From the time she was a child, Jessica Jackley wondered what it meant to truly make a meaningful difference in another person’s life.
She grew up in church and had many interactions with non-profits and NGOs over the years, but the act of giving back often left her wanting. She just didn’t see a noticeable way to do problem-solving work that truly moved the needle for those on the receiving end.
And so, she co-founded Kiva, the world’s first and largest micro-lending platform. The platform brings together online lenders with borrowers around the world. Loans can be as little as $25, and each lender can choose who receives their loan by reading up on the stories behind those who need the money, from farmers in Kenya to seamstresses in Tajikistan and more.
The goal is genuine connection, a word Jackley holds close.
Today, Kiva has funneled $1.4 billion in microloans to borrowers across 77 countries—and counting. And though she’s no longer with the company (she’s now chief impact officer at Aspiration, a financial firm that helps people use their resources ethically and sustainably), she emphatically believes in the mission.
For all of her success at Kiva and beyond, Jackley’s method for being the best version of herself boils down to something she calls her “three C’s.” She shared them at my annual Thermostat Cultures Live event. Here are highlights.
Jackley says all good things she’s been a part of have been the result of a deep and meaningful connection, and she encourages all leaders and entrepreneurs to bake it into their work if they want to produce results.
Infusing your work with genuine connection, she says, also provides a currency that draws the right kind of people in—employees who crave the connection you’re cultivating.
At Kiva, for example, each employee, from the CEO to the person handling customer service, has the opportunity to spend one fully funded week each year in a place of their choosing with Kiva borrowers. This way, they can understand and form a connection to the day-to-day impact of the work they’re doing back home.
“I don’t know how else to begin good work without that,” she says of connection.
How do you stay inspired and motivated to get the work done? That kind of passion finds its roots in conviction, and Jackley says she needs conviction in order to have clarity around what she wants to accomplish.
To maintain conviction, she encourages leaders and teams to have a thirst for knowledge. Absorb information, from podcasts to articles to conversations with other leaders, and then process it. Write down your responses in a journal or talk it through with a mentor or colleague. Over time, she says, you’ll find more clarity around what you want to accomplish.
“When I write [things] down, I know what I think,” she says. “It helps me sort out ideas and galvanize and clarify my thinking… and start to take actions based on that.”
It’s a great privilege to be able to choose what we do with our waking hours, Jackley says, and many of us forget that we have that choice. Reminding yourself that you’re choosing to get up and go to your job breeds a renewed commitment to your work.
The constant reminder that we’re making a choice can result in a falling in love of sorts, she says. We become more aware of and infatuated with our commitment. And people in love simply operate on a different and higher level.
“People in love pay more attention,” she says. “They look longer, they listen more carefully, and they notice things other people don’t. People in love anticipate and expect the best. That conjures the best out of people.”