Jan 26 2016
By Kamal El-Wattar

Too many of us live as though our lives are already scripted for us. We don’t realize that we are the agents of our own rebirth. When Ibrahim was startled out of passively playing his role, his real, purpose-driven life began. Now, he’s changing the world. 

I remember a day in middle school when our religion teacher said that he would tell us a story of the good woman and the bad woman. He started to describe his version of a bad woman: a sovereign, independent woman with her own dreams and aspirations who doesn’t necessarily cover every inch of her body, who chooses to express herself in her own style, and who doesn’t spend every ounce of energy on her family. 

As he spoke, I thought of my mother, who has the most integrity and kindness of anyone I know. The fact that he put her in this category of a bad person jolted me into the awareness that not every narrative that children inherit from adults is true or right. It was a pivotal moment, when I realized that I could apply my own filter to every conversation and decide what works for me and what doesn’t. 

Before that day, I would inherit conversations and perpetuate them, conversations that had continued from one generation to the next. That was the moment when I developed the kind of critical thinking that changed the trajectory of my life. I am thankful to that teacher for his perspective; because of him, I allowed my own perspective to enter the equation and guide my decisions. I determined to use my own judgment in my decisions from that point forward. 

In the early 2000s, I had built a successful career in general technology investing. I could see the great damage that humanity was doing to the environment in California and around the world. I wondered how we could sustain this path of destruction of the earth without destroying ourselves. When a gentleman pitched the idea of investing in a new subdivision outside of Los Angeles, my partner and I saw the path ahead: buying a lot of land, cutting down a lot of trees, and contributing to urban sprawl, leading to more burning of fossil fuels for people to go to and from work. 

The safe financial choice was clear, and we rejected it, just as I had rejected the narrative my religion teacher prescribed for me years ago. We chose, instead, to pursue a path that will help save the earth and invested heavily into waste energy. Humanity generates a lot of garbage, and even after recycling what’s recyclable, there’s still a lot of waste left—waste that can be turned into a fuel. We don’t need to bury it in the ground or throw it into the ocean, destroying so much of our world and its ecosystems! We can turn it into clean, consistent energy that can fuel five, if not ten, percent of our energy needs. 

For the last decade, we’ve successfully only invested in socially and environmentally sustainable enterprises. Watching the world begin to reject the old, dirty ways of generating energy and replace them with sustainable solutions has been rewarding from not just a financial perspective but also a humanitarian and environmental one. It feels fulfilling to be part of that.

When we are young, we think we live forever. I wake up now with just enough awareness of how short a human life is. My awareness propels me to move quickly to make a difference because I know we don’t have as much time as we think we do. That’s why I wake up every day feeling happy to be alive and able to do more of what I love. My life is purpose-driven. Living a purpose-driven life is really natural, but we don’t know that until we choose to live it and have the courage to pursue it. I consciously choose to embrace my purpose every day through my morning ritual of oral hygiene, vitamins, and exercise before I start on my work. I love the planet, I love people, and I want to contribute my gifts to creating a world that sustains everyone.

Ibrahim AlHusseini is a partner in the Full Cycle Energy Fund, created to finance and own projects that revolutionize our relationship with waste by converting a costly environmental problem into clean, valuable fuel that can be used to power communities around the world.