4 Characteristics of a Successful Social Entrepreneur (Got What it Takes?)

change creator

What are the foundational elements to becoming a successful social entrepreneur? At Change Creator we have interviewed a lot of them and want to share some inspiring pearls of wisdom with a little perspective.

“Are you flipping kidding me?”

That was a common remark I would say to myself at my first job out of college working for some lame agency.

Driving over an hour through crap traffic near New York City, I made my way to Jersey City.

Everyday, 5 days a week, same time, no matter what. Unless I played hookie of course.

We do what we have to do do to protect our families, put food on the table, to provide, to make a damn living some how some way.

But have you ever felt like you’re in a constant race or competition for something? Go faster, be more efficient, work harder, get more done! Everyday, you go go go. Then you might wonder, what are we racing towards?

Maybe you feel discontent with your life but at the same time trapped? How frustrating is that!

Personally, I was discontent and trapped. I would much rather have been putting my energy towards one of the many crisis we face in the world which is why I fell in love with the idea of social entrepreneurship.

If you’re feeling discontent and trapped you might wonder – “how the hell did I end up here?”

We are all victims of culture because human behavior is shaped by external conditions. It’s not something that can be avoided but becoming aware allows for the start of true change.

In the book, “The Dalai Lama’s Little Book of Inner Peace,” the Dalai Lama says, “I am convinced that if we continue to follow a social model that is entirely conditioned by money and power, and that takes so little account of true values such as love and altruism, future generations may have to face far worse problems and endure even more terrible forms of suffering.”

Doing what is considered normal today is to follow a broken model. A model that has produced material success for some but also terrible ongoing global crisis.

While change is not easy it’s very possible and people break free from the norm everyday!

The question is, are you willing to make time instead of excuses?

 4 Characteristics of A Successful Social Entrepreneur

1 – Elevated Empathy 

Have you ever watched a movie where something bad happens to a person or animal and it makes you cringe? You have a triggered response to feel what it would be like to be in their shoes. That’s empathy.

This ability to understand and share the feelings and perspectives of another, is an incredible skill that is foundational to living a successful and fulfilling life. Think of it as a compass that guides your actions and responses.

Our ability to be empathetic can be dulled from crappy conditioning but the good news is that it can also be strengthened. Meditation, travel to inspiring places, physically taxing exercise, and volunteering are examples of activities that can help build your capacity for empathy.

Why is this important?

Well, I could write a whole book to answer that question but let me share a quick example focused on a social entrepreneur.

I interviewed a social entrepreneur by the name of, Kenton Lee. He was visiting Nairobi Kenya and during that visit he witnessed many children with shoes that were ripped and their toes would hang out. Or they didn’t have shoes at all because they were outgrowing them. It led to many medical problems.

Kenton was very empathetic to their situation and today he is the founder of a company that called, The Show That Grows, which does exactly what it says. His empathy not only led him to make their lives better but it drove his motivation and innovation.

As Tony Robbins mentioned in our interview, “the most sacred gift you can give, aside from your love, is your labor, so find something that you’re here to play for that’s bigger than yourself.”

2 – Super Strength

I’m not talking about deadlift world champion Eddie Hall kind of strength. I’m talking about the kind of strength required to make tough decisions.

People usually live by a code. Something we call values. Love, altruism, collaboration are all powerful values many people try to live by. However, the human mind is very malleable and as the Dalai Lama said social models conditioned by money and power can numb our true values or lead us to poor decision making.

While many people know love, understanding and collaboration are great values they commonly don’t practice what they preach. They make bad decisions that are ego driven.

A social entrepreneur makes a very tough decision to create a business focused on an altruistic mission.

Like all businesses, you are faced with many decisions. If you’re weak, you fall into the trap of ego.

It takes a lot of strength to stay true to your values and mission.

3 – Develop Strong Relationships

Family, friends, and even acquaintances, all play a role in our success. Not just for networking purposes. But for your mental health.

One of the largest studies ever conducted about health and happiness for 80 years was at Harvard.

The study showed that close relationships, more than money or fame, are what keep people happy throughout their lives. Those ties protect people from life’s discontents, help to delay mental and physical decline, and are better predictors of long and happy lives than social class, IQ, or even genes.

The time you put in to be successful cannot just be towards the work you do. It must go towards your relationships as well. It’s a pillar to success.

4- Understand The Need For Money Today

As long as we live in a socio-economic system that requires money to access goods, you will require financial wealth to live well and support your business.

Having a mission focused business does not mean you don’t make any money or you sacrifice all your money.

It means the business was created for a purpose and moves humanity forward but that model is designed to earn good money. You can’t live the life you need to live or scale impact if you don’t have money.

If you hate money and claim it is the root of all evil then it’s most likely that you will never have much of it. Subconsciously, you will sabotage your earnings or if you do earn a lot of money you will somehow lose it.

This is something I found to be very true after learning about it from T Harv Ecker’s book, The Mind of Millionaire. My financial situation changed dramatically after reading it several times.

Final Words

The models and systems we live by shape who we are and how we act but more people today are becoming aware of their deep rooted problems.

Social entrepreneurship is growing in recent years as a response. People’s desire to become part of the solution is natural as their empathy reaches farther and farther thanks to technology.

New innovations are disrupting and breaking old systems to create new results.

You too can break free from the norm, develop your empathy, and find the strength to make decisions that allow you to play for something bigger than yourself.

Related: How to find entrepreneurial opportunities in social enterprise

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