We’ve all heard someone tell us to “think big,” but what does that mean? Recently, I have opened myself up to the world of social impact and corporate social responsibility. I am learning about non-profits, philanthropists, conscious capitalism, pre-tax donations, etc. and in the process, I am meeting some wonderful people and organizations that have reminded me just how relevant “thinking big” is.
On a recent lunch with the founder of LevelUp (a non-profit here in Austin which trains students who are first in their family to attend college and come from low-income backgrounds to become social impact tech entrepreneurs), I was told of the moment when the founder, as a boy, was working at a snow cone business and realized that someday, he could OWN a business. That was a thought that previously had defied his imagination, as he grew up in an area where the aspirations of most were to just work for a good “Man.” Culturally, he was never taught that a Latino, such as he, could actually be the boss. How different was my own upbringing, where my father was “the Man.” It never occurred to me that I would ever grow up to being anything other than “the Boss.” This man, as a little boy, had an epiphany that allowed him to think differently than he had been raised. Now, he was “thinking big.”
A week later, I was touring LifeWorks, (whose mission is to help homeless youth and families on their path to self-sufficiency), and was recounting to my guides there how many youths are not raised in an environment that encourages the possibility of becoming the boss or owning a business. “Boss?” one of the guides questioned, “Many of our kids can’t even picture themselves having a job.” “Oh,” I thought, disappointed in myself. I had done it again. It had never occurred to me that having a job could be considered “thinking big.”
A couple of days ago, I was at an event called Start-Up Chica, hosted by Latinitas (an organization that promotes tech education and media literacy to Latina girls). 50 girls between 9 and 18 were broken into 10 small groups of 5, and they then proceeded to come up with business ideas.
It was adorable and breath-taking at the same time! The group I coached came up with an idea for an app that does all the tough stuff moms do for their kids (remind them about homework, wake them up in the morning, help them find lost things!) called “Ask M.O.M.” In this case, M.O.M. stands for “Mom on Mobile Device.” Then, Shark Tank style, they pitched their ideas. When one girl was asked how she planned on financing her idea (a non-profit for collecting donated school supplies), she was eager to offer her plan of “marrying a rich husband.” Well, needless to say, we gently reminded her that she should probably focus on empowering herself so that she could be the rich financier herself. No harm done, since this gave us the great opportunity to promote the mission of Latinitas and help empower her with the tools and the mentality of “thinking big.”
So, it would appear that “thinking big” is relative, but that doesn’t mean you should limit the extent to how “big” you think. Chances are, you can do the thing that that seems “big” to you. So the next time someone asks you to “think big,” take a deep breath, let your imagination go, and try to imagine what would be a big breakthrough for you. And then, take another big breath, imagine yourself in that “big” place, and ask the imagined “big you” what would be “thinking big” for them! Then, do it one more time. Now you are really “thinking big!”