Banker To The Poor by Muhammad Yunus

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The other day I gave a lift to two kids who were walking to school. I was very saddened by the distance they had to cover walking to and from school. I could see that they were wearing worn out school clothes but they were not that much worried about that.

Poverty strips you of your dignity.

This reminded me of an impactful book I read couple of years ago. In his book: Banker to the Poor: Micro-Lending and the Battle Against World Poverty, Prof Muhammad Yunus makes the following observations about poverty:

– “When we want to help the poor, we usually offer them charity. Most often we use charity to avoid recognizing the problem and finding the solution for it. Charity becomes a way to shrug off our responsibility. But charity is no solution to poverty. Charity only perpetuates poverty by taking the initiative away from the poor. Charity allows us to go ahead with our own lives without worrying about the lives of the poor. Charity appeases our consciences.” ― Muhammad YunusBanker to the Poor: Micro-Lending and the Battle Against World Poverty

 

– “If you go out into the real world, you cannot miss seeing that the poor are poor not because they are untrained or illiterate but because they cannot retain the returns of their labor. They have no control over capital, and it is the ability to control capital that gives people the power to rise out of poverty.” ― Muhammad YunusBanker to the Poor: Micro-Lending and the Battle Against World Poverty

– “People.. were poor not because they were stupid or lazy. They worked all day long, doing complex physical tasks. They were poor because the financial institution in the country did not help them widen their economic base.” ― Muhammad YunusBanker to the Poor: Micro-Lending and the Battle Against World Poverty

– “I believe that we can create a poverty-free world because poverty is not created by poor people. It has been created and sustained by the economic and social systems that we have designed for ourselves; the institutions and concepts that make up that system; the policies that we pursue.” ― Muhammad YunusCreating a World Without Poverty: Social Business and the Future of Capitalism

– “When a destitute mother starts earning an income, her dreams of success invariably center around her children. A woman’s second priority is the household. She wants to buy utensils, build a stronger roof, or find a bed for herself and her family. A man has an entirely different set of priorities. When a destitute father earns extra income, he focuses more attention on himself. Thus money entering a household through a woman brings more benefits to the family as a whole.” ― Muhammad YunusBanker to the Poor: Micro-Lending and the Battle Against World Poverty

– “The fact that the poor are alive is clear proof of their ability.” ― Muhammad YunusBanker to the Poor: Micro-Lending and the Battle Against World Poverty

– “Even today we don’t pay serious attention to the issue of poverty, because the powerful remain relatively untouched by it. Most people distance themselves from the issue by saying that if the poor worked harder, they wouldn’t be poor.” ― Muhammad YunusBanker to the Poor: Micro-Lending and the Battle Against World Poverty

– “Poverty does not belong in civilized human society. Its proper place is in a museum. That’s where it will be.” ― Muhammad YunusBanker to the Poor: Micro-Lending and the Battle Against World Poverty

– “We prepare our students for jobs and careers, but we don’t teach them to think as individuals about what kind of world they would create.” ― Muhammad YunusCreating a World Without Poverty: Social Business and the Future of Capitalism

– “I’m encouraging young people to become social business entrepreneurs and contribute to the world, rather than just making money. Making money is no fun. Contributing to and changing the world is a lot more fun.” ― Muhammad YunusCreating a World Without Poverty: Social Business and the Future of Capitalism

– “Like navigation markings in unknown waters, definitions of poverty need to be distinctive and unambiguous. A definition that is not precise is as bad as no definition at all.” ― Muhammad YunusBanker to the Poor: Micro-Lending and the Battle Against World Poverty

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Average is for Losers: How to Stand Out and Be Remarkable From the Ground Up

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It’s the question that’s on the mind of every business-owner, CEO, and entrepreneur: how do we make our products and services stand out from the crowd?

While this idea has always been relevant to some degree, never before has the fate of our success relied so heavily on distinguishing ourselves from the competition.

What’s the big deal with being remarkable? If something is remarkable, it means it’s worth literally making a remark about. People are going to talk about it. And, in the age of the internet, if people talk about your product or service, it spreads — for free! This word-of-mouth viral marketing is how ideas spread, and businesses bloom.

So how do we make something remarkable? By being exceptionally unique. Because customers now have so much choice, in addition to being inundated with an overwhelming amount of information everyday, being “very good” is no longer good enough. If you offer a product or service that is merely very good (which is still, please take note, an admirable achievement), it will not succeed long-term in today’s market because no one is going to notice it for a sustained period of time.

Consumers don’t care about you at all; they just don’t care. Part of the reason is: they have way more choices than they used to, and way less time. And in a world where we have too many choices and too little time, the obvious thing to do is just ignore stuff that is average and pay attention to things that stand out, that are innovative.

On the other hand, if you create something remarkable, people will absolutely take notice; remarkable ideas rise above the fray.

In his book The Purple Cow, Seth Godin provides a catchy analogy to help us remember how to stand out.

“You’re driving down the road and you see a cow, and you keep driving because you have seen cows before. Cows are invisible. Cows are boring. Who’s going to stop and pull over and say — oh, look, a cow. Nobody.

“But if the cow was purple? You would notice it for a while. The thing that’s going to decide what gets talked about, what gets done, what gets changed, what gets purchased, what gets built is: is it remarkable?”

But this new way of thinking is not about tacking on a last-minute fancy advertising or marketing bow; it’s about building something outstanding from the ground up, producing quality products and services with a built-in remarkable factor.

These ideas are relevant because, as we are in the middle of a seismic shift, traditional schools of thought on business and marketing no longer cut the muster:

For 80 years, you got a job, you did what you were told, and you retired. But the industrial age is going away and the start-up revolution is taking its place. We are totally unprepared, our schools, our systems, our taxes are all built around this notion of doing what you are told. And now we don’t know what to do because it’s a revolution.

If that sounds to you like something of a rally cry — it is. In order to thrive in this new world, we need to think backwards, take initiative, and make our voices heard:

Don’t wait for someone to pick you. Pick yourself.

Are you taking the lead to make your business remarkable? If not, what’s stopping you? The world needs more innovations, we need more of what Seth calls purple cows and make sure yours leaves a lasting, unique impression.

It doesn’t matter whether you own a building or own a big company, you can make an impact if you want to.

Average is for Losers: Ten Ways on How to be Remarkable

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  1. Understand the urgency of the situation. Half-measures simply won’t do. The only way to grow is to abandon your strategy of doing what you did yesterday, but better. Commit to being different.
  2. Remarkable doesn’t mean remarkable to you. It means remarkable to me. Am I going to make a remark about it? If not, then you are average, and average is for losers.
  3. Being noticed is not the same as being remarkable. Running down the street naked will get you noticed, but it won’t accomplish much. It’s easy to pull off a stunt, but not useful. Don’t be different for the sake of being different; be different because it is better.
  4. Extremism in the pursuit of remarkability is no sin. In fact, it’s practically a requirement. People in first place, those considered the best in the world, these are the folks that get what they want. Rock stars have groupies because they’re stars, not because they are good looking.
  5. Remarkability lies in the edges. The biggest, fastest, slowest, richest, easiest, most difficult. It doesn’t always matter which edge, more that you’re at (or beyond) the edge. The Mini Cooper and Hummer, former being the smallest and the latter being the biggest were at some point the two most sold cars. They are different not average.
  6. Not everyone appreciates your efforts to be remarkable. In fact, most people don’t. So what? Most people are ostriches, heads in the sand, unable to help you anyway. Your goal is not to please everyone. Your goal is to please those that actually speak up, spread the word, buy new things or hire the talented.
  7. If it’s in a manual, if it’s the accepted wisdom, if you can find it in a Dummies book, then guess what? It’s boring, not remarkable. Part of what it takes to do something remarkable is to do something first and best. Roger Bannister was remarkable. The next guy, the guy who broke Bannister’s record wasn’t. He was just faster … but it doesn’t matter.
  8. It’s not really as scary as it seems. They keep the masses in line by threatening them (us) with all manner of horrible outcomes if we dare to step out of line. But who loses their jobs at the mass layoffs? Who has trouble finding a new gig? Not the remarkable minority, that’s for sure.
  9. If you put it on a T-shirt, would people wear it? No use being remarkable at something that people don’t care about. Not ALL people, mind you, just a few. A few people insanely focused on what you do is far far better than thousands of people who might be mildly interested, right?
  10. What’s fashionable soon becomes unfashionable. While you might be remarkable for a time, if you don’t reinvest and reinvent, you won’t be remarkable for long. Instead of resting on your laurels, you must commit to being remarkable again quite soon.

Average is for losers: Your Job is not to Copy-Edit but to Design

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Initiating a project, a blog, a start-up, a family journey, these are things that don’t come naturally to many people. The challenge is in initiating something even when you are not putatively in charge.

Not enough people believe they are capable of productively starting something. More often we are told to do something, follow the step by step process. Its easier to wait to be told what to do, than to initiate something on your own.

At the same time, almost all people believe they are capable of editing, giving feedback or merely criticising.

So finding people to fix your typos is easy.

I don’t think the shortage of initiators and innovators has much to do with the innate ability to create or initiate. I think it has to do with believing that it’s possible and acceptable for you to do it. We have only had these particular doors open wide for a decade or so.

Unfortunately most people have been brainwashed into believing that their job is to copyedit the world, not to design it.

That used to be your job. It’s not, not anymore. You go first, initiate.

The average wants to copy and edit. In the connection economy, those that make a difference are the ones who creates and innovates.

Average is for Losers: The Spectator Problem…

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Talk shows, from Noeleen, Oprah or shows such as the Fresh Prince of Bel Air, have always been about spectating. Comedy, TV, graphic arts, business leadership, politics, they have been sold to us as spectator sports.

Selling spectatorhood is pretty easy. It’s safe and fun and easy. You hit the remote. You pretend you have power, the power to turn it off, to change the channel, to buy or not to buy.

The TV industrial complex has seduced the masses with a simple bargain, and even permitted the role of the spectator to move into the work world. Most people, most of the time, are told to watch, not to lead, to follow, not to create.

Waiting for breakfast in bed to be served is very different indeed than getting up early and serving breakfast in bed.

The spectators foolishly assert that if everyone was a doer, a leader and a disruptor, then there would be no one left in the audience. As if those that do require an audience.

The alternative to being a spectator involves failure and apparent risk because doing carries the risk of failure. It means that you will encounter people who accuse you of excessive self-confidence and flying too high (like Icarus, flying closer to the sun), people who are eager to point out the loose thread on your jacket, the typo in your spelling or the flaw in your reasoning.

The spectators in the stands are happy to boo, happy to walk out when the team is struggling in the field, happy to switch if the bread or the circuses cease to satisfy them.

Why on earth, they ask, would they want to be anything but a spectator?

And yet, those that have foolishly picked themselves, stood up, stood out and made a difference, can’t help but ask, “and why would I ever want to be a spectator again?”

Spectators work for doers.

In a spectator-fueled industrial economy, there were a few who made and the rest of us watched.

In the connection economy, on the other hand, we are spending more and more time consuming what our peers make and then turning right around and making things for our friends to consume.

If you are afraid to write or edit or assemble or disassemble, you are merely a spectator. And you are trapped, trapped by the instructions of those you have chosen to follow.

Twenty people in the field and eighty thousand in the stands. The spectators are the ones who paid to watch, but it’s the players on the field who are truly alive.

Lets refrain from being spectators in a game in which we should be participant. — Steve Biko

Sure we will always need spectators, but that doesn’t mean it has to be you.

Average is for Losers: If You’re An Average Worker, You are Going Straight To The Bottom

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The way we do business is changing fast and in order to keep up, your entire mentality about work has to change just as quickly.

Unfortunately, most people aren’t adapting fast enough to this change in the workplace

The recession in which jobs are being lost is becoming endless, this current “recession is a forever recession” because it’s the end of the industrial age, which also means the end of the average worker.

For 80 years, you got a job, you did what you were told and you retired. People are raised on this idea that if they pay their taxes and do what they are told, there’s some kind of safety net, or pension plan that’s waiting for them. But the days when people were able to get above average pay for average work are over.

If you are the average person out there doing average work, there is going to be someone else out there doing the exact same thing as you, but cheaper.

If you have an option between five restaurants to have lunch, which one would you choose. I bet you will not pick an average restaurant. Nobody chooses average. Average is for losers.

Now that the industrial economy is over, you should forget about doing things just because it’s assigned to you, or “never mind the race to the top, you will be racing to the bottom.”

However, if you are different somehow and have made yourself unique, people will find you and pay you more.

Instead of waiting around for someone to tell you that you matter, take your career into your own hands. In other words, don’t wait for someone else to pick you and pick yourself! If you have a book, you don’t need a publisher to approve you, you can publish it yourself. It’s no longer about waiting for some big corporation to choose you. We have arrived at an age where you choose yourself.

Quit or be exceptional, average is for losers. – Seth Godin

Turning the habit of self-criticism upside down

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Perhaps this sounds familiar:

When it’s time to write your cv or talk to a boss or discuss a project glitch with colleagues, the instinct is to spin, to avoid a little responsibility, to sit quietly. Put a best face forward, don’t set yourself up.

When reviewing just about anything you have done with yourself (in your head), the instinct is to be brutal, relentlessly critical and filled with doubt and self-blame.

What if they were reversed?

What if the habit of the project review meeting was for each person to put their worst foot forward, to identify every item that they learned from? What if we took responsibility as a way of getting more authority next time?

And the flip side, when talking to ourselves, what if we were a little more supportive?

It’s not an easy habit, but I think it works.

You have been criticising yourself for years and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens. — Louise Hay 

You are good enough