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Professor Yunus on Solving Problem, Starting Small, and Making Ideas Happen

Muhammad Yunus
Muhammad Yunus

“The paths for starting and growing a business are many and varied. There is no ‘one-size fits all’ solution. But they all start at the same place – an IDEA” once a wise woman said. “Lots of people don’t act on their dream because they are afraid of failure and risk. The opportunity cost of this fear is very high. Fear of failure is way more dangerous than failure itself”-meditates Shaer Hassan in his wonderful interview. Edwin Land once asserted-"it takes five thousand steps to be taken before we realize it; and start making the first ten, and stay making twenty after, it is amazing how quickly you get through those five thousand steps.”

But while makers and entrepreneurs often call for small start, incremental progress and staying tough with one’s passion, we often forget that things take time to happen and we can’t achieve bigger goals unless we walk through small steps. Who else is better than Muhammad Yunus to talk about taking initiative, solving problems, how to start anything and on how to make ideas happen.

In a recent introductory episode of Do School, Start-Up Lab course Father of Micro-Credit and Noble Laureate Muhammad Yunus talks about how to start, why starting small is important and what it takes to make ideas happen.

On social entrepreneurship, solving problems and why it is important:

Social entrepreneurship is a very broad term. I’m talking about social business which is a very small part of social entrepreneurship. If you take initiative to solve any problem, to help anybody you are a social entrepreneur. You don’t have to be in business to be a social entrepreneur. You can be just a person who can organize things to happen and you organize yourself, you friends and your community to solve a specific problem.

On the idea that every problem is worth solving and every one of us is capable of making ruckus and taking initiative and contributing to the society:

How does one know this is the problem worth solving? It is very simple: all problems are worth solving, because it is what creative power is for. Every human being has enormous amount of creative power and you have it too. Everybody in this world has it too. No matter who he or she is. Every human being has enormous capacity of creative power.

On the notion that you need to start something that you can do and that you understand and that is familiar to you. And you are the one who is responsible to make the hard choice of what you want to do and don’t:

So, how do you use your creative power to solve a problem? Since there are so many problems, each one is waiting to be solved, you can pick the one you think you can do it because you have familiarity with it, and you have idea about it. If that idea fits into your problem, that’s it. You go right there. So that’s the important thing: what you feel that you need to be doing. It’s a gut feeling. Nobody can guide you, people can only talk about it, you are one who needs to decide which problem you are going to solve. You don’t need to solve problem of all the people of the world, you just do for a tiny number of people that you want to solve a problem for. For example, youth unemployment: there are millions of youth around the world who are unemployed, you don’t need to solve the problem for all, just pick ten or twenty and solve problem for them.

Although hundreds of people talked about the question of how to start anything, it still remains one of the most elusive question of our time. Muhammad Yunus again gives us the powerful meditation on how to start small and why and how starting small can make a difference while taking initiative:

Why this is important to take a slice or part of problem? Because then you become courageous, you want to do that because it’s doable, when you bring it to bite size, you can handle it. So, when you solve problem of ten unemployed young people, you just found the seed which now can be planted many times and many more people will be coming out of unemployment.

On the notion of believing in oneself:

Greatest thing I can tell you: You have the power to make it happen. Believe in it. If you don’t believe in your power, nothing works. So, first believe in your power and go for and don’t give up because everything has problem.

The most important message from Muhammad Yunus comes at the last part of his talk where he talks about what it takes to make ideas happen. Confirming the universal truth of failure and defying the culture of immediacy that we have, Yunus advices that you need to be very tough and focused and you need to have a kind of dogged mentality to achieve anything worthwhile. He argues that achieving anything worth achieving is a process than anything:

So my advice is: stay tough, stay focused, and make it happen. And you can do that; have the confidence- that’s the most important thing. You have the capacity to do that. Just because you could not do it in first time does not mean you don’t have it. It is the question of unleashing that energy, unleashing is always a process, unleashing does not happen just suddenly without anybody’s notice. It needs lots of efforts. So you have to have the efforts and be focused and you will make a wonderful beginning. Be tough, be obsessed, be stubborn, and don’t give up.

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