When is it time to give back?
On a long day flight to New Delhi, I got to watch three documentaries with a common theme: giving back or simply giving.
The first African-American billionaire is giving back to education of young girls in Africa. She has planned her next step very well after running The Oprah Winfrey Show on US national TV for 25 years.
She also gives back through her Oprah Winfrey Network or OWN as she has made it a platform to produce films which can inspire women in general to be better versions of themselves as she has always done in her iconic TV show.
Oprah is a legend among women (especially housewives) who watched her show everyday and have stories of survival, empowerment, and inspiration because she simply did what was needed: to listen well. She listened to her audience (and preferred engaging them in talks after each show rather than merely sign autographs) and found out what they wanted to hear more of. It’s a little like crowdsourcing in today’s parlance.
She became a natural talk show host until she evolved into an icon for strength and hope for many marginalized women. And she knew when to quit. As soon as her show hit 25 years, she quit while she was ahead and started her foray into films and other platforms.
What is a singer of the Black Eyed Peas doing at the World Economic Forum in Davos? He’s doing tech innovations by investing in new gadgets and using Artificial Intelligence or AI -- now the great equalizer for urban poor and a city’s rich students.
He knew he was poor, having been raised in East Los Angeles, in a poor and drug-ridden neighborhood. But his mother made him ride two hours each way to go to a better school so he would not be influenced by drugs in his own town. That move made him grow up in a place where he developed his dream to help the “forgotten” as he calls the youth who never get the chance in life to be educated.
In Black Eyed Peas, he also met Fil-American Apl.de.ap and went back to see Apl’s native Philippines where people in his hometown still pumped water from wells. “I could not believe people had no running water,” he said. “Until I saw Apl’s hometown, which was poorer than mine in East Los Angeles,” he continued.
Today he invests in teaching the youth using technology.
The genius from Omaha, Nebraska, still lives a simple life even if he is worth billions and even after giving much of his wealth to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. “They know better than I do about giving away money to good causes,” he says.
At 86, he still drives his car to work, passes by a McDonald’s drive-thru to get breakfast and has a can of Coke by his side all the time. Nothing fancy in his lifestyle, which many billionaires would not think of doing. He does not invest in art or fancy cars or beautiful homes. He has made so much money, he simply enjoys what he does: compounding, having focus, and building moats around his prized investments. See’s candies and Coca Cola are some of his prized investments. Geico Insurance made him the king of investing “float” money and multiplied his assets in geometric progression.
But he knows all this money will be useless unless it’s put to good use -- which is to help change the world. His money is now going to many causes and will definitely help the poor and marginalized to have a leg-up.
WHAT IS YOUR LEGACY?
Philanthropists or social entrepreneurs -- whichever category you put them in, they’re using their talent and the fruits of their talents and skills to build their legacy.
But I like what Oprah said Maya Angelou told her: “Legacy? You don’t build it. You don’t know what legacy is. Legacy is every person whose life you touch in your lifetime,” says Angelou to Oprah. And surely, Oprah has touched millions of women and some men throughout her broadcasting career.
Will.i.am will touch and has touched the lives of many streetkids and the “forgotten” because he knows how it is to have come from a poor background.
Warren Buffett has touched many lives through his company and by building a reputable investment company not even the Salomon Brothers fiasco could destroy. And he will continue to touch lives through his huge donation to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
So before we face our Maker, maybe we should sit and think: what is our legacy? Is it a building or a street named after us? Is it a foundation to leave our remainder of wealth to? Or is it in our everyday life -- helping people cross their hurdles while we solve our own little problems?
What do we give back or pay forward? Is it CSR or Philanthropy? Or is it simply living a good life and helping others live well if not as well as we do?
The article reflects the personal opinion of the author and does not reflect the official stand of the Management Association of the Philippines or the MAP.
Pacita “Chit” U. Juan is the Chair of the Trade, Investments and Tourism Committee of the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP). She is the Chair of the ASEAN Women Entrepreneurs Network (AWEN); Chair of the Women’s Business Council of the Philippines (Womenbizph); and Founding Chair of the Women Corporate Directors PH chapter.
You may reach her at
Linked in: Pacita Juan or Twitter @chitjuan