When I was 15 years old my parents had a very difficult time with me. They struggled to impart that taking school seriously would be important for my future. To their dismay, I was simply uninterested in any form of academics. Instead, I took a childhood memory of witnessing a terror bombing and did something about it. I took basic EMT courses, became a young ambulance volunteer and ran around day and night passionately saving lives.
My experience taught me that there was still a better way to save more lives. I established a grassroots group of emergency first response volunteers which eventually grew to become United Hatzalah of Israel, the organization which I lead today. Along the way my life only seemed to get busier as I got married, had five children, the family real estate business grew, and United Hatzalah's never ending expansion demanded more and more of my time. Instead of my schedule suppressing my lifesaving dream, paradoxically it only became more passionate.
I was in the process of closing a rather large real estate deal while performing the never-ending field triage of managing a burgeoning EMS organization when I received a scholarship from the Schwab Foundation to attend Harvard Business School for Social Entrepreneurs. The irony of this prestigious offer (notwithstanding the fact that I don't even have a high school diploma), which came when I didn't even have time to catch my breath, was astounding!
Then I thought that perhaps this is the answer. At the risk of sounding cliché, I realized that I had to reevaluate; it's not about working harder but working smarter. As the late Stephen Covey (of Seven Habits of Highly Effective People) described the analogy of a woodcutter who is sweating endlessly to cut down a tree with a blunt saw. When asked why he doesn't stop to sharpen his saw, he replies that he has no time. So I dropped everything, made the time and set out for Harvard.
For the first time, not only did I want to study academically, I couldn't get enough of it. Here I was in one of the best universities in the world listening to the highest level professors and learning so much.
All that I thought I knew these past 23 years was like a drop in the ocean compared to all that we learned. Seeing and discussing different perspectives with my 142 other fellow Social entrepreneur's was eye-opening. I learned how we can pool the knowledge we gained from experiences of life regarding leadership, management, strategy and scalability. It was encouraging to see how we share similar struggles, and to brainstorm and gain new tools together.
I have made so many new friends whom I admire, who also work day and night for worthy causes, and I hope that our professional experiences have and will continue to help one another's organization flourish and make the world a little better!
I am indebted with gratitude to The Schwab Foundation for offering me the opportunity and scholarship, and having the foresight to see what a great impact this fantastic course could have on United Hatzalah. On behalf of Hatzalah of Panama and Brazil, offshoots of United Hatzalah of Israel and many other interested countries, I thank the World Economic Forum for leading me to make the organization a model that can be expanded successfully.
After all these years of running around and building Hatzalah, I wish that my father would still be alive to see me at Harvard. I'd tell him," Dad, although I didn't take school seriously, the big heart and endless energy that I inherited from you were the number one ingredients for success. But you and Mom were right; a good education goes a long way. After all the worry I caused you, relax -- this course at Harvard is going way beyond filling elementary gaps!"
I can't wait to implement, expand and scale up further to ultimately "save more lives that otherwise would not be saved"!
Follow Eli Beer on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@UnitedHatzalah