The end of any year is as much about wrapping up (at least temporarily) ongoing activities and drawing conclusions from past year´s experience, being both grateful for and regretful of what happened, as it is about planning, dreaming and being anxious concerning the new year that is just about to begin.

As mostly anyone working in the sphere of social entrepreneurship manages to be terribly busy all the time, taking time for reflections at least at the end of each year is of enormous value: to contemplate upon one´s calling in life as well as everyday work and – if needed – to reconsider it.


Christmas elf bringing some extra inspiration to a social entrepreneur (photo: Jaan Aps)


As a small Christmas present as well as a spark of inspiration for your own New Year´s reflection, please find below some of my recent meditations on drive and changing the world.

Isn’t drive the word used for people that have actually made a difference? What does drive mean to me?

My drive is a practically inextinguishable source of vitality as well as almost constantly itching unrest. It sets a direction, mobilizes tremendous amounts of energy to move there; if not controlled, exhausts my mind and wears out my body.

Yes, drive is indeed considered to be an essential characteristic of any changemaker. Like most people who learned about social entrepreneurship in 2000s, my entry point was flipping through David Bornstein´s book “How to Change the World”. There, he quotes Bill Drayton, the founder of Ashoka: “The core psychology of a social entrepreneur is someone who cannot come to rest, in a very deep sense, until he or she has changed the pattern in an area of social concern all across society. /-/ They simply will not stop because they cannot be happy until their vision becomes the new pattern.”

They simply will not stop… That summarizes appropriately what the effect of having a drive – that is, being driven – is all about. I remember my emotions while digesting the quote, finding it inspiring and scary at the same time, feeling myself inadequate, and yet strangely content with the conclusion of not considering myself as being “one of them” that the book was about. Looking back now at everything I have experienced about the drive since touching Bornstein´s non-fiction novel, I´m surprised how precisely those initial feelings previewed some of the most important lessons I have learned about those who are driven and those who are not, and the variety of possible consequences, wonderful and terrible, of both.

Those who are driven feel that rejecting the calling of their drive would mean neglecting what the loved one – the self – needs the most. They feel that the call of the drive reaches their rational mind from the very depths of their soul.

The beloved self needs “to drive” to a certain destination to be nourished, to be fulfilled… sometimes – just to survive (mentally, spiritually if not physically). The journey will become the life of a driven individual, may she be an artist, mother, medical researcher, or serial killer.

I believe that no matter what big words grey-haired (or simply bald) speech-givers utter about serving others (poor children, dolphins, God as an abstraction or a specific entity), first and foremost they have served themselves, choosing to succumb to (or take advantage of) their drive.

“Drive” grows and lives in the most intimate spheres of any individual being. For many, it would be easier to demonstrate one´s imperfect bodily nakedness than to reveal the – conflicting, distorted, hazy – sources of energy flows that form their drive.

The wonderful and scary paradox, however, is that the very nature of the driven means that following their “driving direction” is very much visible to others; the bigger the drive, the more there will be traces, footprints, scars… demolitions and establishments! Thus something growing out from an extremely intimate spot can become a globally public affair, and – naturally – ultimately “change the world” in the process. A private drive can initiate, change and cut off many other “driving routes” of many other individuals, groups and nations, species and gods.

The bigger is a drive of a social entrepreneur, the greater responsibility she or he has… May you have a strong, determined and responsible drive in 2016!