The Most Important Work I Will Ever Do: A Personal Journey to Purpose
I am an older white man and an ex-Wall Street asset manager. That’s surely the simple telling of my tale. How much easier to tell the “why me” story if the ‘optics’ were better? They aren’t, but there is so much more to my story than just the optics. This is my personal journey to purpose.
I’ve done many things in life. Painted houses, washed pots and pans, waited tables. I’ve done factory work and I’ve done office work. I’ve played in bands and have been a camp counselor. I’ve worked on Wall Street, started an underground hip-hop label in the late ’90s and my own investment firm in 2009. Most recently, I’ve been teaching Impact Investing at Fordham University and running a 100% Impact Investment portfolio for our family office.
13 years ago, when my son, Max, was born, my wife Kelly challenged us to think about what charitable work we should do – what ‘mattered’ to us as a family. Kelly challenged us to set the example we wanted our son to see as a commitment to improving others’ lives. This challenge and the work that followed truly began my re-invention toward purpose and impact.
It was at this time that I had the epiphany (one had by many before me, but no less earth-shattering for me) that one could do well by doing good. I began to study impact investing and the corporate sustainability movement, coming to believe not only that this was where the future was going, but that it was how we collectively can work to combat the world’s largest problems.
“Your power to choose the direction of your life allows you to reinvent yourself, to change your future, and to powerfully influence the rest of creation.” —Stephen Covey
I’ve had 3 personal re-inventions that have brought me to my current role. A hedge fund manager, music producer, and educator/impact investor. As I take on this new role, I once again find myself at the intersection of re-invention but this time for deeper cultivation of my purpose work as a sustainability and impact advocate and the CEO of Net Impact. I am passionate to undertake this important effort at this pivotal time. I think my experiences make me who I am, and wisdom is experiential residue. Walking in all these worlds allows me to speak passionately about Net Impact and our collective objectives (for the benefit of people and planet.)
This is my time and place. This is my purpose.
Net Impact’s mission is to inspire and equip emerging leaders to build a more just and sustainable world. This makes the CEO role, more Chief Evangelical Officer. I love this and am passionate about this work! My recent work has been dedicated to teaching emerging leaders that you can do well by doing good, inspire and equip them to do so, and then get them placed in positions to make a difference. Moving from academia to Net Impact affords me to do this work at scale, because of you, our vast community of change-makers.
Over the next 30 years, a generational transfer of wealth in the US will occur, placing approximately $50 Trillion in the control of women and Millennials. The demographics of these groups overwhelmingly suggest they want to do work that they perceive as ‘good’ and work for companies that they are proud of. In markets, they care as much how money is made as that the return on investment is good. This generation will have a more harmonious way of balancing the living/working/obligation to people and planet. It will be innate to them because it already IS innate to them.
But what happens between now and 30 years from now? How best do we bridge this transition until our inspired and equipped future leaders take the reins? How do we maintain and quicken momentum? How do we convert the majority of people in authority, the stewards of companies and capital, that know this is right but always have a reason to wait? How can I hasten it in my new position?
At this critical now, so much can be done to accelerate the acceptance of social responsibility. Sustainability and Impact are at that exciting part of the S growth curve where advocacy is turning quickly. Net Impact, as an iconic sustainability ecosystem, is at a later part of the curve, given its frontier, pioneering legacy. Net Impact must both lead and mirror the path of the sustainability and impact field.
As CEO, I plan to honor and reinforce the 25+-year perspective and tradition of this iconic and seminal brand, but take us in new directions too. This will require both harnessing and honoring Net Impact’s roots and current raison d’etre, but also coherent extension and re-invention (and perpetually so).
There will be new initiatives. We will burnish the brand and make the association more valuable for our members and stakeholders. We will hasten the adoption of sustainability and impact amongst entrepreneurs, companies, investors, and educators. I also want to reinforce that as we influence the shape of our future world, win hearts and minds toward a more sustainable future, that we must endeavor to populate the networks that share our passion, come with boundless energy and look like the people part of people and planet we seek to serve.
There is a vast world to influence. Net Impact operates, inspires, equips, places, and evangelizes for the benefit of people and planet. Let’s help accelerate the discussion today, so that our inspired and equipped emerging leaders have a shot.
I am flattered, honored and excited to do this work with you, as part of Net Impact. Let’s further its grand legacy and create the change we wish to see.
CEO, Net Impact