3 things I learned starting a social enterprise in Nepal

Yesterday I had the honor of addressing attendees of Skövde Business Week. I presented my experiences founding the Learning House, a center devoted to education, leadership and community in Western Nepal. To hear my full talk, click this link.
I believe “A rising tide lifts all boats.” I don’t think scientific research is needed to show that more educated and competent citizens lead to more talented business recruits who in turn create better, more effective businesses. Getting the tide to rise is the difficult part.
My work has taught me the following:

  1. Travel through life curious.
  2. Extend yourself to another.
  3. Ask questions.

When we become fixed on an end result, we tend to lose beautiful opportunities along the way. Had I not allowed myself to explore Nepal, to be open to promise and potential and brokenness, I would have missed some truly profound moments. Since arriving in 2013, I have seen many volunteers come and go; some are so focused on their defined role as Volunteer Teacher they fail to look beyond designated responsibilities and connect with the people they came to serve in the first place.
We dig trenches around ourselves. They’re deepened by societal roles and professional delegations. Our personal selves and true passions become hidden from colleagues, friends, even our families. The irony is that when we move beyond these lines and reach out to each other, we forge meaningful relationships and experience life more deeply. This is when we win.
Finally, ask questions. Your colleague, your neighbor, your grandmother, your client. Who are they? Where are they going? Can you help? It’s impossible to solve problems and brainstorm solutions without taking time to listen. The most successful companies (and people!) are the ones listening — and they’re shifting, giving, adapting and changing in ways that show they care.