Yahoo Employee Volunteers

I am a lifetime entrepreneur. Even when working for large organizations I find my approach to be entrepreneurial (what my mentor Gifford Pinchot would call Intrapreneurial).

It took me a while to accept that being an entrepreneur is part of my fundamental nature. It wasn't until my father retold me some stories about my childhood that the appellation truly clicked for me as being fitting. He would point out the treehouse in the woods that I organized, the sci-fi fanzine that I published, the software I wrote for a psychologist at age 16, and many other stories.

My father would tell me that he sometimes feared that I would be beat up by my peers in childhood because of this tendency. I was always the one who would discover the game that we should play together, the one that would suggest new ideas — but I didn't have the typical talents that children expect of their leaders. I was average looking, not charismatic, not strong nor quick and I was not part of the "in crowd". However, I muddled through my form of childhood leadership with the minimum of peer trouble.

I have discovered that I am different than many other lifetime entrepreneurs. Unlike them, I never sold lemonade on the curbside — I am not a natural salesman. I never led a sports team. I never bought candy cheaply at the market and sold it for a higher price at school. Instead, for me entrepreneuring was about discovering and sharing a passion with friends and doing something with it — a less self-serving variant of Tom Sawyer's inspirational "Does a boy get a chance to whitewash a fence every day?” pitch.

This means that what I do best is bring together people who have a common passion to create things. All of the successes of my career have had that as a fundamental element of what I do.

This gives me a somewhat different view of the nature of work — I have to have a relationship with those that work with me, I have to hold a space for the passions of everyone involved, and I have to marshal the creative best of everyone. This has made me an unusual leader and manager.

In recent years I have been teaching part-time in the MBA in Sustainable Systems program at Pinchot.edu. Even there I take an entrepreneurial approach, and teach my students in my own unique entrepreneurial style.

In one class one of my students, Bria Schlottman, sent me a Twitter DM: "Could you do me a quick favor: in a brainstorm type of dump, what words come to mind when you think about 'work'? Please list as many single words as possible."

I replied: "flow, shared energy, companionship, natural light, fresh air, a bit noisy, good connectivity, shared lunches."

With this and many other responses from her social network she created this video.

This inspired me to begin a dialogue with my friends, students, and colleagues about the nature of work. I have invited a number of them here to start this blog.

We all come from different perspectives, but we agree that our society's relationship to work can and should improve. We each have some insights as to what that would require, but none of us has all the answers. We believe that by collaborating together in this blog that we can inspire each other to dive deeper into this interesting topic.

Thus we invite you to share your insights with us and participate in whitewashing this fence, aka doing "Lively Work".

(photo credit: AlexPears in "Yahoo Employee Volunteers" using CC-SA)