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The Mastery of Leaders: Mark Eckhardt

LaKay Cornell May 8, 2020

It’s okay to lose to opponent.
It’s never okay to lose to fear.

Mr. Miyagi, The Karate Kid

I am a big picture thinker: a planner, a doer, a problem solver. I can see things that other people can’t see. I can look and look and look for the perfect photo or decor item or gift for a friend. I am the person you want in the room if you want to be sure whatever you are doing is impressive to everyone involved. I am also the person you want to sit on a porch with and drink beers til early in the morning solving all the problems. I have ideas. And I love to share them. I am excellent with words and language – I can put your thoughts, dreams, visions, and fears into words that tell your story. I’m even pretty good at time management and being on time.

What I am not is a do-the-things person. I can see the end result, but not always the steps to get there. And even when I do see the steps, it’s unlikely I’m going to want to put the time in to complete all of them. I lack patience. I despise tediousness. And if I can pay someone to do it, I will every time. It’s not because I’m lazy or looking for shortcuts. On the contrary, it’s because I have so much energy for creating more solutions and ideas, so if I can pay someone to take care of the day-to-day mundane things I will. 

I am not unlike Daniel in The Karate Kid. He always wanted to get to the fight; he never wanted to do the work. And he could never understand how the work Mr. Miyagi was asking him to do. Fortunately for Daniel (and the story arc), he wanted to win badly enough to trust Mr. Miyagi and do what he said. Fortunately for me, I found my own version of Mr. Miyagi last December. Fortunately for our economy and our planet, he helps way more people than me!

Mark Eckhardt is the CEO of COMMON, a creative accelerator, and community for entrepreneurs building socially responsible brands and companies, which sounds like what a lot of other groups say they are doing. But it is 100% different. And better.

I launched my first business in April 2013. Since then I have joined literally a zillion networking groups, accelerators, courses, Facebook groups, and masterminds. They almost always shared my vision for a world where my business could be successful, and they almost never had a plan to make it happen. These groups always meant well; they just couldn’t give me what I needed: personal access to the person who knew how to change my business and could teach me: my Mr. Miyagi.

In the first conversation I had with Mark, two important things happened. The first is that he instantly solved a problem I had been wrestling with for 5+ years. When I say instant, I am not being dramatic. I told him my biggest struggle with my business, and he responded on the spot with the exact thing I needed to do. And the thing he suggested was something that fit me – it wasn’t one of the 7,000 other suggestions I’ve received that left me thinking, Does this person even know me? I would never do that. or I would be miserable if I tried that.

Somehow, in less than thirty minutes, he saw who I am and knew how I should be showing up in the world. It was like I had been carrying a 50-pound dumbbell on my shoulders and it evaporated into thin air.

The second thing is that I told him my whole not so great with the minutiae of everyday dilemma. That’s okay. He would give me a system. Things would get done. Lives would change. And we would have face-to-face meetings on a regular schedule. 

The COMMON method. Courtesy of COMMON. Learn more at

The fact that he had already solved a major problem for me combined with this promise of getting shit done made it impossible for me to say no. Plus, there are no commitments with COMMON, so the worst-case scenario was that it would cost me $99 to realize that he wasn’t able to do what he said he could. No need to worry about that though; I could see in way less time than a month that Mark and COMMON are teaching us all to be fearless – together.

In fact, what COMMON provides is exactly what a lot of us need. The COMMON method provides a new approach where you don’t have to give up equity or relocate your life and the size of your business is irrelevant. The COMMON network is full of the best and brightest social entrepreneurs who are united under one goal: help social entrepreneurs succeed. 

Equally as important, they provide literal tools to help you focus and move forward. The Sunday Fearless Report, Monday planning sessions, frequent check-ins, curated introductions, and the ever-popular #ineedanassist slack channel are the perfect tools to teach entrepreneurs how to work in a way that will propel their business and ease their life. And they wrap it all up in an intentional, authentic community. I know this because every time I talk to someone new, we are both mutually impressed by what the other one is doing and instantly grateful to know them. 

Mark believes that businesses and brands are just tools to generate the kinds of powerful experiences that remind people that they care about the welfare of other human beings, and inspire them to take action. He’s cutting edge. He knows changing the world has to be fun. Practically he can lead a meeting like no one I’ve ever known. And when you are interacting with him, he gives you his full presence and participation.

He has been a drummer and composer, started a scholarship fund for at-risk youth, trained to join the Zen Buddhist Priesthood, and did brand consulting with Fortune 500 companies and world-class executives. He can just as easily drop a song on you to set the mood for focused writing as he can advise you on the layout of your website or what could use tweaking in your messaging. And he does it all with the compassion of someone who believes world change is possible, the calming energy of a Buddhist monk, and a massive smile.

Mark and the COMMON team have responded to COVID-19 in quick, adaptive, and productive ways. Being able to adapt is what COMMON was built for. They are providing what they always provide:  information, resources, and presence – adapted and scaled to respond to the massive crisis affecting their members and the world. When you believe your community holds the power to literally change the world, it’s a no-brainer to be sure they can keep going at the moment the world most needs them.

Within a few days of the first stay-at-home orders and grand layoffs, Mark was meeting with members to tell them that all new-member revenue would be distributed to members in need. Both the newsletter content and the topics for the Thursday FB live sessions pivoted to be focused on what the community needs to keep going. And while there is grace for the times when we need to just exist, the goal is to keep moving everyone forward. Mark and the COMMON team know that the people they support are doing some of the most important work that can be done, and they want to make sure it continues to be done.

He’s also continuing to emphasize the need to have fun. From crazy hat parties to water chugging contests, he’s creating space for people to let their guard down and be in real authentic community – and laugh. Who doesn’t need a good laugh right now? He is truly invested in everyone he works with and though he’s not shy about how crushing it can be to see the effects of COVID-19 on people he cares about, there’s never been a moment where you would believe that you won’t still be standing on the other side of this – more than standing; succeeding. 

COMMON was founded on the principle that Together, We Can Be Fearless. It’s easy to feel fearless when you are welcomed into a community that lives by that principle. Turns out it is also true – even in the midst of a global pandemic. When I think back to other times my world was crumbling, fear was the thing I was constantly trying to talk or meditate myself out of. Today, I am not afraid of what will happen to my business or my family because of COVID-19. I am uncomfortable with the not-knowing, I am sad because of the devastation. I am angry that our recklessness caused this. But I am not afraid because Mark has taught me that I am not here by accident, and he supports my belief that I was meant to do great things. My business may fail. We may not win gender equality in my lifetime. There may be more climate crises. 

Those of us who are fighting for a better world may not win, but it will not be because we were afraid to try. When you lose because you were afraid to go all in, it is infinitely harder to try again. In contrast, when you know that you showed up – fully and without fear – and did the best that you know how to do, trying again becomes just another day. And that’s exactly what we need – people who see trying again and just another day.

Through Mark’s Eckhard’s leadership, dedication, and devotion, he has created and is fostering a working model of the kind of world we all want. With the calm energy of a Buddhist monk and the knowledge of someone who has helped the world’s greatest brands succeed, he is creating grand-scale economic change – in the COMMON community and the world.

 If you are running a social impact business, or want to be, visit COMMON today to apply to join the community. I can assure you, you’ll be glad you did.

Social Entrepreneurship
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