/or) social and do well in business.  Then they list off all the reasons why.

Here’s the deal:  it’s going to take an UnReasonable way of being to restore the planet, economy and society from the mess we spent so many years of hard work creating.

What does it take to be UnReasonable?

  • Strong Leader—someone with unrelenting energy, passion and conviction that they will be successful.  Someone with a deep sense of the issues and a strong sense of their boundaries.  They are not in it for the fame and fortune.
  • Amazing Vision—one that attracts many people to want to get involved in making it happen.  It is steeped in a powerful understanding that something must change in order to make things right again.
  • Intense Determination—armed with their vision and leadership, they move forward.  As the world resists and challenges them, they stay focused and clear on their objective.
  • System to Deal With Obstacles—whenever they hit up against something, rather than picking up their marbles and going home, they find ways to move forward.
  • Powerful Support Team—you are only as powerful as the team you surround yourself with.  Those that the team can rely on when they hit their obstacles and psyche themselves out along the way.

This UnReasonable mindset is crucial when dealing with some of the biggest challenges green/social entrepreneurs face.  Things like global warming, our addition to oil, community breakdowns, extreme poverty and so on.  Here are some of these entrepreneurs’ challenges (and solutions):

Competitive DisAdvantage—many non-green competitors only focus on price, not the impact they have on their communities and the environment.  Plus some industries are heavily subsidized, like oil, coal and natural gas as well as agriculture.  And then there is China selling green products below cost just to gain foothold in the US.

Most feel they can’t compete.  Wrong answer!

First, don’t compete on price.  You will never win that one.  Second, make it hip, cool, trendy when at all possible.  Make it a “got to have it” product/service because it works better.  You’re a B-to-B play, go in through the back door.  Make sure their customers are asking for your product/service (because it is hip, cool, trendy, etc.)

Example of doing this is a small company in Brooklyn, Ecologic Solutions.  They are a green chemical supply company now competing with multi-billion-dollar-a-year non-green businesses and taking their clients using this strategy.  Some of them are major clients!

Consumer Skepticism—with everyone and their mother now having a green solution, it gets overwhelming.  And most of the claims are false or exaggerated (called greenwashing).

To deal with this, speak to the skepticism before it speaks to you.

This means your marketing efforts must address this up front.  For example with my green retail store in the 90’s, one of our most effective ad campaigns was when we were doing a clothing drive for the homeless during the Holiday season.  We had a campaign with a photo of a homeless person panhandling in the winter with a caption that read, “You would never think a green retail store would believe in global warming.”

Brought thousands to our stores.

No Money Out There—with the economy in the dumps, so is funding new ventures, right?  Think again!

Just ask Ron Bergamini, CEO of Action Carting, arguably the greenest waste management company in the US.  Two months ago he raised an ungodly sum of money (he does not want me publicly disclosing it), in the high 7 zero’s range!

He did it based on his vision, team, experience and client base.  He has a new composting facility that he installed and is running at Yankee Stadium, for example.

The lesson is:  if you’ve got something fundable with the right team in place, there is money to be had.  If not, there are dozens of ways to work around needing the funding.

Can’t Change People’s Buying Behaviors—this one is getting old, but there are still droves of entrepreneurs who really believe it to be true.

The best way to do this is to create a powerful why people should change.  Powerful why’s are: fun, life changing, urgent, hip/cool/trendy, sexy, and/or avoiding painful (health, embarrassment, loss, etc.) experiences.

An example of this I showed at the event I was speaking at several weeks ago.  It was a You Tube video.  In Stockholm, a group of people wanted to change the behavior of commuters using the escalator to using the stairs at a subway station.  Watch their solution and how fast it worked!

At the end of the day, what will have us successfully change the world is our scope of thinking.  A limited scope gives us excuses and finger pointing.

And an expanded scope, to an UnReasonable level, gets us the sky and beyond.

Action Steps for the Week:

Want to change the world?  Good, we want you too!  You’ll need the following:

Crystal Clear Vision:  on that is strong enough to attract the people you will benefit from by having on your team.  If the vision is strong enough, you can move mountains.  You don’t need a lot of resources.  Look at how fast Barack Obama moved into being the US President.  On a vision!

Intense Determination—a powerful “why” you are doing this.  If you make it about money and/or fame, that is not nearly strong enough, because when you get knocked down, what is going to get you back up is your determination that you will ultimately succeed.

Smart Strategy—give yourself a specific and measurable goal to hit by a certain time.  Stay focused on that goal.  This way you will be more likely to hit it.  A vague goal gives you vague results.

Powerful Support Team—without it, you will get stuck quickly.  Find a group of people you can rely on that are available and experienced in what you want their advice and help in.  Without it is exponentially more difficult.

Don’t have a team?  Hire an experienced, well-trained business coach!

System to Deal With Obstacles—this is crucial when people tell you it can’t be done, or more importantly, when you tell yourself it cannot be done.

Just learn how to ask powerful questions.  Instead of asking, “Why did xzy happen instead of what we wanted?”, ask, “What is the quickest, fastest and best way to get what we want, given our situation?”

These are just the tip of the iceberg on what it will take.  But without them, you’ll be frustrated quickly and quite possibly even give up on your dream of changing the world.