Understanding what motivates entrepreneurs can by itself be complex. After all, entrepreneurs often work ungodly hours on projects that have a slimmer than average chance of succeeding. Sean Parker once remarked, “it’s like swallowing glass and then getting addicted to the taste of your own blood.” At the same time, given the sometimes immense benefits and rewards that can accompany successful entrepreneurial ventures, however, it is somewhat easier to understand the drives.
But what about entrepreneurs that bring this same tireless energy to projects and visions from which they have no expectation of benefiting or enriching themselves personally? How do we account for them? Is it purely altruistic, the pleasure in helping other people, does something else drive them? Is there perhaps significant value in these pursuits that aren’t immediately plain?
Luke Weil, founder of Andina Acquisition, which invests in companies in the Andean region of South America, is an entrepreneur that has dedicated a lot of his time and money in various philanthropic projects.
Weil is a successful entrepreneur, but it’s his philanthropy that brings him the most joy. PlantMed, a 501c3 nonprofit that supports Rios Nete and aims to establish Amazonian medicine as a central pillar of medicine and healing, is an initiative he co-founded, and where he funnels a large percent of his energy these days.
“I discovered a problem, saw that I could help and took immediate action,” explains Weil. It’s the same approach that Weil takes in any entrepreneurial venture. When you discover that you can help to solve a problem, whether it’s in a business or philanthropic sense, you have to act quickly.
Philanthropy is something that all entrepreneurs can benefit immensely from. I spoke with Weil to identify five benefits we gain by making philanthropy a part of our entrepreneurial journey.
1. Learn To Give Without Expecting Anything In Return
Giving, without expecting anything in return, is something that has two benefits.
First, it makes you feel amazing. When you are able to provide something to someone that will enhance their quality of life it generates positive energy, which can then carry over into other areas of your life.
Second, it can lead to reciprocal giving, sometimes when you least expect it.
It’s much easier to give when we have an abundant supply of something, whether that’s money or time, but it’s possible to give at any time. Don’t focus on the amount – even the smallest amount of time or money has the potential to make an impact.
Weil is a giver, saying, “I’m a strong believer in karma and that giving comes back, full-circle. For me, personally, it feels great to be able to help other individuals and our planet. I know, for a fact, that it has made me a better entrepreneur.”
2. Build Powerful Personal Networks
You will never succeed in business without a solid network of people you can turn to for advice and help. Your own personal network is often responsible for helping you navigate through difficult times and making introductions and connections that impact your business in a positive manner.
Your philanthropic initiatives can also lead to introductions and new contacts that further enhance your personal network.
“Networking can help your philanthropic impact, the same way it can help you scale your business venture to the next level,” adds Weil.
When you openly discuss your philanthropic involvement, it can help to introduce you to new contacts, in addition to spreading awareness about the causes that are important to you. Many entrepreneurs, especially those that bring a lot of value to the table, are often more willing to network with someone that they view as selfless and interested in more than just another business contact.
3. Learn How To Solve The Challenges And Obstacles We Encounter
The most successful businesses started because the founder set out to solve a problem. Philanthropy also revolves around wanting to help solve a problem, and regardless of what avenue we travel down – philanthropy or a business venture – we are going to encounter challenges that we set out to solve.
It doesn’t matter how successful one becomes, there will always be obstacles and challenges. Philanthropy is just another real-life exercise we can all participate in, which helps us learn how to solve the challenging tasks we will face in the future. Philanthropy removes self-interest, which helps you develop strong problem solving skills,” explained Weil.
4. Receive An Educational Experience That No Classroom Can Teach
“Philanthropy is another great way to learn about the world, broaden your perspectives and develop empathy, as well as other skills, which are all useful for entrepreneurs. My work with PlantMed has been an invaluable experience,” said Weil.
Through philanthropy, we are able to grow as individuals, experiencing things that traditional education doesn’t teach you. When you set out to help others, commit to learning as much as possible. These experiences will help you in all aspects of life, both personal and business related.
5. Learn To Be Extremely Creative
Creativity is a trait that is extremely beneficial. It allows you to set yourself apart from the competition and differentiate your brand, even in the most crowded spaces. Philanthropy can help improve your creative imagination, as many problems require thinking outside of the box in order to come up with a solution.
“Philanthropy gives you an opportunity to be very creative while looking for solutions for problems that you set out to solve. With any philanthropic initiative I set out to tackle, my goal is to use creativity in order to solve or fix a problem. Being able to watch others reap the benefits of my creativity is a reward that can’t be explained,” added Weil.
You don’t have to be the founder of a billion-dollar tech giant to get started with philanthropy. All you need is the desire to help others, and the willingness to put in the effort to make a change. Just like with any business, you need to start small and scale your efforts. The most difficult part, just like with starting a business, is the actual ‘starting’ part.
Brian is an international speaker and coach.