Ted Gonder – The Futures Interview

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Ted Gonder is a social entrepreneur, health nut, and student at the University of Chicago. Besides finishing his college degree in Geography, he spends his daylight hours leading Moneythink, a social venture dedicated to training highly-talented college students to teach urban high schoolers personal finance and entrepreneurship skills. To maintain a balance, he begins his days with cooking, meditation, and exercise, and ends his days with Aikido training, intimate discussions with friends, and bedside journaling. He values empathy, reason, optimism, honesty, and curiosity above all other things, and can sometimes be found burying himself in philosophical texts to affirm and expand his core virtues. He credits all of his successes to relentless and deliberate attempts at self-improvement, and believes that the greatest gift one can give someone else is to get your one’s own shit together.

When he was sixteen years old, Ted “woke up” to his potential to make a positive difference in the world, and embarked to strive for excellence, learning, and giving in all endeavors. Al Gore‘s movie, An Inconvenient Truth, inspired him to launch a statewide climate-change awareness campaign in California. From then on, he has been unable to rid himself of the entrepreneurial bug, and has come to embrace entrepreneurship as a vehicle for inquiry and exploration, launching over a dozen business projects (most failures) of various sizes and working for several startups, from San Francisco, to Beijing.

Ted travels more than he’s comfortable with (over two-dozen flights so far in 2011), but sees each experience as an opportunity that may never come again, so he tries to stay optimistic, open-minded, and ready at all times. He wishes he had more time for rock-climbing, more money for extremely dark luxury chocolate, and more patience for learning technical skills like finance and coding. But he doesn’t have these things yet, so he’s left to live and love the life he’s lucky to have in the present, and strive instead to make the most of what he has and give as much as he can to as many people as possible, while learning every second along the way.

?!X: What’s the Future You Choose?

TG: The world I live in personally right now is pretty awesome…there’s not much I’d change. Most of the stuff I’m “changing” right now is really just because I’m interested in it, not because I’m uncontrollably angry with the world or humanity or anything. I think constructing a utopian society from scratch would probably create more problems than it would solve. But I guess if you were to put a gun to my head and say “pick an alternative existence” I’d probably say living on Pandora (the world from the movie Avatar) would be pretty sweet…the folks on that planet seem pretty in touch with nature. I think people on our planet would be happier if they were more in touch with nature.

?!X: What’s a ‘think’ to create this future?

TG: This quote by Theodore Roosevelt, excerpted from a speech he gave at the Sorbonne in Paris in 1910, has been my single greatest source of inspiration through thick and thin:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

?!X: What’s an ‘act’ to create the future you choose?

TG: Meditate, pray, or engage in some form of silent, calm, emptiness for at least five minutes a day. Over time, you’ll find that the thoughts and feelings which have arisen in those periods of silence are some of the most meaningful, transformative, and vivid human experiences. A society of people who are in touch with themselves is a more harmonious and constructive society.

?!X: What’s a ‘vote’ to create the future you choose?

TG: Here’s my shameless plug: check out Moneythink, the nonprofit I help run. We’re always looking for volunteers, donors, and advocates! We’re in the middle of a double-dip recession and while all the press attention is going to Wall Street and middle America, youth in the urban inner-cities are the ones who have gotten hit the hardest by the financial crisis. By pairing highly-trained, highly-talented college-age mentors with urban high-schoolers to teach personal finance and facilitate entrepreneurship seminars, Moneythink is educating and activating the next generation of financially responsible consumers and small business leaders. Donate here or feel free to contact us directly here. If I didn’t think this is one of the best solutions to one of society’s biggest problems, I wouldn’t be working on it and I wouldn’t be making it my “vote” here.

?!X: Future Soundtrack – What song would you take with you into the future? 

TG: The soundtrack from TRON: Legacy. Daft Punk created an entire album of individual masterpieces and The Glitch Mob has done great remix work on it, as well.

?!X: Can you share with us up to 5 weblinks that you find interesting and inspiring?

Derek Sivers’ Book Reviews

Ben Casnocha’s Blog

Ryan Holiday

Tim Ferriss’ Blog

TED

Follow Ted on Twitter @tedgonder

Inspired to tell us The Future You Choose? You can here.

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