Co-Founder of Kizo Africa & Vice President at Singularity University

Dr. Nicholas Haan is a moonshot agitator for solving the world’s biggest challenges and creating a future that’s good for people and the planet. He draws from his multifaceted background to enable leaders to cultivate new mindsets, insights and skills necessary to thrive in the digital transformation era.  

Nicholas is a Swahili-speaking, US–East Africa hybrid–originally from California and living in Zanzibar and throughout Africa for 30+ years. His expertise cross-cuts technology, innovation, impact, food security, disaster aid, climate change, energy, education, genetics, and information systems. He is a sought after speaker and innovation advisor to corporations, governments, and startups around the world.

In this episode Nick talks about how extreme kayaking informs his leadership style, why “leader” is a word that’s constantly misused, and how to witness the world’s greatest challenges through an optimistic lens that creates better outcomes for people and the planet. 

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Dr. Nicholas Haan is a moonshot agitator for solving the world’s biggest challenges and creating a future that’s good for people and the planet. He draws from his multifaceted background to enable leaders to cultivate new mindsets, insights and skills necessary to thrive in the digital transformation era.  

Nicholas is a Swahili-speaking, US–East Africa hybrid–originally from California and living in Zanzibar and throughout Africa for 30+ years. His expertise cross-cuts technology, innovation, impact, food security, disaster aid, climate change, energy, education, genetics, and information systems. He is a sought after speaker and innovation advisor to corporations, governments, and startups around the world.

Nicholas has been with Singularity University since 2012 as Vice President for Impact, Faculty Chair of Global Grand Challenges, and Managing Director for the Global Startup Program–bringing gifted entrepreneurs from around the world together for ten weeks to ideate and launch moonshot ventures.

Nicholas is co-founder of Kizo Africa— an online education program and social club for African Youth to thrive in the digital era.  

He currently serves as Co-Chair of the Advanced Technology and Artificial Intelligence Working Group of the United Nations for food security analysis, including the global standard used for classifying and analyzing food insecurity, called The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC). 

In this episode Nick talks about how extreme kayaking informs his leadership style, why “leader” is a word that’s constantly misused, and how to witness the world’s greatest challenges through an optimistic lens that creates better outcomes for people and the planet. 

Kizo Africa will be announcing an NFT launch to fundraise for their mission.  Get updates on their website here. 

Learn more about Nick here.

Stay connected with Dia on LinkedIn. 

Check out all things Dia Bondi here.

Dia Bondi  0:19  
Hi everyone, this is Lead With Who You Are. I'm Dia Bondi, and on this show, we explore and discover what it truly means to lead with who you are. And we're doing it with people who embody just that. In this episode, we're talking with Nicholas Haan, about intentional vulnerability as a path to awaken senses in order to crush ego and lead with what's essential. Nick is an amazing example of someone who leads with their truest self, and does it courageously. This is a great one. And if you liked this conversation as much as I did, you can like and subscribe to the show. Wherever you listen to, it's right there on your feed. We'll be having more conversations like this one to help you connect your leadership and yourself. Our guest today is Dr. Nicholas Hahn, who is a moonshot agitator for solving the world's biggest challenges, and creating a future that's good for people and the planet. He draws from his multifaceted background which you'll hear about to enable leaders to cultivate new mindsets, insights and skills necessary to thrive in a digital transformation era. Nicholas is a Swahili speaking US-East Africa hybrid, originally from California and now living in Zanzibar and throughout Africa for almost the last 30 years. His expertise cross cuts technology, innovation, impact food security, disaster aid, climate change, energy, education, genetics and information systems. He's everywhere. He is a sought after speaker and an innovation advisor to corporations, governments and startups around the world. Nick Hahn has been with Singularity University since 2012, as vice president for impact faculty chair of global grand challenges, and managing director for the global startup program, bringing gifted entrepreneurs from around the world together for a 10 week program to ideate and launch moonshot ventures. Nicholas is co founder of Keizo, Africa and online education program and social club for African youth to thrive in the digital era. He currently serves as co chair of the advanced technology and artificial intelligence working group of the United Nations for food security analysis, including the global standard used for classifying and analyzing food insecurity called the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification. So happy to have Nick with us today.

Dia Bondi  2:59  
Nick, hello,

Nick Haan  3:00  
Well, hello, nice to see you again. Even virtually

Dia Bondi  3:03  
I know thank you for doing this. I have so many dreams about coming to Zanzibar with a group of entrepreneurs that I'm working with and doing a retreat expedition with your you know, in your reality, but we'll put a pin in that and talk about it another time. All right. Today, uh, today, I want to just Yeah, I'm just really thankful that you said yes to this so quickly on you're such a, I don't know, you're such an inspiring, and I want to use the word character. And I know that's not right. But you have such a dynamic life. And so let me just set this up for our listeners today. And then we'll jump in, I just will start by saying, I've invited you on the show lead with who you are to talk about how you lead an extraordinary life. One that I perceive as sort of borderless and boundary-less, you seem to live on the edge of everything, sort of exposing yourself to a really wide range of experiences and problems and solutions and different kinds of thinking, Nick, and when I think of you, I really think of where you've placed yourself in the world. So you and I met at Singularity University a handful of years ago in the work we did in that work that we did together. You spoke a little bit about a few things I wanted to draw on in this podcast lead with who you are one, your adventure and Expedition kayaking and life around that to your thinking on exponential tech and the both the great threat and great gift that it can be to the world. And then three, like how you've actually come to live the life that you do. Sure. Sounds great. Great. So we'll start you know where we always start on this show, which is who are you? How might you answer that question?

Nick Haan  4:56  
Who am I I am an extremely Fortunate to be living at this time of human history when there's so much change happening right now. And so much opportunity to create a better world. And I feel really privileged to be a part of this moment in time. And to be activated myself towards those ends. And I'm a, as you mentioned, I'm a hybrid of all kinds of things. I'm a California-East Africa hybrid after, you know, living out here in East Africa, where I'm calling from right now from Zanzibar. I've been living in these parts of the world for 30 year over 30 years. And I'm California 100%. And so I go back and forth, and and the whole world in between some a hybrid of that, to my hybrid of different academic professions, I'm in a hybrid of many different interests, professional interests, etc. So I'm, I'm really a hybrid person, the person in between spaces if you Well,

Dia Bondi  5:55  
I love that that's kind of why I, for me, it hits me as like, you're just sort of on the edge of everything. It's like you're everywhere, and also so much who you are, well, you are sort of in between all those things. I it's very compelling to me. And I'm so thrilled to have you to talk to us about your life and your experience and your point of view from where you stand today. So, so going, starting with your expedition, the self, can we start there?

Nick Haan  6:24  
Sure. It's the fun stuff. Yeah,

Dia Bondi  6:26  
super fun. I so tell us a little bit about your kayaking experience and experiences, and what that really is for you, when I first met you, and you talked about it, it wasn't just like, this is a hobby, it felt like more than that. So talk to me about that experience and the experiences and what that really is for you.

Nick Haan  6:47  
Yeah, and it is more than a hobby, it's a drawing. And it's an opportunity to experience life on the edges. And quite frankly, it's, it's, it's an opportunity for, for me to get to know who I am. To play off your show, you're talking about leading with who you are, we don't we can't lead with who we are, if we don't know who we are, who we are. And for me to sum it all up that kayaking is. It's a journey, exploration of who I am. And the way that that gets revealed is through kayaking. And what we're talking about here, maybe just a backup is expedition kayaking. So me and a buddy, one guy, a guy named Brett Webber Lee, who is as crazy as I am on these things, will pick challenges seek challenges that have never been done before that we know of. And we'll set off and do them in, in in the wilderness, so to speak, not so to speak in the wilderness. So

Dia Bondi  7:42  
and we're not talking about a three or four hour, no train. Oh, no. What are we really talking about? What do these things look like?

Nick Haan  7:49  
Well, so we're the first ever to kayak the length of Lake Victoria, which is a little over 200 miles long. And that took us a little over two weeks of kayaking 10 hours a day, every day practically for two weeks. Were the first ever to kayak the length of Turkana leg tucan in northern Kenya, and into Ethiopia, which is slightly shorter, but it took us just as long because it's more arduous. And we're not the first ever but a kayak expedition we did fairly recently was the entire length of Lake Malawi, which is almost 300 miles long. So and we do these totally just self contained. Kayak, food supplies, water supplies, health supplies, everything, fix repair kit supplies. And off we go. And we have a map and we have a general sense where what we're going to do each day. And we might land in an island rock in the middle of a lake somewhere one time or sleep on a totally deserted remote beach another place and just the experiences you get to see when you're doing that are intense. And that's how you get how I get to know who I am. That's so

Dia Bondi  8:59  
beautiful. I love and and what is it that allows you to get to discover who you are where you might be discovering a new place? Is it the physical challenge of it? Is it the spaciousness of it is it what in the process allows you to get into relationship with yourself?

Nick Haan  9:19  
Definitely the physical challenge of it. When you're paddling 10 Literally 10 hours a day. For many days in a row it's a physically taxing time. The various events that can happen at any one time like I know my Brent, my friend Brent Wimberley when we're doing like to Connie says look we can be attacked by crocodiles we can be attacked by worried ethnic groups we can be overturned in our in our kayak with inclement weather this that the scorpions and snakes and other things. All these things can really kill you. Bye He says to reassure me, he says, but they're not all going to happen at one time. So we'll just deal with them one at a time. So the point is, and this is life, really, your life's got all kinds of crazy things around the corner, they don't come all you typically at one time. And you learn to focus on a challenge as it comes up and you solve it. There's also to take this to a more interpersonal level, particularly with kayaking, and if you're doing doubles cut, have you ever do dub dub? Have you ever done doubles? Kayaking?

Dia Bondi  10:31  
I have not, I haven't.

Nick Haan  10:33  
I used to have a kayak business here in Zanzibar. And I can always tell you who's going to have the worst troubles in the water in a kayak. And that's married couples who are trying to tandem kayak, because it's this weird dynamic of power and dismissiveness and whatnot that goes on? Well, when you're doing expedition kayaking, and you have that dynamic comment coming up, you learn very quickly how to completely disintegrate your ego. Because when your life is on the line, it is on the line about that person sitting in front of you, and we're kayaking, and decisions are being made literally, they're going to affect our lives, how the kayak is handled and whatnot, you can be darn sure there are times when I'm thinking No, no, we're not going to do that you couldn't do it this way. But you have to very quickly realize which you your ego has nothing to do with this. It's about working together effectively. that's paramount. And making right decisions is also paramount, but not your ego. So it's a really big life learning experience to destroy your ego when you're out there. Because otherwise you would die.

Dia Bondi  11:43  
So that's a beautiful, that's a that's a beautiful place to ask. You know, when you think about for me, so much of my work, feels interdisciplinary, you know, I draw on one thing and apply it to something else all the time I'm looking, you know, I think maybe I've shared on this podcast, I certainly share with my audiences that I learned to ride motorcycles, my 30s and learned about countersteering. And use that sort of the counter the idea of pushing away from the the opposite direction of attorney want to go into just as a mental model for thinking about when something's not working. What if we go the other way, like I'm drawing on all my experiences all the time. So I'm curious, from the place that you the story you just told about sort of what it means to be challenged in a way that forces you just to disintegrate your ego and make right decisions. And I imagine there's cooperation and courage and listening and choices and all the things that show up. How do you How is that connected to your professional life. And your life's work?

Nick Haan  12:47  
Well, it is very much connected. Because one thing we know is if you are to lead. And if you're leading with your ego, people lose faith, faith in you very quickly. People are good ego sniffers. If you're late if you're leading out of true passion, and you're leading out of true sense of I've done the hard work to understand I have the knowledge set and I'm and so I actually have something to contribute here. That translate that skill set translates into the leadership that I do in my work on global food security, or climate finance, or African education and whatnot that I'm all working on. I'm sure we'll get to that. So yeah, there is a direct relationship there. Because what we see right now, you don't have to look far to be extremely disappointed in our quote unquote, leaders. It's, it's a farce. In fact, I think the leader, the word the word leader, is has been abused about people taking on that title without really thinking about what it means. And for me doing that kayaking helps me refine my my own sense of who I am. And what it means to be a leader and being a leader means you've got some to contribute your ego is not there as much as Hey, and I'm not immune to it, right. I have constant ego issues as we all do it. And there's another aspect to this as well, I would say and that is throwing yourself at vulnerability. I'm channeling a bit of Brene Brown right now. But when you when I do these kayak trips, it's full awareness that I'm making myself vulnerable by choice. And yeah, I'm taking some calculated risks and whatnot, but it's that sense of hyper vulnerability and being in that state and realize it's okay. It's okay to be not only is it okay to be vulnerable, but when you're hyper vulnerable is when your senses come alive. And when when your focus gets gets there. So that's a big aspect of it to leave alone having crocodiles try to attack you.

Dia Bondi  14:57  
And that's like a literal story. I'm When we first met, you told me the story of kayaking through some gator waters that were pretty serious and having to make a choice, I think. Do you remember the story you told me? Do you know which one I'm referring to? Oh, yeah.

Nick Haan  15:12  
I'll never forget. So this is on Lake Turkana with my colleague, my colleague, my my friend and an expedition buddy Brett. So it's just the two of us on this kayak. And we're on Lake Turkana, this desert lake in northern Kenya and Ethiopia extremely remote. We got 18 flat tires, driving up and driving down to the lake that gives you an idea of how remote this lake is. Well, about halfway through it. Well, prior to that, we knew that the lake is chock filled with crocodiles. Big Nile crocodiles. So me being the Singularity University kind of technology guy I said, there must be a solution technology solution, maybe we can drag a sonar type device in our kayak underneath the water to scare off the crocodiles. So I said, Oh, let me contact the world's leading expert on the zoo ologists on crocodiles. And sure enough, some guy in Australia, I looked them up by email and I say, Hey, we're gonna do this expedition. Here's an idea I have around keeping the crocodiles away. With this work. He writes back one very event line. I want nothing to do with this. You are foolish. Don't do it.

Dia Bondi  16:22  
So we did it. And of course that probably got your like that made you want to do it even more? No, I don't know if that's true.

Nick Haan  16:28  
So we ended up? We did do it. And yeah, I think we learn in this day and age also about leading with who you are and discovering who you are, is we can't listen to experts anymore. Experts have received wisdom about way the way the world has been created. And way the way the future is. And we have to actually respect it, listen to it, but not lean on it anymore and make our own decisions that we feel are best for us. Yeah,

Dia Bondi  16:51  
that's a transfer of power, isn't it? Yeah. And yeah,

Nick Haan  16:54  
we did have crocodiles tried to attack us one point and I felt my bear mace that I bought from REI was going to help us and everything. That's just false hope. But we did okay, well,

Dia Bondi  17:05  
you're still here, you're still with us, which is amazing. You survived the gator waters, the crocodile waters,

Nick Haan  17:10  
oh, eight fingers. Just kidding.

Dia Bondi  17:12  
I kind of held my breath for a second right there when you said that.

Nick Haan  17:15  
It's no joke, actually, we know kayak expedition people have some real problems. And I should surely not speak lightly of that, because people

Dia Bondi  17:22  
are terrible judges. So um, I love this notion of sort of leaning on who we are taking in, you know, the the information of experts, but not handing over decision making so much to them. And, and, and sort of having a balance of miss a balance of power there. Just want to shift a little bit to your, to the work that you do in your in your work life, and or that component of your life and sort of your notions around exponential technologies. So you've done a lot of work in the world of food insecurity. Can you talk about that a little bit in what the IPC or the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification is? You've had a really, really global eye for a long time. So maybe share with us a little bit about what that work is in food insecurity and what the IPC is. Sure.

Nick Haan  18:16  
So yeah, I'm I'm of this rather esoteric ilk of being a global food security analysts, you won't hear that title around very much. But it's, of course, with the Ukraine crisis going on, people are realizing how fragile and COVID They belong to Ukraine. COVID, that Ukraine. Now climate, people are realizing how fragile our global food system is. Well, it's been fragile for hundreds of millions of people in the world who are not nearly as privileged as we are on this call. And those are the people I deal with I work with. So I'm a Global Food Security Analyst, analyzing the worst of the disasters in the world that happen, whether they're to tsunami or civil war, or drought, or floods, or market disruptions, or you name it, things that make people hungry. And I analyze those, I try to predict those and I create the systems for people around the world to use and the right place right time. I happen to be running a project in 2002, where I got kind of had an aha moment that there's got to be a better way for, for analyst food security analysts to do their job. And thus, was the creation of the standard classification for food security analysis for classifying the severity and magnitude of food insecurity, kind of like a Richter scale for food insecurity, that it would be comparable over space and time. So you

Dia Bondi  19:45  
can decide to deploy resources or not or when to is that the idea?

Nick Haan  19:49  
Exactly, exactly. So we can have human rights based, rational decision making on how to deploy billions of dollars of humanitarian assist. sense and other types of assistance to the people who need it most not the people who might be politically expedient or might be for any other reason more attractive to help. So basically, this system is to shine a light on the most vulnerable, most hungry people in the world in a, in a scientific manner. And I'm very happy to say that it it's, it's now being used in well over 30 countries and on track to go up to 80 countries in the world, and I'm working as a, I still work on that system. And I'm what's I'm a co chair of what's called the Advanced Technology and AI working group for the UN that develops this system,

Dia Bondi  20:41  
it's no surprise to me that you talked earlier about sort of placing yourself in these life and death scenarios, because what you're pointing to are people and families who are facing life and death situations here. Absolutely. And to let how you evaluate that and the decisions that you make around aiding other people in evaluating that is absolutely has to be egoless

Nick Haan  21:07  
it's humbling, it's egoless, it's a call the purpose, a call, it's a hyper awareness of the value of life and, and the need to give everyone in this planet basic opportunities. And I that's what draws me towards doing that work.

Dia Bondi  21:27  
On the other side of the spectrum, you are part of the singularity University's Grand Challenges Program and you, you know that, to me, there's like food insecurity, which is just foundational, fundamental survival for for people and families. And then there's, you know, the way in which that you engage the Singularity University, which is all very high level, you know, tech aspirational type of work, I recognize that it touches some very fundamental and foundational things, but it's like, it's feels like the other end of the spectrum. So can you talk a little bit about what the Grand Challenges Program is in your role with in it?

Nick Haan  22:06  
Sure. So I was previously the managing director of singularity University's flagship program, the Global Solutions Program, and then the faculty chair for global grand challenges, and also vice president of impact at Singularity University, I still retain the role of the faculty roll. And really what that is, is that the Singularity University thesis, and this comes from Ray Kurtzweil, and Peter Diamandis and all of our faculty. But the core thesis is that a suite of exponential technologies, digital technologies that are growing at exponential rates, like AI, robotics, digital manufacturing, etc, etc, etc. But these, the rate at which they're going is exponential, and it will not only disrupt many aspects of society, but it unleashes scarce resources to make them abundant, and therefore gives us whole new opportunities to solve the world's biggest challenges to rethink food to rethink learning to rethink healthcare, etc. Now, with this exponential technology mindset, how can we solve these problems? So that's basically the thesis of the global Grand Challenge curriculum. And so we work with corporations, investors, entrepreneurs, government officials, to help them solve big challenges that they want to solve by merging exponential technology, innovation, and this mindset that our big challenges can be solved with new thinking now,

Dia Bondi  23:34  
so I know I kind of just asked you a few questions that feel resume ish. But it was really to build context to get to this question around this notion of the paradox of abundance, which is an idea that you shared with me when we first met. And I just, it's so compelling to me, you know, the notion of the paradox of abundance, which I'm gonna have you talked about in a second, but also this, I remember you talking about this idea, that, that, well, we have these exponential technologies and AI in our hands for both good and bad, the way in which they get used for bad is triggered by isolating folks by actually exclusion of folks that the radicalization of people is a huge risk to the globe. And that inclusion, connectedness these are my words, not yours, but drawing, keeping people part of things part of the world is a way in which we can combat the risks that come with exponential technologies that live on the planet right now. My my, am I even getting it half right?

Nick Haan  24:36  
Sure. You are Yeah, and I those all resonate with me and, and this is a paradox The paradox of abundance because Singularity University. This comes from Peter Diamandis, who wrote a book called Abundance. And one of the startups that I'm very much involved in is called keto, Africa. keto means abundance. So I'm very much evoking that notion of abundance. And yet I'm acutely aware that it is a paradox because I do have this other hat of seeing the worst traumas of the world, people starving to death. And you're not going to tell them, Hey, there's this abundant world over here. If you just change your mindset, everything will be great. No, absolutely not. It's degrading. And and we need to take a big pill of humility, before we go around that way. So in my own mind, paradox is the abundance is a paradox on one hand, it's a fantastic concept, and it is it. It is a technical reality. We live on a planet that is abundant, energy is not scarce. Water is not scarce, food is not scarce learned, none of this is scarce, if we made certain choices about how to allocate resources, so they're technically not scarce, so

Dia Bondi  25:46  
you're talking about systemic, you're talking about system, the interrupt guarantee that you're talking about systems choices, not necessarily individual choices, correct. In the last 10 years, sort of the world of personal professional development, the world of coaching has really shifted a lot of oof, I'm going here now, Nick, but like, has shifted a lot of the, as you said, the responsibility to individuals, if you just had a different mindset, then everything would be unlocked. But it ignores. You know, it's it's a it's dangerous, I think, actually, because it ignores what you're pointing to, which is the other half of how and how systemically things. Yeah, we can't solve starvation with a mindset.

Nick Haan  26:27  
Totally agree with you. I totally agree. We have to look at the systems that are creating this. I was just listening to a podcast that had the famous astrophysicist Martin Rees on it. And he made a really poignant comment about ethics. And he said that there's a difference between a few decades ago, say 1950s, and now is in the 1950s, you actually couldn't fathom solving for hunger, you just couldn't do it. You couldn't fathom solving for global learning or all these other global Grand Challenges. Now we can, and the fact that we don't, and we haven't reveals our ethical misgivings and our emptiness, it's a matter of systemic ethical decisions that we're making, and economic systems pressure on our politicians, and whatnot, that we actually can solve these, we don't have to wait for some futuristic technology to solve any of those right now. We could solve them now. But and both can be held true. exponential technologies will increasingly unleash those and make it easier for us to close the we'll call it the ethics gap. Because our systems right now are, there's a huge cap revealed in our ethical strength as a society when we can actually sit by and watch people starve to death. And there's no reason why they should.

Dia Bondi  27:49  
So how do we break this paradox of abundance? How do we break it? Is it constant will always be here? Or is it a thing to be broken,

Nick Haan  27:58  
the gap needs to be closed and I to me, shining a light and this is on it and and making? We live in this interconnected world right now. And this gets back to the inclusion that as well. A comment that I I like to point out in the food security world, it's a little a little bit overdramatic, but starving people don't speak. They don't get heard. The last breath of of a dying person from hunger isn't heard. And that's, that's an extreme concept. But it applies to every one person who didn't get good health care, the person doesn't have good learning. You're telling me that that 10 year old girl who's not getting into good education is a global voice. No. But she increasingly we all collectively have an obligation to be aware that the well being of any one any, anywhere on this planet, affects the well being of all of us everywhere on this planet.

Dia Bondi  28:52  
Nick, how you put yourself in the way of some big problems? Yeah. When we started this conversation, you said I, these aren't exactly the words you use, but you're basically like, I actively put myself in vulnerable. I bring forward my vulnerability on purpose.

Nick Haan  29:11  

Dia Bondi  29:11  
do you find? You know, it sounds like the work that you do. The you know, the ideas, the problems, you put yourself in the way of our, you know, there's a vulnerability everywhere like that, that feels vulnerable, like, how do you? How do you maintain? Assuming you have some optimism? How do you maintain optimism?

Nick Haan  29:34  
That's a really good question. And I have to say the last few months, I've actually I've been also struggling with that and and reigniting that, finding that back with envy because we just keep getting hit over and over again. I want to let me I think all of your littmus listeners are well aware of many challenges that the world is facing now and in our immediate future. I guess I maintain my optimism by focusing on what I can do what I can do to contribute towards solving big challenges. And yes, I have, there's three big challenge areas that I'm dealing with global food security, global climate change, and African youth unemployment. So three big things that I'm doing with my professional career in startups. And each one of those, I feel like, the way I'm working on them, can actually move the needle on every single one of those, I am not just making a contribution. So basically, when I get involved, I try to think what's the biggest potential positive contribution that I could make to move the needle on these? And that's what gives me optimism, because I focus on what I can do my agency involved here, recognizing Yeah, you know, there are some things that could happen, some mega trends and cycles, and you could talk about all kinds of interesting theories and where we are right now. That removes our agency, identifying what it is we can do, whether it's small or big, it gets us at least for me, that's a strategy to keep my optimism up.

Dia Bondi  31:19  
Before our before we started this conversation before you dialed into the call, I was sharing with my production team that I'm feeling. I don't know that the word is defeated right now. But I go through cycles of feeling a little, you know, sad about the level of impact that I can have and feeling like it's really never enough that it's not. And then when I really look at it, I realize that it can be enough, because it is actually making an impact. Do you know what I mean? Yeah, it's like this dance between, and it is what you can do. Exactly. It's this dance between, there's so much to do feeling, feeling power less, to then looking at the thing you actually have power with. And it can really enliven, you know, the effort, the optimism, the impact, and there's some reconnecting with the impact we can have that can I think you use the word agency that can remind us of our agency that can activate our agency. Absolutely. And that's where sort of that sadness can transform into like, okay, what can I do right now?

Nick Haan  32:40  
Yes. And knowing that there's gazillions of other people who are doing what they can do. And they you don't have to carry the ball, there's just no way you can carry the ball even though it might feel like oh, Lord sky is falling, I have to lift the whole sky up myself. No, now's the time to double down on your agency, our agency as individuals, what we can do, knowing that others are doing what they can do as well. And just surround yourself with a community of people who are also like minded. Because the default unfortunately, is a societal consciousness is to go towards the the doom and gloom side of thing. And that's not to put our heads in the sand. But you can't let that be your guide, either.

Dia Bondi  33:22  
So I'm sort of in the business of helping leaders use their voice as a tool in their own leadership and in their impact. I'm curious what your thought is around a leaders responsibility in how they use their voice today, in an exponential world. As

Nick Haan  33:43  
I said a little bit earlier, I feel it's never been more response, a call for responsibility of leaders to use their voice, to think about really what leadership means telling the truth speaking truths. Developing a society of inclusion, by design, not by accident, it can't be a an accidental effect of what you do with inclusion has to be something we work towards being having good and high levels of integrity, I could go through a list of what it means to be a leader. But I think now especially all of those, whatever litany you might come up with, are incredibly important, because there is so much change happening, whether we like it or not. This may sound like an area where we don't have a whole lot of agency, let's be honest, is exponential technologies are radically disrupting almost all aspects of humanity. There's not a whole lot you can put the brakes on that night. And I say that with all due respect to certain pockets of communities of people in the world, who are consciously taking a different viewpoint on that I have deep respect for them. But I don't think humanity as a whole can put the brakes on these exponential tech analogy. Therefore with all these disruptions happening, it a means we are faced with unfathomable challenges that we've never faced before. And they are coming at us all at once. Unlike my what my friend Brent said during our kayak trip, they're coming at us all at once. inequality, climate change, disinformation, go down the list. It's a wham we're being hit. And incredible opportunity to redesign and rethink the way a world that we all could live in with our planet in peace. And that's never been more doable. But the only way we're going to get on that path is through true leadership. And we're not seeing it in our public figures much at all. It's really stunning. The dearth. You hear the Greta Thunberg 's of the world of the world and whatnot. It's like, wow, where do these people come from? Thank goodness. And why are they not being elevated to higher statues, our politicians or disappointment? Many of our corporate leaders we see equals around a bit, then we see hygiene and I'm there's no room for hedging Ha, right now, it's full bore what's take on our challenges with proper leadership, and let's lead ourselves to a better world.

Dia Bondi  36:09  
I think one of the things that I see the leaders that I work with, and that leaders can do in general is to not think of their voice as the only voice but to use your voice to what you pointed to, to platform others. Because if you are in such when you're in an ordained leadership position, I'm not talking about that everyone can be a leader kind of moment, I'm talking about ordained leadership, C level leaders that have with a stroke of a pen and opportunity to really make a huge change in their organizations. These are people that can have a big cause and effect with what they say what they say yes to and what they say no to, I think there is, you know, huge opportunity to not have to do it, meaning speak it yourself all the time, but to platform others, because what you elevate you are you have so much authority, you have so much credibility, hopefully, that when you lend your authority and credibility to others, to platform them to say what is important about the work work that they do to hold them up and let them speak and have them speak, invite them to speak, you are using your voice without speaking Does that make sense? I mean, I feel like there's there's i I'm going to link it in the show notes. But Edelman runs the trust index, the trust index every year, they do his research on sort of what the world trusts and doesn't trust. And I think this year's report showed that trust in, in government and faith institutions is like at an all time low. And that where we really hold trust is in is with the organization's with brands and with company leaders. And so to not underestimate how much weight our voice has, is huge.

Nick Haan  37:57  
I couldn't agree more. I I actually was just reading One such study. I'm not sure if it's the same one. But how disappointing that that's the institution that we have to that we can have civic discourse institutions that we trust. So yeah, there's a lot to be said on that.

Dia Bondi  38:17  
Nick, how is it that you've come to live the life that you do?

Nick Haan  38:21  
Well, but by not having a clear pathway, that's for sure. And kind of just going, where opportunities emerge. Even like when I when I got into Singularity University was just the complete random thing. I was in Rome working for the United Nations, and I applied to be a student on the in Singularity University, my cat is meowing Can you hear that? There always will be cats. Okay, I could set her up, it's gonna read a poem. But so this is a good example of well, I'll give you two transition points. One, UC Berkeley when I was an undergrad back in 1988, I wasn't a great student, taking after hours classes, so I could hope to pass the exams, and here comes in this teaching assistant woman who's about 28 years old. And we're in their late at night. And she says, Yeah, you know, I, I just got back from the Peace Corps, if any, any one of you want to hear about what the Peace Corps is, feel free to stay afterwards, and I'll tell you what that is. Okay. It's just a decision right on the spot. I was on a total track of doing go right into med school and whatnot, go up and speak with her. And immediately I get enchanted by this notion of, hey, I can go and do something else with my life for the next two years. So that made a big impression that 15 minute encounter with that 28 year old teaching assistant that was never by design I never would have conceived of going into the Peace Corps. Boom. And that put me on a trajectory of where I am. Right now, being in Africa getting into international relations, and my whole professional life is affected by that. So that's one such example. Another such example, is 2011. In Rome now working on this global multi country project, and thought, you know, I'm kind of at the top of my game here, heard about this totally new, crazy institution called Singularity University that does a 10 week program, let me apply to be a student, participant, I applied and I got rejected. I said, No, thank you very much. But then I heard from them two weeks later and said, Would you come and be a teaching assistant during it? And I said, sure. But I'll just come for three months and the end of story. No, didn't turn into that. It was just right place right time. And I think I already told you my long, long journey with Singularity University. So it's a little forks in the road that pop up, that if you're ready for Ben Bryson,

Dia Bondi  41:01  
I hear that as your incredible ability to listen to what's around you to listen to the invitations, and to listen to your own curiosity, and maybe not decide that it's off path and doesn't belong. But instead, to say, that's actually interesting. And to let yourself follow it. Like, it is a little moment of an expedition right there to choose to, like, go down that path, even though you don't know exactly where it leads.

Nick Haan  41:36  
Definitely. And there is you've just made that link back to the expedition thinking as well, recognizing it is it is a new path. You don't know where it's gonna go. But you're gonna throw yourself wholeheartedly into it. And yeah, there is a bit of that mentality in my professional life. Well, not a bit very much.

Dia Bondi  41:52  
So what's next for you, Nick? Do you know?

Nick Haan  41:55  
Yes, I Well, no one really ever knows, but I have some ideas. So professionally, I, I'm still active in the global food security world. I'm part of an early stage startup called Quito, Africa, that I made reference to before, which I am co founding with a Kenyan woman named Regina and Jima. And we've come up with this crazy idea to reach over a million African youth with these mindsets and skills and networks for them to thrive in the digital era. And we've been prototyping our product for over the last year, over the last 12 months, we just did an impact survey to find out really what impact did we have. And it's phenomenal. We're really excited and fired up about how we can positively improve people's lives. So now I'm focused on scaling that one up. And then the third one is this another one of these? Here I go, I'm opening up a whole new pathway. I'm getting into climate finance. So myself and another co founder are cooking up a startup, to have to create a global movement for people of the world to get actively involved in financing climate positive solutions. So we're working actively on that. So that's going to be another big of my big part of my professional focus going forward.

Dia Bondi  43:19  
It talks a little bit about optimism earlier. What are you optimistic about now?

Nick Haan  43:26  
Good question, my optimistic about right now. I'm optimistic that the best ideas have not yet been heard and that we're on. We're unleashing innovative ideas, new passions amongst people around the whole planet. That's the thing I get most excited about this democratization of technology is the activation of people around the planet. And so that's what makes me optimistic. And I know it comes with all kinds of tensions and things like that, for sure. But good things always come with some tension on the other end. So I'm optimistic about unleashing the innovative principles voices around the world to help us solve the world's biggest challenges.

Dia Bondi  44:17  
Nick, thank you so much for being with me today. It's so you're so compelling, and all the stories you have and the impact you're looking to have is and do you have is compelling. And I'm just glad to be in and around your edges.

Nick Haan  44:35  
Well, thank you. I appreciate that. And I've just, if anything as I go on in my career, I actually get more humbled and and just get more humbled about what I can contribute and just think of as a gift for us to be able to make any contribution we possibly can. Fantastic. Thank you. Thank you.

Dia Bondi  44:59  
Lead with Who you are is a production of Dia Bondi communications scored, mixed and produced by Arthur Leon Adams, the third and executive produced by Mandy Miranda. You can reach out to us at or leave us a voicemail at 341333297 you can like rate, share and subscribe at Apple podcasts, Google podcasts, Spotify or wherever you get your favorite podcasts. Go to for show notes and to learn about all it is that we do to help you speak powerfully and lead with who you are

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