How Jane Rocked My World

Written By: Bruce Poon Tip, Founder, G Adventures
Category: Dr. Jane

The scientist who taught us about chimpanzees went on to change the world--and mine

- Bruce Poon Tip, Founder, G Adventures

If you ask entrepreneurs who inspired them, you’ll often hear a list of iconic names like Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, Richard Branson, or Jeff Bezos. These are all formidable business leaders who are using their brands and corporate brawn for public good. But they’re not the ones who lit my fire or helped me realize my true calling. No, sometimes you need to look a little further, a little off the beaten path, to find a so-called spirit animal for your entrepreneur’s soul.

In my case, it was the jungle.

That’s why I want to get a little personal and talk about my hero, Dr. Jane Goodall. She had an enormous impact on my approach to leadership and service as I was building my business, twenty-seven years ago.

It goes back to when I was a kid in Calgary, and my parents invested in an encyclopedia set. They couldn’t afford it, but to me, there is no question that it was worth the sacrifice because it changed my life. Those faux-leather-bound books introduced me to the world, and allowed my imagination to roam wild beyond borders. Around the same time, I was introduced to National Geographic magazine, and with it, Jane Goodall. There on the cover I saw a real person, living her dream by studying primates in Africa, and in the process, expanding our understanding of animal and human behavior. It gave voice and a face to someone who had a calling and was passionately following it.

In their coverage of Dr. Goodall’s achievements, writers would portray her as a woman living in the jungle, observing and interacting with chimpanzees and fighting off poachers. There was and continues to be so much I admired about that; her courage and grit, as well as her internal calling to serve. I didn’t fully understand her vision, but her story drew me in and echoed in my mind as I developed my own beliefs about leadership. Years later, when I discovered an essay by Robert Greenleaf about servant leadership, I found in that philosophy some of what I felt when I read about Dr. Goodall.
By the time I launched my own business in 1990, Jane Goodall’s mission had evolved into something much bigger than the study of chimpanzees. She began spreading a message of peace and ecological responsibility and, through that, transcending her original mission into one much larger than herself. That clicked with me, and I went on to build a sustainable tour company that uses travel to spread wealth, empower women, preserve indigenous cultures, and change lives.

Since then, Dr. Goodall and her team have made many important strides in raising the public’s knowledge and consciousness about the relationship between wildlife and humanity. But she also showed me that being a leader – whether in business, in science, in policy or education – is totally compatible with a desire to serve some higher calling.

Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi and His Holiness the Dalai Lama all got this. They are, like Jane Goodall, people who were put on this planet to deliver a message. Entrepreneurs often talk about changing the world. These servants did it.

When I meet with or speak in front of students and new entrepreneurs today, I encourage them to find ways to transcend their business, and to measure success beyond a bottom line. Those are the keys to world-changing success, and the hallmarks of a truly social enterprise.

I’ve been lucky to share the stage and spend time with Jane Goodall, since my early days of reading her magazine profiles. Photos of us from those events are among my very favorites. This past year, my childhood admiration for her came full circle when my travel company launched a strategic partnership with her institute in Canada, and we earned their valuable endorsement for our tours’ commitment to animal welfare.

Leadership is not just following your passion, but having a calling to serve. With that as your compass, and inspiration that’s personal to you, I bet you’ll also realize some surprising, full-circle rewards in your entrepreneurial journey.

This article was origionally published on Inc.com, February 24, 2017.

Ophir Sarusi