AN OPEN LETTER FROM OUR FOUNDER, KEVIN OWYANG
Where I went to high school, “From those to whom much has been given, much will be expected” was a constant reminder from teachers and the very walls on which those words were emblazoned. And though their origins are the New Testament, the mission of the school was plainly secular – to prepare students intellectually, morally, and spiritually for service in the world as leaders of integrity and conviction.
In time I would have responsibility for a $3.0 Billion book of business and play an instrumental role in raising $250 Million in venture funding. And through that I would learn the two standards of ethics – one for business and one for everything else.
Looking back, that distinction was about money, and it was money that was the standard. Not that we were absolutely devoid of service to the world – we did create jobs, we did make markets more efficient so people could afford better lives, and we were lowering the costs of information so others could innovate more. Yet, where we were the cause, the effect was several steps removed. And in some way, even if ever small, we believed we were the mover-and-shakers creating the platform – overlords enabling other less-fortunates to serve the masses at the bottom.
“I’m good at what I do, but I don’t enjoy it”, I said to a good friend who I’d met in Jackson Hole, Wyoming a almost decade earlier. Jackson Hole was a place dear to my heart, and always will be. I had moved there to take time away from being a global energy trader – I had moved there to do what I would have done, if given the opportunity, when I graduated from college – to be a ski bum. And though I never joined the elite who chose this pristine residence for tax reasons, for eighteen years this paradise was my home despite having a career that took me other places.
Snowboarding 100+ days per year on some of the most challenging terrain in the country, where launching cliffs is second nature, can teach you about more than just recreation. I experienced unique adventures in Jackson Hole and by being part of its community – riding untracked remote peaks in the Tetons as well as Chamonix, France, heli-snowboarding terrain in the Chugach range of Alaska that many top riders only experience through movies (and that’s only if they know which ones to watch), and learning the science of avalanches that at times touched and took the lives of friends and those I knew. I met wonderful and inspiring people, some of whom had attended the nation’s top universities yet sacrificed the trappings of success simply because they chose to prioritize their passion for the outdoors. And through it all I was transformed.
When you frequent the backcountry, you understand a connectedness between us and nature as well as life and death – I call it reflections from the face of God, yet others may call it the mystery that permeates science and life itself – in a way you cannot access in quite the same way from the safety of a city, suburb, or comfortable hometown.
For me in life, moderation has always been an average of different extremes. And so it was for many years that living in Jackson Hole, even if just on weekends, provided a counter-balance to a career focused elsewhere.
And it wasn’t until I discovered the social enterprise community in Seattle and became an instrumental part of Social Innovation Fast Pitch (SIFP) that I rediscovered a part of me that had taken a back seat – or perhaps died – since high school. And that was an inner peace and sense of purpose from using my intellectual, moral, spiritual, and leadership gifts in service to the world – to uplift our social condition and heal our planet.
And so I created B Jibe to celebrate the community that helped me rediscover myself. I hope you enjoy B Jibe. And I encourage you to read often, contribute articles, like us on Facebook, and subscribe to our newsletter.
When we expect much of ourselves, sometimes we achieve the impossible through faith alone.