Work Revolution: This is a Mission, Not a Job

Careers. Paychecks. Horrible bosses. If you want a roof over your head, or to make a lasting and meaningful contribution to the world, then work will consume your life. Doesn’t it make sense that work should be self-actualizing? That’s the big idea of the Work Revolution Summit.


Featuring visionaries from some of New York City’s hottest start-ups and VC firms, the Summit kicked off Friday morning in the Center For Social Innovation, appropriately just blocks from The Highline—a living monument to the city’s entrepreneurial and innovative spirit.

Seth Godin, best-selling author and everybody’s favorite business guru, started the morning with a talk on the Summit’s theme: humanizing company culture in order to reach the full potential of employees and the organization. Here are some of his tips:

Success is “how many people did you raise,” not “how much money did you raise.” Social connections—getting everyone interested in that new exciting thing—creates value.

Leaders galvanize. When it comes to inspiring change in an organization, your challenge is to galvanize the believers, not the nonbelievers—with the nonbelievers, you have no leverage.

How can you change yourself? You change by doing something. Even a simple action will change the way you think. Tweet for the first time. Publish a blog post. Make something, and that action will encourage you to take other actions.

As industries continue to shift, it’s not about “safe jobs.” It’s about being an innovator. If you can do enough innovative work for the right reasons, you should be proud to get fired.

Where does the typical person find the courage to do innovative work? Marathon runners who finish know where to put the tired. Know where to put the fear. Dance with the fear. They call it singing in the rain not singing with the umbrella.

Create a team that looks forward to being afraid, that looks at social connections as the outcome, and then the value will take care of itself.

The Summit included a lively panel discussion about the importance of creating company culture. “Culture is so important. How do you keep people together? How do you keep the inspiration going?  [Especially when] 95% of the companies won't be around a year from now,” said Vipin Goyal, co-founder of Sidetour, a website that lets you shop for unique experiences, from sailing lessons to a French baker teaching you how to make croissants. The company was acquired this past week by Groupon.

Other highlights included Kathryn Minshew, a co-founder of career inspiration and job board site TheMuse. Minshew heard “no” at least 125 times while looking for financing. Some of those meetings surpassed rejection and became impromptu interventions, trying to convince her to give-up, take a steady job. Minshew persevered, got into the prestigious Y Incubator funding program, and went on to raise $1.2 million. TheMuse, co-founded with Alex Cavoulacos and Melissa McCreery, now has 3 million registered users.

If you could give your younger self advice, what would you say? That’s the concept of 40/20 Vision, a mentoring program where 40-something women advise women in their twenties. Career management, including switching careers, is the topic of discussion in their monthly events here in New York. “Every woman needs an advisory board,” says Christina Vuleta, the founder.

Here’s more information on the Work Revolution Summit, and to learn about upcoming events at the Center for Social Innovation, visit their website.

Photo: Kathryn Minshew, TheMuse.com

Credit: Andrea Chalupa

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Homo sapiens have been on earth for 200,000 years — give or take a few ten-thousand-year stretches. Much of that time is shrouded in the fog of prehistory. What we do know has been pieced together by deciphering the fossil record through the principles of evolutionary theory. Yet new discoveries contain the potential to refashion that knowledge and lead scientists to new, previously unconsidered conclusions.

A set of 8-million-year-old teeth may have done just that. Researchers recently inspected the upper and lower jaw of an ancient European ape. Their conclusions suggest that humanity's forebearers may have arisen in Europe before migrating to Africa, potentially upending a scientific consensus that has stood since Darwin's day.

Rethinking humanity's origin story

The frontispiece of Thomas Huxley's Evidence as to Man's Place in Nature (1863) sketched by natural history artist Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

As reported in New Scientist, the 8- to 9-million-year-old hominin jaw bones were found at Nikiti, northern Greece, in the '90s. Scientists originally pegged the chompers as belonging to a member of Ouranopithecus, an genus of extinct Eurasian ape.

David Begun, an anthropologist at the University of Toronto, and his team recently reexamined the jaw bones. They argue that the original identification was incorrect. Based on the fossil's hominin-like canines and premolar roots, they identify that the ape belongs to a previously unknown proto-hominin.

The researchers hypothesize that these proto-hominins were the evolutionary ancestors of another European great ape Graecopithecus, which the same team tentatively identified as an early hominin in 2017. Graecopithecus lived in south-east Europe 7.2 million years ago. If the premise is correct, these hominins would have migrated to Africa 7 million years ago, after undergoing much of their evolutionary development in Europe.

Begun points out that south-east Europe was once occupied by the ancestors of animals like the giraffe and rhino, too. "It's widely agreed that this was the found fauna of most of what we see in Africa today," he told New Scientists. "If the antelopes and giraffes could get into Africa 7 million years ago, why not the apes?"

He recently outlined this idea at a conference of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists.

It's worth noting that Begun has made similar hypotheses before. Writing for the Journal of Human Evolution in 2002, Begun and Elmar Heizmann of the Natural history Museum of Stuttgart discussed a great ape fossil found in Germany that they argued could be the ancestor (broadly speaking) of all living great apes and humans.

"Found in Germany 20 years ago, this specimen is about 16.5 million years old, some 1.5 million years older than similar species from East Africa," Begun said in a statement then. "It suggests that the great ape and human lineage first appeared in Eurasia and not Africa."

Migrating out of Africa

In the Descent of Man, Charles Darwin proposed that hominins descended out of Africa. Considering the relatively few fossils available at the time, it is a testament to Darwin's astuteness that his hypothesis remains the leading theory.

Since Darwin's time, we have unearthed many more fossils and discovered new evidence in genetics. As such, our African-origin story has undergone many updates and revisions since 1871. Today, it has splintered into two theories: the "out of Africa" theory and the "multi-regional" theory.

The out of Africa theory suggests that the cradle of all humanity was Africa. Homo sapiens evolved exclusively and recently on that continent. At some point in prehistory, our ancestors migrated from Africa to Eurasia and replaced other subspecies of the genus Homo, such as Neanderthals. This is the dominant theory among scientists, and current evidence seems to support it best — though, say that in some circles and be prepared for a late-night debate that goes well past last call.

The multi-regional theory suggests that humans evolved in parallel across various regions. According to this model, the hominins Homo erectus left Africa to settle across Eurasia and (maybe) Australia. These disparate populations eventually evolved into modern humans thanks to a helping dollop of gene flow.

Of course, there are the broad strokes of very nuanced models, and we're leaving a lot of discussion out. There is, for example, a debate as to whether African Homo erectus fossils should be considered alongside Asian ones or should be labeled as a different subspecies, Homo ergaster.

Proponents of the out-of-Africa model aren't sure whether non-African humans descended from a single migration out of Africa or at least two major waves of migration followed by a lot of interbreeding.

Did we head east or south of Eden?

Not all anthropologists agree with Begun and his team's conclusions. As noted by New Scientist, it is possible that the Nikiti ape is not related to hominins at all. It may have evolved similar features independently, developing teeth to eat similar foods or chew in a similar manner as early hominins.

Ultimately, Nikiti ape alone doesn't offer enough evidence to upend the out of Africa model, which is supported by a more robust fossil record and DNA evidence. But additional evidence may be uncovered to lend further credence to Begun's hypothesis or lead us to yet unconsidered ideas about humanity's evolution.