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Here’s a simple exercise:

Go as far back as you can to when you were a child. Try to remember the oldest person holding you. What year were they born? Let’s say that the person was born in 1890 and held you when you were 4 in 1974. Now consider the youngest member of your extended family. Maybe it’s a niece or nephew. Imagine that they live a robust life, growing to the ripe old age of 90 or so, living long enough to see the year 2090. 

According to peace research pioneer and sociologist, Elise Boulding, who coined this thought exercise, you were held and touched, and you will touch the lives of people that cover a 200-year present. The only question is: How will you build that present?

Boulding’s exercise demonstrates that deep building takes time and IRL connections. In an age of rapid manufacturing and services, its a concept we can apply to business, too. 

In recent times there’s been a slow food movement in response to a growing love affair with fast and often unhealthy eating. It wasn’t only a reaction to the abysmal nutritive quality of the fast food, but also to the absence of people gathering around a table. 

When McDonald’s arrived in Hanoi’s fabled Old Quarter, many people viewed it as the end of Hanoi-style fast-food dining, the kind that requires patrons to pull up a plastic stool and order a bowl of bun cha. For locals, this kind of dining is a staple, but for foreigners, the experience can be transcendent.  

Why would anyone — local or otherwise — trade this kind of dining for a luke-warm cheeseburger? Luckily, most people aren’t. Two years later, street food places continue to thrive because the hearts of people beat louder than the ding of a cash register. 

The hearts of people beat louder than the ding of a cash register. 

So how did these mom-and-pop places outshine a global giant? They built their businesses close to home. Pho and bun cha shops arose from a place of need, likely feeding family and friends first, then grew to cater to visitors as Vietnam’s economy shifted to tourism. 

Many people come to Empowering Perspectives meetings eager to build a business but are uncertain about where to begin. My suggestion?

Look at the relationships closest to you.

There’s a need you can build upon and a multitude of lives you will touch when you start at home. 


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