Clay Water Brick by Jessica Jackley


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Jessica Jackley is the founder of Kiva, an organization that empowers entrepreneurs around the world through micro-loans. Through Kiva, over one million individuals have lent money to help benefit people in other countries.


16 lessons

Clay Water Brick

– by Jessica Jackley –


1) Anyone can be an entrepreneur

Entrepreneurship is the ability to pursue opportunity without money, or permission, or pedigree, or most other means that might make the pursuit easier. The heart of entrepreneurship is never about what we have. It’s about what we do. Great entrepreneurs simply make a series of choices, day after day, to move forward regardless of what they lack or must fight against. They succeed not because of what they possess but because of what they are determined to do.

2) Don’t listen to people who say something can’t be done

We learned that while it is necessary at times to get experts’ opinions, at the end of the day we were the only ones who could make the final call on whether or not to move forward. Some people decide to try to avoid risk at all costs. We chose to move forward, knowing we would probably have significant battles to fight along the journey.

3) Don’t wait for approval

Whether or not others agreed that I was experienced or qualified or smart enough, I would forever limit myself if I let my actions hinge on the approval of anyone else.

4) There is always something new to learn

No amount of education will necessarily make you feel like you are ready to start something new. We can always tell ourselves we need just one more thing, one more experience, before we are ready. But more often than not, we are ready right now, just as we are.

5) Expect challenges when starting out

In the beginning of any venture, there will be rough edges. The early days of many start-ups are not that glamorous. You probably won’t have everything you think you need. And you certainly won’t know everything you need to know, like what is going to happen next. Nobody can see into the future or map out everything in advance. Most days, you just have to show up and begin, be willing to learn as you go, and take steps forward with whatever resources you have (or don’t have).

6) Don’t be embarrassed by your first drafts, first steps, or first anythings

Everything big once started small, and those small beginnings often unfold in disorder. Don’t be afraid of this disarray. It’s okay. Actually, it’s more than okay. It means you have really begun, and are pushing yourself to learn and grow. If it feels like you’re moving just a little bit faster than is comfortable, you’re probably going at the perfect pace.

7) Take action

Just about anything you can do today is better than doing nothing, and you’ll be able to do even more tomorrow if you begin with something today. When it’s messy and imperfect, embrace it. Roll up your sleeves, get your hands dirty, and start. Force yourself to take one concrete step, any step at all, toward making the thing you want to do a reality.

8) Beware of mission drift

Sometimes an organization’s toughest competition is some other possible version of itself – the other path that your venture could take if it had slightly different priorities. Fight the temptation to drift off course in pursuit of other opportunities that might objectively be good opportunities, but that have little to do with what is most important to you. Beware of mission drift: making a series of choices that slowly pull you away from the path you’ve chosen.

9) Don’t change just because others think you should

If you believe in yourself and your idea, don’t change to gain the endorsement of someone else, even if the whole world tells you that they are better, or stronger, or right, and that you are wrong. Stand alone if you have to. Don’t be afraid. If your intentions are genuine, if your position is strong, and if your vision is clear, you will not be standing alone for long.

10) Get away from the group

Being on the outside of the group will give you a new vantage point. It will allow you to get a fresh perspective on a particular problem, and it might be just what you need to find a better, more innovative solution. This is why people who were never “on the inside” in the first place sometimes come up with breakthrough ideas that others have been trying to come up with for decades.

11) Get comfortable with traveling in unchartered territory

To have more “aha” moments and get a fresh perspective, give yourself permission to take a different path once in a while. Don’t worry if everyone else thinks you’re crazy. If you believe you have found a new and better way forward, blaze that trail. You just might be the first one to make a new path that the rest of us will one day follow too.

12) Bring good leaders to your team

The best way to ensure the well-being of your team is to find strong leaders to join your organization, and then let them lead. It sounds easy, but when you are doing work you care about deeply, and when the thing you value most is having an impact in the world, it can be a challenge to let other leaders in. Doing so requires humility, an ability to delegate, and an ability to give up control. You must have a genuine desire to see positive change happen, even if it means you aren’t the person enacting that change every time.

13) Build, test, learn, and rebuild – again and again

Redefining success not as a destination but as a way of operating, and committing to a process of creation and implementation that includes constant thoughtful iteration, can help avoid the kind of complacency that is so dangerous to continued growth. The most innovative teams try to get better every single day, whether they have already seemed to solve the problem at hand or not.

14) Be transparent with your customers

Only by being honest about what is working and what isn’t working can organizations find ways to improve, together. Transparency draws people in. It shows them that they are not on the outside, but on the inside, experiencing the journey with you. No one expects perfection, but everyone does (and should) demand honesty.

15) Time is our most precious resource

We do not all get the same number of days on this earth, but we do all get the same number of hours in the day. We can use the time we have more courageously. Of all the resources we can use to move forward in life, how we use our time matters most.

16) Make a big bet on yourself

If you yearn to pursue an entrepreneurial path to follow your dreams, eventually there will come a point where you can no longer hedge your bets. Eventually, to keep growing, you will need to make a trade: You will have to swap the smaller, safer bets for a larger, less certain chance at reaching your greater goals.