This is a guest post by Kona Shen, Founder of GOALS Haiti, mentioned here. What she has done for youth and their families in Haiti demonstrates courage, compassion, purpose and leadership savvy few CEO’s of any age possess. Kona shares the starkly different definitions of ‘basic needs’ between the USA and Haiti and how it affects her productivity and impact…a lesson for us all!
Sometimes, when I get accused of being a workaholic, I laugh. I do work hard, but I don’t think I qualify. My schedule typically consists of a nine-hour workday, Monday through Friday. I don’t have internet on my phone, don’t work on projects late at night or on weekends, and almost always take a real lunch hour.
Mostly this has to do with living in Haiti. I began traveling to Haiti as a volunteer in 2007 and moved here in 2010 to launch an organization called GOALS. GOALS uses soccer to engage youth in public service and education that improve quality of life and develop new leadership. We’re up to 600 kids per month with a staff of 18 local leaders focused on long-term, community-driven development.
There are times when full-time electricity, internet, and air-conditioning would be nice. Most days, communications and logistics take more forethought and I can’t always be reached. It took me a while to figure out what a meme was, and I can barely name any movie, song, or YouTube clip that’s been famous in the last two years.
Of course, I don’t want to minimize Haiti’s long-term infrastructure needs, including electricity and internet. But personally, I don’t miss the 24/7 access to power much. In Haiti, I read more books, do more yoga, write more essays, and cook more meals. I actually studied French instead of putting it off. Without the temptation of the internet and fewer gadgets, there seems to be more hours in the day.
In the U.S., electricity at night and streaming internet is usually enough to derail me. I find myself hammering out emails at 11PM on Sunday with the TV on and my phone lighting up with messages. Clearly, I don’t have the discipline to pretend that turning electronics on isn’t an option.
Why does it matter? Because, for me, more work doesn’t produce better work. It turns out, my light bulb moments come to me when I step back. I get so many new ideas out on walks or runs that I carry a pen to make notes. When I make an effort to do less, the truly important work gets done first, the biggest breakthroughs happen and GOALS is better for it. Best of all, I find myself looking forward to Monday morning instead of burning out before the week even begins.
2 Degrees of Separation? Last month, Kona was in San Francisco meeting Arnold Ambiel, Director of Operations for One World Futbol. He suggested she get in touch with Deb Mills-Scofield. Not letting on, Kona asked how he knew me. He replied that he followed me on Twitter but didn’t know me personally. Little did he know we were already connected – through bonds of purpose, passion and our alma mater.