Social entrepreneurship is a difficult concept for some

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Photo by Roman Synkevych on Unsplash

By Michael Willard

Gideon Nyamessen’s parents had visions of their oldest son being a white-collar worker who would earn a decent salary, supporting the Kumasi, Ghana family of eight. His father drove a taxi.

A bright fellow, they felt Gideon would thrive as a young executive or perhaps even a civil service worker. However, early on, he planted a single seed in the yard of his family’s urban home.

A fruit tree emerged, and Gideon looked on it in wonderment.

From there on out, against his parents’ wishes, he dedicated himself to making a positive contribution to the country’s agriculture community. …

By Michael Willard

Nothing would suggest Gideon Nyamessen would become an agricultural entrepreneur. But when just a child, he planted a seed in his yard in urban Kumasi, Ghana, and saw fruit emerge. He was hooked.

After that, there was no turning back. Creating healthy crops and training Ghanians in environmentally sound farming became his obsession.

Gideon set out on this path despite his parents’ strong objections. They were sure an agriculture career would lead to continued poverty for the family of eight and eventual heartbreak for their oldest son. They were city dwellers. His father drove a taxi.

They certainly didn’t see Gideon’s decision as climbing the ladder of upward mobility. Unless in large conglomerates, Ghana farming tended to be forever at the bottom of life’s pyramid, with farmers struggling for a subsistence living. …

By Michael Willard

Some say advertising is from Mars and public relations from Venus, and never the twain should meet. Having had lengthy careers in both, I beg to differ.

I look at it as the mixing of a great Martini. The secret is in how well the disciplines fit together.

It can either be a donnybrook of battling egos or a collective experience. The former can be disastrous — the latter, well, a beautiful waltz. Both professions are evolving. Advertising emerged centuries ago with the first handbill to sell fertile land along the Euphrates River.

One might conclude the P.R. field is Biblical because it lacks boundaries, not in the ethical sense but its wide-ranging practical applications to most every facet of life. It is the chlorophyll of business. …

By Michael Willard

My fear was that I had gone to bed election night — actually about 3 a.m. — next to coyote ugly and that her name was Ms. America. I didn’t recognize her. She wore bright red lipstick, the color of a particular politician’s necktie.

Nightmares eventually end. Mine did, maybe yours.

But like many, I had been lulled by the pollsters’ serenade, confident of victory until the votes started painfully being counted. Dog-tired, I gave up the ghost.

My happy thought had turned into a Shakespearean witches brew of Macbeth’s double, double toil and trouble.

By Michael Willard

Long ago, I found America’s goodness in the most troubling of times.

Richard Nixon had resigned before being convicted by the US Senate of a host of Watergate-related misdeeds. President Gerald Ford was running for a full-term against peanut farmer and former Georgia governor Jimmy Carter.

The democratic system had worked, but the country seemed rudderless, especially after those scenes of frightened-Vietnamese escaping by helicopter pell-mell from the US Embassy roof in Saigon. We had lost a war.

Our country’s nightmare, however, was over after 58.000 casualties on foreign soil. The dreamscape future was gray, a film noir production that left a depressed audience. …

By Michael Willard

There was a time I measured success as being so filthy rich I could drive an old pickup truck while wearing a floppy hat, a gaudy string tie, and stone-faded jeans singing outrageously loud Meat Loaf’s “Bat Out of Hell.”

In other words, not giving much of a damn. I never achieved it, at least outside my daydreams.

Heading toward sunset, that zen state for which I yearn remains elusive, and, by my reckoning, close only counts in love affairs and horseshoes. …

By Michael Willard

I told my wife I desperately needed a $3,000 Taylor guitar to go with my vintage 1976 Martin. It was a clever strategy. I’m a professional marketing guy, and I already knew her answer. It came in the form of a question.

“You have to be kidding?” she stammered while glaring out the back door at our unfinished patio, the one taking longer to complete than Roman Emperor Hadrian’s most famous fortifications eons ago.

No worries. I had a sensible fallback. The game had begun.

“Well,” I pleaded, “How about an $80 harmonica?” The Hohner Rocket tuned an octave lower than usual was what was really on my wish list. …

By Michael Willard

I stood on a patio of the Rockefeller family’s Hudson Valley estate, Kykuit, watching from a distance as a much thinner Donald Trump emerged from a limousine with then-wife, Ivana, to attend a day-time fundraising soiree.

It was a grand sight, or at least that is what I was told I should behold. A world-class business genius was yards away from me. It was 1983, before Trump’s six bankruptcies between 1991 and 2009.

I was on the verge of launching my own company. It was long before Trump plastered his name on multiple failures, from steaks to wine, to airlines to a university — and, sadly, to a great country, mine. …

By Michael Willard

John Lennon and Paul McCartney wrote that they “get by with a little help from their friends.” They added a second line about “getting high” and, for good measure, they were “going to try” with help from those pals.

The last time I got high, other than by whiskey tippling, was when the buffalo ran freely and Flint, Mi. drinking water was as pure as freshly fallen snow. I had long hair, wore Indian jewelry, and sported bellbottoms.

However, in business and life, we all need a little help from our friends. I call those friends agents and advocates. …

By Michael Willard

The oft-cited cliche is you never get a second chance to make a first impression. While technically correct, it winnows out all of us three-yards and a cloud of dust stumblebums who add personal brand value over time.

We see the whole life/career game more as a strategic minuet rather than a hell-bent for leather jitterbug to the top of the Big Rock Candy Mountain. Believe me, pleasure can be found in pushing a giant boulder uphill while wearing roller skates.

It’s laborious, of course, but I am reminded of Aesop Fable “Tortoise and the Hare.” …


J. Michael Willard

I am a novelist, painter, songwriter and essayist but my day job is elevating the profile of authors, entertainers and business executives.

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