Do You Have What It Takes To Be an Extraordinary Citizen and Leader?
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On a recent Thought Talk podcast episode, I interviewed Kunal Sood. Sood is the founder and chairman of Novus Summit (launched at the United Nations General Assembly Hall). As a keynote speaker, he has presented at TED, SXSW, Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, Kellogg, the United Nations General Assembly and the White House.
I interviewed Sood about his work as a social entrepreneur, philanthropic leader and impact investor, where he empowers entrepreneurs and innovators from around the world to turn their dreams into reality. Here's what entrepreneurs can learn from his vast experience.
Leland: Given the work you do on social impact with world leaders, what have you learned about what drives real-world solutions?
Sood: My work with world leaders is primarily about building extraordinary citizens. The men and women shaping the future of our planet can find common ground around solving our global grand challenges. When faced with seemingly impossible odds, this is what most energizes them. I'm inspired by an inner drive to be a force for good in the world -- and in my experience, real world leaders are the same.
All my experience, from the slums in Mumbai to building global movements at the United Nations Global Assembly in New York, has taught me that real-world impact starts with inner transformation. I'm on a mission to transform the world by uniting world leaders and social entrepreneurs with industry titans for the betterment of humanity. I believe that one way to do this is to curate transformational experiences that ideally reframe narratives around social innovation and entrepreneurship.
People sometimes ask me, what do some of the great world leaders I've worked with, such as Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi and the President of Estonia Kersti Kaljulaid, have in common? In my experience, both live their values in action, and that helps drive real world results.
How did growing up in India influence you as a person?
Growing up in Chennai was my toughest lesson in life early on, and given where I am today, the biggest blessing. While others excelled academically, I was left behind -- often lost and without an understanding of why I was not able to keep pace. This left me feeling isolated and often ostracized by my fellow classmates and the teachers in school.
Looking back over the last 20 years of my life, when I first arrived in the U.S. in 1997, never would I have imagined I would be working with the UN, Google, SAP and other extraordinary organizations. This country saved my life not once but twice, the first time as a young adult and the second time when I lost it all after the tragic death of my late mentor and dear friend Dr. TJ Cherian.
My experience taught me how to relate to people with compassion and extraordinary resilience. India continually influences me because Dr. Cherian was India's first cardiologist and served as a father figure in my life. He invited me to be his apprentice, and I was greatly honored to have the opportunity to work by his side. While at the hospital, I realized how much joy I experienced helping others achieve their health and wellness goals with regards to feeling better, losing weight, or just trying to find a new way of being with themselves.
The idea of the X Fellows was born out of the extraordinary courage of people like Dr. Cherian, who helped thousands of people over the course of his lifetime, and the need I see in the world for creating a new league of extraordinary citizens. It's focused on the vision that we are all gifted even when seemingly cursed. Given the fast and accelerated pace at which exponential technology is outpacing our own lives, I have learned that the right community, along with sparking the right kinds of stories, can bring about real impact.
What is the power of a good story? How do entrepreneurs leverage this in a way that creates significant contribution?
Human beings by nature are drawn to stories: the deeper the hero's journey and adversity, the more powerful the narrative -- especially when they find the wherewithal to rise above.
When I think of modern stories with global appeal, the entire Marvel universe comes to mind because it is comprised of everyday people who go on to do extraordinary things to save the world. I draw strength from stories with themes such as courage, love and making the impossible possible.
X Fellows is a highly curated league of extraordinary citizens who are pioneers in their chosen fields of excellence. Often a difficult start in life is the impetus that compels them to do something incredible later on.
Related: 50 Rules for Being a Great Leader
What do you think your most valuable contribution as an entrepreneur has been?
Being able to live a life of service and one that is true to yourself, while being in service of something that is larger than oneself. A social entrepreneur who first masters the power of his or her own thoughts, beliefs and unique abilities is able to gain the trust and respect of others over time, and be a force for good in the world. When you feel your existence is meaningful, you become a better person. I wish to leave a legacy that is a world full of extraordinary citizens.