In Search for a Cause: Do you need one or can you remain “generally” passionate?
Whenever we see profiles of today’s changemakers, we tend to see two flavors: (1) those that champion one specific cause and (2) those that prefer the “general idea” of doing good, which can lead them to serve several causes or “issue areas”, e.g., healthcare, education, poverty, etc. Thus, as more and more young people find inspiration and motivation from their peers and idols around the world to dedicate themselves to a career of doing good, many ask themselves what their personal story will be.
It is actually very easy to follow the story of people being magnetically drawn to a particular issue, say, AIDS or illiteracy, as a matter of personal background or unique experiences. We read about it every day. Joe goes on vacation in Africa, sees some poor people, is moved, ends up staying 5 years living with the locals, eventually returns home, tells a story, raises money, starts some company, does good, gets contacted by NY Times, does interview – BAM, fame, fun, the rest is history. But what about the others? What about the rest of us without an apparent cause?
What about the others, who do not get “fatally infected” by a particular experience and who do not otherwise have personal circumstances that compel them towards something specific? I would argue that for every 1 Joe that finds his inspiration, there are 1,000 Janes who, despite having had moving experiences and moments, are more or less “cause-agnostic”. They care about a lot of things. But not about one thing so much that it will fuel their passion for the next 10-20 years, or even the rest of their lives. For lack of concrete examples, take me for instance. Today I am a Jane, not a Joe. I have seen pregnant mothers with AIDS in Arusha, homeless families sleeping under highway overpasses in Delhi, slum dwellers scrape by in Hyderabad, and the promise of organic farming in the mountains behind Florianopolis. I have seen and I have been moved. And yet, I have not been fatally infected. I care about them all equally – that is, a lot. So I have not seen myself compelled towards one particular cause as of today. Perhaps, if I am honest with myself, up till now I have may have simply been content feeling my impact on a more intellectual level than emotional level. I explored these two concepts in a previous post, if you remember. Personally I am fine with this, because I think we need a whole lot of other work done besides becoming all passion-consumed social entrepreneurs. It may not be as glamorous work, but it remains to be done, and I am happy to be a good stage worker behind the scenes. But I am curious what your thoughts are if you take a moment to look inside.
So here are my questions for you to ponder this week: if you are one of these thousands of people who has been brooding, thinking, talking, reading about doing good, but you do not find yourself gravitating towards one particular cause, what do you make of it (I referred to a group of you, including myself, lovingly as “armchair entrepreneurs” in a previous post)? Are you worried that not having an all-consuming passion will make it difficult for you to become the next Muhammad Yunus (assuming you want to be the next Muhammad Yunus)? Can you be an entrepreneur who will last the distance without one powerful driving cause? Or does it mean you have to go work for CSR and sustainability in some corporation and wait for the cause to “hit you” (assuming the cause is not sustainability)? Does it mean you have to become an impact investor or program officer at a foundation because you prefer having your daily “do-good buffet” of multiple causes to choose from? Otherwise, can you “search and find” causes out there in the world, just like finding the love of your life? How do the odds of finding it compare to the latter actually? Or do you first have to experience “it” yourself before you mobilize? Does someone – God forbid – first have to get cancer in your family (or even you) before it burns you to crusade against cancer? Do you first have to see an elephant poached, a bird drowning in oil, or a baby seal clubbed in front of you to embrace conservation?
Or heck, do you think this is all useless drivel about “the” cause, because you don’t need one, because doing good as a general motivation is, well, good enough to keep you going?
What is your game plan to find your cause? What is your plan while you’re waiting for it to find YOU? What is your plan if you don’t need a cause at all?
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