Joel Solomon is an investor, advisor, convenor, and author of The Clean Money Revolution: Reinventing Power, Purpose, and Capitalism. He’s the Co-Founding Partner of Renewal Funds, Canada’s largest social venture capital firm, with $240m assets under management. Joel has invested in dozens of early-stage early growth-stage companies in North America, delivering above market returns while catalyzing positive social and environmental change.
Where did I grow up and what was my childhood like?
My first 18 years found me in the ’50s and ’60s in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
My Dad was a classic son of displaced Jewish ancestors who found their way to that “buckle of the Bible Belt”, escaping danger and oppression in Eastern Europe and Russia. He was in the movie theater business first, then early in shopping malls.
My Mother was unique for that era, in having meaningful career work, influenced by emerging feminism of those times. She worked as the first white recruiter on historical Black Colleges in the South, then was an executive for an international exchange program providing homestays in the region. We hosted a series of fascinating young adults from around the world. Today, in her 90’s, RosalindFoxSolomon.com has an artistic photography body of work that moves people to deeper reflection and self-discovery. Her career is flourishing.
“Jim Crow” its restrictive, destructive laws, limiting access for the African American population, were prevalent, and I was deeply confused seeing “colored” bathrooms and water fountains in public venues. As the late 60’s emerged, societal turbulence over race, gender, sexuality, and world views, highlighted by tragic assassinations of visionary leaders, then massive protests of the Vietnam War, pushed me to want to understand how society, and how I might be useful to profound issues of the times.
Military School didn’t help. But my more risk-taking family and home, gave me a strong foundation of questioning and searching for clarity around ethics and morals, that now guide my life.
What is something I wish you would’ve realized earlier in my life?
I wish that I had understood the value of “inner skills” and how profound they could be in my experience of life. Later, that became clear, and much of my career has included both my own learning and promulgating that type of life exploration and opportunities for others. (See Hollyhock.ca for example)
What are bad recommendations I hear in my profession or area of expertise?
Being guided by society to look at life as a simple game of over accumulating pointless wealth and power, is soul-less and empty. We risk the loss of wisdom, empathy, and a social change commitment for how we can contribute to a more just, safe, cleaner world for everyone. Now my goal is “to be a billionaire of good deeds” and “to support the well-being of future generations”.
Tell me about one of the darker periods you’ve experienced in life. How did I come out of it and what did I learn from it?
Beyond growing awareness that the South of the ’60s was full of painful and destructive models of humans dominating other humans, I was diagnosed in my early 20’s with genetic kidney disease from my father’s family. That was frightening and caused a lot of reflection. “If life is short, what should I focus on?” “What does the kidney do, and what are those ingredients in my food, and why would I want my kidneys to filter all those toxic chemicals?” “If my death is inevitable, what is the very best I can do with my life, to be useful to future generations?”
It took much psychological and spiritual reflection and learning, to find my true life purpose.
(My friend gave me a kidney in 2007, and we both lived happily ever after. The Canadian public health care system made this all possible without crushing my financial stability, or my mental state.)
What is my morning routine?
I’m a night guy. Walking the forests or city streets with a good friend, dreaming our futures, slaying emotional dragons, and refining my sense of lifelong learning to refine my meaning and purpose, how to be contributory to others, and the continual refinement of my best service to society gives me potent fuel for good energy and passion for contribution. I love the night hours when most other humans are asleep. The psychic space opens up dramatically.
What habit of behaviour have I pursued that has most improved my life?
I feel blessed by a profoundly challenging health circumstance and the myriad lessons that followed. Looking for positive and practical, and legitimate ways to support better human behaviour and longer-term thinking gives me joy and a pragmatic spiritual practice that fuels my passion and energy.
What are my strategies for being productive and using my time most efficiently?
Devotion to a more just and safe future for humanity and ecology, helps me feel part of what matters most. The pragmatic, as well as aspirational dimensions of being alive, and seeking wisdom for a higher purpose and meaningful action, fuels my joy and optimism. Those principles compound my energy to become “a billionaire of love” and to be the very best ancestor I can be.
When I feel overwhelmed or unfocused, or have lost my focus, what do I do?
With those long walks in nature or city, I can crank the tunes, and ruminate, dream, and scheme. All clarify quickly, and reliably. Nothing quite as good as a good groove!
Do I have quotes I live by or think of often?
We have enormous potential to do good, be good. Heaven is here now. Future generations are studying us, wanting to understand how we managed to turn around misguided choices and be the blessings that enabled the profound human potential for those who populate tomorrow.