Sunday, December 1, 2013

Dealing with the cracks: Art and entrepreneurs

Although I’ve always dreamed of being an artist, my stick figure drawings or Power Point presentations have somehow never quite qualified me. According to one of Pakistan’s most well known novelists, however, my dreams might not be completely hopeless.

In a talk last week at the Acumen Fellows Irtiqa conference, Mohsin Hamid painted a simple yet profound [re]definition of art:
Art is the unwillingness to accept the way things are.
We went on to share that he has realized that a part of him has always been a bit cracked, and that 
Dealing with that crack is what art is. 
As he spoke, I thought about the dozens of entrepreneurs I know who see the work that they are doing as a response to cracks, as an unwillingness to accept the way things are. I thought of my friend Neil at Zaya, who refuses to accept that low income children in India only have access to a rote-memorization based education. Or my friend Mario at Wedu, who refuses to accept that girls in South East Asia don’t have access to higher education. Or our own work at Amal Academy.

Repositioning entrepreneurship as art is powerful. 

As Jacqueline Novogratz later shared, choosing a life of impact can mean choosing a life of pain. And as I've realized this year with Amal, entrepreneurship is indeed painful. And it’s lonely. And exhausting. And can even be depressing. But in the end, it’s worth the labor pains, because ultimately art is born.

And the beautiful thing about art is that it defies the oppression of perfection, as there is no such thing as perfect art. Indeed, we might not ever know how it affects someone. Or who it affects. Or even when it affects them. 

But somehow we can know that art/entrepreneurship matters. That it inspires. That it changes "the way things are." And that ultimately, it makes the world a better place.