Friday, June 10, 2005


I thought I would start out the day by reviewing an incredible article that so inspired me that I had to quickly share it with you.

If you have been a regular visitor to this site, you know I have been using the term "puposeful alignment" whenever I talk about synchronicity or perfect timing, chance meetings, divine intervention, clairvoyant experiences, or just meeting the right people at the right time.

Well, I have never met Bill Strickland, but I can tell you that he is the true essence of the "Enlightened Entrepreneur" we are all striving to become . I hope to connect with him even if it's only through cyberspace, as I feel he is a beacon for all of us who are on the journey of re-discovering ourselves and the way we do business with others.

Here are excerpts of the article from the latest issue of Fast Company


With his potter's hands, Bill Strickland is reshaping the business of social change. His Pittsburgh-based program offers a national model for education, training - and hope.

by Ellen Mark

Bill Strickland can tell you when his life began: It was a Wednesday afternoon in September 1963.

And he can tell you how it began: It started with a lump of clay.
Strickland, then a 16-year-old black kid, was bored by school and hemmed in by life in a decaying Pittsburgh neighborhood. He wanted a way out, but he didn't have a clue about how to find it - until that Wednesday afternoon, when he went wandering through the hallways of his high school. It's a moment etched so clearly in his memory that, 35 years later, he can still recall the quality of the sunlight streaming in through the school windows. That's the day he came face to face with hope.

Looking through an open classroom door, Strickland saw something he'd never seen before: a rotating mound of clay being shaped into a vessel by a man absorbed in his work.

"If ever in life there is a clairvoyant experience, I had one that day," says Strickland, now 51. "I saw a radiant and hopeful image of how the world ought to be. It opened up a portal for me that suggested that there might be a whole range of possibilities and experiences that I had not explored. It was night and day - literally. I saw a line and I thought: This is dark, and this is light. And I need to go where the light is."

So Strickland walked into the sunlit classroom, introduced himself to ceramics teacher Frank Ross, the man at the potter's wheel, and said, "I'd like to learn whatever that is." With Ross as his mentor for nearly 20 years, Strickland not only found the way out - one that led to college - he also found the way in: the path that lets one person make all the difference in the world.

He mastered the art of social entrepreneurship, applying his potter's hands to reshape the business of social change. As a result, the people who now work with him and come to his programs at the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild (MCG) and at the Bidwell Training Center Inc. (BTC) - his Pittsburgh-based organizations for urban change - will tell you that the day Bill Strickland walked into that ceramics classroom was the day that he began reinventing this country's approach to social entrepreneurship.

In the Manchester neighborhood of Pittsburgh's North Side, Strickland has forged a series of programs to bring new life to the community. At one end of the lifeline is the MCG, which aims to rescue at-risk school kids by using the arts to teach them life skills. At the other end is the BTC, an innovative partnership with local companies to train displaced adults for real work in real jobs. Since their inception, the two programs have each grown into more than $3 million-a-year operations, with a combined staff of 110 people. Strickland serves as president and CEO, the linchpin that holds all of the parts together.

And there's more. Like any true entrepreneur, Strickland has filled the space between the two programs with other ventures: a jazz concert hall and an innovative Grammy Award-winning record label. Next year, he plans to roll out the Denali Initiative - a national three-year effort funded by the Kaufmann Foundation to teach nonprofit leaders how to think like entrepreneurs.

The source of it all is Strickland's single flash of insight on that long-ago Wednesday afternoon. "You start with the perception that the world is an unlimited opportunity," Strickland says. "Then the question becomes, 'How are we going to rebuild the planet?'"

"Artists are by nature entrepreneurs, they're just not called that," Strickland says. "They have the ability to visualize something that doesn't exist, to look at a canvas and see a painting. Entrepreneurs do that. That's what makes them different from businesspeople. Businesspeople are essentially administrators. Entrepreneurs are by definition visionaries. Entrepreneurs and artists are interchangeable in many ways. The hip companies know that."

There's one other thing about the break-the-mold way that Bill Strickland does business: It's about the payoff. No, Strickland isn't in this for the money. But he's also not into being a starving artist. Strickland is looking for something in-between, like his hybrid model of social entrepreneurship. In fact, he's striving for the one thing that he thinks is missing in the world today: balance. A balance of resources, equity, and opportunity - a socially responsible mind-set that asks the haves in this country, How much is enough?

Buddha says:

"The glorious chariots of kings wear out, and grows old; but the virtue of the good never grows old, and thus they can teach the good to those who are good"


Buddha Speaks Biz

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