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Make Meaning – Not Money

    By   Shlomo Maital   

   My late grandmother Rivka, a small slip of a woman under five feet, with a crooked leg that had been broken and not set properly, was widowed early, with five children to raise and feed, (including my father), in a poor village in Bessarabia, today’s Moldova. Then, as now, there was deep poverty.

     She spoke only Yiddish. I remember her saying often, in Yiddish:   “Er iz nisht a mentsch.” (He’s not a good person).  It was the worst thing you could say about anyone.  …And “Zol ir zayin a mentsch”. (You should grow up to be a good person).

     Being a “mentsch” ( a good person, with strong values) was her core value for herself and her children and grandchildren.

      I often recall this when speaking to entrepreneurs and giving them guidance. Bobba Rivka’s sage words are echoed by an unlikely person:   entrepreneur, innovator and venture capitalist Guy Kawasaki, who said memorably: Make meaning, not money.     He added: If you make meaning, you may make money. But if you only try to make money, you probably won’t succeed.  It’s all explained in his fine book The Art of the Start.

       Today’s New York Times brings an Op-Ed by David Brooks, about Gen Z (those born after, say, 1995), the generation that follows Gen Y, born 1981-1994.

     The title of his Op-Ed: Will Gen Z fight to save the world? The answer is: happily, yes.

       Brooks cites a study by Pew Research Center (in the US), showing that “a shocking number of respondents described lives of quiet despair”.

    The data support this.   People do not find meaning in their lives.

       “Some 300 million people around the world have depression, according to the World Health Organization. 16.2 million adults in the United States—   6.7 percent of all adults in the country or one person in every 14 —have experienced a major depressive episode in the past year.”  Suicide is a major cause of death among the young.

       What has gone wrong? Per capita GDP in the US is $60,000. America is wealthier than ever before? Why are so many people depressed?

       Here is my take, echoing David Brooks.   America has embraced capitalism. Even those Trump calls “socialists”  (Democrats) embrace social democracy, which is capitalism combined with a strong safety net.

     Today’s Capitalism is based on a false premise. The premise is: If you make money, you will be happy. And the more money you make, the happier you will be.

     It doesn’t work. It just doesn’t work. Above a certain minimum necessary level of income, money does not bring happiness. Stuffed closets don’t bring euphoria. They bring clutter.

     The pursuit of happiness is guaranteed by the US Declaration of Independence, celebrated last Thursday. But this wonderful document doesn’t say HOW to pursue it.

     Bobba Rivka and Guy Kawasaki knew and know. Make meaning in your life, with your life.   David Brooks:  “Many seem to have rediscovered the sense, buried for a few decades, that one calling in life is to become a better person. Your current self is not good enough. You have to be transformed through right action.”

     That is what it is to be a ‘mentsch’ and to become a mentsch.

     If Gen Z is indeed rediscovering this old truth, we have cause for hope.

     Meaning in life comes from the love of those we love, whom we help and support,   from family, friends and even strangers, and from the value we create in the world.

      Capitalists love to quote Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations, published in the year America got its independence, which praises capitalism and the struggle to gain wealth. But they forget Smith’s earlier book, on Moral Sentiments, 1758, which says that our happiness comes from the love and esteem of our fellow human beings.

         There is a solution. Reframe capitalism as the drive to use innovation and creativity to create value for others (‘make meaning’).   Dump the ‘greed is good’ credo.   Teach our children to become ‘mentschen’. Help them find a cause that brings meaning to their life. Help Wall Street rewire its brains.  And start early.

         Find meaning. Make meaning. It’s that simple. But so hard to do.

         

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Guy Kawasaki’s 10 Innovation Rules

By Shlomo Maital

Kawasaki

Guy Kawasaki is the psychology grad, in the jewelry  business, who became the marketing guru for Apple’s Macintosh and led it to massive success.  He has since become a successful venture capitalist and author, (“Art of the Start”) and speaks effectively on startup entrepreneurship.

   Here are the 10 rules for successful innovation, given in an address to a conference of educators in Boston, Nov. 16-18:     Innovator – on a scale of 1 to 5 (1 = out to lunch on this one,   5 =   implement it always and with perfection), score yourself on each of the 10. 35-40 points gets you a high success rating on the Kawasaki scale.

  1.  Make Meaning – Great innovation is motivated by the desire to make meaning and to change the world. Companies that are successful started because they want to make the world a better place. If you are just trying to make money, then you attract the wrong kind of people.
  2. Make Mantra – You should have a two or three word explanation of why your school or class should exist.  Mission statements are too long and not memorable
  3. Jump to the next curve – The problem with most businesses is that they define innovation as what they do in their business. Define yourself not as what you do, but as the benefit you provide. Great innovation begins in jumping or creating the next curve. Kawasaki cited Western Union as an example of a company that did not do this by refusing to see the benefit of telephones. There are certainly a large number of companies that became irrelevant due to their failure to see the next curve.
  4. Roll the dice – Don’t be afraid to take a chance and put out something unique to your market. Kawasaki cited Ford’s My Key that allows you to program the top speed into the key.
  5. Don’t Worry Be Crappy – Kawasaki who was a member of the development team for the first MacIntosh computer, admitted the first MacIntosh was a piece of crap, but he added that it was a revolutionary piece of crap due to some of the revolutionary aspects of the device. “Ship stuff that jumps to the next curve,” he encouraged. If you wait until it is perfect you may miss your opportunity.
  6. Let 100 Flowers Blossom – As an innovator you may think you have an exact customer and an exact use for what you do. You may encounter a situation where unintended people use your product in unintended ways. If this happens we need to embrace it and let this unintended use blossom.
  7. Polarize People – Great innovation polarizes people , it is one of the consequences. Anyone who has asked teachers to make the switch to Google docs can identify with this one. (If you have people who truly HATE your product, but also those who truly LOVE your product – your polarized, and you’re on the right track).
  8. Churn, Baby, Churn – This is the hardest thing about innovation, you need to be in denial and refuse to listen to naysayers.
  9. Niche Thyself – If you are designing a new product then you need to make sure that what you are doing is both unique and valuable. Find your niche. Be the best in it.
  10. Perfect your pitch – Customize your introduction to show that you know where you are and who you are talking to. Find out information about who you are talking to.

How to be an Evangelist:

From Guy Kawasaki

By Shlomo   Maital  

Guy Kawasaki

Guy Kawasaki is the legendary marketing guru for the Macintosh computer.  Apple hired him, even though he was in the jewellery business at the time, had a psychology degree from Stanford, and knew next to nothing about personal computers. 

  Why did Apple hire him?  Because – he believed.  He felt that MS-DOS, and Microsoft in general,  were “crimes against humanity”.   He felt that “Bill Gates brought darkness to the world.”  He set out “to right a wrong”.    He was in his words – an evangelist. 

    The Greek roots of the word evangelist mean “one who brings or proclaims good news”.  The word has come to mean someone who preaches the Christian gospels. 

    Kawasaki became a VC (garage.com), and how is Chief Evangelist for Canva, a startup whose mission is to democratize design.  In the latest issue of Harvard Business Review, Kawasaki sets out the rules for becoming an evangelist.  Here they are:

  1. Schmooz. Build social connections. It’s easier to evangelize people you know.
  2. Get out of your cubicle. Network. Talk to people.
  3. Ask questions. Initiate a conversation, then – shut up and listen.
  4. Follow up. Make sure that you follow up on a meeting, within a day.
  5. E-mail effectively: Optimize your subject lines, and shorten your text. Always respond quickly.
  6. Make it easy to get in touch.
  7. Do favors. If you do things for others, they are more receptive to listen to you.
  8. Public speaking: An evangelist must master the art of public speaking.  Kawasaki says it took him 20 years to master the art and get comfortable. 
  9. Deliver quality content. 80% of the battle is having something worthwhile, interesting, perhaps novel,  certainly meaningful, to say.  It is NOT just about how you say it, but what you say. 
  10. Omit the sales pitch. If people think you are pitching, you’re dead. Don’t.
  11. Customize. Use the first few minutes to directly address the audience, show them you’ve done your homework, know who they are and what they seek.
  12. Focus on entertaining. If people are entertained, they are more receptive to the information you bring.
  13. Tell stories. Make it personal. Tell stories about yourself and others, that support your message.
  14. Circulate in the audience beforehand. Make contact with them, especially with those in the front rows.
  15. Control what you can. Try to speak at the beginning of an event; choose a small room, if you can. A packed room is better than a half-empty one.
  16. Practice. You need to give  a speech 20 times to get good at it.

 

Rules for Social Media:

  1. Offer value. Share good stuff – of four kinds:   information, analysis, assistance, entertainment.
  2. Be interesting.
  3. Take chances. Don’t be afraid to take strong stands, express feelings.
  4. Keep it brief.
  5. Be a mensch.
  6. Add drama.
  7. Tempt with headlines. How to…   top 10, etc.
  8. Use hashtags.
  9. Stay active: 3-20 different posts a day. 

  “Evangelism is not about self-promotion. It’s aobut sharing the best of what you, your team and your organization produce with others who can benefit. “

Blog entries written by Prof. Shlomo Maital

Shlomo Maital
September 2019
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