Startup Week 2016: The Self-Help Startup

Life on the Mesa: The Introduction of a Lifetime...

Left to right: Dr. Muhammad Ibrahim, Amanda Caniglia, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus, and Naila Chowdhury

June 16, 2016 Comments (0) Views: 630 Blog, Life on the Mesa

Life on the Mesa: What You Didn’t Know About Muhammad Yunus

At times, the Nobel Prize winner and social business rock star is just like the rest of us

Come sit by me…

So there I was, last Friday, at the Geisel House, seated at the dining table with the Chancellor, Executive Vice Chancellor, incoming EVC, Dean of the Medical School, VC of Students Affairs, Director of QI, the new Director of Social Impact, and the guest of honor, UC San Diego’s 2016 commencement speaker and 2006 Nobel Peace Prize winner, Professor Muhammad Yunus. Holy shit! If you thought last week’s meetup with Sir Richard Branson was incredible, this dinner was off the charts. What an honor to have a seat at the table with such global change makers. The evening was absolutely exquisite, from the warm reception on the ocean view terrace overlooking Scripps Pier on La Jolla Shores, to the intimate and inviting dining table inside the famous home. This was a table full of joy, laughter, compassion, and sincere concern for the future of our world.

The earthquake earlier that morning that woke many of us was no mere coincidence. Two forces of nature, my mentor Naila Chowdhury and her mentor, Professor Mohammad Yunus, had reunited. Naila has recently joined UC San Diego as their Director of Social Impact. She was headhunted into Grameenphone Ltd. in 1998, leading the company to becoming one of the largest GSM operators in Asia.

“You sure know how to steal talent,” I joked. Yunus turned and gave the most innocently sly grin. He knew that he had chosen wisely. One of the very projects led by Naila, The Village Phone Women of Bagladesh, played a key role in helping him earn the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize. Yunus was able to see the power within this woman. Naila was born to lead and her ability to attract and inspire is rare. Who wouldn’t want to steal this magnetic woman away to lead their own mission? And that’s exactly what the University has done, lured Naila from the east coast to take on the position of Director of Social Impact.

Yunus brought microcredit to the world. He saw a problem with our banking system and didn’t think twice to change it. He has now set his sights on our education system as well. We have been made into “job seekers.” But given the chance, and the right tools, we are all capable of creating our own opportunities to sustain a healthy life. Yunus believes there is an entrepreneur in all of us—he is the ultimate social entrepreneur.

While there are books, documentaries, videos, and websites dedicated to this man, I thought it best to share some other facts you might not know about the man behind the movement. Important facts like: Yunus prefers lemonade to lemon drops, and he likes fried oysters, not on the half shell or Rockefeller. He’s a fish 'n’ chips kind of guy, not caviar or duck confit. Yunus starts his day well before 6 a.m. and does not miss a minute of it.

While playing tour guide this weekend, we did let him sneak in a catnap of about 60 seconds on the ride to Seaport Village. At times he is just like the rest of us. The only difference between him and others is that he never stops believing in his dream. His passion continually drives him to move forward, and the more times he shares his message, the more his passion recharges. When the tour ends, Yunus jumps out of the front seat and gives me the biggest hug ever. I am sure our paths will cross again, and I tell him just that. There is so much work to be done here in San Diego. So many lives that we can change.

Life on the Mesa is absolutely fascinating, and if you take a moment to see what is going on up here, you will be surprised. And our hope is that you, too, will become involved. The fire has been ignited and there is going to be a huge shift, as social business takes center stage on the Mesa. Come sit by me. I can’t wait to share your story.

Professor Yunus will host the 7th Social Business Day in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on July 28-29.


Upcoming Events (I'll be at the fun table…)

  • UC San Diego Design Lab Design Forward Summit
    June 16, Port Pavilion on Broadway Pier
    If you are reading this, I hope it’s while riding an Uber on your way down to Broadway Pier. So pumped for this city summit led by Don Norman and Michele Morris from UC San Diego’s Design Lab. First of its kind, the summit seeks to bring together all the creative minds in our region’s design world with civic leaders and entrepreneurs to learn the true value and potential of human-centered design. Stoked to hear about their next steps and will be sure to fill you in on all the deets in next week’s post.
  • Connect with CONNECT
    June 21, 5-7 p.m., J Labs
    Do you believe in “serendipitous run-ins?” CONNECT is sure to make a believer out of you. Their next mixer featuring life science innovators will be just around the corner at JLabs.


Food for thought…

While hanging out with Yunus and his brother Dr. Ibraham this weekend, I came to notice that not one person recognized him while we were out on the town. Walking through Balboa Park, I was sure that people would stop and notice this amazing man whose face has adorned magazine covers. I mean, this man won the Nobel Peace Prize, was voted one of the 12 greatest entrepreneurs of this era by Fortune Magazine, and has lifted millions out of poverty across the globe. Perhaps it was a nice break from the constant onslaught of media attention he receives while racing around the globe to inspire and teach about social business.

My dearest San Diegans, this was a huge wake-up call for me to push our goal to connect our city globally even further. Are we that far removed? Do we live in a frickin’ bubble? Not gonna lie. I wouldn’t have known who he was if it weren’t for my mentor, Naila Chowdhury, coming into my life. I’ve been in the mommy bubble for seven years. I’ve also been building my own companies so I've had Swieners and Bella Vista tunnel vision. The fault is all mine. How could I be so disconnected from the rest of the world? I am not here to point fingers. I know that we all have responsibilities to our families, friends, to work. A lot of us are hustlin’ to try and make a dolla’ out of fifteen cents. The spare time we do have doesn’t always go to NPR or the nightly news. So how do we come together to recognize this problem and not make excuses but rather find solutions to change it?

I, for one, think that we should start to recognize the true rock stars in this world. For some, their idols are sports heroes, movie stars, musicians, even politicians. Who do I put up on a pedal stool? Those who truly make an impact.

Let’s do it together. Lets make smart the new sexy. Let’s put our efforts into celebrating our local heroes who make a difference and the global leaders who bring goodness into this world. San Diego, we are on the brink of some major changes. Let’s be that force to spearhead a movement.

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