Karen James is a transformational leader, engineer and entrepreneur. She’s committed to helping others find their true purpose, whether it’s through her speaking engagements, website, book, or podcast. She also regularly emcees for Business Chicks’ conferences and events, and is one of our PowerPlayers facilitators.
Recently she had the honour of talking to Professor Muhammad Yunus, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for founding the Grameen Bank and pioneering the concepts of microcredit and microfinance, for her Get On Purpose podcast. Here Karen shares her favourite takeaways…
I’m sure we’ve all been there. That moment you’re in the midst of your career, or life, the phone rings and there it is. An invitation to your ‘moment’ where everything aligns with precision and time slows long enough for you to breathe in and savour the feeling. A gift beyond measure.
My moment was more an array of experiences that stretched my talents as a comedian and fed my insatiable commitment to reach many and drive Just Change for a world which needs changing, fast.
Thanks to CommBank’s Women in Focus and Grameen Bank, I had the unique opportunity of interviewing Nobel Laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus for my podcast, Get On Purpose. I’d love to share his simple wisdom for living life on purpose, knowing your power and being a progressive leader and change agent for the world.
Professor Muhammad Yunus, founder of Grameen Bank, is a Bangladeshi social entrepreneur, banker, and economist who pioneered the concepts of microcredit and microfinance. Prof. Yunus and Grameen Bank were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006, “For their efforts to create economic and social development from below” after giving loans to entrepreneurs too poor to qualify for traditional bank loans.
Prof. Yunus prides himself on his tenacity to change one person at a time by redefining poverty.
“Poverty is not created by people who are poor. So we shouldn’t give them an accusing look. They are the victims. Poverty has been created by the economic and social system that we have designed for the world,” he wrote in a paper on Global Urban Development in 2005.
“Human beings are packed with unlimited creative capacity. I invite everyone to realise that you are powerful and ask yourself, ‘What use will I make of this power’? If you use it you can change the whole world. So don’t miss it. Don’t waste it. Use it. Make a new world.” – Prof. Yunus
In his new book A World of Three Zeros, Prof. Yunus unpacks his life experience and delivers unique ideas on how we can bust through systems that are holding people back. When challenged with the realisation that right now there are eight men who control the same wealth as 3.7 billion people, we know there’s something wrong with that economic model and it’s got to change.
I’d love to share three favourite out-takes from my conversation with Prof. Yunus.
Prof. Yunus, can you share your blueprint for living your life ‘on purpose’?
“I’m glad you raised that question about the purpose. This is a common theme that our education system misses. It’s the most fundamental thing in education – to encourage young people to discover their purpose and define their purpose as they go through their education system. Without this, they can just drift along back and forth not knowing what this life is all about.
“So it’s a very important aspect – what purpose I have in my life. In the beginning, I wanted to make sure that I was useful to at least one other person. That’s how it began. I did things to make myself relevant to another person then, I saw I could make myself useful to several people and I designed things like that. If you can address a problem for a few people, then you’ve hit the point where this is a common thing, and you can solve the problem for all people around the globe.
“No problem is a local problem. No problem is an individual problem. No problem is a localised problem. All problems we see around us are actually global problems.”
How can we see the world differently and all make a difference?
“The problem is the misinterpretation of a human being in economic theory. The capitalist theory that we have to assume human beings are driven by self-interest and selfishness. So an interpretation is that people wear glasses with dollar signs in the lens, so all we see is the dollar sign. But we can all put bifocal glasses on. The short vision sees dollar signs so we can take care of ourselves, but we have a longer vision to see the rest of the world.
“So take the bifocal view, see the world from two different perspectives and play a role in both worlds. One is making money, and one is social business to solve problems. It’s a wonderful experience to do that.”
Finally, what is your top tip for us to live purposeful lives?
“Human beings are packed with unlimited creative capacity. I invite everyone to realise that you are powerful and ask yourself, ‘What use will I make of this power’?
“If you use it you can change the whole world. That’s the power here. So don’t miss it. Don’t waste it. Use it. Make a new world.”
It is our honour and privilege to share our conversation with Professor Yunus. Watch the video, you can just see his amazing energy. What an incredible man and life-changing conversation. There are so many tips within this one podcast, these are just a few that I found were distinct points that mattered to me the most. But listen for yours. Connect your heart with your head, know your power and go out there and unapologetically do good work that matters most to you.