The Costa Rican Way: Cultivating Leadership In Your Land
THE COSTA RICAN WAY: PURA VIDA
Costa Rica was voted the happiest nation on earth. There is a reason for it. It is an entire nation which embraces what I call the Garden Mindset. In other words, it is a land that chooses sustainability, well being and education as its core values.
This is a nation that abolished its army in 1948 and experienced six continuous decades of peace. It tripled its GDP growth while doubling its forest coverage at the same time. And it draws over 90 percent of its electricity from renewable energy. Within its borders is Nicoya, a region that has the longest lived people in the Western Hemisphere. Not bad for a small country of 4 million people.
Is Costa Rica a perfect utopia? No. The capital city faces plenty of challenges. The streets have potholes big enough to engulf your car and fast food joints are mushrooming. Scandals pop up and sweep through the country and wealth distribution is highly concentrated. Even with these issues, the country keeps moving in a positive and resilient direction.
The question is, what is this country’s secret sauce? The answer in part is how it cultivates leadership in its youth. This is a young nation, where the median age is 29. And one excellent example of nurturing leadership was the recent youth focused TedxJovenPuraVida; where I was honored to present. Leading the charge at this Tedx was Pablo Jenkins.
I had a chance to interview Pablo while I was there.
LINDENMAYER: What motivated you to develop TedxJovenPuraVida?
JENKINS: I believe in the power of collaboration, youth leadership and the core value of Ted, which is ideas worth spreading. Costa Rica is a young nation and the more and better ideas that are spread, shared and translated into action, the better and brighter will be our nation’s future.
LINDENMAYER: This was a big and high quality production. You had over 1000 people attend, 60 live streaming sites across the country and a team of 50 volunteers. As an all volunteer team, what motivated them?
JENKINS: Passion and purpose. And this is powerful because it is an intrinsic motivation and it means that there is no limit to their potential to contribute.
LINDENMAYER: Pablo, you completed your undergraduate at Princeton and received your MBA and MPA from Harvard. With all the global opportunities open to you, what called you back to Costa Rica?
JENKINS: Two fold. One was my commitment to help nurture the youth talent base of Costa Rica through the civic, government and private sector. Costa Rica is experiencing its demographic divided, meaing that we have more young people than retirees. This is exactly the period in their lives that they are making major life choices, being prepared for positions of leadership and soon will be guiding our nation. Investing in them matters.
The other reason is my commitment to family. My father is going through the journey of early onset Alzheimer. I want to be there for both him and my mother.
LINDENMAYER: I understand that you applied the Costa Rican mindset to how this Tedx was powered.
JENKINS: Yes, this was the first time worldwide that a Ted event was 100 percent solar powered. We want to keep pushing what is possible and show it can be done. Action is the best form of leadership.
LINDENMAYER: You indicate that collaboration is a key value of leadership.
JENKINS: Collaboration is key to making ideas worth spreading turn into reality. At TedxJovenPuraVida we teamed up with Nacion, the country’s leading newspaper group and Teletica, the major television broadcaster. They embrace the effort to kindle new ideas. Global thought leaders also team up with us as well, like Deborah Berebichez and Luis Von Ahn. And essential to creating this leadership learning zone was the incredible collaboration which happened among the volunteers over the course of the year leading up to the event. And post event the tribe continues to be active and collaborating via Facebook FB -0.51% groups and off-line team-ups. This is exactly what we want to see over and over again.
LINDENMAYER: During my trip to Costa Rica, I kept hearing the phrase Pura Vida. Tell us about what that means.
JENKINS: Its literal translation is Pure Life. We use it throughout the day to greet each other, thank each other and as a general sign off. For me it really means authenticity, full of life and vitality. I think it sums up well the spirit of Costa Rica.
During my last days in Costa Rica, one of the Tedx youth volunteers said something which caught my attention. He said, “Our country is small, but we have a chance to show other countries what is possible by our actions. We can export leadership.”
This phrase stuck in my mind. So next time you are thinking about your country, ask yourself, what are you doing to improve it and how would you describe what kind of leadership your country is exporting to the world. And if you doubt for a moment it is possible to export exceptional leadership, just find way to Costa Rica to check it out for yourself. Pura Vida!