Living and Giving

On Entrepreneurship: You Have to Want to Build a MudHouse in Your Home

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… But Let Your Family Help You Build It

I want to discuss a point that I think is important for social entrepreneurs, or any entrepreneur. Often they ask me, \”How do I know if it is right to start a social entrepreneurship organization?\” or \”How do you make the jump and just start?\”

I think everyone is different. In many ways, if you have to ask that question regarding social entrepreneurship, or marriage, then I think for me —  it probably isn\’t right. I didn\’t have a choice with UniversalGiving.Yes, I had fear. But I also had exhilaration and a call. I had white boards up in my bedroom with black capital letters \”YOU WILL NOT GIVE UP. YOU CAN DO THIS!\” which \’greeted\’ me every morning. I was inspired, called, obsessed… in a good way.

But for others, that may not be the case. For example, you might start a social entrepreneurship organization and have \’slower goals.\’ You might be happy to affect the world in one meaningful, specific, targeted way. You might decide to join a social entrepreneurship team and its existing momentum, providing your valuable skills and input in an existing effort. And similar to some people with marriage, you might not know immediately. I\’ve seen successful marriages where people had to think more, analyze, understand that value of their partner, and it took many years to understand this valuable relationship. And so, it could be the case with social entrepreneurship as well.

Everyone is different; there can be no judging. Your concept of how to best get involved in social entrepreneurship, or in a relationship, is specific to you. There is no one way.

There is however, one pathway to follow: and that is your values. You have to go deep inside yourself to understand what type of person you are. And that\’s what Richard Dreyfus, as Roy Neary in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, shows us below.

What? He Built a MudHouse in His Home?

Roy had a calling. He hadn\’t seen it, but had been impelled to start building Devils Tower.


He set up a card table and began slapping mud blobs on top of each other, building this vision of a mountain. It was to be the place where future aliens would land. So he built it: a huge mudtower in his living room. His wife thought he was crazy. It must have been challenging for their marriage. But something called him to do it.

A colleague asked me the other day, \”How do I know when to jump and start my business?\”

I think you have to want to build a mudhome in your living room, and you can’t always see the whole reason why. You are wonderfully obsessed.

Mud or Naps?

This is the shock: Roy actually leaves his family for the aliens. That\’s right. He leaves family for his calling. Should you do this?

Everyone must make that decision on their own, for themselves, about what calling, family, balance mean to you and your inner truth. Seek out Devils Mountain? Devote every waking moment to your business? Visit family and take walks or a nap on Sunday afternoon? Stay true to your inner voice.  Be honest with your family about what your calling means, and how that might change your, and their, lives. Then continue to stay true to yourself.

The Hula Hoop Syndrome

If you don\’t, you\’ll face a life of what I would call the Hula-hoop Syndrome. And it\’s not pretty. We all enjoy the exhilaration of hoolahooping as a kid. For about 3.7 seconds, if we are any good. 🙂 But we can\’t maintain going back and forth and juggling and racing our body to each end to hold it up. It eventually falls. So could you.

\"\"But we can\’t maintain going back and forth and juggling and racing our body to each end to hold it up. It eventually falls. So could you.


Don\’t get battered around by what people — or society — say you should do. The same goes for your calling. There are people out there called to follow their vision for the majority of their lives. Some are brilliant composers. Some may need to travel nine months out of the year. I just read of a man in his 60s who is leaving his wife for three years to go start a school in Africa. Is this wrong?


I can\’t really say. And, I don’t yet know how I will handle my situation when I become a mom. I can only hope I will make decisions that uphold the relationships in my life as precious, and ensure those people feel honored, loved. I aspire to achieve a balance of time for work, and time for family, clearly, lovingly delineated. Regardless, I honor all parents who are striving to understand this balance, and the unique choices they make…

For you, balance is… what feels most right to you. You have to follow your inner voice, or Truth, while being honest, clear with your family. Ideally, you can incorporate them into your thinking so it is a joint thinking, a mutual commitment to your passion and to theirs. Then commit to living a life of meaning — whatever that means to you – mud, or naps, or naps alongside the mud.

Back to The Amazing Women at Harvard

I wrote in an earlier post about the amazing, diverse women I met at Harvard’s Dynamic Women in Business Conference. What I think is so exciting, and what this means for everyone, are lives of authenticity and diversity. In 20 years, I expect we will see the following as norms:

Women find their soul mate and get married for the first time at age 22.

Women find their soul mate and get married for the first time at 62.

Women don\’t get married.

Women get married and have families.

Women don\’t get married and have children.

Women don\’t get married and adopt children.

Women live with other women in a community of friends, to raise their children.

Each pathway is good. It\’s all about your Truth. Follow it, and you, your life, your family, your community, your world, will see the fruits of your living. Imagine all of us doing this openly and honestly… a wonderful world we can aspire to, starting with ourselves.