Taking a step back to meet the challenges ahead
Just five days before this year’s fateful election, my organization, Endeavor, hosted its annual gala to celebrate the launch of our U.S. offices and entrepreneurs. We knew it was risky given the political timing, but then again so was our decision to enter the U.S. market in the first place.
For decades, Endeavor had on selecting and supporting high-impact entrepreneurs around the world—from Bulgaria to Brazil, Malaysia to Mexico, Indonesia to Italy—all the while deliberately staying clear of the U.S. ‘American entrepreneurship is the envy of the world,’ we thought, ‘there’s no reason to focus our efforts here.’ Then the recession hit and unemployment ensued, exposing the gaping holes in our fragile economic system. Our experience establishing Endeavor Greece in the midst of Grexit, taught us that when economies turn down, entrepreneurs turn up! We realized that the same lessons we learned abroad–about revitalization, reinvention and hope—could apply back home, thus the theme of the event, “Go Big AND Go Home.”
Now, in our post-election stupor, we found ourselves turning once again to our international counterparts for answers. Initially, I expected to receive a deluge of derision from them—just days ago we were touting the success of Endeavor Miami, Detroit, and Louisville, and now we were all talking about fleeing to Canada! Instead, what we got was an outpouring of empathy and encouragement:
“American politics impacts us all. Here is to being positive and committed to making things work. Thinking of you all knowing how this must be affecting most people.”
— Endeavor Jordan
“The most critical touchstone of US government – and the one that is most admired around the world – is its system of checks and balances. I have great faith in this system. Keep calm and #Endeavor on.”
— Endeavor Turkey
We even got a healthy dose of perspective from our friends in direr political and economic straits:
“…coming from a country that in the last 25 years has impeached two elected presidents: trust me, you’ll be fine! Your democracy and values are the core of your society and even guys like Trump won’t be able to harm them.”
— Endeavor Brazil
Knowing that our teammates around the world had faith in the resiliency of the U.S. system strengthened my own resolve to get back to work. Entrepreneurs, after all, understand better than anyone that one must adapt from within or be forced to adapt from without. They do not see current crises as grave misfortunes but as great opportunities to reflect, pivot and grow.
The inspiration behind “Go Big AND Go Home” originally came from my own act of creative destruction. For years, I like many others had adopted the mantra “Go Big OR Go Home.” I delivered this rallying cry to myself, to our entrepreneurs and to our staff. If we were to keep growing, we had to keep pushing.
In 2004, I was pregnant with identical twin daughters but I was determined not to let this slow me down. I kept up my demanding work travel schedule, setting off for Mexico, Chile and South Africa, until my doctor had to impose a mandatory no-fly zone and three months of bedrest (“tushy on the cushy!” as my husband said). It worked—the girls arrived, healthy and happy, at 38 weeks—and I walked away with a valuable lesson: to go forward, sometimes you have to take a step back; to go big, you have to go home.
In Built to Last, Jim Collins and Jerry Porras unpack what they call the “Tyranny of the ‘OR’,” the idea that you have to choose between a career or a family, profit or purpose, going big or going home. The same binary thinking holds our political system hostage today: you are either a Democrat or Republican, an environmentalist or a climate change denier, a pro-lifer or a baby-killer, with me or against me.
As an alternative, Collins and Porras explain that visionary leaders, whether of a country or a company, liberate themselves with the “Genius of the ‘AND’.” They are nimble and steadfast, strong-armed and open-minded, principled and bipartisan, authoritative and collaborative.
Contrary to popular belief, governance like entrepreneurship is not a solo sport. It is far bigger than any one party or person, which is why a single election, for better or worse, will not have the drastic consequences we envision. ‘Making America Great Again’ is not a one-man job over a four-year stint. To usher in an American resurgence, we need to return to the qualities that made this country great in the first place: economic mobility, entrepreneurial dynamism, shared prosperity, and collective action.
For me, to “go home” has a third and fundamental meaning: to look inwards and ask oneself the larger questions. What purpose am I trying to achieve? What type of life do I want to live? And, what type of world do I want to live in? An election is the time for that too, a chance to come together and take care of ourselves, a chance to reassess our priorities and reset our national compass in the direction of true north.
…And no, I do not mean Canada.
Onward and Upward!
Originally published at medium.com