Wednesday, 26 April 2017

David Bishop

David Bishop, Principal Lecturer at the University of Hong Kong’s Faculty of Business and Economics, wears many hats. He is the founder of the non-profit organisation called Soap Cycling, co-founder of Fair Employment Agency and Migrasia, Mandarin- and Cantonese-speaking American father of three, and one of the handful who turned down a Presidential Scholarship, went instead to a small university in Hawaii, where his perspective on life changed ever since. 

In suburban Georgia, the US, then-18-year-old Bishop decided to learn Mandarin, knowing it wouldn’t be long before China rose as a world power. At 23, he and his wife entertained the idea of calling an Asian country permanent home, which happened a decade later. After a couple years working as a lawyer at an international law firm, life’s twists and turns landed him a job as a lecturer at the University of Hong Kong, where he founded companies to provide his students with better internship opportunities and relevant life experiences, among them Soap Cycling, which recycles single-use hotel soaps to be redistributed to underprivileged communities that lack access to hygiene and sanitation. 

In addition to the typical list of things that people like about Hong Kong, the city’s youths is one big reason that Bishop is still staying in Hong Kong, and trying to make it a better place. Simply ‘awesome’ is how Bishop describes the city’s youths, and he’s doing the best he can to equip them for our future. “I love them. They’re amazing. The problems that they face are not of their own creation. They are being held back, but they are being held back by their parents, by society, and by other commercial opportunities that are being taken from them. If I were to give advice to anyone - parent, teacher, or company - it is to give the youths more responsibility, because you’ll be shocked and surprised and pleased with what they can do with their responsibility. Until we put our young people in a position to fail, they’re never truly going to be able to succeed. Sometimes it means physically scratching your knee, and being way less concerned about the way they play. In the school system, they can’t run during recess time in local schools, and that’s insane! Allowing them a longer leash to make mistakes, to help them to take more risks, because otherwise, we’re all kind of screwed! Whether it’s politically speaking, economically speaking, socially speaking, we need our young people to be way less concerned about risk.”

From a man who used to “make rich people richer”, Bishop has shifted his priorities in life over the years - feeling immensely grateful about his job at HKU today is a man who sees the importance of integrating into and serving his local community: “If you want to be happy, connection to community is absolutely essential. We just tend to ignore those things in Hong Kong, where you have these large monopolistic companies that don’t have to abide by the same rules, which is, again, one of those things that traps us. Working, providing, and a2serving in your community is not going to give you a bigger flat, it’s not going to give you a raise in your job, but it is going to give you empathy, it is going to help you understand what other people are going through, it is going to give you opportunities to expand your network, not in an artificial way, but in a very real way, and then amplify those things that truly give us long-term happiness.” 

Tell us a bit about yourself? 
I was born in the US, I was raised in near Atlanta, Georgia. My parents were not wealthy. My dad grew up as a farmer. When I was 18 and graduated high school, I sat down and thought about the world, and realised that I didn’t know anybody that spoke Chinese. This was in the mid-90s, and I thought, China is going to be really important, and I didn’t know anybody that spoke Chinese, that was really hard, and I thought I was smart, so I decided then that I would learn Chinese. 

My freshman year in uni, I had a four-year full-ride to my top university of choice - they would even give me extra money to live, it was the Presidential Scholarship, and my mum came to me, and she was like, “I just don’t think you’re going to be happy there. I think you should go to this little school in Hawaii.” I had never heard of that school before, I had never been to Hawaii before. It’s a very small school with just a little over 2,000 students. I said to her, “You’re crazy!” She said, “No, no, no. Look, I’ll fill out the paperwork for you. If you sign your name on it then I’ll take care of everything else. I just think you’re going to be happy there.” I agreed, filled out the paperwork, got into that school. I remember thinking, my choice for university was just wrong, it just didn’t feel right. I called the admissions office of the university of choice, my hands were shaking, and told the lady that I was not going to accept the scholarship. She’s like, why? And I said, “I don’t know! I’m sorry, just give it to somebody else!” I was genuinely in tears, and then I hung up the phone. 

So I went to Hawaii, and my mum said to me, “Everyone needs to know what it feels like to be discriminated against.” It was a really weird thing for a mum to say to her son. My family was not wealthy; in fact, we were quite the opposite of wealthy at the time - my dad had lost his job. They scraped everything they could get just to get me a suitcase, and then sent me to Hawaii. That decision changed everything in my life, it was super influential to me. It was an incredibly small campus, but it was also the most diverse campus in the US: there were more than 80 first languages spoken, 120 countries represented. The first experience I had, coming from suburban Georgia, where although there were diversities, they were more like American diversities - it was great, but there were just African Americans, some Asians, some Hispanics, and then a lot of white people. Growing up in that environment, in a middle-class family, as a white male, I had a lot of privilege that I didn’t understand before. When I got to Hawaii and I talked to people, it just opened my eyes to the world. I remember asking this one girl where she was from, and she told me the name of this country that I had never even heard before, and I was like, can you show me? And she said, “No, it’s not on most maps.” It was a really small island in the Pacific. I remember thinking, this is unbelievable! I started learning Mandarin, I quit school after my freshman year, went to Taiwan and did a two-year service mission. That’s where I really learnt Chinese well, and was able to speak to people in Chinese. I decided, when I was almost done in Taiwan, that the best marriage of my skills and interests was law. So I decided to go to law school.

I met my wife when we were freshmen. When I came back from Taiwan, we got to know each other better again. When we got married, we were, by Hong Kong standards, very young - we got married when we were still in school, at 22 years old. When I went to Georgetown for law school, I had this family dynamics already, and we had our first son when I was still in law school. Interesting little side note here: one of the things I tell the most to young people in Hong Kong is to plan for their long-term relationships. It’s amazing how much time we spend on planning for grad school, and zero time thinking about family. It doesn’t make sense to me. If you ask me, what are the non-tangible equations that show me that Hong Kong is kind of messed up right now, it’s the idea that young people in Hong Kong are not even thinking about marriage and children. I’m not saying that everyone needs to get married and have children, I’m just saying that it is a very natural conversation that humans, biologically or instinctually, are programmed to think of. And so if we’re not thinking or planning about that at all, it’s just super imbalanced. I always tell my students, “Think about what you would give at the end of your life: imagine yourself in your death bed, and imagine you could do something and they would give you 10 more years of life with the people you love the most, what would you give up for that? I would give up anything for that, then why are you sacrificing that right now? 

I directed my law studies for the intention of coming back out to Asia, and studying or practising law out here. But I was given a very wise counsel to start my career in the States, so that I’d always have a backdoor if I need it. I started my career in Atlanta, my hometown. After two years, in 2007, immediately preceding the financial crisis, I took a job here in Hong Kong with a big international firm. Again, another great and humbling experience that happened to me, and I like sharing this with my students as sometimes they perceive success in the wrong way - most of the students at HKU have never been put in the position to fail, and you can never succeed until you have really failed, a lot of times. In 2009, I was let go from my job. It was fine, because my wife and I are good planners, so we were actually in a good position. Thankfully, I had been looking for a teaching opportunity immediately preceding that anyway, and it worked out with HKU, and I was able to teach almost immediately after. I’ve been teaching here ever since, for eight years. I have three kids now, one of them was born here in Hong Kong. They love it, it’s all they know. My kids go to local schools. I think that’s a rarity - not many people send their kids to local schools, even the locals always ask why. We feel it’s important for us to be part of the community. Chinese language is a big, important part of my development. Not that I think my kids are going to grow up and get jobs speaking Chinese - maybe they do, that’s an option - but more about connecting with others in the world. I think it’s important to understand that language is part of that process. 

How did you find the Chinese language when you first learnt it? 
If I’m honest, people are going to be angry with me, but I found it really easy! I was very lucky. I learnt it the way you’re supposed to learn it. It turns out, whether rightfully or wrongfully, that I have a gift for certain elements of the language, so I picked it up very quickly. I went to Taiwan knowing some, but within six months, I could hold basic meetings, and I could teach basic lessons in Mandarin. After a year, I was doing pretty high-level translation; by the end of two years, I was translating for doctors in hospitals, as in real-time translation at large gatherings, real-time speeches, either way from English to Chinese and Chinese to English. My reading and writing were never that great, but speaking and listening were pretty solid. So I went back to the States and I was actually a Chinese teacher, which sounds crazy. For two years I taught Chinese, and I was one of the translators for the Chinese Olympic Committee, for the 2002 Olympic Games. That was really cool. I was there when China got its first gold medal, and I got to intermingle with the athletes and officials, so that was fun. 

So you speak Cantonese as well? 
A little bit, yes. Cantonese is really hard, you can write this for sure! People in Hong Kong - this is my announcement to them - they want so badly to preserve their language, and yet they are not supportive of foreigners who want to learn their language. It’s so frustrating. In Taiwan, people are happy when a foreigner wants to learn Chinese, and it’s the same in China - if you say “Ni Hao”, they freak out. If you say anything in Cantonese here, people freak out too, but they also ask, “Why are you doing this?” They would immediately switch to English, and they are very, very not supportive of people that want to learn Cantonese, to the point where they’re kind of offensive about it. When I tell them my kids go to local schools, they’re almost angry. They would be like, “Why? We’re doing all we can to send our kids to international schools, why would you send your kids to local schools?” And I’m like, “Why not?” That’s something that’s very surprising to me. I really, really, really want to learn Cantonese, I’ve got a solid foundation as I can read Chinese characters, and I can understand a little bit of it, but they’re very unsupportive! (laugh) I came in pretty fluent in Mandarin, and now, 10 years later, couldn’t even hold a basic conversation in Cantonese, even though I’ve taken lessons, just because no one wants to speak to me in Cantonese! 

Could it be because Hong Kong people would want to practise their English too? 
Hong Kong people don’t have to practise their English - their English is great! It’s actually quite the opposite in China, where people still very much want to practise their English, but all the secondary school students here in Hong Kong, their English is great. Even if people wanted to practise their English with me, they could have said, “Hey, why don’t I speak English to you and you speak Cantonese to me?” 

Your first impression of Hong Kong? 
I’ve loved Hong Kong since the day I came here. My wife and I got married in 2000, and we wanted to go on a honeymoon, which is what a lot of people do, but we had no money. Our parents are great, but it’s not like they were going to give us money for things. We saved up for a whole year, and came to Hong Kong and Southern China. It was like an intro tour to Asia for my wife, and I was like, okay, we might want to live in one of these places in Asia one day, let’s see if you can handle it. We loved Hong Kong, from the day when we first got here. We were 23 years old. We didn’t move back here until almost 10 years after that. From the day we set foot in Hong Kong, we felt very natural, very much like home. Unlike a lot of our friends, who see this as a stop on their journey, we’ve always felt that if society and the government would allow us to, then we would love to make this our long-term home. We’ve been very committed, as much as we can, to the local community, in terms of serving in the non-profit space, in terms of my job at the university, and also in terms of our kids going to local schools - we’re really trying to integrate into the local community. Now, I say that, but I live in Discovery Bay (laugh), it’s not exactly the most integrated thing to do, but we are definitely making a conscious effort to not just be here, but be of here as well, which I don’t think is the typical mindset, but that is fine.

This is backed up by a lot of research: If you want to be happy, connection to community is absolutely essential. In terms of every single aspect of moral and ethical and just good living, it’s all based on how connected we are to the people around us. And that’s true, by the way, for economic principles too. We just tend to ignore those things in Hong Kong, where you have these large monopolistic companies that don’t have to abide by the same rules, which is, again, one of those things that traps us. Working, providing, and serving in your community is not going to give you a bigger flat, it’s not going to give you a raise in your job, but it is going to give you empathy, it is going to help you understand what other people are going through, it is going to give you opportunities to expand your network, not in an artificial way, but in a very real way, and then amplify those things that truly give us long-term happiness. Almost everything that gives us long-term happiness is relationship-driven, and yet because of these smartphones, social media, and the nature of modern-day society, especially in a place like Hong Kong, we’re inherently pulled away from those relationships. I wonder if you’d ask your readers - and this goes for me as well - what percentage of people knew the names of their neighbours?

Your favourite aspects of Hong Kong?
There are so many great things about Hong Kong. We love the international, intercultural nature of Hong Kong. Hong Kong is way too disparate in the way the communities are operated - the Nepalese are with the Nepalese, the South Asians single out themselves, local Hong Kong Chinese single out themselves, the mainland Chinese single out themselves, the expats are always very separate themselves. We have been lucky to meet a broad spectrum of people, because we force it. My teaching at HKU, the service that we do, the local school connection - it kind of forces us to be with the local communities, and quite frankly, it’s not always comfortable, because integrating into different cultures is hard. But that has definitely been the best thing for me, meeting people from literally all over the world, and not just meeting them, but becoming friends with them, engaging with them, and learning about where they’re from - that, to me, is so great, it’s like living in a library, where you can just talk to people about their experiences. I have all these exchange students, and I love talking to them about where they’re from, what their life is like, what their families are like, and they often think of me as weird when I ask them about their parents and stuff. But I think it’s so cool! You have all these different migratory stories that are just really quite interesting. Probably my greatest shame about Hong Kong is that we are not capturing all these amazing stories. You have this centuries of Chinese history, which is one of the most interesting timelines in world history, in my mind. The massive amount of change is just insane. And yet I don’t feel that we’re doing a good job capturing that, that history and those stories. 

My favourite aspects of Hong Kong would be the typical list: the food is great, the skyline is beautiful, you can fly three hours in any direction and you’ll be in a completely different environment, with a different culture, food, language, everything. And its youth. One thing that has kept me here is I genuinely believe in the idea that Hong Kong’s youth, whether rightfully or wrongfully, they’re going to be a big part of the future of the entire region. We either set them up to succeed, or everyone will fail. No matter what your particular issue of choice is, global warming, environmental issues, income disparity, warfare type of conflict, they all centre on the idea that we need this current generation to step up, and to be better than the previous three generations have been. We’ve introduced a lot of problems onto them, so they’re going to have to make sacrifices that we were unwilling to make, and I think that’s unfair, but it is the reality. Whether that means cutting back on consumption, or being more responsible in the way that we deal with migrants, whatever it is, it boils down to the fact that we have the ability here in Hong Kong, because we attract so many young and talented people, I think we have the obligation, then, to set them forward to make the world a better place. 

If you have to generalise Hong Kong’s youths, how would you describe them? 
Awesome. I love them. They’re amazing. The problems that they face are not of their own creation. They are being held back, but they are being held back by their parents, by society, and by other commercial opportunities that are being taken from them. If I were to give advice to anyone - parent, teacher, or company - it is to give the youths more responsibility, because you’ll be shocked  and surprised and pleased with what they can do with their responsibility. Until we put our young people in a position to fail, they’re never truly going to be able to succeed. We have to be willing to let them fail, we have to be willing to let them fall down. Sometimes it means physically scratching your knee, and being way less concerned about the way they play. In the school system, they can’t run during recess time in local schools, and that’s insane! Allowing them a longer leash to make mistakes, to help them to take more risks, because otherwise, we’re all kind of screwed! Whether it’s politically speaking, economically speaking, socially speaking, we need our young people to be way less concerned about risk. 

And so you founded Soap Cycling to give your students better internship opportunities. How did that happen? 
In 2011, I had been teaching at HKU for a few years, and thought that some of our students, even though they worked really hard and they were really smart, didn’t really have enough relevant life experience in order to - in my estimation - put them in a position to succeed or to lead in the job environment. And so my decision at the time was, because I had attempted to get other companies, like banks, law firms, to give my students better internship opportunities to really take leadership of projects. But the companies in Hong Kong, for the most part, they tend to not view interns in that way. And I knew that if I was going to provide them quality internship opportunities, then I would have to create them for the students. I went to a group of students, and I said, “If I start a company, will you run it for me?” There was one student in particular, and she said, “I like soap!” And that was it! So they took the soap idea and we ran with it. 

The basic idea for Soap Cycling, from the beginning, was that it has a kind of tripartite mission. What I do for actual work at HKU, obviously I was looking for leadership opportunities for my students. So from an educational standpoint, I wanted to provide an educational leadership opportunity for them. But in terms of the company’s actual operation, what we do is we collect lightly used hotel soap, and then we process it, so that it has an environmental function. And every bar of soap that we distribute then goes to disadvantaged communities where they lack access to sanitation and hygiene. Unlike many organisations where they said they have multiple missions but they don’t exactly all fit or work with each other, it’s truly a tripartite mission where every single bar of soap that we remove from the ecosystem, chemical waste removed from the landfill, so it has a very direct environmental impact. But 80 to 90% of that soap can then be immediately transferred, with a little bit of processing, and put into the hands of the people who really really need it. Now, a lot of people may not realise that soap is actually the most cost-effective and efficient way to save lives. As we put the bars of soap in the hands of disadvantaged communities, where they lack access to basic sanitation and hygiene, then it does have a direct impact on the number of kids that can go to school, their health, women and children, at the time of birth, are able to survive, at disaster times, after an earthquake or typhoon, people then don’t get sick.

Do you believe it’s important for young people these days to learn more about social entrepreneurship? 
I do not believe that it is necessary for young people to learn, specifically, about social entrepreneurship, because I don’t believe in social entrepreneurship as a concept. This is a very theoretical and analytical discussion, but let me change your question. I think that all people need to understand that every entrepreneur should be a social entrepreneur. Every company is given the right to limited liability, because we as society give them that right. What that means is, if you look at the historical context and legal context of how companies were created, and why we created these corporate chargers, it was for the betterment of society. And so yes, the purpose of the company could be to generate profit and revenue, but it needs to have some societal impact, a positive social impact. Otherwise, we as society should not allow those companies to exist, because we give them a lot of benefits: we do taxes, limitation on liability, so they can do all these really bad things, and never personally be responsible for those things. So if we’re going to give them that right, then they should be putting something back into society. It could be as simple as providing jobs, or it could be more specifically social, the way that social enterprise is currently operated. But I don’t want students to think about becoming social entrepreneurs. If they choose that, that’s great. Instead, I want them to see the world a little bit differently, and understand that everyone should have this focus, either full-time, professionally, part-time, on a voluntary basis or whatever.

What were the initial challenges faced by Soap Cycling? 
There were so many initial challenges, just as with starting any business. A lot of people think that when you start a social business, it’s somehow going to be easier than starting a traditional business. That is totally wrong. When you have a social business, you’re inherently restricting your company’s ability to grow, because you have a social aim. Even if you generate revenue, you might have restrictions on distribution of that capital, you have restrictions on your ability to fundraise, you have restrictions on the types of partners that you can work with.

When we started, we had tonnes of problems. We’ve had ‘competitors’ in a non-profit space coming in and try to destroy us, like hire away our GM, in contraventions to hurt non-compete agreements, convince people to not give funding to us. So many issues. And obviously, operationally, when we started this I had no idea how to recycle soap. The students said that they wanted to do it, it was an idea that I had, and we thought, okay, it can’t be that hard. But when we first started talking to hotels, they said, “Sure, we’re interested.” We did a feasibility study. We sent out an email and said, “Hey, who would be interested in this?” Not “Who wants to do this?”, just “Who would be interested?”. In two weeks we had 60 hotels responding, saying yes. We were very excited about that, and for us, that meant, okay, now we can begin.

A month or two later, we got contacted by the Shangri-La, and Shangri-La said, “We’ve been storing soap for over two months. When are you going to come and collect it?” And I was like, oh crap! We didn’t have a space, we didn’t have a company, we didn’t have any money, we didn’t have any employees. And so I said to the students, either we collect the soap now, or we’ll burn this bridge, and we may not get it back, so let’s just figure it out. And our motto at the time was “Don’t worry, be crappy!” So we went and collected those boxes, the next month we heard from another hotel, saying “We’e been collecting for three months, when are you going to come and get it?” The next month, another hotel, until we’ve got all these soaps, they were piling up in my office. And within three or four months, it was stacked so high that you could only get from the door to my desk, and everything else was stacked, completely full of soap. And so obviously, being here at HKU, everyone was complaining about the smell.

Now we have a bunch of soaps, so now we’d need a warehouse space. We went out, paid for it out of our own pocket, took the students out, and went and got a warehouse space. Getting commercial space was something I had never done before, something the students had never done before. And obviously we had to figure out how to fund this, how we’re going to fundraise, how we’re going to expand the impact, how we’re going to staff everything. In addition to these external challenges that we had, from so-called ‘competitors’, the social nature of our mission, we just had to figure out step-by-step how to do it. It was really hard, really fun, I think it was a very viable experience for the students, and hopefully it continues to be so, because every day we’re figuring out something new.

We work with local organisations like elder care homes or homeless organisations, and we try to keep as much soap here and donating to individuals and families in places like Sham Shui Po. We have recently begun to expand our offerings to the hotels, and for some hotels we are cooperating with them to collect the bottle amenities as well: the shampoo, the bath gel, and the conditioner. We’re working with volunteer groups, especially corporate groups, to create hygiene kits, which are then distributed locally, so that way not only the chemicals are not going to the landfills, but also the plastic bottles and things are being redistributed, so they can at least be fully used before they are thrown away.

Abroad, we work with a number of organisations across Asia, where they have what are called ‘WASH programmes’, so water, sanitation and hygiene programmes. At these existing programmes they teach about sanitation, they teach about hygiene, they teach about clean water, they might even provide them with clean water through well-digging, and things of that nature, but typically, but they don’t have is the soap. So I tell the students that we’re like ‘Intel’ for the WASH community. Intel doesn’t make the computers, it just makes them run better. So what we do is, with the little bit of extra money, little bit of extra work, we provide a significant value-add to all these other WASH sanitation and hygiene programmes.They can teach about washing your hands, but until they can actually provide the soap, you can’t get the behavioural change you need to really get people to get that habit, especially young children in schools or pre-schools.

Why is it important to nurture leadership in Hong Kong’s youths? 
My goal, in terms of setting up the course and allowing these internship opportunities, is that, if this is the ‘Asian Century’, as people say, we need a bigger, stronger, deeper source of leadership. Everyone agrees that if this is going to be the ‘Asian Century’, this is probably the most important generation of youth that has ever existed, because it’s by far the biggest. We need young people that are not just ready to step into employment - anyone can do that - we need people that are ready to step into leadership. The students don’t always have comfortable conversations with me, because I challenge them, I challenge them to be a better version of themselves. Sometimes, growth only comes on the backsides of some pain, but that’s what I feel like my role is: to push them to be the type of leaders that we need. Hong Kong needs better leadership, I think we can all agree on that.

Why does Hong Kong need better leadership?
Hong Kong needs better leadership for a lot of reasons. We are a city that has everything that you need, and yet almost nothing that people want. Hong Kong is one of the most successful societies, in terms of your traditional moniker of ‘success’: it’s wealthy, it’s industrialised, it’s the first generation in terms of technology and banking, the transportation is amazing, we’re a destination for hospitality and movies and so many expatriate workers, everyone wants to be here. And yet all you have to do is to walk around for a couple of hours, and you’ll see that people are genuinely unhappy. There is massive income inequality, there are really big challenges revolving around population growth rates, which is obviously not that important by itself, but it is an indication of family issues, there’s so much trouble in terms of housing and real estates, and inflation. How do you survive as a normal person in this great place? 

In the eight years that I have been at HKU, I’ve had thousands of students. I’ve spoken with hundreds of them. I’ve asked in variations of the same question: What do you think the future of Hong Kong is? Quite frankly, I’ve never once in eight years had a positive response, and these are local students. It genuinely concerns me, because I think, here we have the very, very best and brightest to offer, not just in Hong Kong, but in the entire region. HKU attracts amazing students. And if you have these students, who are largely fairly privileged, either based on god-given traits like intelligence, or based on the ability to have families that can afford actual education, to get them into university. You have the most privileged set of students, and they have a negative perception on their future in Hong Kong.

I think a lot of the political strife we’ve seen, or just emotional outcries, are very natural responses to a situation where they feel completely hopeless. And I feel that’s quite sad, because we have everything you can want here, it’s a beautiful, wonderful place - I choose to live here. But the reality is, we need people that can take the opportunities that we have, and turn them into genuine sources of success, which are happiness, and long-term relationships, and really delving into what it means to be a successful society, in the true form of the word, not just looking at wealth and GDP, and other things that typically look at.

How has Soap Cycling benefited you as the founder?
That is a question you should ask my wife! Soap Cycling has benefited, I wouldn’t say just me, but really also my family and my direct community and my friends, a lot. It has changed my entire direction in life. The things that I did before, the things that I taught before were really quite different than what I focus on now, and I owe that all to Soap Cycling. It opened a completely new and different channel to me, and I found some talents that I didn’t know I had, but more directly some needs that I felt that there was a gap that needed to be filled.

Today, we have probably close to 700 and 800 interns that have worked with Soap Cycling and all of our other organisations. They put in tens of thousands of hours of work into building these organisations in Hong Kong and elsewhere, and I think the greatest blessing to me has been working with these young people very directly, trying to inspire them to be better versions of themselves, but in return, being inspired to try to be a better version of myself. That’s been a very direct takeaway. As a father of three small children, I never really thought about what I’d leave my children, in terms of legacy of anything, but I think now my hope is - and they probably don’t want to do this - they can kind of take some of these organisations and these projects on, because they’ve been working on them now since they were six or seven years old, some of them since they were born, they all have their Soap Cycling shirt. My hope is that they can see my definition of success for them is very different than society’s typical definition of success, and it deals with things like building communities, being of value, and creating an impact. My hope would be, as a family, we can continue to - whatever small impact it is - try and have an impact, and make the world a slightly better place.

I think the thing that excites me and keeps me going is the idea that we are - whether we’ll be successful or not is a separate question - genuinely trying to solve very big problems. I guess that would be the one thing that I’ve taken from this, of things that I’ve learnt, or I had but which I didn’t know that I had, was the ability to see these big-picture problems, and work backwards and reverse-engineer a market-based solution for them.

What’s the best thing about being David Bishop right now? 
I’ve got a really cool and supportive family, a great community, amazing friends who, time after time, stepped up and helped create these companies that were born of my many crazy ideas. When I was a lawyer, every single day, when I came home on the ferry, I’d think about what my role in my life was. I boiled it down to one sentence: as a lawyer, my job was to make rich people richer. That’s what I did, and there’s nothing wrong with that, it was a great career. I’m not opposed to people being wealthy, but I couldn’t help thinking that that can’t be my role in society, that can’t be the ultimate thing that I do. I remember, a couple of years into teaching here, being really overwhelmed with gratitude, thinking that - I’m not going to over-emphasise the impact that I’ve had, because I don’t feel successful yet - I get paid to try out all these crazy ideas, and throw students at it. Some ideas stick, some ideas don’t, and I think it’s cool. I get to buy all these equipment and figure out how to use it, I need to figure out how to recycle stuff, I need to figure out how to transport migrants, but these are all amazing things that I get paid to do. 

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