T-shirts are extremely fun to make, wear and talk about. People love comparing them, teams are united when wearing them and rock music wouldn’t be the same without them. That’s all fantastic but I hope and believe that there is more that can come from them.
I’m reading an interesting book right now called “Googled” which begins by chronicling the beginning of a company that wanted to call itself Googol but had to settle for Google. What jumps out of the book is the single-minded focus of the two founders to use search to improve the world. It took the world years to begin to grasp how important search is but Sergey Brin and Larry Page knew from the beginning doing search the right way (refusing to accept payment from companies in exchange for priority placement of ads, among other things) would revolutionize search. This is an inspiring story to me because it takes something that I (and basically everyone else) originally thought of as mundane (search) and shows how determination and hard work can make that thing beneficial to the world. And everyone deep down inside wants to improve the world.
Virgin Atlantic positively affected the world in a slightly different way. The airline, part of the larger Virgin umbrella of companies run by Richard Branson, primarily invokes feelings of trendiness, entertainment and hipness. But in an event preceding the invasion of Iraq in the Gulf War, Richard Branson used his start-up airline for something other than transporting customers. He flew one of the four airplanes in his fleet to transport 60 British hostages out of Iran.
The difference between that story and Google’s is that Branson did not ever express a primal goal of making the world better through his businesses. But when the opportunity arose he realized he was uniquely position to do that. Some people will note that he received tons of positive publicity from that act. I think that’s great. Good acts deserve good press. If the whole thing was just one big publicity stunt, so be it … sixty lives were potentially saved.
The lesson to anyone is that acts of good generally benefit everyone involved. Figuring out how to make t-shirts for good is something I continue to ponder. While I think about it I’ll be sure to keep my eyes and ears open for an opportunity to present itself!