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How Elon Musk and Lin-Manuel Miranda Help Us Understand The New Creative Role of Business



Just the thought that I can’t be in California right now is frustrating. I’m at a meeting in Pennsylvania and during breaks I scour the news about my hometown in Sonoma California. I live at the entrance to wine country; beautiful and magical.

Except it recently turned into an inferno. Wind and fire have erased over 2000 homes in the blink of an eye.

A text from a neighbor yesterday said the flames were several miles away and people were packed, ready to evacuate.

Hours later I was finally able to take a breath.

The winds died down, the house is safe.Smoky and still standing.

All the recent tragedies, earth changes and misguided human interactions, started to come together in my mind, in a cacophony of sights and sounds and smells.

I felt helpless and even worse, hopeless.

Now, this is not meant to be a downer post, it’s meant to make us, you, me and everyone become, in kids vernacular, action figures.

If the picture of our changing world is accurate, there are various directions to go. One is to become an avoider or denier and either run away or hide under the covers. Another is to be a bully and point fingers of blame at others. Or stay a procrastinator and hope that someone will figure out what to do…. tomorrow.

What gave me hope was reading a post by Sally Hogshead and it struck a chord. She was talking about a business necessity, how to have a great brand. Except, it was about what we as humans need and want from a brand. And it goes well past clever marketing and smooth talking ads.

It’s simple and complex at the same time.

Elon Musk offered his brilliance and his company to help with the devastation in Puerto Rico.Rather than replace he was going to innovate.

I started to look for other smart business people who would offer their time and creativity to make change happen.

That’s when I sat listening to the amazing song Lin-Manuel Miranda spearheaded with a list of top Puerto Rican performers. Take the time to listen and donate.

Miranda took the pain of Hurricane Maria and made it into a song of hope and possibility. Blending the song from West Side Story, a musical that has strong Puerto Rican roots he came up with a fabulous way to let the victims of Hurricane Maria hear begin the healing process.

“It’s Almost Like Praying” calls out all the towns in Puerto Rico, a way of connecting and remembering.

I started to think about California and made my own rendition calling out Napa, Calistoga, Sonoma, Glen Ellen, Kenwood, Santa Rosa.

Leaders like Musk and Miranda are visionaries. They also understand that the whole point of understanding is to enable action.

In my words, become an action figure.

Here is where I believe we are in this transition period of climate and human change.

We all, as business leaders, need to survive, prosper, and contribute.

1. Survive:Surviving during times of change is far different than it is in more stable times. You need to make sure you have the right mechanisms to withstand constant stress.That means taking care of your health and well-being first. Think of it this way, a hunger waiter makes a very poor server.

2. Prosper: To prosper in today’s highly competitive market you will have to attract and hold the most competent and creative people. What worked decades ago no longer is attracting people today. Today’s work environment needs to provide freedom and encouragement and a setting to grow and become all you can be.

3. Contribute: As a leader you need to show that the company is responsible for doing business differently. Use your skills and talents to go out on a limb and help quickly when situations demand immediate attention. In this way you contribute to lowering anxiety and elevating the belief that you care and situations will get better.

Leaders like Musk and Miranda don’t ask for attention, they just act from their hearts.They are not looking for a fight, just a way to help make the world a better place, a more caring place, a more constructive way.

They are today’s action figures. Who are yours?


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