This past Thursday, I gave a talk in front of a group of university students. They were either already helping out with our Michigan State University chapter or interested in doing so. And I just had to take the opportunity to share my thoughts with them. In particular, I had to share the idea that although everyone is in love with startups and entrepreneurship—and even though it's easier now to be an entrepreneur than ever in history—the magic is innovation that has a human impact. And for me, that simply means that the grassroots is where it's at.
For all the emphasis on having a side hustle and being an entrepreneur—which I can't knock entirely, because I'm one of them too—the greatest value you're going to get in terms of knowledge, skills and impact is working with a grassroots, community-based organization. Think of it this way: You get all the benefits you'd get from working at a startup. Sure, you won't get the lavish amenities and the catered meals, but you will get every opportunity to work on any number of projects. You're not confined to a dedicated department or, in some cases, even a geographic region. You can make things happen, gain new skills along the way and help improve people's lives. What could be better?
For all this talk about the grassroots, I'm reminded of a quote by Martin Luther King, Jr.: "Make a career of humanity. Commit yourself to the noble struggle for equal rights. You will make a greater person of yourself, a greater nation of your country and a finer world to live in." You can definitely go to work for a startup or turn your side hustle into the next big thing, but you're most likely only going to be making new widgets. Why not use your talent to help the world?
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