Life Lessons: Jacqueline Novogratz

The founder and chief executive of Acumen Fund shares her life wisdom.

Jacqueline Novogratz
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Jacqueline Novogratz is the founder and chief executive of Acumen Fund, a non-profit venture capital fund dedicated to fighting global poverty. The organisation, which supports social enterprises around the world, celebrates its 10th anniversary this year

1. Be interested, not interesting. During business school, I had a mentor, John Gardner, whom I once asked for advice on a job offer: a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity" with an exalted title, salary and access to power. "This job will certainly make you more interesting to others," he said. "But that's the wrong reason to accept it. You should focus on being interested rather than on being interesting. How will this job help you to serve others rather than serve your own career?" I didn't take the job.

2. Just start and let the work teach you. Don't wait for perfection. No one expects you to get it right in the very beginning, and you'll learn more from your mistakes than you will from your early successes anyway. So just look at your best bets and go. Each experience will teach you something new.

3. Listen. I've learnt that people usually tell you the truth if you listen hard enough. If you don't, you'll hear what they think you want to hear. I've learnt that there is no currency like trust and no catalyst like hope. There is nothing worse for building relationships than pandering, on one hand, or preaching, on the other.

4. Commit to something bigger than yourself. If you always keep your options open, you end up living with a lot of options but without anything of real value, whether in your professional or personal life. Through founding Acumen Fund, a non-profit organisation that invests in companies that bring affordable services such as water, health care, clean energy and housing to the poor, I've come to understand the power of commitment.

5. Dignity is more important to the human spirit than wealth. Our vision at the Acumen Fund is that every human being will have access to the goods and services they need so they can make their own choices and unleash their potential.

As told to Jemma Nicholls