Image: Teach For America, founded by 1991 Fellow Wendy Kopp
Echoing Green has performed hundreds of in-depth interviews with our social entrepreneurship Fellows over 25 years, uncovering the common experiences that led them to their world-changing careers. From their stories, we pulled forth ten principles for identifying your purpose and putting it into action.
Right for You
Heart + Head = Hustle
Find ways to work from both your heart and your head, collapsing the divisions between these two aspects of yourself in your work as often as possible. It is the only way to achieve what we call hustle.
Know What You've Got - Know What You Need
Uncover your unique contribution(s) to the world. In the meantime, either develop the skills, strengths, contacts, experiences, insights, or education you still need, or prop yourself up by surrounding yourself with people whose gifts complement your own.
Mine Your Past
Reflect on your history in order to understand what motivates you, both positively and negatively. This reflection will help you create a career that is connected to your core.
Good for the World
________ is What Matters
Fill in the blank. It's important to be able to zoom out and see the interconnectedness of problems and their solutions, but we also need to be able to zoom in if we want to move the needle on an issue. So, identify what matters to you (a social problem, a particular population, something beautiful that you want everyone to experience) and prioritize it. After all, saying "yes" to what really matters almost always means saying "no" to other things.
Act on Moments of Obligation
Identify and seize the moments in which you have been, and continue to be, moved to take responsibility for helping solve one of the world's biggest problems. Then turn that feeling into concrete action.
Take Perspective…Someone Else’s
Cultivate a deep curiosity about the world and actively seek to understand other populations, perspectives, models, and disciplines. Taking a variety of people's perspectives into account is critical to innovative thinking, as it allows you to see connections and patterns where those who stay within a silo cannot; and understanding the perspectives of those affected by the social problems you hope to address is essential for high-impact, culturally competent work.
Become an expert in the work you are most drawn to. Get to know all of the relevant people, organizations, research, books, and articles; surround yourself those who are as excited to understand the field as you are; study; volunteer; immerse yourself!
Fear Means Go
Distinguish between healthy fears and the kind of barrier fears that stem from your insecurities. Your barrier fears are signals that you need to GO…not away from that which scares you, but toward it.
Gall to Think Big
Give yourself permission to try out smart, untested tactics, models, and ideas, even if you aren’t 100% certain you’ll succeed. After all, failure is one of life's greatest learning tools and can be proof that you are thinking big. (In fact, if you haven't failed in a while, ask yourself if you need to take on bolder challenges!)
Think Like an Entrepreneur
Move through your life and your career with an entrepreneurial spirit, and apply the focus, energy, and positivity to founding your social impact career that you would apply to founding a new business or organization.