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Mad to Live in Impact

John Collery is a Global Fellow working at Avani, a company that creates pine needle gasification power projects for remote communities in northern India. 

Towards the end of a conversation on impact investing, someone asked me if I was mad. While I didn’t readily agree to it, I did admit to being drawn to, and utterly captivated by, a certain kind of madness.

Hear me out.

I mean the kind of madness that would drive a 42 year old man with a mortgage, wife, and two young kids, to drop a salaried, pensionable job and bootstrap a business that would go global. 25 years later and he’s been at it ever since.

It’s that same madness I see in friends who have run international festivals, built killer apps, launched airlines, taken jobs in the harshest of developing countries, become world class chefs, hit financial ruin and come out the other side smiling, screamed like maniacs at rugby matches, cried after victories and grown resilient in defeat. It’s the inability to accept no. It’s a wildness and ferocity tempered only by the clarity of purpose, vigorous intellect, and time it takes to achieve.

It’s a madness that would drive a young couple living in Delhi to up tent and peg and move to the deepest Himalayas to start an organization that would impact thousands of lives. They didn’t stop there, and went on to launch an energy business that will impact hundreds of thousands more.

It’s a kind of madness that would push a New Yorker to take on the most pressing challenges of our time, eliminating poverty, embrace it with mind boggling enthusiasm and, beyond that, build a movement of others who are relentlessly committed to doing the same. Not just committed to doing it. Doing it.

In “On the Road,” Jack Kerouac talked about the mad ones:

“the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.”

Mad? Maybe a bit. In impact, it’s our madness, our staunch refusal to say no, and our ability to see the world as it could be that will bring about real change.

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