I used to complain. A lot. I would complain about the little annoyances in life that come up on a daily basis. But then something happened. I noticed two new inventions that fixed the problems I complained about for years.
I love coffee. And not just for the caffeine buzz. I love the taste of coffee. Being from the east coast, I was always a big Dunkin Donuts fan. What’s great about Dunkies is that the lids of the cups have a tab that allows you to seal it off when you’re not drinking it. This isn’t something you see at most coffee shops. Most coffee cup lids have a slit and that’s it. When I moved out of New England, I had no choice but to opt for coffee cups with just the slit. But when you started walking with the cup in hand, it would splash everywhere. And coffee is not a pretty stain to have on your clothes. So, I would complain every morning while I walked with one arm outstretched holding the coffee cup as far away from my body as possible.
Then one day I walked into Starbucks and noticed a cup with plastic green inserts. You stick the insert into the slit and the problem is solved. It is so simple, yet so smart. Of course, the solution was finding a way to plug the slit. Why hadn’t I thought of that before? I was too busy complaining.
Similarly, parking garages were never a pleasant place to be. I don’t know how many hours have accumulated over the years looking for a parking space. It can be a maddening experience, especially if you’re running late.
One day, I went to the Westfield Century City Mall. They had just installed lights above every single parking space. The lights operate on a sensor. If it senses a car is in the spot, the light is red. If it senses the space is open, the light is green. Now, when you drive into the parking garage you can immediately see the location of the open spaces. Brilliant! Why hadn’t I thought of that before? I was too busy complaining.
Then it dawned on me. While I was busy complaining about it, someone was out there fixing the problem. And they are the ones who are going to reap the benefit as a result. That realization changed the way I look at the world. Now, when I complain about something I immediately think about how I can fix it. And that is what led me to be a social entrepreneur.
I operate under the assumption that I am not that special. Chances are if I am frustrated with something, other people are too. If I can fix my problem, I can fix their problem. Finding the pain point and solving it is the crux of entrepreneurship. That’s what we’re all trying to do. Make people’s lives easier and better.
To be a social entrepreneur: Don’t complain. Fix.