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Live from Skoll World Forum 2015

With so much going on at the 2015 Skoll World Forum, it's impossible to participate in everything. Our bloggers are sitting in on many of the exciting sessions at this year's event. Read their concise notes and observations to catch up on important discussions you may have missed.


FORUM2015: The Time to Believe and Achieve

FORUM2015: The Time to Believe and Achieve

April 28, 2015 | 3183 views

WED, APRIL 15, 2015; 17:00 – 18:30

We are all familiar with the concept of self-limiting beliefs. I am sure there have been times where you have questioned yourself and worried about whether you can accomplish something you have set out to do. It ultimately comes down to belief. Belief in yourself and the beliefs which inspire your modus operandi.

Belief is therefore a fitting theme for the 12th Annual Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship held in Oxford. As a social entrepreneur you often have to believe the unbelievable in order to push boundaries and create the change you wish to see.

It is no surprise that my belief set, like many others, has been influenced by my family – my amazingly inspirational parents and older sister; as well as spiritual philosophy drawn from my Hindu upbringing.

Here are five of my guiding beliefs as an entrepreneur:

1. Age is no barrier to success; we are only limited by our own imagination

I started my first venture, which at the time was called the English Secondary Students’ Association (ESSA), now known as Student Voice, at the age of 17. I was one of the youngest award winners of UnLtd, the foundation for social entrepreneurs who initially backed me with a “Level 1” grant of £5000. The aim of ESSA was to empower students by giving them a voice in their education.

I did not let my age hold me back. My self-belief came in from the belief shown in me by the UnLtd award. I soon realized that I had the ability (and the right) to interact with politicians, the media and education professionals, and found myself sharing platforms at political party conferences alongside leaders of major education unions talking about the concept of student voice. That is when I realized that anything is possible and the only thing holding us back is our imagination and ambition.

Jeff Skoll, in the Opening Plenary of the 2015 Skoll World Forum, re-emphasized this point when he said that “age is not a sign of wisdom.”

In many cases we use age as the basis for what we feel that people should be doing, thinking, or achieving. We have seen time and time again how young people are creating global movements and are often wise far beyond their years. Take Malala Yousafzai and her work in promoting education for girls. She is a role model for all young activists and social entrepreneurs and a prime example of how age is nothing but a number.

2. Everything happens for a reason; stay positive

As an entrepreneur there are countless ups and downs on your journey. I draw immense strength from my belief that everything that happens to me is for the best, and happens for a reason. There have been times where things seemingly haven’t gone my way; however, looking back, they have always been for the best.

Linked to this belief is my approach to seeing the positive in every situation. It is a conscious choice to focus on the negative over the positive, but sadly all too common to do so.

If we end up achieving three out of four things on our to-do list we often focus on the one thing we didn’t do, rather than the three we did. The same applies to the seemingly adverse situations we are faced with.

Every experience we have is a chance to learn, grow and develop. A positive mind breeds positive results.

3. Be present and aware of signs

When you are doing good and trying your hardest the world conspires to help you. The problem is that we spend our lives on autopilot oblivious to the signs and help offered.

This belief is very much linked to the last one – that things happen for a reason. Take time to reflect on things and think about why they may be happening. When things are very chaotic, try to step back and observe what is really going on rather than throwing yourself head first into every situation.

There is a growing movement around mindfulness and meditation as techniques to practice being present. While it’s a difficult belief to convey, it is one of the most powerful things to experience, and something which helps me in the way I conduct myself on a daily basis.

4. Life is too short to be miserable

Money is not a driving factor for me; happiness is. Life is short and precious and therefore I want to make the most of every day and ensure that I am happy and fulfilled in what I am doing.

If you are not happy in what you are doing right now ask yourself why? What is stopping you from changing?

5. “Be the change you wish to see”; do good and be good

This quotation from Gandhi is one of my favourites, and one which will resonate with most social entrepreneurs. If there is something you are frustrated about, rather than moan about it, do something to change it!

One of the most prolific Hindu teachers, Swami Vivekananda, said “To be good and do good, that is the whole of religion”, which really summarises my outlook on life. We are fortunate to be humans on this earth and it is our duty to give back and do something to make the world a better place.

This same concept can be extended to the world of corporations with more companies subscribing to the notion of “shared value” as described by Michael Porter, and “enlightened self-interest” where doing good is not just a “nice to have” but helps shift the needle in terms of bottom-line benefits and improving brands (particularly amongst millennials.)

These are the fundamentals of my beliefs. Take a moment to stop, reflect, and ask yourself why do you do what you do? What do you believe in which is helping you or stopping you from achieving what you would like?

It is time to consciously turn self-limiting beliefs into limitless beliefs; in doing so we empower ourselves to act and to acknowledge the fact that we are all immensely powerful beings who can achieve greatness if we just put our minds to it.


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