I won’t lie. I’m a sucker for this kind of book. Although the author Tina Seelig may have other “entrepreneurs” in mind, her book Insight Out: Get Ideas out of Your Head and Into the Worldreally can apply to a wide variety of people, myself included!
She invites her readers to expand their scope by writing that, “entrepreneurship isn’t just about starting companies. It’s about starting anything! Entrepreneurship involves building the knowledge, skills, and attitudes needed to see problems as opportunities and to leverage resources to bring ideas to fruition.”
This is a book that is designed to help anyone with ideas, dreams or passions to find helpful framing for how to think, as well as practical steps to take. Seelig lays out her approach early on. She writes in the preface that her purpose is “to stimulate your thinking and your actions.” Her pattern for the book unfolds from this aim, “I introduce general concepts and then offer stories to illustrate them. I also share my personal experiences, those of my students, and research related to the concepts discussed.”
Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
This is a time-worn recipe for success in this genre of books. And Seelig does it exceedingly well. She is clearly an expert in her field, and her credentials speak for themselves, as does her experience, and her prolific writing and speaking production. From her perch at Stanford University’s Department of Management Science and Engineering, she has the vantage point not only to see what has already happened and exists in the world, but also the bubbling cauldron of creativity of motivated graduate students. This book point us ahead toward future possibilities.
The stories jump off the page and make for enjoyable and stimulating reading. One example of how Seelig’s book works is the story of Scott Harrison. He is a former nightclub promoter, who woke up one day and realized, “I’m the worst person I know.” After a time of self-reflection, he decided that he wanted to use his life to serve others. But after a mis-spent decade of debauchery, he didn’t have any idea what that would look like.
A chance opportunity to join a Mercy Ships mission to Liberia, in West Africa, gave him the first experience that would ultimately lead to him founding charity:water, which seeks to bring clean water to 800 people around the world who don’t have it.
Seelig’s point in telling his story is that “passion follows engagement. You can best envision what you hope to accomplish after experiences that pique your imagination.” She wants her students and readers to take a risk, to set up an experiment, to get out there and try some things on for size.
Seelig then goes on to draw out numerous ways that curiosity, imagination, creativity, and passion are related to each other and how they can lead toward “something more.”
For my own work as a pastoral leader of a local church, this book is a treasure trove of insights like this one. This past summer, our church ran a Ministry Fellows program, where 3 college students worked with us and learned about leadership within a church context. They brought new energy and excitement to our usual summer activities, and the whole church benefited by seeing them in this role. For the students, part of the idea was just to give them a chance to see, to experience, and to have their interest piqued about what kind of future life, work and service they wanted to pursue.
I don’t know that any of these students will enter full-time ministry, but this experience was part of helping them envision a future for themselves through engagement.
Another example of this same principle is that this summer our church also hosted a Visiting Global Scholar, Rev. Dr. Joseph Acheampong from Ghana in West Africa. It was a chance for our members to learn from and get to know someone from a very different context, who is breaks their stereotypes down and gives them a broader view of the world and its people. As I work on opening my congregation’s hearts and minds toward engaging with people of different cultures and backgrounds, having Dr. Acheampong with us was a way for them to hear and see and learn as a way to prepare the ground for further growth.
Selig reminds us that “for most of us, our actions lead toour passion, not the other way around. Passions are not innate, but grow from our experiences.” So, my not-so-subtle goal is that through experiences like this one, our church can grow in a passion to connect with and embrace the wider world.
As with many books around topics like leadership, productivity, and creativity, the “can-do” spirit of the age in Silicon Valley comes across in Seelig’s writing. She writes, “we are each responsible for building our own lives and for repairing the broader problems of the world, and the only way to do so is with the knowledge, skills, and attitudes required to bring ideas to fruition.”
There is a motivational factor in reading this book. It doesn’t just ask us to “live our best life now”, but it lays out some of the practices and patterns for a life that is full of imagination, creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship.