[quote style=”boxed”]I’m a habitual strategist; always thinking 10 steps down the road. I analyze everything and take each idea and play it out thoroughly, but still within the course of a few days. Then I put together a concise proposal and start getting it out to friends and family that I trust to give me no-holds-bared feedback.[/quote]
Jared Angaza is a writer, philosopher, brand developer and philanthropy guide from Nashville. He was raised in a family of entrepreneurs and has been starting his own businesses since he was a teen.
He spent the first half of his life racing BMX bikes with his father and brother, which lead him to running a pro bike shop when he was 21. Throughout his early 20s he worked in the music industry booking, promoting and developing bands in “Music City USA”. He then co-founded a private equity firm and spent the rest of his 20s building small to midsized businesses throughout Nashville.
During this time, Jared spent an increasingly larger amount of time volunteering for aid agencies and movements, primarily focused on Africa. He volunteered with ONE, Save Darfur, Keep A Child Alive, The American Indian Movement (AIM) and scores of others. He’s spent the majority of his life studying developing cultures and the human psyche.
In 2006 Jared left the private equity firm, gave all his belongings away and moved to Rwanda to help his friend Tom Ritchey (inventor of the mountain bike) establish Project Rwanda. Simultaneously, he began a program to rehabilitate and provide careers for women breaking free of the sex trade. He then co-founded an ethical fashion label in 2008 called KEZA with his wife, Ilea.
This past year, Jared co-authored a book called “Wisdom Meets Passion” with his father, Dan Miller, a veteran author on meaningful work. The book discusses the blending of wisdom and passion, collaboration between generations and philosophies and leading a purposeful, relationship focused lifestyle.
Jared runs a consulting company, Angaza, where he regularly consults for charities, governments, philanthropists and private businesses to transform their work into soul filled art. Over the past seven years, he has dedicated himself to re-branding the developing world and proliferating his unorthodox lifestyle concepts.
In 2010, the Angaza family moved from Rwanda to Mombasa, Kenya. Jared spends his free time studying science, psychology and astrology and working out on his rooftop overlooking the Indian Ocean.
What are you working on right now?
I’m currently consulting as the Brand Manager for Dormans Coffee, Kenya’s first coffee roaster and one of the leading East African coffee companies. I’m continuing to develop the KEZA fashion label concept, promoting my new book “Wisdom Meets Passion” and writing three new books, two of which I intend to publish in 2013.
We just spent the last year remodeling our flat and recently welcomed our baby girl, Saoirse Sky, into the world. She’s 6 months old now. We also have an adopted Rwandan son, Francois that just turned 19. So, I’m also a full time dad and husband, and loving it. It’s a wild ride. I dig that.
Where did the idea for Angaza come from?
I’ve spent that last 15 years studying developing countries in East Africa and focusing on gender equality, stopping human trafficking and social enterprise development. I spent a lot of time lobbying, fighting the system and trying to get a lot people to change their habits.
Through those experiences, I co- founded KEZA, as a way to bring dignity and an elevated image into this region. It’s proven to be more strategic than trying to “fight the man”, and ultimately, it sends a message to other businesses around the world that Africa is capable of much more than what she’s given credit for.
The next development was our consulting company, Angaza. That’s where it all comes together because it affects so many aspects of development. It’s sort of a culmination of everything I’ve done and learned in the past.
Ultimately, over all the years of philanthropy, I’ve realized that if we are truly going to make a lasting impact in the developing world, we have to teach people to strategize, problem solve and alter their perspective. Whether it’s a budding charity or a Kenyan entrepreneur. The principles are the same. It’s a mind game. It’s more about training the mind and less about “go do this”.
What does your typical day look like?
I get up at 6 AM, take Saoirse into the living room and fire up Insanity (workout program) on my computer. I work out for about 1.5 hours every morning, usually 6 days a week. It keeps me (relatively) sane.
Then I dive into my work with Dormans Coffee for most of the day. I’m in charge of their brand, which covers systems development, the customer experience, Corporate Social Responsibility programs, Direct Trade programs, coffee quality, community projects, and so on. I love the work there, and I believe it’s making a huge positive impact in this region.
I work from home most of the time, so I’m usually sitting in my chair on the balcony overlooking the Indian Ocean. It keeps me inspired. I wrap up around 6 or 7 PM. Then I spend the evenings writing and hanging with the family. We cook dinner together while passing the baby around and listening to some Mos Def, Tom Waits or whatever hits us at the time. The music is always flowing.
Then I spend about an hour stargazing, philosophizing and chilling on the roof with our son, Francois. That’s one of my favorite times of the day.
On the weekends, you’ll find us all on the beach or in Old Town walking the narrow alleyways, sitting on the peer and taking in the Swahili culture, food and spiced coffee.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I’m a habitual strategist; always thinking 10 steps down the road. I analyze everything and take each idea and play it out thoroughly, but still within the course of a few days. Then I put together a concise proposal and start getting it out to friends and family that I trust to give me no-holds-bared feedback.
I don’t hide anything. I don’t fear failure. I just start throwing stuff up on the wall and seeing what sticks. That’s the filtration process. Once it sticks, I do the hardest aspects first. Another learned habit. After that, the ball is rolling and I just make sure to keep the momentum going, constantly problem solving and reevaluating. And constantly trying new stuff. That inevitably leads me to new discoveries I’d never have come across if I had hesitated, waited until it was perfect or just failed to get the idea out the door.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
I love that it’s become almost a given that every company must have some sort of altruistic aspect to their work. Even celebrities are now expected to support a cause, start a charity or be involved in some sort of community service.
People get all bent out of shape about everyone having a cause, but I can’t think of a better trend to support than that. Isn’t that what we’ve always been pushing for?
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
I once built a concept airplane with a team of other guys, a few of which were pros. I spent three months living in an RV on an airplane hanger in Olympia, WA with a good friend of mine that was working with me. We worked 18 hour days for three months straight while it rained non-stop outside. The fumes from the fiberglass nearly killed me. I got really sick and had a horrible cough for months.
It was basically just work. Hard work with no life in it. I did it for the money, which was pretty decent. But that was the beginning of my commitment to never doing work just for the money. I decided that if it didn’t inspire me or wasn’t contributing positively to humanity or the earth, I’m just not interested. It was a pivotal time in my life.
Consequently, I’ve been involved almost solely in philanthropic endeavors ever since (2003).
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
I can’t imagine who I would be or what I’d be doing if it weren’t for the lessons I’ve learned from my perceived failures along the way. Those failures were necessary steps towards who I am, and what I do, today.
If anything, I’d have been willing to fail more often earlier on instead of playing it safe when I was just trying to make a dollar. That might have sped up the learning curve a bit. But all in all, I have very few regrets.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Wow. There are a lot of things that I do over and over, and I don’t know if any one thing works on it’s own. However, I recognize that one of the biggest pitfalls for entrepreneurs is that their work become so consuming that their personal life suffers greatly. It’s not just our work, it’s our identity, part of who we are.
We believe in our work so much that we neglect our mental, emotional and physical health, and often fail to spend quality time with the people we love. But if those areas aren’t top priority, your work will never be the best it can be.
If I don’t work out regularly, study daily, inspire myself and spend quality time with friends and family, I fall on my face about every six months. I used to work 18 hour days about 7 days a week for years on end. I thought I was killing it. I had fairly successful businesses during that time, but I was a zombie, and my relationships suffered. Not sustainable, or fulfilling.
Now, I live a much more balanced, zen-filled, sort of Matthew McConaughey type lifestyle, and I am operating at a higher level than ever before. My output is better, I feel better about life, my head is clearer, I’m inspired and my relationships are deep and meaningful. And that’s what matters most.
It’s easy for entrepreneurs to constantly justify neglecting these areas by saying, “this is just a phase”, or “it won’t always be like this”. I’ve certainly done it often. But ultimately, if you’re not operating optimally in all areas of your life, you can’t expect to produce your best work. Period.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Well it’s not difficult to look back and find a failure. I’ve had plenty. And I’m sure I’ll have more. I believe that you’re never going to reach extraordinary if you aren’t pushing to failure, often.
So I wouldn’t say I’ve overcome failures as much as I’ve embraced them, learned from them and channeled the energy towards positive forward movement.
I think my biggest entrepreneurial failures have always stemmed from the times I unwittingly slipped into doing something just for the cash, rather than doing something I truly believed in. I’m a marketer, so I’m good at justifying things, even to myself. It’s something I constantly keep an eye out for and have developed filters and systems to try and ensure that I don’t get involved in those types of endeavors.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I’d love to see a business where a mindfulness guide would walk you through creating a road map of the aspects of your life that made you who you are. From those sessions, they would produce a video series that encapsulates the lessons you have learned in life from the experiences you’ve had.
The videos can include photos, short home video clips, clips from films that inspired you, stories that influenced you, etc.
The videos would be designed to capture your true essence, and more specifically, the aspects about your life you’d want to pass on to you kids and future generations. It presents an opportunity for you to deliberately pass down the lessons and wisdom you would want to pass on to others. An opportunity to use your life experience to teach and inspire.
I’m sure there are similar programs out there. But this is one focus I’d love to see made available to the general public. There are lots of tangential concepts that could spin off this. It’s an idea I keep tossing around and would love to contribute to at some point.
If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?
So many ideas come to mind… But, the one thing I wish would change, more than anything else, is society’s addiction to money, stuff, status and achievements. I believe those addictions are at the heart of society’s problems. People fill their lives with these things and it turns them into unhappy, unfulfilled zombies. And I don’t mean the cool Hollywood type either.
How would I go about changing it? I’m still figuring that one out. One thing I’m dedicated to is “being the change I want to see” and trying to inspire others to do the same. I do believe that’s the most effective way to create change.
I long for an egalitarian society, and I’ll spend my life working towards it. Yes, it’s idealistic and a bit utopian, but is there anything else more worthy of fighting for? And even if I fall short of the goal, the things accomplished along they way are worth it.
I’m still working on the methodology, but the goal is certainly to influence society to be more relational and less self-indulgent.
Tell us a secret.
What are your three favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?
Instagram – A picture is worth a thousand words. I live thousands of miles away from my family and a lot of close friends. So I post photos that articulate our daily life. That saves me a couple thousand words per day. And it’s a great way to keep up with everyone I care about.
Fast Company (and all of their Co. sites) – These sites cover just about anything I care about learning in business, design, creativity, etc. I can get lost on their sites for hours.
Wikipedia – I’m on Wikipedia at least twice per day, every day. I am a constant studier. Any time I hear a term or concept I don’t know, I look it up on my iPhone immediately and start studying until I understand it.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Right. At this point in life, most of what I read is philosophical, scientific or health related. But in terms of a great entrepreneurial focused book, I’d have to recommend….all of Seth Godin’s books. Literally all of them.
But the most all encompassing is probably “Linchpin”. It talks about making the leap from just making money to being an invaluable contributor to society through your work. That’s a profound leap, and one I think everyone should evaluate.
I also loved Austin Kleon’s, “Steal Like an Artist”, which is quite liberating for the creative mind.
Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?
Deepak Chopra – I’ve been studying his philosophies for over a decade and there is rarely a day that goes by that I don’t learn something profound from him. His teachings have seriously influenced my life.
Nicholas Kristof – New York Times columnist, two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, co-author of Half the Sky, and one of the best examples of a truly effective humanitarian.
Jared Letto – I love his acting and his music, and he’s an extremely innovative marketer, brand developer and instigator. His ability to create a movement and a following is quite profound. I’m continually impressed with the level in which he connects with his fans. If you go beyond the surface, you’ll find something extraordinary about him. He’s a true artist in every way. He also has a great name. Just sayin.
When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?
Aside from our annual viewing of National Lampoons Christmas Vacation, there’s nothing that makes me laugh harder and more genuinely than the antics of our 6 month old girl, Saoirse Sky. She’s totally nuts. She growls at me (just me) when I walk in the room. That’s my girl. Makes me proud.
Who is your hero?
I have many, but I’m gonna have to go with Bono. I know, I know. But I’ve been following him closely since 1984. He’s inspired me more profoundly and consistently than anyone outside of my family. I’ve volunteered for and supported every venture he’s ever put together.
I read his books and watch his videos and interviews regularly. And I’ve worked alongside some of his closest friends and colleagues for many years. I’ve lived in East Africa for seven years and I see the consequences of his efforts. There’s no denying his effectiveness.
And it’s a choice. He doesn’t have to use his power and influence for good. He chooses to. And he’s got just as many haters as followers, consequently. But he presses on because he believes in what he’s doing.
I’m a devout follower. I like his style and I appreciate his dedication, ethos and follow-through. And hey, even Mandela, another hero of mine, has noted many times that Bono has done more to help Africa as a whole than any other one human being on the planet. That’s pretty profound, coming from a legend like Mandela.
What do you think are the three most important habits of a successful entrepreneur?
1. Practice Life Balance:- If you’re not at the top of your game physically, emotionally, mentally and relationally, there is no way you can expect to find long-term fulfillment and success in your work.
2. Ship Your Work:- Ordinary people have extraordinary ideas all day long. But an extraordinary idea only matters if you actually do the work needed to bring it into fruition….and then ship it out the door. (Thank you Seth Godin.)
3. Study Relentlessly:- Life is an endless classroom for us to learn. Everything that happens to us presents an opportunity to learn and grow. And with the proliferation of information through the Internet, anything we want to know is right at our fingertips. Don’t miss the opportunity to learn even from the simplest experiences in life.
What characteristic do you value in yourself that has helped you get to where you are now?
I once wrote a blog post called “Sweet Discipline” where I discussed the fact that the most beautiful aspects of my life have come from habitual disciplines.
I attribute my excellent health, deep relationships, inner peace, wisdom and many other personal and professional successes to the high level of discipline in my life.
It’s not the kind of discipline that makes me miserable or prevents me from experiencing the fun stuff. It’s the kind of discipline that affords me much more of life than most people would ever have the opportunity to experience.
Discipline is hardest in the beginning. From there on out, it will bring you some of the most amazing experiences the universe has to offer.