Our family are huge Lord of the Rings fans and we have been waiting for The Hobbit movie for what seems like FO-E-VA.
The big day finally arrived and we were not disappointed – the Jackson-Tolkien mash-up rocked as always and heaps of even more advanced special effects meant that the movie stole us away from the misery of the day’s reality for a sweet three hours of blissful fantasy realm escapism.
As I watched the epic tale of bravery and unlikely heroism unfold, I remembered a recent presentation by Grace Sai (local Social Entrepreneur and co-founder of The Hub Singapore) at Athena Cappuccino Connections meeting where she introduced the concepts of social entrepreneurship.
Inspired and awakened to the idea that socially responsible business is a necessity – not a choice, here are 9 quotes from ‘The Hobbit – An Unexpected Journey’ that social entrepreneurs can relate to:
I’m going on an adventure! ~Bilbo Baggins
Bilbo (although initially apprehensive) bought into the romance and excitement of the journey ahead as well as the aspiration to be a victorious champion of a worthy cause. Although he lacks a natural propensity to heroism, the need to be part of something bigger encouraged him to step up as an unlikely hero.
Being a social entrepreneur is all about connecting to your cause and the overwhelming urge to make a difference. Although perhaps initially inspired by the idealism of creating change, the journey itself will probably not be as glamorous as initially expected.
By the time you realise that what you have embarked on is hugely more challenging than initially expected, it may be too late to turn back.
“I do believe the worst is behind us!” ~Bilbo Baggins
After the initial thrill of being on the open road wears off, the reality of adventuring sinks in, a hero’s journey is a never ending grind. It’s an exhausting, treacherous and thankless job. It was only after Bilbo and the dwarves experience several dangerous encounters, that the enormity of the quest became apparent. As the budding hero begins to emerge, tenacity prevails over common sense – he embraces what is necessary over what is likely or possible.
Describing social entrepreneurs, Grace Sai said “they are very unreasonable people, they are a bit crazy, they are very stubborn and they think they know the future better than anyone else. And very often they also don’t have resources at hand, they just want to do it and they will make it work.”
With a mammoth task to tackle, few resources and little or no financial reward along the way – eternal optimism is essential for your survival as a social entrepreneur.
Elrond: So that is your purpose? To enter the Mountain?
Thorin Oakenshield: What of it?
Elrond: There are some who would not deem it wise.
No matter how well thought through, planned or justified, our heroes struggled to gain support for their expedition. The elves were previously unwilling to risk their people for a battle against Smaug in Erebor and against the orcs in Moria. The White Council were disapproving of the quest, dismissive of their cause and pessimistic about the potential outcome. The fourteen adventurers were forced to decide whether to take heed of the warnings or throw caution to the wind.
To be a socially responsible leader, our decision making must look beyond ourselves to the need in others. Solving larger social problems means going up against existing policy, being disruptive and breaking rules.
Weighing up when to take council and when to find the courage and conviction to take up arms is the bane of a social entrepreneurs existence.
Bilbo Baggins: Why don’t we have a game of riddles?
Gollum: And if he loses? What then? Well if he loses precious then we eats it!
If Baggins loses we eats it whole!
Bilbo Baggins: Fair enough.
Faced with a seemingly impossible situation (and having already narrowly escaped death several times) our heroic Hobbit needed to quickly weigh up the odds of outsmarting Gollum or finding his own way out of the depths of the underground lake. Recognising that his chances were dire either way, Bilbo had to make the best choice he could – and quickly.
Social entrepreneurs seem to be obsessed with their ideas, committing their lives to changing the direction of their cause, driven by the opportunity to uproot injustice and inequality despite the risks involved.
Just like an adventuring Hobbit, learning how to calculate risk over is a critical component of survival on the social entrepreneurship journey.
“I would take each and every one of these dwarves over the mightiest army.
Loyalty. Honor. A willing heart. I can ask no more than that.” ~Thorin Oakenshield
As the leader of the group, Thorin must inspire their loyalty and dedication to the cause, despite all the adversaries that lie in wait.
Although Thorin and his men initially thought very little of Bilbo and could not understand why he was Gandalf’s choice as the 14th member of the group, the Hobbit eventually earns their respect as a worthy member of the party after proving his bravery and honour.
Successful social entrepreneurs are visionaries and problem solvers who are capable of bringing their visions into reality. Essentially, they are evangelists for the cause and must persuade and influence others to be equally dedicated to the mission. In order to make change happen, leaders must select their team with great care.
Shared purpose and values, unlike skills, are pretty much impossible to train. Finding people who have ‘got your back’ are far more valuable and rare.
“Saruman believes it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found.
I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay.
Small acts of kindness and love. Why Bilbo Baggins?
Perhaps because I am afraid, and he gives me courage.” ~Gandalf
Bilbo was no great warrior, he had never even wielded a sword and in fact he was not even a burglar as Gandalf suggested. Why then was Gandalf so keen to have the humble Hobbit join the thirteen dwarves? Certainly for his stealth and nimbleness but Gandalf also remembered the eagerness and curiosity about the world outside The Shire that Bilbo possessed as a child. Perhaps more than anything he believed that Bilbo’s spirit of adventure and humility would be of great value to the group.
It is said that the purity of intention is what defines a social entrepreneur. By defining and rooting themselves in ‘why’ they do what they do and finding strength and courage in purpose social entrepreneurs will do whatever it takes to make change happen.
Letting go of the ego – which encourages us to put personal gain ahead of the higher, selfless purpose – will strengthen your conviction to make your dreams happen. And remember – big change starts with small change.
I know you doubt me. I know you always have. I often think of Bag End. That’s where I belong. That’s home. You don’t have one. It was taken from you, but I will help you get it back if I can. ~Bilbo Baggins
Bilbo was once perfectly happy in Bag End, smoking his pipe, stocking his larder with cheese and wine and quietly gazing over the rolling hills of The Shire. He knew little of the suffering of others and had very little empathy for the dwarves and their plight. Once his awareness was engaged and his eyes opened to see more than his own little world, he began to evolve.
Social Entrepreneurs look beyond themselves and relate deeply to the needs of others. They accept that they have a role in solving larger social, cultural and environmental problems.
Cultivating empathy is key to creating meaningful social change.
True courage is not about knowing when to take a life… but when to spare one. ~Gandalf
Despite his disgust for the loathful Gollum, Bilbo remembered the words spoken by the wise wizard and was overcome with pity for the creature. He chose to act with compassion and not hatred, and to spare his life.
Einstein said, “A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”
Understanding why people behave in a certain way is not enough. Social Entrepreneurship begins when we feel compassion for the pain of others.
May the wind under your wings bear you where the sun sails and the moon walks. ~Gandalf
It all started with the opening line of a book, ‘In a hole in the ground there lived a Hobbit,’ the story enchanted readers for 75 years before being reborn onscreen this year.
Through their adventures, turmoil and tragedy – we were gripped with their fear, distraught with their losses and heartened by their victories. Aspiring social entrepreneurs and reluctant leaders can perhaps relate to our unlikely heroes – up against the odds, driven by purpose regardless of heartache, discouragement and failure. Perhaps on some level we all want to save the world.
Ferdinand Foch says it beautifully with this quote:
The most powerful weapon on earth is the human soul on fire.