Hitting home runs and not realizing it
Thoughts from a roundtable with Jacqueline, Seema Aziz + the Acumen fam
Last week, Acumen arranged a small education-roundtable during Jacqueline’s visit to Lahore, focusing on the challenges facing education ventures in Pakistan. The short 2-hour discussion involved some of the real heroes in education, including Seema Aziz.
In addition to her empire of nearly 500 fashion stores throughout Pakistan and the Middle East, Ms. Seema educates approximately 200,000 students each year through her nearly 400 CARE schools. She is an institution in Pakistan, often considered the country’s most successful businesswomen.
And she is a hero to so many, including me. In fact, if it wasn’t for her, Amal would possibly not be where we are today, as she was a huge encouragement and even let us pilot our very initial program in CARE classrooms almost 4 years ago.
Despite CARE’s incredible impact, however, what struck me most during the roundtable discussion was Seema’s all-consuming focus on the magnitude of the challenges that still remains. In some ways, it almost seemed that Seema didn’t realize how much of a hero she is to so many, or how much of an unbelievable impact CARE has had on millions.
Compared to other “heroes,” this type of humility is both admirable and refreshing: indeed, perhaps only an entrepreneur who doesn’t get caught up in their own success will ever have a chance at changing the system.
At the same time, however, I worry that Seema, and many other social entrepreneurs, don’t fully appreciate the existing impact that they have been able to make. I worry that it’s too easy to allow the magnitude of the problem to overshadow any type of progress. And as a result, we are not able to restore/maintain the energy that is needed for the long struggle.
There’s a scene in Moneyball — my all-time favorite entrepreneurial/startup movie — that I try to remind myself of often.
Somehow Billy Beane (the manager of the Oakland A’s) is able to achieve the impossible, breaking the all-time record for the most consecutive games won (despite being on a shoestring budget). And yet, he tells his general manager that if you don’t win the last game of the season — if you don’t win the World Series — then nothing else matters.
As seen in the scene above, his GM then shows Billy incredible footage of a player in the minor league who dramatically falls rounding first base. After rolling several times on the dirt, the player then learns he “hit a homerun and didn’t even realize it,” a metaphor for what Billy and the team were able to accomplish that season.
How many of us have hit homeruns and don’t even realize it?
Yes, we should never lose sight of how much work we still have to do. No, we shouldn’t let up or bathe in our own marginal success. But at the same time, perhaps recognizing and appreciating some of the homeruns along the way is the best chance that we have of sustaining the “long and bitter but beautiful struggle for a new world.”