The Tim Ferriss Show Transcripts: Jacqueline Novogratz on Building Acumen, How to (Actually) Change the World, Speaking Your Truth, and the Incredible Power of “Dumb” Questions (#512)

Please enjoy this transcript of my interview with Jacqueline Novogratz (@jnovogratz), the founder and CEO of Acumen. In 2001, Jacqueline started Acumen with the idea of investing philanthropic patient capital in entrepreneurs seeking to solve the toughest issues of poverty. As a pioneer of impact investing, Acumen and its investments have brought critical services like healthcare, education, and clean energy to hundreds of millions of low-income people.

After supporting hundreds of entrepreneurs, Jacqueline and her team recognized character as the crucial ingredient for success. In 2020, they launched Acumen Academy to instruct others in global social change. Under Jacqueline’s leadership, Acumen has also launched several for-profit impact funds designed to invest at the intersection of poverty and climate change and has spun off 60 Decibels, founded on the principle that serving all stakeholders is as important as enriching shareholders.

Jacqueline is the New York Times best-selling author of The Blue Sweater and Manifesto for a Moral Revolution: Practices to Build a Better World, which is now available in paperback. She has been named one of the Top 100 Global Thinkers by Foreign Policy, one of the 25 Smartest People of the Decade by The Daily Beast, and one of the world’s 100 Greatest Living Business Minds by Forbes, which also honored her with the Forbes 400 Lifetime Achievement Award for Social Entrepreneurship.

Transcripts may contain a few typos. With some episodes lasting 2+ hours, it can be difficult to catch minor errors. Enjoy!

Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast, Stitcher, Castbox, Google Podcasts, or on your favorite podcast platform.

#512: Jacqueline Novogratz on Building Acumen, How to (Actually) Change the World, Speaking Your Truth, and The Incredible Power of “Dumb” Questions
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Tim Ferriss: Hello, boys and girls, ladies and germs. This is Tim Ferriss. Welcome to another episode of The Tim Ferriss Show, where it is my job each and every episode to interview world-class performers from all different disciplines, all different walks of life to tease out the frameworks, lessons learned and so on that you can apply to your own lives. My guest today is Jacqueline Novogratz. You can find her on Twitter, @JNovogratz, N-O-V-O-G-R-A-T-Z. She is the founder and CEO of Acumen. In 2001, Jacqueline started Acumen with the idea of investing philanthropic patient capital, we will talk about what that means, in entrepreneurs seeking to solve the toughest issues of poverty. As a pioneer of impact investing, Acumen and its investments have brought critical services like healthcare, education and clean energy to hundreds of millions of low income people.

That’s a big number of folks. Let that sink in. After supporting hundreds of entrepreneurs, Jacqueline and her team recognized character as the crucial ingredient for success. In 2020, they launched Acumen Academy to instruct others in global social change. Under Jacqueline’s leadership, Acumen has also launched several for profit impact funds designed to invest at the intersection of poverty and climate change and has spun off 60 decibels, founded on the principle that serving all stakeholders is as important as enriching shareholders.

Jacqueline is the New York Times bestselling author of The Blue Sweater; I’m sure we will talk about what that means and refers to, and Manifesto for a Moral Revolution: Practices to Build a Better World. She has been named one of the top 100 global thinkers by Foreign Policy, one of the 25 smartest people of the decade by The Daily Beast and one of the world’s 100 greatest living business minds by Forbes, which also honored her with the Forbes 400 Lifetime Achievement Award for Social Entrepreneurship. All of that means, yes, I’m nervous to interview this person. LinkedIn, you can find her, Jacqueline-Novogratz, Twitter, @JNovogratz, Instagram also @JNovogratz. And, of course, you can find Acumen at acumen.org. Jacqueline, welcome to the show.

Jacqueline Novogratz: It’s great to be here with you, Tim. Thank you.

Tim Ferriss: And I’m going to just go with the layup. I’m not going to say lazy question. It’s really more of a setting of the backdrop for people who don’t know you. Could you please describe your childhood, your parents. Just give us a little bit of color there so we know from where you have come.

Jacqueline Novogratz: I was raised in a four-bedroom house with seven siblings. The seven of us. Amazing parents. Dad was in the military, my mother was a force to be reckoned with. I would say it was a noisy, chaotic, loving house full of cowboys who were also expected to somehow be good.

Tim Ferriss: A number of your siblings have also gone on to do great things, very much on a national and global scale, to what do you attribute that? Is it just inheriting good software? Is it environmental? Are there any particular inputs or habits that your parents have? Anything that comes to mind? I’m sure you’ve been asked this before, but what was in the drinking water, so to speak?

Jacqueline Novogratz: I think it was a funny combination of one constraint that when you have so many kids on a military income, you’ve got to get entrepreneurial young, fast. And that was probably a very important piece. Number two, my mother is one of the great mythmakers of all times.

Tim Ferriss: Mythmakers?

Jacqueline Novogratz: Mythmakers. I remember when we were little, Bob, Mike, and I, and all we really wanted was Levi’s jeans. There weren’t a lot of things to differentiate us. And so my mother made a deal with us and said, “Look, I’ll buy you the dungarees,” which is what they used to call jeans, “from the post exchange, unless you can earn the difference for those Levi’s. But I have to tell you I’m really disappointed in you guys. Why would you need brands? You’re Novogratzes.” And we laugh now. We’re like, “What the hell was a Novogratz?” But she had the sense that this was who we were. So two, a driven, mythmaking mother and three, this big, extended, immigrant Catholic family. And so this idea that to whom much is given, much is expected was also reinforced. And so I guess in a funny way, Tim, we grew up in a tribe, but also allowed to be wild individualists who had to be entrepreneurial. And here we are.

Tim Ferriss: So, you’re known for impact investing, social impact, and all the things that we, or I should say I, mentioned in the bio that I just read, but that’s not where things began from square one. You weren’t just hatched out of the egg as this imminent world changer. Maybe you were on some level. I mean, your brother, Mike Novogratz, who’s been on the podcast, talked about how you have had this very clear North Star for seemingly much of your life. But that wasn’t the first step. In other words, you didn’t just graduate from high school and start Acumen. Could you just walk us through your first professional decisions? Where did you go after school and why did you go there?

Jacqueline Novogratz: I think I did always want to change the world from the time I was six. And I guess that was part of both the positive and the pressure. And so there was always that idea that I had, but to go through college, certainly as the first, we had to pay for school. And so I worked two, three jobs the entire time I was at the University of Virginia.

Tim Ferriss: What were your jobs? What types of jobs?

Jacqueline Novogratz: Mostly I was a bartender. And in the summer I worked a hundred hours a week as a bartender, which was actually quite something. When I graduated, I told my parents that I’d really never had a proper vacation and that I was going to take a year to just explore the world, never really gone outside the United States or anything like that. And my parents being very wise said, “We think that’s fine, but at least go through the interview process.” And so I agreed quite reluctantly and I threw my resume, without thinking, into the boxes for foreign affairs econ majors, which were my majors, and Chase Manhattan Bank called and said “We’ll take you in as an interview.” And so I go into the interview and there’s this cute guy sitting across the table from me and he says, “Tell me, Jacqueline, why do you want to be a banker?” Which was, of course, the only question I wasn’t ready for. So I was like, “Actually, my mom and dad are making me do this. I don’t want to be a banker.” And he said — 

Tim Ferriss: That’s what you said?

Jacqueline Novogratz: Yeah! I mean, I don’t lie —

Tim Ferriss: It’s probably the only answer he wasn’t prepared for!

Jacqueline Novogratz: Something in him was prepared, because he was like, “Well, if you got this job, you would be in 40 countries the next three years. And you would be understanding the economic and political situation in each of those countries.” And, of course, as this kid that always dreamed of knowing the world, loving the world, I was like, “Oh, God.” So I said, “Could we start this interview over?” And he let me literally leave the room, I knocked on the door, I introduced myself, I sat down, he was like, “Tell me, Jacqueline, why do you want to be a banker?” And I said, “Ever since I was six years old, all I ever wanted to do was be a banker.” Of course there were interviews after that to make sure I had a brain, but I got the job. And sure enough, for the next three years, I was in 40 countries at a really extraordinary time when the financial systems were also in peril in the early 1980s. That was my first job.

Tim Ferriss: Now, how did you end up traveling the world? I suppose, thinking back to my own undergrad experience and the recruiting on campus by investment banks and so on, although this may not have been in the investment banking category, but when I think the promises of various recruiters, I associate the you’re going to travel the world, meet fascinating people, learn various A, B and C about X, Y and Z industries, I associate that with the management consulting pitch. So what was the job that you ended up getting that allowed you to travel like that in banking?

Jacqueline Novogratz: It was an extraordinary job, it was called credit audit where the bank hired primarily liberal arts majors. I think young people who were critical thinkers who ask the dumb questions and they literally would send us around the world a month at a time. I think I was in New York three weeks, one year. And you would just get this note on your desk that you had to be in Kuala Lumpur three days from then, and a package of traveler’s checks, which was the way that we would get money, and a reservation in a hotel and we would go. And so it’s one way the world has really changed, because I remember talking to my boss because I had a reputation for unwittingly getting people fired by asking the really dumb questions and then uncovering — 

Tim Ferriss: I can’t let that go without asking for an example, how does that happen? What would a hypothetical or a real type of question or actual question be that might get someone fired?

Jacqueline Novogratz: The biggest one for me was in Switzerland when I was pretty much a solo act to look at this whole suite of Swiss banks, which everybody just assumed were safe because of Swiss banking. And Tim, I kept looking at the numbers and the spreadsheets for this one bank and nothing added up to me. And so I went to the head of the division, the office, and I was incredibly nervous because I wasn’t that confident that I was that great at all these spreadsheets. And I pointed out what I saw as real flaws and real vulnerabilities. And he had essentially told me I was too young, too naive, didn’t I understand Swiss banking, and that the bank was completely protected? And I scratched my head. I went back, the numbers still didn’t work. I called my boss, he yelled at me, and I just knew that I might be wrong, I might be all those things he said, but I could only tell my truth.

And I literally had to hold onto the chair because I was so afraid, and I turned it in. I gave it, in those days, a seven, which put it on a big warning list, which meant it went all the way to the top of the bank. And it turned out that I was right, the bank failed. And I learned really young, Tim, that I went from being seen as scared and not that serious overnight to then being seen as this whiz kid. I was the same person, nothing had changed. And how ephemeral the way the world sees you became, to me, because I knew that I was exactly the same woman the morning after that I was the morning before. And so I guess learning really young, sometimes just speak that truth even through trembling lips.

Tim Ferriss: Yeah. Wow. What a story. I mean, it’s something that’s so few people, especially new hires, would actually dare to do. And it just strikes me as unusual that you would have the conviction to potentially, and I don’t know the politicking or the power dynamics inside of that bank, obviously, but to piss off your boss by giving it a seven, which then she flies straight up the flagpole after getting reprimanded. That’s quite a move. It sounds like that wasn’t a first, though, that you’d cultivated this speaking of truth coming up to that point. Is that accurate?

Jacqueline Novogratz: Yeah, I think it probably was and in fact — God, you’re already making me get emotional, but I think I saw myself as less courageous a voice than other people experienced me as a great gift of my latest book, where I talked about the need to learn how to use voice, was that one of my colleagues at the time who I hadn’t seen in more than 30 years, he was like, “You were always the one that was standing.” And I think I always stood for the underdog, but I also just couldn’t tell a lie. And they hired me for a particular purpose. And I felt like that was my duty. That was just my job. As a kid, I was the one that would fight for the underdog. In fact, I got thrown out of trigonometry for standing up for what was right.

Tim Ferriss: What were you standing up for? Was it the answer to something, or was it a person?

Jacqueline Novogratz: No, it was that the teacher had promised us, he was a great pop quiz guy and he had promised us that we wouldn’t get a pop quiz that week. And one of my friends had been sick and she was very, very insecure when it came to trigonometry.I said, “You don’t have to worry about it, because this teacher told us that we weren’t going to have a pop quiz and promised us.” And then, of course, he gave us the pop quiz and so I just felt such a need to protect my friend that I stood up, I made a big deal about it, and that was the end. That was my last day of trigonometry for that year! And the worst of it is I had to do home economics for the last six weeks of the year.

Tim Ferriss: I’m just imagining how happy you were about that, but I think it’s worth really underscoring that you develop this and reinforce this truth speaking, you take some lumps, of course you’re going to take lumps along the way, but ultimately, not to attribute all of your successes to that, but I think it’s no small thing. One of the aspects of your story that has stuck out to me as I’m doing homework is the power of asking — I wouldn’t say dumb questions — asking the questions. Asking questions and speaking truth. And it’s just how you talk about patient capital. We might talk later about how that’s differentiated from just long-term capital and long-term investing and how you differentiate the two. But if you’re making a long-term patient investment in yourself, over the short term, you might get reprimanded for truth and asking questions or seemingly naive questions, but they seem to be really good long-term bets. And I suppose there’s not a question so much in that, but does that resonate with you as being true? How does that land for you when I say that, am I missing anything?

Jacqueline Novogratz: I’ve actually never thought about it for myself personally, but it deeply resonates that I’m not comfortable and it’s hard sometimes, both for people who work with me and for the people who take our courses online, at laying out a roadmap, because the world is too complex for a step-by-step guide to how to solve poverty. But what we do have is a compass, is a moral compass and that speaking of truth and standing for truth, not only builds a sense of courage, but it deepens, I think, one’s and certainly my own understanding of where lines are. So thank you for that.

Tim Ferriss: Yeah. Also, I’m getting on a caffeinated soapbox here for a second, but we’re going to cover a lot of ground, so we have space for my caffeinated soapbox, and that is to say these things don’t manifest out of the ether when you need them most, necessarily. You were practicing and conditioning yourself to tell the truth and you had a choice to stuff or to speak, in that moment you made the decision to speak, rated a seven, and that gave you the positive reinforcement, I have to imagine, and more confidence to continue doing the same. But it’s a skill. It seems like a practice that you need to reinforce. Let’s come back to this banking. So in your retake, “Ever since the age of six, I’ve always known I wanted to be a banker,” clearly you’re no longer a banker. So what happened? You’re doing these audits and where does the next chapter enter the picture?

Jacqueline Novogratz: So it started, again, having always dreamed of traveling around the world and knowing — and loving — the world, in fact. Now I’m in Brazil and Chile and Ecuador and truly — Colombia — falling in love with the vibrancy, the color, these stories that, as a young American kid, we didn’t ever get about the developing world. And it struck me in this era again, Tim, when the banks were falling apart, they had been making all these bets based on relationship and long-term debt and suddenly the markets were in crisis and they wanted to call all their loans and they lost hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars, billions of dollars at that time. So I would sit inside the bank, looking at loans that should never have been made. Often money that was actually never even put into what it said it would be put into.

Meanwhile, on the weekends, I would just be drawn to the favelas and into the slums and into these parts of the cities that were so full of life and vibrancy and work and diligent people. And I would talk to people about their businesses and realize that this was a group of people that could not even walk in through the doors of the bank. They had no confidence with the banking system. And so I, again, asking dumb questions, which may be a theme of my life, went to my boss with all good faith and said that maybe we would do better for the country, do better for the people and actually get our money back, do better for the bank if we actually made smaller loans to local people doing what they were doing. And he literally gave me a book called The Innocent Anthropologist, and it became very clear to me that the bank wasn’t ready to pivot in that way. And so I had to go outside, which is where I’ve stayed, trying to disrupt systems from the outside, not the inside, which I think I’m better at.

Tim Ferriss: So The Innocent Anthropologist, I assume, was a very formalized way of giving you a book that basically says, “Listen, kid, that’s adorable, but also very naive.” I mean, is that the thrust of that gift?

Jacqueline Novogratz: Yeah. I mean, he gave me two gifts, actually. That was the first gift. And then when we were talking a little bit later and he was trying to convince me to stay at the bank, he’s like, “Look, you’re one of our top producers and performers, but culturally, you don’t really fit. You dress like Linda Ronstadt and you laugh too much,” which now I think may have been code for “You’re not actually acting enough like an elite — one of us.” And I realized in that moment that not only did I want to see how we could actually use the tools of banking to solve poverty, but he was essentially asking me to be a completely different person and that helped make the decision.

Tim Ferriss: What was your next move? Some people will get to checkmate in one move, but it’s often an evolution. Where did you go from there?

Jacqueline Novogratz: Well, the next move was telling my parents that I had made the decision.

Tim Ferriss: Tell us about that.

Jacqueline Novogratz: Giving up on [what] this middle-class immigrant family saw as the job of a lifetime, and to make it worse, the COO of Chase, Tony Terracciano, such an amazing man, was giving me an opportunity then. I think he liked that I was this scrappy bartender girl and not the more refined version that my immediate boss wanted. He really gave me an opportunity that could have changed — would have changed — the direct trajectory of my life. My dad thought I was giving up that opportunity, my mother thought I would never marry, both had truth in what they were saying.

And so I think that was incredibly hard because we were all raised to quote unquote, do the right thing. I was looking for an opportunity to get to Brazil, but I found one that would bring me to West Africa, which was absolutely not on my playbook, but I realized that this was a chance to pursue a different kind of dream that was really looking at taking the tools of banking and reaching low-income people. I read about Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank and other heroes of mine and I wanted to try it myself. And so I went, and as you said, it was a next move I met with absolute crushing failure, made all the worse because I turned down this really big job offer.

Tim Ferriss: So, we’re going to definitely roll up our sleeves and get into the crushing failure, but before we do, maybe we’ll get into another failure, I have no idea because I don’t know the details of this, but how did the conversation with your parents go? Did you deliver it in a way that they were able to hear? If so, what was that way? Did you try it and they were just like, “Terrible idea, time will tell, watch us.” That was the end of the conversation. I mean, how did it turn out and how did you approach it — or maybe the other way around?

Jacqueline Novogratz: Well, I just told them what I was going to do.

Tim Ferriss: So you didn’t say, “I’m thinking of x,” you were just like, “This is what I’m doing. I’m giving you guys a heads up.”

Jacqueline Novogratz: “Heads up. It’s not such a request; this is what I’m going to do next.” And my mother was like, “You are out of your mind.” She could be very forceful then. And what she will say now is that she understood by then that I had a very strong will when I decided something. I don’t think I quite understood until much later how afraid they were. This is pre-internet, pre-cellphone, pre-real understanding of what this big continent was about. The only images they had of Africa was as almost as a single country, rather than 54, all looking like Ethiopia during the famine of 1983. And probably the worst thing that she said to me was, “I could understand if you were a nun,” and I was like, “What are you doing?”

I think there was a lot of fear. What’s been so thrilling is to watch them along the journey, not only feel deeply proud, but get more and more excited. And that happened fairly quickly, as long as we had a few rules. If I went to a war zone, I didn’t tell them until after I got back because communication was too hard. It was not fair to them. And I think those are things that parents don’t have to deal with today because they can be in more constant contact.

Tim Ferriss: So before we get to the crushing defeat, which I definitely want to spend a little time on, how did you find the next opportunity? Because I think many people listening, they will have some experience, maybe it’s a current experience, of doing something that generates income, but that is not deeply rewarding to them on some level. And they want to have a greater impact. They don’t know what to do, and I’m not asking so much for prescriptive advice yet, we might get to that, but how did you, at that time, especially this is pre-internet, how did you find this next lily pad to jump to? And then please tell us about your crushing defeat.

Jacqueline Novogratz: Again, we had far less tools then. And so I had read one tiny article about Grameen Bank, which was still very obscure. I sent a letter to Muhammad Yunus that probably never reached Bangladesh. And then I heard from a young woman who also was at Chase, that her aunt had started an organization called Women’s World Banking, and that there might be an opportunity. So I just went there and offered myself to go to Brazil. And as I said, she said, “We don’t have any opportunity there. We do, though, in West Africa.”

And I just took it. It was super risky. It didn’t come with health insurance, it just was an opportunity. I knew that if I were waiting for the perfect, I wouldn’t have done it. I also knew I might lose my nerve and it was the only thing that was on offer to really test out my theory that the tools of business and banking could actually serve people who had been fully left out. And I don’t think it was until I was actually on the plane listening to Joni Mitchell’s Blue album over and over and weeping that it really hit me that I was on my own.

Tim Ferriss: Why were you weeping? Was it fear? Was it something else?

Jacqueline Novogratz: I think it was loss. Everything I’d left behind. No understanding of where I was going. Fear. A lot of loss in transition. And then the minute I landed, both excitement for being there and yet almost immediate confrontation with the first big, true failure of my life, I had been told that I had this opportunity to be an ambassador to African women and I was going to help build all these microfinance organizations across the region, and I would say the arrogance underneath was that I was going to save the world, at least this part of it. And what the confrontation helped me understand, pretty quickly, was that most people don’t want to be saved. And certainly not by a 25-year-old white American girl whose French was not very good and who had very little understanding whatsoever of the local culture. And so I hung in there for a number of months. It was very hairy. 

Tim Ferriss: Hairy in what way?

Jacqueline Novogratz: Everything from just a daily rejection where I would go to my little office in the African Development Bank and the door would be locked or I was supposed to do this big conference and I would ask people for help and they’d be like, “Ce n’est pas mon travail. That’s not my job.” And I’d be like, “Okay, I didn’t really know where to go.” And then this one Nigerian — extraordinary woman — befriended me, and she was like, “They really want you out, the powers that be. And so don’t eat anything in front of the women (who didn’t want me in the country).” And I said, “What do you mean don’t eat anything?” She said, “Well, they’re going to poison you. And they’re also talking about voodoo.”

Tim Ferriss: Holy shit.

Jacqueline Novogratz: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Tim Ferriss: Jesus. That’s intense.

Jacqueline Novogratz: And I don’t believe in voodoo, but I will tell you, when you are stripped down to nothing, and you’re afraid to eat anything in front of people, and you’re being locked out of your office and you don’t really have much of a safety net, nor do you know a single person except for this incredible Nigerian woman who’s befriended you, I would lie in bed and be like, “Is anybody here coming to get me?” And then I got unbelievably sick with food poisoning. Like deathly sick.

Tim Ferriss: Did you think it was poisoning or did you think it was food poisoning? I mean, after hearing that story, my God, I mean, I would imagine.

Jacqueline Novogratz: I couldn’t go there. I couldn’t go there.

Tim Ferriss: Yeah.

Jacqueline Novogratz: She thought it might be poisoning. But I didn’t remember eating anything in front of anybody. And I was a little thing to start off with. And so after about eight days of just lying on the bathroom floor, I decided it was enough and told the women, trying to be respectful, but also clear, that I got what they were saying. I really heard that they had not asked for anybody like me and that we shouldn’t be just parachuting in to go and build things without doing it in real partnership. And that that was a mistake on every level, including mine. And nobody should be treated the way that they treated me. And that both were true. That said, I left everything that I owned in the boxes that I had in the Abidjan Hilton. Goodness knows whatever happened to them. And I moved to East Africa, where I kind of started again. Hopefully, with a lot more humility and maybe a different kind of courage.

Tim Ferriss: Was it with the same organization?

Jacqueline Novogratz: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Tim Ferriss: I have to ask, because I’m sure — well, I’m wondering, and I’m sure people listening are wondering, I’ve heard stories of resistance and conflict when people parachute into different places, whether it’s with an NGO or with other organizations. I have never heard of possible poisoning. I mean, that is a next level. How do you explain that? I mean, would the intent be to make you sick, to kill you? I don’t know how to make sense of that degree of kind of counter attack.

Jacqueline Novogratz: Again, I think it’s really dangerous to assume. But I think that what I’ve learned and what I used to — when I used to read novels about the mystical and the magical, that in cultures, including the United States, that were very orally based. Storytelling, mythmaking, can be as powerful and potent as the real things. And so there was, particularly those years, a lot of giri giri, people really believed in wearing different amulets and medicines, in a way you see the guys at Silicon Valley kind of replacing that with new things that we do to give us a sense of strength.

And so the way I always attributed it to, which is why I would never accuse anyone have having done it, but the threat of it, and my own probably fear and isolation may have been made manifest in this literal purging that I did. The threats were not that unusual. Again, and I see it in places where there’s often insecurity and deeply oral-based society. And you got to remember too, Tim, it was 30 years ago. And the world operated in very different ways then. And I just was caught up in this world that I had no understanding of. And of course, it is now a place that I’m deeply in love with, and love all of its different layers and see the reflection in our own societies. We just make manifest in different ways.

Tim Ferriss: At the time, though, you had just suffered this defeat of sorts. Had really met with tremendous opposition. What was your first meaningful win after that in your mind? It could be small or big. Or the first time when you were like, “Okay. This isn’t a fool’s errand. Like I’m actually on to something. I’m on the right track here.”

Jacqueline Novogratz: That’s such an interesting question. I had another crushing failure right after, where I analyzed a whole bank portfolio of a microfinance organization and saw that — I was excited by seeing all of the problems in the portfolio. And the CEO, rather than sharing my excitement that now we could actually fix the problems, burned my work and didn’t want to work with me after that. And so I had to learn a whole new approach, clearly.

Tim Ferriss: That was in East Africa?

Jacqueline Novogratz: That was in Kenya. So I had a second big failure. The little wins were that in my everyday life, the relationships that I was building, including with the person who served tea, with drivers, were quite real. I kept going back to this human potential that I was seeing all around me and starting to understand the crushingly complex systems that were in their way that nobody really wanted to confront. Including the supposed good guys, the NGOs, the nonprofits, the leaders who were also arbitrators of who got resources and who didn’t. And it actually reinforced for me why I believed in the power of business, of entrepreneurship, because I was stuck in this other world where who got control of the resources meant everything. 

The first real win for me was when a woman walked into my office in Nairobi and said that she was from Rwanda, which was a country I was completely unfamiliar with at the time. In fact, I thought she said Uganda. And that they had just — 1986, they had just passed a new law that abolished Napoleonic Code. Under Napoleonic Code, women were put in the same category as children and the mentally impaired.

And until that moment, were unable to open a bank account without their husband’s signature. And she asked me if I would go to the country to do a study, if you will, for whether it might be possible to create some kind of financial institution specifically for women. And it was the first time an African woman had asked me to help solve a problem. And I think I was so beat up by then, and yet really did feel this sense that if we could get markets to work for poor women, they would have so much more dignity than what I’d been seeing. That I probably went for a three-week assignment and knew somewhere inside of me that I wasn’t leaving until we had built a bank.

Tim Ferriss: So presumably that’s what happened. What happened?

Jacqueline Novogratz: So that’s what happened. I mean, a couple things happened. Again, I had learned from my own lack of humility that it would have been really easy to go in there and be like, “I, I, I, I.” But that if we were going to build an enduring institution, and I deeply believe in enduring institutions, that I had to be a minor role, even if I was doing a lot of the legwork. And so I was really lucky to find a small group of Rwandan powerhouse women who were my co-founders and we did everything together. It reinforced the African adage that if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. And it became one of the most extraordinary experiences of my life, because I saw that you really could change a little corner of history with the right people, the right kind of capital, the right value system, and certainly a lot of hard work.

Tim Ferriss: I want to just put a bookmark in that for a second and ask from that initial plane flight, crying, listening to Joni Mitchell, to that Rwandan woman walking into your office, how much time had elapsed roughly?

Jacqueline Novogratz: Roughly, probably seven months.

Tim Ferriss: Okay. So over that seven-month period, what were the ingredients that kept you going? Was it that you’d said to yourself, “Come Hell or high water, I’m sticking around for a year?” Had you made that kind of commitment? Was it, “I cannot go back to the US with my tail between my legs and let all these naysayers prove themselves right?” Was it something else? I’m just wondering what kept you kind of slogging away over that period of time.

Jacqueline Novogratz: I would say that the whole first year and a half was that slog. I would say a combination of this man, Tony Terracciano. When he had given me this job offer, he was like, “You’re going to go to Africa instead of do this?” And I was like, “Mr. Terracciano, don’t you understand if I don’t go, I might never do it?” That moment kept coming back to me and it’s like, “How do I go back to him as a complete failure? I have to show him that we can do something.” But also, Tim, I saw the vibrancy. I saw this beauty and this world that I had never imagined existed, with people who were so eminently capable, but who weren’t really given a chance to be everything that they could be. And it didn’t seem like rocket science to me to build different kinds of systems that actually allowed their capability to flourish. And so I think it was a mix of hubris and a desire to be used in ways that I felt that I had something to offer.

Tim Ferriss: So coming back to the bookmark of Rwanda, and you finally start to, in close collaboration with these co-founders, these local women, create something meaningful. You start to chalk up some marks in the win category. How do we go from there to Acumen? What is the timeline or the series of events that leads? And I know we’re covering earlier chapters, but I like really looking at these things closely because it shows the development before you reach escape velocity. And I think that makes, at least for me, a fascinating study. Because people get to see sort of how you got to the point where you could self-perpetuate and kind of build success on success. So Rwanda to Acumen?

Jacqueline Novogratz: So Rwanda to Acumen. Saw both the power of using markets — with the microfinance I learned that it wasn’t enough. That giving women just small loans was amazing, that you could give them access to credit at say, 12 percent a year, rather than 400 percent a year, which is what they paid the money lenders. That you could build community. My assumption that, if you gave women small bits of credit that it would be enough for them to create jobs, was wrong. Most people aren’t entrepreneurs, and that’s probably a really good thing. I could say it as an entrepreneur, married to an entrepreneur. We need the builders. We need all these other personalities around us. So I also started a little bakery with 20 women to really understand what it would take to build entities that gave people good jobs. And that was a whole other learning point in the apprenticeship, if you will, before Acumen. That access to markets is important. Without the capabilities of actually using that access, we’re only halfway there.

I think because I was beginning to understand that I wanted to build companies, not just make small loans, that I wanted new skills. Also in the context of East Africa at the time, degrees and other markers of success, particularly for women, seemed really important. I was often called msichana m’dogo, which means little girl. Even though we actually created a very successful lending operation. So I applied to Stanford Business School. It was the only school I applied to. But I thought, well, if I get in, good. If I don’t, doesn’t matter.

Tim Ferriss: Why Stanford? Besides the pretty trees on Palm Drive.

Jacqueline Novogratz: It was really, really hard to get an application anywhere. We only had word processors. We didn’t have computers. It took 10 days to get a letter to Stanford or wherever. And then another 10 days after they sent the application to you. And then you had to write on that little airplane paper, send it back. It was a nightmare. And that particular year, Harvard, on its annual report, had a picture of all of the graduates with dollar signs on the back of their hats. And I thought, “Well, I think I might be a misfit, given that I really want to solve poverty.”

Tim Ferriss: That is so bad. That is so bad. And I have close friends who have gone to Harvard. But, oh God, that’s terrible.

Jacqueline Novogratz: But put yourself back there, right? 1987. That was the height. That was the Mike Milken — that was like the height of market belief. In fact, market fundamentalism.

Tim Ferriss: Gordon —

Jacqueline Novogratz: Gordon Gekko.

Tim Ferriss: Gordon Gekko. Exactly.

Jacqueline Novogratz: And so, Stanford had a public management program that I thought fit more with what I wanted to do with my life. It was very clear that I didn’t want to go back to just make money. I wanted to go back to build the tools, to build companies that could employ and serve poor people. And so at Stanford, I met an extraordinary mentor named John Gardner, and I think he shaped my life as well in terms of getting me focused on the United States as the rest of the world. And talked to me about the importance of leadership, which I hadn’t really thought about as much, Tim.

And then I went to The Rockefeller Foundation, where I really saw the power of philanthropy. So by the time I was nearing 40, I had worked in the private sector with banking, I had built several institutions, but most notably, Duterimbere, the microfinance organization. And this bakery and a couple of others. And then probably the other critical thing that happened was the Rwanda genocide. So suddenly having worked on a social justice institution by then, that had been in existence for seven years and seeing a country explode into a blood bath, losing many of the people that I loved and that I worked with, and seeing my co-founders play out every role of the genocide. From being murdered, to watching their families be murdered, to being bystanders.

I think that was probably one of the most important, not experiences, because God forbid, I had watched it from afar. But both an understanding of patient capital, that the work of change is so often a couple steps forward, and sometimes the whole thing blows up. That societies are highly complex. And again, that at the heart of my work had to be a redefinition of what poverty was. That we so often look at poverty and we think, “The answer is income. The answer is jobs.” What I had seen by now, both in banking and in development, and certainly with the genocide, is that the opposite of poverty is dignity. It is having a choice, having opportunity, having agency over who you are in your life and what you’re capable of doing.

And we missed that. And that was really the beginning of Acumen. That we have all these tools. We have the superpower in capitalism, but when we raise it to the rank of religion and everything goes around one end, profit, we can do amazing things, but we exclude a huge chunk of the world and we create great inequality. We’re seeing that today. Not to mention, not consider the environment. If government decides everything or top-down approaches to aid, it’s just too easy to give to the people that are close to you, or for reasons that have nothing to do with anything but power. And so the question I started asking myself is, “What if we looked at capital as capital, understand it exists on a spectrum, take the power of business and capital, but rather than let it control us, control it in service of creating a world where we can actually solve our problems?” Acumen was born in 2001 with that idea in mind.

Tim Ferriss: We are going to spend a fair amount of time on Acumen, no big surprise there. But I want to spend just a few more moments on the Rwandan genocide, because I think it may be helpful in exploring the tendency that we all have to oversimplify things. And the example that comes to mind, and this is based on reading and prepping for this conversation, that I’d love to hear you speak to, is the tendency to separate the world into monsters and angels. And how unhelpful that can be. And I think you alluded to it with your description of coworkers and people you knew, or certainly people you had exposure to, being on all sides of this genocide.

Victims, bystanders, perpetrators, I’m sure you had interacted on some level, even just going into the market or otherwise, with people who are on all sides of this. Could you speak to that? Because I wrote it down because it seemed important, not just within the context of a genocide, obviously, but just within the context of life in general.

Jacqueline Novogratz: Yeah.

Tim Ferriss: I’d love to hear any and all thoughts.

Jacqueline Novogratz: Yeah. First thought is absolutely, I didn’t just know people in the market. Our first executive director was jailed as being one of the highest ranking or the highest ranking planner of the genocide. Before the genocide, she was co-creating a liberal party based on multi-tribal democracy with another one of our co-founders. But when it was clear that power looked like it was going to Hutu Power, or the genocide regime, she switched. And so early on, I saw those who seek power and those who seek purpose. And that power can be very tempting. And I also saw how in a time of real insecurity, and we’re in one again, it can be very easy for demagogic leaders at all levels of society to prey on insecurity and sometimes make us do terrible things.

And that’s where monsters and angels came in. Where the metaphor was just made manifest for me was when I was literally sitting in a prison with Agnes, the woman who was the major perpetrator, knee to knee, asking her how this could have happened. And there she was, Tim, in a pink dress, the prisoner’s uniform, her head shaved bald, with a freckled face. She looked like a young woman. She didn’t look like a monster. And we had founded this institution together. We’re taught that there are bad people and good people, monsters and angels. And yet the truth of the matter is that monsters and angels live in every single one of us. Monsters are our broken parts. They are our petty fears, our insecurities, the grievances that grow.

And it’s just too damn easy to pull into those parts when we, as a society, feel insecure. We blame other people. We other them. And that was very much at the heart of the genocide. And that has very much informed the way I see the world and the way at Acumen, even the way that we talk about and inscribe our values, it’s always intention. It’s always recognizing the light in the dark in almost any choice that we make. So that we’re much more cognizant that there is no system that’s all good, nor is there any human being that is all good or all bad. I worry sometimes when I hear conversations in the social media moment that we are in that it’s capitalism’s fault, it’s socialism’s fault, it’s stakeholders, it’s shareholders. Rather than, “Could we focus on the values here? What are we trying to solve? And then can we pull back and find ways to use the best of the tools that we have at our disposal and actually solve that problem?”

Tim Ferriss: Everything you just said, I think is so — it’s always been important. I think it’s exceptionally important when you have technologies that are, in a sense, designed too polarized. Because the incentives are such that that becomes sort of a driving design and engineering and imperative in a sense. And just to comment a bit further on that, I would encourage everyone out there to look at the work of Derren Brown. Derren Brown is a mentalist, performer, also an incredible artist from the UK. And he has a number of specials, including one called The Push. He has another I can’t recall the name of. But the objective, putting ethical considerations aside, the objective is to show how you can mold people who are otherwise upstanding moral people to do terrible things, like push someone off a building or to shoot someone.

And the sad reality is that it is very much possible. And that it’s easy to sit on a moral high horse and levy judgment against others. And to say, “I would never have participated in a Rwandan genocide.” Or, “I never would have been a member of the Nazi party.” And so on and so forth. But it’s not quite that simple, right? And I think to simplify it down to the black and white, people being all one or all other, is not in service of solutions. So I really appreciate you expanding on that. And let’s jump to Acumen. Acumen, how’d you choose the name or how was the name decided?

Jacqueline Novogratz: Acumen really stands for perspective, insight. When we started Acumen, I was really focused on revolutionizing philanthropy. And too often, the way we think about philanthropy is soft. This was saying, again, the hard and the soft. You’ve got to bring an edge, start with business, start with insight, build from there. And bring the same level of accountability that you would expect from a financial investment into the world of social change. Therefore, Acumen.

Tim Ferriss: So could you just recap for people, I know we mentioned it in the bio, but a lot has been discussed so far. What does Acumen do?

Jacqueline Novogratz: Acumen really does three things. First, we invest long-term patient capital. This is 10-15 year investment backed by philanthropy. So equity and debt into entrepreneurs that are going where markets have failed. Healthcare, education, energy, agriculture. We will invest not only for 10-15 years, but we accompany those entrepreneurs with our social capital, our access to networks, to supply chains, to knowledge, sometimes to talent. Any money that comes back gets reinvested. As you said, Tim, to grow these companies in scale is at the heart of everything that we do. We then need to tap into more traditional forms of capital in the impact investing space. So we also have a management company that runs several for-profit impact funds. The second thing we do is build a community of builders through The World’s School for Social Change Acumen Academy.

And that is not only trying to identify, link, inspire the talent that exists, I believe, in every corner of the world, but also to offer rules, tools, blueprints so that anyone, anywhere who wants to be on the path of social change using this combination of head and heart hard skills—and what I think are the even harder skills that we have to build—can be part of it.

The third is to measure what matters. If you’re going to say that you invest for impact, you better be able to measure what that impact is. And a couple of years ago, we spun off a company called 60 Decibels that uses an approach to measuring change that we created called Lean Data, which we can talk about. But it essentially upholds one of our main values, which is listening. And it essentially measures impact not from the perspective of the giver or the investor, but from the recipients, from the customers themselves so that we can actually serve the poor in ways that we hope to.

Tim Ferriss: Does the Lean Data, and I may ask some followup questions just to ensure I’m clear on — 

Jacqueline Novogratz: — how it works?

Tim Ferriss: How it works. Does that apply to the for-profit investing as well? The for-profit impact funds?

Jacqueline Novogratz: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah. And in fact, the reason we spun it out is a number of other nonprofit and for-profit funds asked us if we would essentially provide them with Lean Data consulting. And we thought that, again, going back to our mission, we want to change the way the world tackles poverty, we would serve that mission better if we spun it out, let it grow, and that 60 Decibels, which has been really exciting to watch, take off. I’d love to see BlackRock using it, frankly.

Tim Ferriss: All right, BlackRock, I’m sure there’s somebody listening that is involved with BlackRock. 

Jacqueline Novogratz: Coming to get you!

Tim Ferriss: Let’s just assume they are listening, and also for my benefit and for listeners, could you just reiterate what Lean Data are, if I’m going to be a pompous Princetonian, what exactly is or are Lean Data? Because the question of measuring impact is one that, at least in my circles, comes up a lot. How do you actually do this? How do you try to invest, not just for ROI, but for good, for impact, but how do you do that without just waving your hands around and claiming that you’ve done a lot of good? I’d love to hear you expand on that.

Jacqueline Novogratz: We invest in entrepreneurs that are trying to build markets where they haven’t existed for people who make two or three dollars a day, where there’s no infrastructure, there’s no trusts, there are very few skills and talent. There’s a lot of corruption and complacency. And so it would be really easy for us to essentially say that anything we do in a difficult environment is impact. And so we decided that we had to hold ourselves accountable to a higher standard, that at the end of the day, what really matters when it comes to dignity is to record and understand the voices of those you are there to serve, the poor.

For many years, Tim, our impact measuring was fairly mediocre because we didn’t have the tools. Once you had cell phone technology, and you could text customers, suddenly you had a one-on-one communication where you weren’t in the room where people aren’t always as likely to tell you the truth, because they don’t really think you want to hear it anyway. But in this case, the more anonymity they had, the clearer people would give.

So imagine a solar light company — we’re the largest off-grid solar investor for the poor in the world, so we have a lot of them. We could go to a company like d.light and text 5-6,000 customers simultaneously, ask those customers a series of questions from which we can deduce what matters to them. How many more hours of light do they have when they buy a solar home system that gives them three lights, a radio, a television? What is the quality of that light? We can measure carbon offset, that’s easy. Has their health changed, because they’re no longer using dangerous noxious kerosene? Are their children doing better in education? Which was an assumption we had when we first went into it.

Then we collate all of that, and suddenly we can help our entrepreneurs understand whether they’re serving people, which is sometimes shocking when they find that they actually are not in the way that they thought they were. But equally we can start to look across a sector like solar electricity, and we can see which companies may have the best product, but it’s reaching people with the highest income, and so you’ve got a trade-off. Which companies are doing the most to displace carbon, but they may have another trade-off. Which companies have the happiest customers? And we can decide more effectively where we want to allocate our dollars for impact, not only for financial returns. It not only has held us more accountable, Tim, it’s allowed the entrepreneurs a much deeper understanding of who their customers are. It allows us to see, are we actually reaching the poor, which is our mandate.

And it’s shown us where we were wrong. When it came to off-grid energy, we assumed, as I said, that kids would do better in school. They don’t necessarily do better in school. If you want kids to do better in school in really, really hot areas, get them a solar system that includes a fan, because with the fan, the air moves at night, bugs are kept away, the kids sleep, they do better. It’s a lean approach because you’re not doing a three-year, randomized control trial. And it is a deep approach because you’re hearing from the perspective of those who actually most matter.

Tim Ferriss: Yeah, the three-year randomized controlled approach has its place. But honestly, I mean, and this is speaking as someone who is very involved with financing scientific studies, it’s not the right tool for all jobs. And particularly when you are outside of a laboratory with lots of uncontrolled variables, it’s just trying to hammer screws a lot of the time. I think there’s a real place for this Lean Data approach, and I have a question about how this is used.

So here’s a hypothetical, maybe it’s not hypothetical, I would imagine you’ve run into this. If you are acting as a nonprofit and you’re investing in various enterprises, you can apply this data or offer this type of tool across the board, I would imagine with the underlying belief that a rise in tides raises all ships. Once you are a consultancy and you are providing Lean Data to for-profit companies, would you not say in a given sector, run into someone who wants you to avoid conflicts by providing them this data, which could help their businesses or business? And they might say, “Hey, I know that you have this valuable data. We would like to be the only one to receive it in the X, Y, and Z category, otherwise, it doesn’t really give us a competitive advantage. So why would we pay for it?” Do you ever run into anything like that, much like a law firm would have a conflict check?

Jacqueline Novogratz: No. I mean, when there’s conflict, then you know you’re onto something and I’m looking forward to that day when we do have that conflict. I would say the more internal conversation that we have as a board is, how transparent to make it so that we start actually taking seriously the level of impact that different investors around the world actually are getting. 

Tim Ferriss: You mean transparency in terms of like what you learn, how much to make publicly available?

Jacqueline Novogratz: Yeah. Yeah. And it goes to the ethos, at the beginning of Acumen even, and I guess it goes to the girl we were talking about. I just wanted to know the truth ourselves. So even if the world didn’t care, we would always have a forced ranking of our investments. And if you just sat there trying to defend your investment as an investor, that was the way you could get fired. If you were the one who talked about everything that was wrong with it, and what made you worried, that was the way you could become more of a hero, and now we’ve grown quite large. And I think we have a different set of questions that we ask.

But I think it was that ethos, Tim, of holding ourselves to account for the kind of impact that we are trying to create in the world, not protect, that allowed Acumen to partner with just incredible market makers, like the guys who founded d.light, which has brought clean solar light and electricity to over a hundred million people and really launched an energy revolution and taught me that the kind of investing we need to think about right now at scale, doesn’t only reward the building of a single company, but those companies who ultimately create entire markets, and I think that’s the next frontier in so many ways.

Tim Ferriss: So you gave an example, just one example of many, of just the scale, the large-scale impact that Acumen and these various spin-offs and for-profit funds have been able to have in the world. But if we go back to 2001, circa 2001, Acumen, I always like to ask, aside from Acumen, did you have any other names that were on the short list for consideration that you remember? Do you remember any other rough drafts or was it — 

Jacqueline Novogratz: Of course I do. Of course I do! In fact, 2001, just to put us back again, it was the dot-com craziness, well, 2000, 2001. But by the time I picked Acumen and we started, there was a bust. But you could not get a URL and no names were working. And so I had this night at the Rockefeller Foundation where I was working and we came up with really, really great names, including Ain’t Your Grandma’s Philanthropy.

Tim Ferriss: That’s great.

Jacqueline Novogratz: I think that was my brother Mike’s, but I can’t remember. But there was a lot of wine involved in the naming of Acumen. And then I really loved the word “immersion.” I still do. It’s one of the principles of moral imagination. There’s a great line from Tillie Olsen, where she says, “May you live a life of immersion,” I’m paraphrasing, “But what price will you pay? To truly understand the complexity of the issues that we are trying to solve, you have to get close.” Bryan Stevenson, the civil rights activist, says “You have to get Proximus.” I say “You have to immerse.” It’s the same. But when we did trials, particularly across gender, women were attracted to the word “immersion.” Men hated it. Hated it. And so Acumen seemed a little less offensive to one of the two groups.

Tim Ferriss: How did you test it? Were you sending out a poll to a group of friends? How did you do the split testing?

Jacqueline Novogratz: Well, a friend of mine, Antonio Baring, was working for a now no-longer dot-com called, I think it was called March1st. They did this big ideation project with us, so they actually did some true consumer testing, but I also, having so many people in my life and being an extrovert, just kept asking, asking, asking, and I couldn’t find a single man who was with me on Immersion. And in fact, I can remember one person was like, “I just hear that word, Jacqueline. I feel like you’re making me drown in a sea.” I was like, “Well, there is something to that. There are moments when you feel like you’re drowning, but then you come out to clarity.” But so, we decided.

Tim Ferriss: I never would have guessed in a million years that you would have such a gender split on Immersion. Maybe I’m just a language geek, so I find it attractive as a concept.

Jacqueline Novogratz: I think now, in fact, our housing company in Pakistan, Jawad Aslam, he actually named one of his funds the Immersion Fund. Once you really think about it, it’s a beautiful word. All of us right now need to immerse more in each other’s lives. All of us need to design with the imagination, not just through our own lens, but with the imagination that is morally based. You don’t get that if we don’t have immersion. I think it’s changed.

Tim Ferriss: Yeah, I was just going to ask if you could just explore for a moment and then we’re going to come back to Acumen and I’m going to ask you about the earliest wins and if you could speak to those, but I don’t want to gloss over moral imagination. Could you just take a moment, and I think you’re walking into that territory, but just to frame it, what is moral imagination?

Jacqueline Novogratz: Moral imagination is essentially putting yourself in another’s shoes and building from their perspective. As I said, we often design through the lens just of our own imagination. That doesn’t work when we’re designing for people whose lives are completely unlike our own. So moral imagination starts with empathy, but I’ve learned time and time again that empathy by itself reinforces the status quo or at least risks doing so. And so the idea of moral imagination is understanding by immersing a particular problem, and then thinking systemically about those issues that get in people’s way, and then frankly, being honest enough to recognize where people get in their own way, and then moving from there.

Tim Ferriss: When you say empathy in some cases enforces the status quo, could you elaborate on that? Do you mean that it’s just an us versus, not versus, but an us and them kind of the savior of the fill-in-the-blank? Is it that dichotomy that’s created or not that that is what empathy does of course, but what do you mean by enforcing the status quo?

Jacqueline Novogratz: I think it’s even deeper. I think when I first learned about the moral imagination was in college, when I was at Charlottesville, ironically, given everything that happened in Charlottesville a few years ago, and I signed up to bring a turkey dinner and all the trappings of a Christmas to this community that was 30 minutes away from the University where low-income people lived. I was also kind of a wild co-ed, so we had this big party. We asked everyone to bring food and toys to make a perfect Christmas for these kids. I was really excited because I felt at some level, so sorry for these people that didn’t get to have a Christmas.

The next morning, my girlfriend and I got up and we got in her car, we loaded it with all this stuff, we were both completely hung over and we drove into this place that — I’d never been to a place like that before. It was literally, when we got to the house, it was like a shanty, a shack. And suddenly I just felt shame, Tim. I was like, “Oh, my God. I don’t know who these kids are. I don’t know what kind of things they like. I don’t know if the parents want the kids to know that somebody else is bringing them Christmas and this is all wrong.” And literally, I said to Suzanne, my friend, I was like, “Just keep the car running,” and grabbed the stuff, I ran it, I threw it on the porch. I ran back to the car and I was like, “Just go.” 

And I think in a way it was the beginning of my moral imagination, that act was an act of empathy. It was well-intended, and I hope that they had a really lovely Christmas. But the moral imagination would have said, “Look, am I willing to do the work of actually understanding who these people are at the very least and building from there? If I’m not, find an organization that does. Even better ask the questions around what got them there in the first place, and where can I be spending my time and my energy and my capital to solve that problem?” And I’m not saying we shouldn’t give charity, I think there’s a real role for moving from that place of empathy, and from that just place of unbridled love in a moment. Our job right now, when the pandemic and everything that’s happened in the world has broken our systems open, is to think bigger than that, and to hold ourselves to account at a systemic level, and that’s what my obsession is.

Tim Ferriss: Thank you for explaining that and telling that story also, which I think drives it home. Acumen, so wing and a prayer, good idea, you’ve tested the name, here we go, buckle up. Do you recall any of the first wins where you’re like, “Okay, I think this might actually do something?”

Jacqueline Novogratz: Oh, yeah. And I recall it like it was yesterday. We had helped put together this collaboration, this deal to bring long-lasting malaria bed nets into Tanzania. It started with Sumitomo who had developed this bed net, and also recognized that 95 percent of malaria is in Africa, and yet there was no manufacturing capability for this particular kind of bed net. And so it was a real experiment. Could we build manufacturing capability with similar throughput rates to the kind that you might get in Asia where the long-lasting bed nets were created? We went through all these different entrepreneurs. We identified this incredible guy named my Anuj Shah in Arusha, Tanzania, and worked with Global Fund to buy these nets, and didn’t really know what it was going to look like, and of course I had seen a lot of things fail.

This was a complex collaboration. And then I went to go visit just as the factory was getting going, and there was one line of bed net making machines. And I was like, “This is cool.” I love operations, factory operations. A few months later, I went back and there were four. Few months later, I went back and there were eight, and there was that moment when suddenly I was seeing hundreds of women operating these machines that I thought, “Oh my goodness, we’re doing this.” And then they ended up creating jobs for 10,000 people, manufacturing 30 million nets a year. They ended up being 15 percent of global production. And when you think about that, that’s a half a billion people who have gotten access to malaria bed nets because of this little company and — not so little anymore — company in Arusha, Tanzania. And I was like, “Bingo, this is what we’re about.”

Tim Ferriss: Boom, proof of concept!

Jacqueline Novogratz: Boom!

Tim Ferriss: Let’s look at this example because I’d like to explore the thought process or the process a bit, in so much as I think, many people who are considering impact investing, or even perhaps starting a firm or a fund or a company that has that as its intended purpose. Particularly a fund, they might solicit proposals or business proposals, and then choose from that menu of options. But it seems like you started with selecting a problem, and then you canvassed to find candidates. Is that how you approached it?

Jacqueline Novogratz: In the beginning, we selected sectors. We were mostly focused at the very beginning on health technologies, and then the idea was we would find entrepreneurs. I was and am such a believer in entrepreneurs. And in fact, people would say, “Oh, are you trying to solve malaria?” And I’d be like, “No. We are trying to find those health technologies that could fundamentally change people’s lives and bring them dignity.” 

Now again, we’re in a very different place where we have all local teams on the ground. Depending on the region, there’s much more focus on the sectors. And Tim, what we find then is if you think about Acumen as a laboratory, when we see a company really move up, like a d.light, then we can start to build other companies around it to really help create that ecosystem, so we’re a bit different. In the US for instance, it wouldn’t make sense for us to be looking at off-grid energy. We’re investing in the social determinants of health care, financial inclusion and workforce development, which we feel are so critical to where the nation is now when it comes to the poor, or low income people.

Tim Ferriss: You mentioned Sumitomo, which is Japanese and developing an ecosystem around a company is in some ways, a very Japanese concept or it’s something that’s been very well explored and developed in the cadence of these, I suppose, conglomerates would be a lazy way to translate that in Japan, but that’s — 

Jacqueline Novogratz: As is a very long-term approach.

Tim Ferriss: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, if you look at some of these companies, they’ve lasted us a very long time. They’re not five- or 10-year companies. I look at your story. I look at your chronology, and one thing that stands out to me, and please feel free to disabuse me of any misconceptions, but you cut your teeth in banking, you got to understand that machine from the inside. You then while simultaneously in some respects, and then after, looked at microfinance access to capital. You started a bakery; I don’t think that’s a small thing. You actually were boots on the ground, getting first-hand experience in an immersive way of what entrepreneurship looked like in your chosen environment. You got your ass kicked in West Africa, but put another way, you really got an extended education on someone else’s charter, with someone else’s organization and support.

You, through that entire period of time, are developing grit, learning what doesn’t work. Certain approaches to parachuting, and you’re learning, conversely, what does work. And then suddenly you’re Jacqueline Novogratz, Founder and CEO of Acumen. But I think it’s tempting for people to jump straight to the Acumen. And I’d love to hear you answer the question: what advice you would give to young people who say they want to change the world? Because it strikes me that if you had tried to jump straight to Acumen, correct me if I’m wrong, but you wouldn’t have been viewed as backable. You wouldn’t have had the operational experience, it just wouldn’t have worked. And I sometimes worry that these young or older people, quite frankly, who could really make a positive dent in the world, are putting the cart before the horse, in terms of skill development. They don’t have the chops, but they want to change the world. You’ve spoken to students, I know you’ve given commencement speeches, but for those people listening who are like, “I just want to change the world.” What advice would you give to them?

Jacqueline Novogratz: Well, the first would be this idea of just follow your passion, I don’t even really even understand what that means. Even though my whole life, I have been very clear about the way I wanted to create change, and for whom. It wasn’t this, as you’ve said, out of the box, really understanding that we were going to use different forms of capital and support it with the right kind of talent to work a system to create real change. I would say just start, but don’t start by asking, “What is my purpose? What is my passion?” Start by asking, “What are the problems that need to be solved? Which ones attract me?” And take a step toward that. Take one step, and the work will teach you where you need to take the next step. Build tools in your toolbox.

If you still don’t know what your passion or your purpose is as you take those steps, follow a leader and learn from that leader. There is something so powerful, and I think this is what you’re getting at too, Tim, in apprenticing. I would say I apprenticed for 15 years. And also to your point, that bakery, in some ways, probably looked like a Girl Scout project to a lot of people. When I think about some of the most important things I’ve ever done in my life, that one sits at the top, for all the reasons that you implied. I had to learn the gritty realities, talk about learning humility. I also saw that we could succeed, and I had to let go of a lot of my assumptions, yet again. And so I do think you’re right, that skipping steps, particularly because life is both shorter than we think it is and it’s longer than we think it is, it doesn’t serve the world and it doesn’t serve you.

Tim Ferriss: Hear, hear. You’ve also, I don’t know if you’ve said this or written it, but I vaguely remember, and maybe you can provide some context here for when it was said or written, but something along the lines of, “If you try to keep all of your options open, you may just end up with a bunch of options.” 

Jacqueline Novogratz: I actually think Jim Collins said that to me when I was lucky enough to be his student and I have paraphrased Jim. I say that a lot where it’s like, “Well, Jacqueline, I needed to keep my options open.” And I’m like, “Seriously? Just commit to something.” This, we don’t tell young people or even old people, we don’t expect that enough. And I think the cult of the individual is also the cult of optionality, and the secret is that when you commit to something, particularly something bigger than yourself, it will set you free. And suddenly you will find a freedom and layering of life that you never really understood you had.

Tim Ferriss: That is something that I don’t think I would’ve fully been able to wrap my head around until just in the last few years, really becoming dedicated to scientific research around psychedelic compounds. And I don’t want to take us down that rabbit hole necessarily, certainly your brother Mike has a fair amount to say! 

Jacqueline Novogratz: I’m the wrong Novogratz sibling for that one!

Tim Ferriss: While your brother Mike has a fair amount to say about that, Mister “This Ain’t Your Grandma’s Philanthropy,” or whatever it was. But the great relief and unburdening of me-centric living that comes from dedicating yourself to something larger is really profound. And I mean, it’s not entirely altruistic, it’s so relieving. It’s hard to overstate that, and I’m glad you mentioned it.

Jacqueline Novogratz: And none of this is entirely altruistic. If we’re seeking purpose, if we all buy into Thoreau’s that so many men live lives of quiet desperation, and we don’t want to be those people, then there is no clearer path than making a commitment to problems that might be so big you won’t solve them in your lifetime, because then you are constantly just starting. You are constantly learning and unlearning and renewing. And I think that’s been also the story of this work of trying to solve these big problems with entrepreneurs that are as relentless in their seeking, it’s just that what drives them is to solve a problem. What does not drive them is just profit, though they recognize they need the profit for long-term financial sustainability and scale. It’s the prioritization.

Tim Ferriss: You mentioned following a leader earlier and also apprenticing, and there are many different types of leaders out there — many people who might seem to be good mentors, but make terrible mentors. Could you speak to an example in your life of a mentor or a leader, and it doesn’t have to be John Gardner, I wrote that down just because you mentioned John in passing from, I believe it, that was your GSB days, right, the Stanford days? To what makes a good mentor or a good leader, the type you might want to follow or learn from?

Jacqueline Novogratz: For me, there’s really no one like John Gardner in my life, Tim. He was this very patrician man who almost spoke in koans by the time I met him. We were 50 years apart in age, so he gave a lot of wisdom. Where he stood apart, and again, we need him so much right now. He was the only Republican on Lyndon Johnson’s Democratic cabinet and was the head of Health, Education, and Welfare. So he was at the table, negotiating some of the great civil rights legislation. Talk about courage. He would say things to me like, “Focus on being interested, Jacqueline, not interesting,” When I would get some fancy job offer, and he would think that was a vanity project rather than a character-building project. John left the cabinet and resigned his position in protest of the Vietnam War. And in response, he created a grassroots citizens’ organization at age 54 called Common Cause. And it was that level of integrity and of doing the right thing, not the easy thing, that I think we’re all yearning for in our leaders today. John could have done anything. But when I think about what legacy is, I think about him and I look at the now. We’ve had over a million signups on Acumen Academy. When I see these hundreds and hundreds of Acumen fellows and the entrepreneurs, I sometimes hear John’s words in them. And I think this man who’s been dead for almost 20 years is fully alive with the kind of legacy that matters because he focused on investing in the world around him and not just in himself.

Tim Ferriss: So, Jacqueline, I’ve good news, bad news, depending. It’s actually the same news, I just don’t know how you’re going to take it, which is, I think we’re going to have to do, or I would like to do a round two at some point. Because there’s no way we’re going to cover even a fraction of what I have in front of me. But — 

Jacqueline Novogratz: We could do a do-over.

Tim Ferriss: Oh, definitely not a do-over. You kidding me? You’ve been nothing but net for an hour and 40 minutes. I’m not letting this one go. I would like to ask about — actually, first a short question, then a longer question. The shorter question is going to be about books. And the longer question’s going to be about advice to different types of listeners. Those people who have more time than money, maybe they’re earlier in their careers. Maybe they’re just in a transition. Then you have the investor types. I would consider myself an investor type also who are looking to have more impact, make more impact. And then to institutional. Those people who might be in positions within institutions. Before we get to that, so you were kind enough to contribute to Tribe of Mentors, my last book. Thank you very much for that. And you answered quite a number of questions. One of those questions is what is the book or books you’ve given the most as a gift, and why? Or what are one to three books that have greatly influenced your life?

Now, you mentioned a few notes. You can also revise these. One, was Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. Another, Things Fall Apart by — can you pronounce this author’s name for me?

Jacqueline Novogratz: Chinua Achebe.

Tim Ferriss: Thank you. There’s so many words and names that I know how to read, I recognize, but I have no idea how to pronounce. And then A Fine Balance by — well, here’s another one. Rohinton Mistry.

Jacqueline Novogratz: Rohinton Mistry.

Tim Ferriss: Here we go. If you had to pick one of these or another book, it doesn’t have to be one of these three, but a book that you’ve given as a gift, or that has had a strong impact on you for people to start with, which might you recommend and why? Of course, I recommend people also read your books, The Blue Sweater, and also Manifesto for Moral Revolution. So not to exclude those, but for the sake of conversation now, if they weren’t those books, what comes to mind?

Jacqueline Novogratz: I have reasons for each of those books and certainly The Invisible Man in this moment of the Black Lives Matter protests and the continuing racial reckoning. Invisible Man really taught me to not see through anybody ever. But the book I give right now in this time of so much despair is Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning, where he really looks at people in the Holocaust and asks himself, why did some just sort of crumple up and die and others stayed resilient and strong? And that at the end of the day, no one can take our dignity away from us. And so I think that we have to be reminded right now that, between stimulus and response, there is a choice. And we’re in that moment. And I have seen myself personally so often that in the darkest times we can find our best selves and that’s our opportunity right now.

And so I think for this moment, Tim, Man’s Search for Meaning should be required reading for all of us.

Tim Ferriss: I could not endorse that strongly enough for anyone who’s listening to this also across 500 plus episodes of this podcast. The single book that has come up most often is Man’s Search for Meaning. So if you have not read this book, do yourself a favor, do everyone around you a favor, and pick it up. It is just a tremendous book. And also a great example of someone, in this case Viktor Frankl, embracing something larger than himself. The completion of Man’s Search for Meaning, the concept of writing this and compiling it as a book that helped him to get through so much suffering also.

Jacqueline Novogratz: Yeah. And moral imagination that he had in seeing not just the ugliness of the world that is, and the humility that that takes, but he truly had the audacity to imagine what could be and to see the infinite potential in every human being.

Tim Ferriss: So let’s use that as a segue to help others to embrace the audacity to imagine what they might do. And you can take these in any order and there might be other archetypes we want to touch upon. But for those people listening, and I’ll describe three, we have the person with me right now for any number of reasons, more time than financial resources, what they might do. And you don’t have to tackle them in this order. The individual investor, so that’s someone who is accustomed to perhaps investing in public equities or in my case, and many others, startups, cryptocurrency, whatever it might be, who would like to begin to experiment with investing for greater social impact or impact. And then the players in the institutional space, those people who may be at asset management firms or otherwise, who also would like to either in a management or leadership position, begin to steer the ship, at least carving off a portion of activities to focus on impact, maybe Lean Data, or who just as intrepreneurs within these companies want to try something. What would you say to any of those groups?

Jacqueline Novogratz: To the person with not a lot of money, but time, I would say focus on both immersion and understanding the problems around us and also another practice from the book, which is accompaniment. By accompaniment, what I mean, to walk with someone, to try and understand their problem, not take it on and solve it for them, but to help them build the muscles so that they can solve it themselves.

Tim Ferriss: By book in this case, you mean Manifesto for a Moral Revolution.

Jacqueline Novogratz: Manifesto for a Moral Revolution. And the whole idea of moral revolution is give more to the world than you take. It’s not, there are some who have the moral responsibility and some who do not. It’s like all of us. So I really appreciate that you would ask for all three categories. When you look at the brokenness of our criminal justice system at the opioid, epidemic, poverty, the arts community that’s out of work, there’s such an opportunity to be of use, to pay visits, to just talk to people who are lonely right now, to be more conscious about the way that we spend our money, even for small things, and buy sustainably. And so it’s building into your everyday a much greater consciousness and awareness of the fact that our action and our inaction impacts people everywhere.

For the individual investor, I would say that one of the broken parts of our current system of capitalism, which bifurcates, how we make money and how we give it away is that we often disregard how people are treated inside and outside our companies and as well as the environment. And then we try to make amends for the fact that we are the status quo with our philanthropy on the outside. And that model is deeply broken as investors, how do we think more holistically about the impact that we’re making, positive and negative, with all parts of our money across that spectrum? There has never been such opportunity as there is right now to invest in extraordinary entrepreneurs that are re-imagining how to use the tools of capitalism to solve big problems. As I said, Tim, they exist in every country. And we have to think with more openness to how we would look at our overall portfolio. Again, thinking of it, going from philanthropy to more market-driven returns.

We have a company in the United States called Everytable, and it is a fast food, healthy, nutritious, affordable restaurant chain now in Los Angeles. It’s about eight different restaurants. And with the pandemic, it just has exploded in the best ways of delivering food and partnering with governments and individual philanthropists that are willing to pay meals forward so that people in low income parts of Los Angeles can get healthy, affordable food. With Black Lives Matter protests, what Sam Polk, the entrepreneur, understood is that he had within him, within his operation, individual employees who had the capability to become franchisees, but in the United States, the franchise model usually expects that you will have your own capital to put into the system from the beginning. So he’s created a university and he’s now raised probably three of $13 million, seven-year debt at two percent that will allow him to identify the entrepreneurs amongst his employees, give them the opportunity to start their own franchise, enable them to have $40,000-a-year salaries for the next three years. And hopefully we’re going to see a whole group of black and Latinx entrepreneurs that are running Everytable franchises in, of, and for their communities. 

That’s the kind of creativity that exists right now in the United States and everywhere else in the world that we work from Pakistan to Colombia. If I were, and I am, an investor that really cares about impact, I would urge myself and urge everyone else to think more expansively about themselves as investors using all the tools at our disposal. And for the big institutions, I would say one thing. That as long as we have an investment model that is still based on extraction rather than actually investing for good, we are going to continue to build more and more inequality in ways that are fully unsustainable for this world.

And it has been really exciting to me to see not only a $700 billion impact investing sector emerge over the last 20 years, but also to see big companies like BlackRock and others say “Enough,” but we’ve got to move from a place where we do no harm to one where real investing is not only accounted for by what a few shareholders earn, come what may, but that real investing is truly measured by the amount of the jobs, the beauty, the human capability, the opportunities that are enabled in the world.

Tim Ferriss: So I would love to ask you for some simple next steps for also each of those three categories. Like what people could do tomorrow? And the reason I ask that is that I think it’s very easy for people to take next steps towards impact investing. Whether the form of investment is time or money or energy, and to push it into the someday category. I think it’s very easy to do, and I don’t wrong them. I don’t wrong anyone for that, because it can seem like kind of stumbling through a fog if they don’t have a direction, insomuch as if we take just an individual investor. I’ll use myself as an example. It took me a long time to build the relationships and the deal flow in the for-profit sector, where the pass/fail marks are very clearly defined, to get to the point where I could invest in really good companies. And for people who have developed those relationships and put in the time to get an understanding of let’s just call it the more black-and-white capitalist model, it can be very intimidating — the idea of starting from scratch to try to figure out what makes a good impact investment. 

So could you speak to that for the person who has — we could tackle the investment side first, but the kind of individual, the institutional, and then the person with more time. Like, what could they do tomorrow or next week, for instance, is a simple answer, like, “Hey, if you don’t want to figure this out, invest in one of our for-profit impact funds.” Understanding that this podcast is not giving investment advice. I’m not a registered investment advisor, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. But I would love to hear what some simple next steps might be. If they agree with you, they want to begin to get some skin in the game, to get on the playing field.

Jacqueline Novogratz: I appreciate the self-promotional invitation there, Tim. If I’m going to go down that path, I would say that the simplest next step would be to get onto Acumen Academy on our website and check out the courses, including The Path of Moral Leadership that Seth Godin, who’s so extraordinary in every way, has helped us build. Which takes the different practices of the book and really looks at the examples of companies that go from chocolate and coffee in Colombia to bed nets, to chickens in Ethiopia, and really shows some of the fundamental business models that have enabled extraordinary levels of change as well as identify role models. So I would get onto the Acumen Academy. The second would be both for institutional and individual. There are increasingly trade associations, for lack of a better word, that can direct you to really strong impact investors.

The Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs is probably the best, ANDE, ande.org, I think. And so get smart, learn. On the Acumen website are also all of our companies and the stories of many of them that give a real sense, again, not only of the possible, but of ways that people can get involved. As I said, Tim, all of our actions increasingly matter, and so paying more attention to where and how we buy and giving ourselves license within our communities to be a little radical in the way that we might make sure that we’re investing in each other and giving back more than we take, I think becomes a mantra every day. Having my brother Michael at Galaxy and going to such different routes as young people, and yet all along the way, asking these questions of “How do you change the world? How do you change the world? How do you change the world?”

I actually think it’s about getting started where you can with what you have and who you are. But it’s also about asking yourself the question not, “Am I making more money? Am I rich or famous, more famous, more beautiful today?” But rather, “What am I doing in the way that I run my business, in the way that I invest my dollars, in the way that I interact with everyone, from the waiter to the president of some fancy bank? What am I doing to insist on, elevate, and enable human dignity?” I would start there, and then I’d get smart.

Tim Ferriss: You invoked the name of a mutual friend who texted me prior to this conversation also, Seth Godin. And I bring him back up because I think Seth would agree that it’s easy to hide with big aspirations in the sense that if you say, “Well, I just want to change the world.” It’s easy to hide. You can make the argument that you’re not ready. You can make the argument that you have to make a little bit more money. You can use all sorts of socially acceptable excuses not to take action. And that there are in fact easy things, simple things, and you can do the easy thing first. If in doubt, don’t hit snooze for three years, go to acumen.org. Just commit to spending 68 minutes educating yourself. You will learn something. Or getting Manifesto for a Moral Revolution, your book. Commit to getting that on Kindle.

Maybe you try it for just 20 pages to give it a taste test. See what you think. There are simple things that you can do first. And it’s easy to hide behind the big, ambitious, world-changing thing that may or may not come. That’s a way of hitting snooze and, I think, absolving oneself of responsibility and I’m as guilty of that as the next person, so I’m not casting stones. But there are some very simple options here as you mentioned, including just going to acumen.org or acumen.org/moralrevolution. Dig around, commit to 30, 60 minutes. There’s very limited downside. 

And I want to ask you maybe two more questions and one, I didn’t want to ask you earlier because I didn’t want to make you self-conscious. But you are really good, exceptional, at nailing the Goldilocks amount of using people’s names. In this case, “Tim.” Like you use it very well.

You don’t over use someone’s name. It’s a very effective way of — I would hope that I’m already engaged, but keeping me even more engaged. Is that something that you’ve always done? Or is that something that you developed somehow?

Jacqueline Novogratz: Tim, you’re making me laugh. You remind me of the first book that I did with Blue Sweater. And I got off the stage and a famous actor came up to me and said, “Oh, my God, you do real so well.” And I was like, “Excuse me?”

Tim Ferriss: Not to imply that this is some artificial thing. I feel like it’s of course genuine, but it’s something that not a lot of people do or they try to play real so deliberately, they end up saying your name, every other sentence. And you’re like, I feel like you’re trying to sell me a used car or something, but you are very natural.

Jacqueline Novogratz: No. I actually think it goes to immersion, which is probably why I didn’t get to like talk about many of the things I really wanted to talk about because I just get so focused on who you are, what you’re talking about, that — no, it’s not conscious. It’s not conscious. So I wish I had a better answer.

Tim Ferriss: Oh, what a gift. I quite appreciated it. Well, let’s give — I’m going to cheat. I’m going to ask you more than two questions, but my last question is going to be recommendations, closing comments, things you’d like to say before we wrap up for this round one. But would you like to give a teaser for other things that you would’ve liked to have talked about that we didn’t get around to? Is there anything you’d like to mention lest it be left out of this first edition?

Jacqueline Novogratz: I really appreciate that you are even asking me that opportunity, to give me that opportunity. And I think another reason that I probably know when to say your name or not, or don’t even know. But without meaning to flatter, you truly are a deeply engaging conversationalist and interviewer. And I really appreciate that. Yeah. You really are. There are many things that I’d like to talk about in terms of what it actually means to bet on character. That I think that one of the mistakes I made at the beginning of Acumen was to be so excited by a particular technology or business idea and over time, understanding character. And that you used a lot of the words, the grit, the resiliency, the vision, the ability to take feedback, a whole other conversation I’d love to have with you is on courage.

I shared with you at the beginning of this, that you do remind me of my brothers, and that you’ve got just an extraordinary level of what looks like fearlessness. And I’m betting that you’ve learned to flex those fearlessness muscles early in your life and you’ve practiced them all along. But because of the vulnerability and the real courage that you’ve shown in your podcast with Debbie Millman, that there was a whole set of muscles that went untended. And that the key to us becoming not just good at what we do or famous, or what have you, but becoming wise is to learn how to flex those muscles of courage that we don’t always flex. And I think this is another moment in history that really demands that of us. And third, I’d love to go deeper into the holding of tensions, that we’re at a moment in history where we have to learn how to find each other across what might seem like impossible divides to cross.

And yet we’re all we have, each other, and we’re on this earth for a short time. And it’s up to us to be a generation that actually gets stuff done rather than being seen as being blind and disconnected from one another. And so Acumen has worked for 20 years in communities where people are raised to hate each other, and when I think about who our global community is, it also has been raised with many different people who were taught to hate each other. And yet it is possible to build out of diversity, a sense of wholeness, but not if we just focus on what we’re getting from an organization or a nation or community, but the responsibility that we have for each other. And I hear that in different conversations that you’ve been having with people, and I’d love to go there too.

Finally, I would just love to say, you’re really one of a kind, Tim Ferriss. And the prep and the curiosity that you bring, and frankly, the love that you bring to every conversation and to the work that you’re doing is really unparalleled. When I think of true moral imagination, it’s based in a deep curiosity and people who are willing to follow that thread of curiosity to wherever it might lead. So thank you for modeling that for all of us.

Tim Ferriss: Thank you so much. I’m not talking about unflexed muscles. I haven’t flexed the muscle of letting things land very much. So I’m going to tuck that away and think about it for the rest of today. So thank you very much for saying that and for providing such a wonderful conversation to me and to everyone listening. My God, you are so good at this. And you’re such an inspiration, and I just love the fact that you have traveled so many paths that many would assume diverge, and yet you have found a way to make them converge, if that makes sense. You have the operational chops, you have the toughness and the honesty to speak truth. And I recall the process of doing homework for this, finding someone, I can’t recall who it was, saying something along the lines, maybe an investor in one of your funds, I don’t know, saying something along the lines of, “Jacqueline, you always talk about love, but then we get you around the negotiating table and you’re so hardcore.”

And you are living proof that those do not need to be mutually exclusive, furthermore, that they can be mutually reinforcing. You can combine the hard and the soft in a way that is tremendously effective in the world. And that in fact, some might say an imperative or there are imperatives to be able to combine those things and to not view them as separate. And I’m just so extremely happy that I had the chance to have this conversation. And I hope it is just the first of many. So thank you again for taking the time.

Jacqueline Novogratz: Thank you, Tim. And I’m just so honored truly. It feels so privileged. And thank you too, for making manifest the hard and the soft. It’s what we need to do in our world together. And so looking forward to many conversations as well, and I wish you good luck on this.

Tim Ferriss: To be continued. I love saying that. I always mean it. And I mean it very sincerely right now. Everyone check out acumen.org. There’s a lot there that is worth digging into. We will have show notes for everything we have discussed, links galore, resources galore @timblog/podcast. That will be easy to find. And until next time, ask dumb questions. They’re often the smartest questions you could ask. Be honest. Bet on character. Use courage. It is the mother attribute for all other attributes. I’m stealing someone else’s quote, but all other attributes at their testing point require courage. And thanks for tuning in.

The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 600 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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