Matthew’s Insights: 4 Reflections on Last Year from an Aspiring Social Entrepreneur

Happy New Year to everyone! I hope you’ve been enjoying the past 15 days or so for the beginning of year and hopefully learning to become one of many successful entrepreneurs.

As we journey together through the new year, I felt that it was necessary to do some reflection about the preiovus year from my personal perspective as an aspiring social entrepreneur.

Learning from the Past Helps to Make Better Decisions Now & in the Future

I’ve been doing alot of thinking about this website –, how it’s been doing, and where it’s going. I’ve been thinking that in the past few weeks and months, many of my posts have been more informative – but lacking a flair of emotion and personalization. That’s why I thought that perhaps, I should share some of my more personal insights from now on. Would you like more of that?

Well I’ll try that and see how it goes. I have been busy, but I want to continue to nourish your skills and build a relationship with passionate people like you.

1. The Power of Trying Something New

I suppose this attitude of “trying” is something that I want to reflect on, and that’s why I want to do more of it this new year.

Trying to Live and Work Independently

For 2011, I believe I completely tried completely different things. For one thing, I actually totally quit my job at the UN World Food Programme. I did that in about April 2011. Actually it was a volunteer position, but I really treated it like a job, especially because it was a 2 year position, and because of the high responsiblity I was given as a Programme Officer, and it was a volunteer paid position (which is a paradox in itself?). They actually asked me to stay on for another year or so, but I flat out said “No Thanks.”

I learnt alot there, managing food aid programmes for tens of thousands of Burmese refugees in Bangladesh during those 2 years – but that’s the thing, it began to feel like 2 years of doing exactly the same stuff. I felt like I wasn’t growing anymore, not contributing as much as I could.

I also felt a strange disconnect because on the one hand, I had started up this blog on social entrepreneurship while I was working with the UN, and yet on the other hand, I began to feel more and more like the work I was doing at the UN was NOT entrepreneurial at all. Also, I was feeling more and more like the work I was doing was unsustainable, which is contrary to many newer social enterprise concepts that I was being exposed to (such as Muhammad Yunus, etc).

So I tried something totally different in 2011, which I am proud of. I ventured on my own.

I began to work on this website more and more. I began to tap into my internet and computer skills, as well as my business skills, now I have the privelege to work on this blog full time to promote social entrepreneurship and online good causes every single day.

2. The Power of Persevering Even in the Face of Adversity

OK, so I admit that going alone and being self-employed is not exactly easy! That’s perhaps why the majority of people are not business entrepreneurs or social entrepreneurs, ad probably why I was drilled my whole life prior to my self-actualization to become an employee. So if you are an entrepreneur or self-employed in any way, I can empathise with you wholeheartedly.

I did face a number of obstacles such as:

a. Lack of Capital/Money

So as I said before, I was living on a volunteer pay for 2 years of my life prior to April 2011! (i.e. it wasn’t really that much) I couldn’t live on that pay in Australia, that’s for sure. But that’s what I had chosen to do. I had chosen 2 years before 2011 to go to Bangladesh because I wanted to contribute to something that was greater than myself. I wanted to give my gifts and talents for a good cause. But in 2011, I began to feel that I had been giving away too much, and that I had’t received a suitable pay in return for the value I was actually giving in terms of my time, intelligence and skills – and I knew that it would no longer be sustainable for me as a person, and esepcially wouldn’t be sustainable for me to support my own family or even have a good quality of life for myself. (So this is probably another good reason why I supoprt the idea of social entrepreneurship – the idea that you can do good AND do well) because at this point in my life I was NOT doing well at all.

I flew back to Australia after some weeks travelling to Nepal and India, and I was confused about what to do with my life. I had no money and no job, and no steady stream of income – OUCH.

b. Criticism & Doubt

Even though I had no money, I had a strong belief in myself and the idea of entreprneuership. I had read and watched countless other business entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurs turn something out of nothing – and this is the belief that helped me stand firm even in the face of criticism and doubt.

Even my mother had a nice talk to me to say that I should go and get a “real job” because it was more stable, oh and the superannuation (IRA equivalent in Australia) payments would be good, and the pay was high. I seriously thought about getting a job, but my heart and my spirit totally refused. I had known of examples when a job actually wasn’t “stable” (especially when you could get fired or let go due to restructuring easily), and I knew of examples where entrepreneurs actually made much much more than employees, and I totally disliked the fact that I would be trapped in another job that I didn’t like and I didn’t feel like I was contributing as much as I could.

c. Fear of Failure

So yes there was alot of doubt and criticism from others about what I was venturing on doing. But I guess the most impactful judgements are the ones that you put upon yourself.

While some people get bogged down by the criticism of others, perhaps I’m just weird, but I actually get spurned on whenever someone tells me I can’t achieve something that I have set out to do. I become even more driven – and I guess this has helped me to overcome the fear of failure. The drive and the resilience to keep going even in the face of adversity. Perhaps this lesson could help you out this year too.

3. Going Beyond Your Comfort Zone

I think what I’ve also learned from last year is that you need to go beyond your comfort zones. Social Entrepreneurs and other passionate people must do this especially. Leaving a comfortable job was one way that I went beyond a regular box that I was in. But apart from just your job, go and try other things in life so that you actually get inspired by the world around you.

For me, I also learned this lesson from travelling to Nepal and India and Laos this year, and then also living in Thailand for the last few months. I learnt many things from my job in Bangladesh, but I also learned and met various groups of people from just exploring and adventuring around the world.

4. Remembering Your True Purpose

Now that it’s a new year, I’m grateful that I actually overcame alot of those obstacles last year. I now actaully live well as a self-employed person, and I don’t think I’ll ever get a regular job again.

As I have been travelling and building my own ventures, I have started to feel that I have been losing sight of my deepest core purpose though, and thats’ something that I want to reflect on and live out more of this year. I want to ensure that my entrepreneurial endeavors still have that social and world-changing element. That the structures that I build and lifestyle that I live continues to reflect what I’m deeply passionate about; and that is to help change the world to by by helping people like you to value life through being an empowered, passionate, loving and inspirational person – as much as I can be.

Final Note

This may have been alot of rambling to you, but I just truly wanted to share with you how I am really just thinking and feeling right now. And I think that it’s important to be able to communicate with you. I really just care because I want to ensure that people with dreams and good hearts actaully get noticed – that’s essentially why I built and maintain this website.

I wish you the best this year, and I hope that you also reflect on how you did last year and whether you’ve reached your goals as successful entrepreneurs. What obstacles did you face, and how did you overcome them? Be aware of them, so that you can live extraordinarily and give awesomely this year round.