Life is about finding your unique contribution

Some words of inspiration from Julie Meyer, CEO and founder of Ariadne Capital and co-founder of First Tuesday

Jerry Garcia, guitarist for the Grateful Dead, once said, “You do not merely want to be considered just the best of the best. You want to be considered the only one who does what you do.” I think that’s right. Life is about finding your unique contribution that only you can make to the world. And it’s not necessarily being the best of the best, or the wealthiest of the wealthy, but what are you supposed to do. No one should get off with being a free-rider in society.

Plato argued that there are Players, Spectators and ice-cream vendors; some people make it happen, others watch it happen, and others sell ice cream to both. And many people will strenuously argue that that hierarchy basically shakes out in all that we do.

I Plato got it wrong. I believe that everyone at their core wants to know what their unique contribution to the world is, but some people need someone to send the elevator down to them in order to figure it out. They need a helping hand. We may find that it’s part of our unique contribution to help others by sending the elevator down, to those who are struggling to find their way, and who have yet to determine what their unique contribution is to the world.

Organisations like Women Unlimited and the Prince’s Trust are not just sending the elevator down, but around, up and down, and all over the place – working to build a growth story for our society where the entrepreneur is FRONT AND CENTER. It is by people helping people, and entrepreneurs backing entrepreneurs, that the world moves forward in the most positive way.

Since I arrived in the UK 10 years ago, I’ve witnessed a surge of entrepreneurship such as there are hundreds of serial internet entrepreneurs out there, people like Brent Hoberman who was successful with out there again recently with MyDeco, his next big gig. The rise of the serial entrepreneur is good for the UK.

All entrepreneurs are in search of the BIG IDEA – but I think that entrepreneurship – itself – IS the big idea for the 21st Century – it will be the guiding force, and when the century comes to the close, people will recount story after story of how ordinary people did extraordinary things. If you agree with me, then you are in good company here with Iqbal Quadir, one of the founders of the Grameen Phone and Bank, says so well:

“Capitalism was about empowered authority which didn’t necessarily activate the citizenry; the Internet stands that on its head, and shifts the power to the Individual – making Individual Capitalism the force of the 21st Century”


And from the 19th Century, the following quote could be the mantra of any entrepreneur today;

“It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled or how the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes short again and again, who knows the great enthusiasm, the great venture and spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”

Those were the words of Theodore Roosevelt, a great American President, and I think they are tremendous. And I believe that they capture the honour involved of those who are committed to the journey that we are all on to find out how to not only identify but to execute and deliver – our unique contribution to the world.

So what will we learn this century, and today and the sooner the better I hope – we will learn that life is not fair, and you cannot engineer outcomes. You can have a vision, work hard, have luck [good or bad], seize opportunity – sometimes you win, but you always learn. And it takes great courage to keep trying.

In conclusion, I’m going to share a final quote from Marianne Williamson which gets at what that personal journey is all about:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? … Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. … And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

And finally, I say;

  • Individual Capitalism the force of the 21st Century
  • Follow the Entrepreneur – he or she is the hero, he or she is the value creator, he or she has the insight into the market opportunities, he or she is the seeker of excellence.
  • And send the elevator around in your lives…
  • Don’t play small


Photo Credit: Photo by Mumbly Joe

Be the change that you want to see. Step into your leadership.