Life Lessons Learned at the Zoo

Life at the Zoo

A rare reprieve of relentless Arizona summer temperatures provided a great day to visit The Phoenix Zoo.  Walking through all the exhibits inspired me to think about life lessons you can learn at the zoo.

First, I learned my brilliant idea of mixing with animals is not unique. Every year 175 million people visit 224 accredited zoos and aquariums in the United States, according to the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA).

Second, getting close to elephants, sharks and wolves has an important financial impact.  The AZA reported in 2011 that zoos and aquariums contributed $16 billion to the US economy and employed more than 142,000 people.

Further observations and life lessons from my day at the zoo:

  • Diversity Exists at the Zoo – Hundreds of species existing together – lions and tigers, oh my!  From reptiles to some of the largest mammals that roam our planet, the zoo is truly diverse.  We are able to see a harmonious place where differences are appreciated and celebrated.  We seek out and marvel at all the distinct unlikeness between varieties of snakes, birds, monkeys and bears.  It is also worth noting that there is great diversity in the people that visit the zoo, all together and at the same time. Travelers from all over the world, all cultures and ethnicity enjoy visiting the zoo — a true melting pot.
  • Community Matters at the Zoo – Most zoos survive with a community of volunteers and public and private donations.  Zoos need communities to promote and participate in supporting the upkeep and daily maintenance.  It is expensive to entertain and educate us.  Zoos need all of us as much as we need them.  Make it a priority to visit your local zoo at least one time a year, better yet become a zoo member!
  • Visiting the Zoo is Healthy – It is outdoors and requires you to get moving!  Most zoos require you to walk great distances to see all the exhibits. Zoos definitely beat out a walk inside the mall and will probably save you money.  As fact, in 2009 a Animal Science Journal study reported zoo visitors had a drop in blood pressure when they left the zoo and felt they had an improved quality of life.
  • The Zoo is Ageless – As marketers and business leaders continually look for ways to segment their target audience, the zoo appeals to all ages!  From babies to seniors, the zoo brings smiles to the young and young at heart.  Families, teens, dating couples, grand parents and small children wander the paths together.  Screaming and crying is expected and crowds draw more people to get a glimpse.  There are no limits at the zoo.
  • Curiosity can Conquer Fear – Imagine starring a tiger in the eye or feeding a sting ray.  Only at the zoo can we conquer our fears so easily.  We can watch the spiders and snakes up close and glare at the wolves as they roam a few feet in front of us.  The zoo allows us to use our curiosity as a way to overcome the fear of the unknown.  Children (and adults) can ride a camel and shake hands with a tree monkey.  Interaction creates an opportunity to learn.  The more we know, the less we fear.

Zebras at the Zoo

As you think about a way to support your local community, go for a long walk and tap into your adventurous side to explore the unknown, I suggest there is no better place to do it all than the zoo!

“We all have a fear of the unknown what one does with that fear will make all the difference in the world.” – Lillian Russell

Young Entrepreneurs are Making Our Future

Recently, I was invited to speak to a group of high school students and their teachers at the ASU Polytechnic campus.  What I gained from the experience is far greater than what I was able to share through my decades of entrepreneurial successes and failures.

I was inspired.  I was motivated.  I was reassured.  Partly, it was the kids who like science, technology, engineering and mathematics.  Partly, it was spending time at a progressive technology campus that fosters growth and innovation. Partly, it was through the introduction of Arizona State University innovators who shared their pitches about their latest ventures.

Were we this exciting, inventive and determined when we were in school?  Did we have this much wide-eye optimism that we could and would change the world?  They believe they can solve all problems.  They are not discouraged, they are encouraged.  I know our future is very bright, if we do not kill their momentum with “no” and “you can’t”.

Ask 19-year-old serial entrepreneur Daniel Brusilovsky, founder of Teens in Tech Labs.  He is working on his fourth start-up, or maybe he sold his fourth and is on his fifth and sixth.  His success to-date is dizzying. He is our future.  Standing on stage at the event, he was a true representation of what is possible in this world.  He has more connections to VCs and angels than most veteran start-up and CEOs could ever dream.  Why?  He’s cool.  He’s smart.  He’s ambitious.  He’s our future. Investment-wise, he has all upside!

I am absolutely certain that we are in great hands, if we really do want to be better and do more.  Along with Daniel, my enthusiasm grew after meeting other entrepreneurs like Marcos, who is enthusiastically working on customer retention, the Maker Pitch winners that are bringing to market a medical device to build arm strength for wheel-chair bound people, and the two students that are working on providing clean water around the world.  I say YES!  I say go!  How can I help?

And, then I met three men.  ASU students who shared their pitch with me and the co-founder of GarageBand.  They couldn’t look us in the eye, they were outside their comfort zone.  But they had unbridled motivation telling us about their business.  They are going to change and save lives.  They will provide people living with autism needed mentors via an online community.  They want to bring genius back into society, show autistic people how they can work together and give them access to tools they need to integrate successfully.  They know it’s needed.  They know people without autism do not understand and can not provide the help.  They each are autistic.  Yet, no matter how difficult and challenging it was to share their passionate business idea and plans, they did it.  They are determined.  They will do it.  I will find a way to help!

Let us “experienced” get out of their way, provide them support and harness their creativity.  Let us invest in their ideas and encourage them to do more.  They are our innovators.  They are our future.  If we do, we can all say our future is very bright!

My presentation to Making Your Future: http://www.slideshare.net/jglass8/future-is-solving-problems-2012