On December 24, I embarked on the journey of a lifetime. I traveled on the Jagriti Yatra, an annual 7,500 km chartered train ride that takes highly motivated young Indians, as well as a few international participants under 25 years old, on a 15-day national odyssey to meet with and learn from entrepreneurs who have developed innovative solutions to address India’s challenges.
The Jagriti Yatra was an opportunity to learn without being taught, the experiences of successful social entrepreneurs like Bunker Roy of Barefoot College, Anshu Gupta of Goonj and the founding family of Aravind Eye Care. While on a panel discussion in Ahmadabad, Harish Hande, founder of Selco, offered sobering advice: “Live with the problem that you are trying to solve.” He explained that too often, so many of us—wanting to come from a place of understanding—don’t take the time to live with the issue that we want to help eradicate. This advice, similar to the wisdom we had been receiving from social entrepreneurs along the yatra, helped to shape our personal journeys, contributed to extraordinary learning, personal transformation and realistic applications to future venture ideas.
While some yatris were owners of their own enterprises, most were simply intrigued and enamored by the possibilities of becoming a part of the class of Indians transforming India through sustainable enterprise. Although many of the yatris were in STEM related fields, they expressed interest in crossing over into the social sector, stating that a major reason for selecting their field was because of parental pressure. It became clear along the yatra that while the interests of my fellow cohorts varied along an infinite spectrum, they shared the common interest of wanting to rebuild their nation and carry it forward.
The yatra was at the cornerstone of my experience in India. It opened so many doors, opportunities to travel (I traveled to Bangladesh with a yatri) and sparked the beginning of many lifelong friendships with people living in India and abroad. Through this yatra, I learned that India was much more than it’s cities; it is a vast and sprawling countryside. I learned more about the power of our generation by observing my Indian cohorts working to create change in the midst of crippling frustrations like corruption and poverty. The way that India changes over the next fifty years will change the world. This journey taught me more than I could ever hope to capture in any paper, book or article. The friendships, relationships and partnerships that have been cultivated keep me excited about the future of India.
Sounds like a fantastic opportunity but I can never understand why there are such age limits on these like this.
25 and under for yatris but you can be a facilitator at any age! I may go back and be a facilitator one of these days!
What a treat it is to visit the South Pacific. People always ask what Fiji is like and I always say the same thing. Fiji is simply breathtaking. The beauty is unmatched and the locals are extremely friendly.
We spent our days basking in the vibrant sun–fanned by the relentless ocean breeze. At night, we were lulled by a moonlight that seemed much closer to the earth than normal. If that wasn't enough, we sang soft rock from the early 90s while trying feverishly to follow the words attached to a television monitor...Karaoke anyone? We laughed and drank Kava- Fiji's traditional drink of choice, comprised of a ground root soaked in water. Always open to new experiences, I took the cup offered to me by a charming man with grey hair and leathery brown skin. I held the cup, which was more like a small bowl between my hands, and I drank. Kava is beloved by native Fijians. The drink had an earthy flavor. Once down, my tongue went numb in some places. On the bright side, I felt more relaxed–one of the benefits of drinking Kava.
We stayed at an all-inclusive resort run by native Fijians on the private Matamoanoa Island. The island is located about 2 hours from the airport by ferry. The ferry ride over was an amazing journey. The views were astounding and the weather was perfect. We zipped along dropping off passengers at islands scattered in the sea. As we approached Matamoanoa, we were greeted by nearly a dozen people standing on the beach singing a lovely welcome serenade. "Bula" the Fijian word for welcome was stated then and we felt that way during our entire stay.
Full disclosure, I enjoy most of what David and Goliath author Malcolm Gladwell writes. While there have been some critiques of his newest book, this isn't one of them. Most of those reviews stem from the idea that Gladwell plays too fast and loose with the ideas, but this is his strength. He's not an academic, though he uses their tools. Gladwell is like the architect who dreams up the grand buildings and then passes things on to the engineers to see if they can be built.
David and Goliath is the story about how inherent strengths also have inherent weaknesses. My car seats seven people (strength) but it gets poor gas mileage (weakness). Gladwell pivots from obvious examples like this to the angle of looking at the social sciences and cherry picking ideas that fit within this context, like how your school choice might affect your success.
I wrote about the idea of big fish in a little pond at People Smarter Than Me. Gladwell suggests that going to the best school may be a poor choice. For example, most economic professors at elite institutions were once students at elite institutions. John List is one now, but wasn't one as a student. Instead, he got his Ph.D. at the University of Wyoming and taught at the University of Central Florida. Gladwell's suggestion is that being a big fish and spreading your fins helps you grow more than having tasty - intellectual -food to eat. List may have done this well because he was a big fish in a little pond.
Gladwell also shares the idea that maybe 30% of entrepreneurs are dyslexic. His hypothesis is, because this group had so much trouble learning to read, they adapted and built other skills like listening, summarizing, or negotiating. They developed those skills while their peers worked on becoming better readers. When I reading this, I thought about John Saddington's journey and announcement that he's an autist. If our weaknesses force us to build unique strengths, then we can say our successes are driven - in part - by those weaknesses?
There are many examples like these in the book, the personal ones about specific Hollywood executives and lawyers fit better than the larger ideas like the IRA and civil rights movements and the book tends to deflate a bit in the latter third.