Elon Musk Continues to Innovate and Amaze

Yes, Elon Musk is the Benjamin Franklin of our generation. Possibly, he is also the real Iron Man, like the movie character played by Robert Downey Jr. And yes, I am his fan.

His Master Plan, Part Deux, for Tesla, revealed today only ratcheted up my enthusiasm for his determined, bold plans that blend sustainable with cool and smart in order to make Earth better. Bloomberg did a deep dive into the master plan and took a look at Tesla’s future too.

Thanks to RelayRides founder and current CEO of Peers Shelby Clark for bringing Musk’s Master Plan to our attention.

If you aren’t yet a believer, I recommend Musk’s biography to you — “Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceEx and The Quest For A Fantastic Future.”

Tesla Model S (Photo courtesy of Tesla.)

Tesla Model S (Photo courtesy of Tesla.)

I also recommend that you test drive a Tesla and compare it to all the other luxury electric cars recommended in our Make It Better article: Luxury Cars Go Green.

Yes, we can all change the world for the better by choosing greener and cooler. Elon Musk is showing us how.

Moms, Millennials, Money, Values and Impact

If you’ve followed the evolution of Make It Better Media, you know that we started as a small community website for North Shore moms more than nine years ago. Fortunately, we caught powerful rising tides of influence that helped make us what we are today — the internet, women, millennials, money and social impact.

Now we are well-established with a print magazine, vibrant social network, events and awards. Because of our mission, values and quality content, we are trusted by both women and men.

Make It Better grew up to be a small but mighty full-service media company.

Please pause with us and give thanks for those “rising tides of influence.” They not only helped Make It Better grow, but they also suggest that a better future for everyone is possible, and perhaps even likely.

WOMEN, THE INTERNET AND MONEY

Women control most consumer dollars. Increasingly, they control or share decision-making authority with their partners for family investment and philanthropy decisions too. Given that, on average, women live longer than men, trillions — not just billions — of dollars are or will soon be under female control.

Women meeting

The really good news is that 92 percent of educated, affluent women, like our original target audience and the founders of Make It Better, are likely to change their brand loyalties if they think it will make the world a better place. The more money that is aligned with that statistic, the faster our world changes for the better.

Thanks to the internet, it’s easier than ever to make monetary choices based on research and values. It’s also easier than ever to connect and share ideas and decisions with others. Social network shares are like rocket fuel for a good cause or a good deal. Increasingly, an ever-expanding group of consumers and investors expect a double bottom line — a good deal that also does good in the world.

Many women enjoy working collaboratively to improve the world — think giving circles and service clubs. Social media exponentially amplifies the power of those collaborations. Women are far more likely than men to share on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.

As women control more money and spend or invest it according to their values, all while sharing information online, it creates a tidal wave of social impact for the better.

THE WOMEN OF MAKEITBETTER.NET

Julie Chernoff is not only Make It Better’s dining editor, she was one of the original founders of makeitbetter.net. She also is a great example of the talent and community leadership represented by the group that launched our site on May 1, 2007.

Chernoff is a Yale grad who worked on both coasts in theater and the culinary arts before settling in Evanston to raise two great kids with her husband. She rises to leadership positions in every organization she joins. She served on the Evanston/Skokie District 65 Board of Education, ran a catering business and cooking school out of her historic Daniel Burnham-designed home, and has chaired numerous fundraisers.

In short, Chernoff serves her community — your community, too — with love and a phenomenal skill set. She’s the prototypical North Shore Wonder Woman.

Chernoff’s values reflect those of the entire makeitbetter.net founding group. Those values are embedded in Make It Better’s DNA.

From the beginning, every Make It Better article and activity has reflected an educated common sense, a gratitude for (and affectionate exasperation with) family, a love of community and support and amplification of philanthropic best practices. We offer entertaining and thoughtful solutions — not angst or luxury lifestyle trivia — that connect our audience to the best local and national resources.

Our 2007 launch was so early in the internet era that other media referenced our endeavor as a “weblog” instead of a website or online community. Fast-forward to today though, and Make It Better thrives because people understand and embrace the power of online community.

Make It Better Mission

We’ve honored our mission to be the most-trusted, easiest-to-use community resource that helps make your life and the lives of others better. You’ve responded with passion for our brand and content. (Thank you very much!) In the process, we’ve helped a lot of worthy organizations and businesses, which also makes our hometowns and Chicagoland stronger.

MEN LIKE AND RESPOND TO MAKE IT BETTER TOO

A funny thing happened along our publishing journey. Men joined us too. Turns out they want to know about and connect with what is best for their family and community too. They want to make the world a better place. They also yearn for trustworthy, easy-to-use media.

Charles Tillman. (Photo courtesy of the Cornerstone Foundation. )

Charles Tillman. (Photo courtesy of the Cornerstone Foundation. )

The savviest men and women have created powerful careers because they reflect the Make It Better values addressed by Wharton professor and bestselling author Adam Grant in his book “Give And Take: A Revolutionary Approach To Success.”

Grant’s research proves that the most successful people are givers, not takers or matchers. This proves to be true for entrepreneurial publishers, as well as those climbing a corporate ladder.

WOMEN POWER IS ON THE RISE

Glance at the number of college graduates, postgraduate degree holders, new hires and the members of the U.S. work force under 40, and you’ll see that women are outpacing men in most categories and professions. Note that the majority of TV talking heads in that age group are women, and more commercials than ever are geared towards women — even during the Super Bowl. According to Forbes, 2016 will see more support and growth of entrepreneurial women than ever before.

Also notice that more men than ever are the parents standing outside the kindergarten doors, and they’re grateful for the opportunity. Men and women are doing a better job than ever of sharing parenting and domestic responsibilities and supporting each other in career choices too.

In many cases, women have to fight less for equal rights today (though there is still much room for progress on this front). Oh yeah, and absent a catastrophe or a dramatic remake of Donald Trump’s character, a woman is about to become our next president.

In the digital era, collaboration rather than competition is the fastest way forward. As mentioned above, many women seem to be particularly adept at this too. As women power is on the rise, the potential for women to foster change for the better elevates correspondingly too. Fortunately for Make It Better, the power of women-owned media is also on the rise.

MILLENNIALS EXPECT MEANING

Educated and affluent moms like Julie Chernoff helped raise millennials (the generation born between the early 1980s and early 2000s) with great values. According to PEW research, millennials are the largest generation in U.S. history. Intriguingly, they expect and demand to make the world a better place. Period.

Unlike any prior generation, millennials expect meaning and social impact with their time, talents and money. They choose Toms shoes, Whole Foods and Starbucks because of the values embedded in those brands. They say no in record numbers to the kind of jobs that offer big pay, but poor lifestyles which long attracted most young talent before this generation.

Social impact investing is another example of this generation’s effect on our country and economy. Millennials with money to invest choose investments with a double bottom line. The companies they invest in have to create social impact as well as deliver profits.

A recent survey by U.S. Trust showed an astonishingly high 93 percent of millennials with assets in excess of $3 million said that a company’s social and environmental impact was key to their investing decision.

Millennials likely drive the growth of B Corporations too. These are for-profit companies certified by the nonprofit B Lab to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency.

Needless to say, millennials also are internet natives. They grew up googling their choices online. Their sensibilities, choices and clicks will continue to fuel the growth of the internet and business in general, creating greater positive impact.

TURNING OFF THE BAD, ACCELERATING THE GOOD

It should surprise no one that affluent Americans have turned away from the traditional media’s relentless barrage of bad news and biased reporting.

This opens a wide door for media people trust that provides information and solutions that help. In recent years, as national broadcast news numbers plummeted, TED Talk views soared. This helps explain the growth of Make It Better too.

That’s not to say we’re “Pollyanna.” We know inequities exist. The escalating violence between the police and blacks, and the sometimes stupefying presidential election dynamics are two examples. As Scott Turow said in our interview a few years ago when discussing the difference between the ‘60s and now:

“There are still massive differences between rich and poor, a lot of it focused on race. But we’ve come such a long way.”

Scott Turow

Scott Turow

“There are millions and millions of people in this country whose lives are not only better [now than they would have been in the ’60s], they can now achieve their full potential. This also is true for women and for gays who don’t have to hide who they are any more … We’re not done. But please, let’s do stop and smell the roses here.”

Fortunately, there are examples of individuals who care, and there are resources to help that are growing. Most people really do want to help, especially if you make it easy for them to do so. This is Make It Better’s specialty — making it easy to help yourself and others, while growing a trusted and powerful network of good people, good organizations and good communities.

We’re grateful for these trends. They helped grow Make It Better Media. More importantly though, they will also grow a much better world for all.

Make It Better Philosophy

 

Let’s Make It Better Together: Trevor Noah, Chewbacca Mom and Charles Tillman Provide Inspiration and Conversation Starters

It has to stop. Our country is better than this.

The shootings. The racial bias. The deafening silence of inaction. The standoffs on either side of the aisle in Congress. It all has to stop.

Everyone needs to help.

But, if you are like me, living in a safe, progressive suburb largely insulated from the bigotry, fear and guns, it can be hard to know where to start.

The first step is just to talk about it with love. With your kids, family, friends, at dinner, at the club, on your social networks.

Here are three inspiring reference points to help you start the conversation:

On “The Daily Show” three days ago, Comedy Central’s Trevor Noah offered an impassioned plea for everyone to be “pro-black” and “pro-police.”

“You shouldn’t have to choose between the police and the citizens they are sworn to protect.”

Texas mom Candace Payne shot to viral fame when she donned a just-purchased talking Chewbacca mask in her car and shared the experience on Facebook. In this new video, Payne channels Adele and sings Michael Jackson’s “Heal the World.”

In an interview with Make It Better’s Willie Griswold, published today, NFL great Charles “Peanut” Tillman describes why he is passionate about supporting police, the military, and children in need, and explains his dedication to opportunities to serve others.

Tillman spent 12 years with the Chicago Bears before heading to the Carolina Panthers in 2015. He’s been to two Super Bowls, two Pro Bowls and earned the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award in 2013 for his work through his Cornerstone Foundation.

After his daughter Tiana received a heart transplant as a baby, Tillman founded Cornerstone in order to pay forward his blessings and help other critically and chronically ill children and their families.

“We took a negative situation, a bad situation, a tough situation and we turned it around and we tried to make the best of it.”

Tillman’s is exactly the attitude we need in America right now. Let’s please follow the lead of these three celebrities and add our voices to this opportunity to turn our country around.

It starts with love.

As Tillman says, “As I get older I get wiser and I read more — just love, man. We’re here to serve one another and we’re here to love one another. I can help you. You can help two other people. Those two other people can help four … That cycle, the love, the gift, the giving, you got to keep it going.”

Our gifts in America are great. Let’s please be mindful of this and do what we can to pay it forward and to stop the ignorance, belligerence and violence. We can make it better together.

Depot Nuevo Owners and Other Best Of 2016 Winners Embody Corporate Social Responsibility at the Local Level

Make It Better's Francia Harrington, Depot Nuevo Chef Hildy, owner Rob Garrison and Make It Better's Lynne Madorsky.

Make It Better’s Francia Harrington, Depot Nuevo Chef Hildy, owner Rob Garrison and Make It Better’s Lynne Madorsky.

Wilmette’s Depot Nuevo just won the Make It Better Best Of Dining Award for Best Mexican/Latin the third year in row and celebrated by treating the rest of this year’s winners to free margaritas and a festive gathering June 29, as part of our official Best Of 2016 Reveal Party.

Thank you Depot Nuevo and owners Rob and Ann Garrison!

Depot Nuevo owner Rob Garrison addresses Make It Better Best of 2016 Reveal Party guests.

Depot Nuevo owner Rob Garrison addresses Make It Better Best of 2016 Reveal Party guests.

The generosity behind this party is an excellent example of how the Garrisons run all of their businesses — including The Noodle restaurant and The Next Door Market by The Noodle. It’s one of the reasons our audience loves and votes for Depot Nuevo year after year too.

Generosity and gratitude long have been the Garrisons’ modus operandi. They appreciate and take good care of their employees, customers and community while serving great food. For example, the Garrisons take employees on a culinary inspiration trip to Mexico. In fact, Garrison says, the first trip was motivated by the restaurant’s first Make It Better Best Of win, and have kept it going because it was such a wonderful educational and inspirational experience.

Make It Better Associate Publisher Michelle Morris addresses Best of 2016 Reveal Party attendees.

Make It Better Associate Publisher Michelle Morris addresses Best of 2016 Reveal Party attendees.

From our perspective, their businesses are great local business examples of what good corporate social responsibility (CSR) should be.

PEOPLE, PLANET, PRODUCT

CSR often is defined in terms of “People, Planet, Product.” Does the business take care of its employees while creating useful products in a manner that does no harm to the environment? Is it a good community member, paying forward its success and enhancing the community in which it is based?

Increasingly, consumers expect a strong double bottom line. Their purchase has to support good as well as provide them with a good product. Shopping or eating local, patronizing a family-owned business that also supports other aspects of their community, is increasingly compelling.

Most of the Best Of 2016 winners are similar to Depot Nuevo. Most are locally owned and serve this community so well that they won a large number of the 168,000+ votes cast by you, our audience, this year. (Happy dance and a big thank you for this audience participation achievement!)

The team from JCC Chicago who won Best Day Camps and Best Overnight Camp.

The team from JCC Chicago who won Best Day Camps and Best Overnight Camp.

We’re happy that effective CSR is increasingly important nationally. But we’re particularly delighted that great local, family-owned businesses still thrive and provide examples that larger corporations should work even harder to emulate.

What is it worth for a business to win a Make It Better Best Of award? Rob Garrison says, “I think pride and satisfaction. It really matters to me to be able to say [to an employee], ‘Hey, you did a great job and here are people besides me saying it.’ I can compliment them in a sincere way and relish that feeling.”

He also says that winning the award is a good data point and allows him to keep highlighting the good things happening within his business even beyond the materials and marketing generated by Make It Better in conjunction with Best Of recognition.

The crew from A. Perry Homes, celebrating its fourth Best Of win.

The crew from A. Perry Homes, celebrating its fourth Best Of win.

What is it worth for us to have high-quality, family-owned businesses in our hometowns that good care of local employees and recognize and support our family, friends and other beloved institutions?

Please support Depot Nuevo and the other priceless community businesses that won Make It Better Best Of 2016 awards this year.

Thank you.

Depot Nuevo owner Rob Garrison chats with Make It Better's Francia Harrington, Wintrust's Ed Wehmer and Cathy Pratt.

Depot Nuevo owner Rob Garrison chats with Make It Better’s Francia Harrington, Wintrust’s Ed Wehmer and Cathy Pratt.

Make It Better's Julie Carter with Lake Geneva's Joe Tominaro.

Make It Better’s Julie Carter with Lake Geneva’s Joe Tominaro.

Classic Kids' Julie Floyd and chats with North Shore Community Bank's Liz Taylor.

Classic Kids’ Julie Floyd and chats with North Shore Community Bank’s Liz Taylor.

The Best Of Reveal Party also featured a birthday celebration for Dorothy Wehmer with a cake from Bent Fork Bakery.

The Best Of Reveal Party also featured a birthday celebration for Dorothy Wehmer with a cake from Bent Fork Bakery.

The crew from A. Perry Homes, celebrating its fourth Best Of win.

The crew from A. Perry Homes, celebrating its fourth Best Of win.

Make It Better's Francia Harrington with Richard Mesirow of Mesirow Financial.

Make It Better’s Francia Harrington with Richard Mesirow of Mesirow Financial.

Make It Better's Michelle Morris with Kim Launer and Sophia Kondos of Royal Travel & Tours, the 2016 winner for Best Travel Agent.

Make It Better’s Michelle Morris with Kim Launer and Sophia Kondos of Royal Travel & Tours, the 2016 winner for Best Travel Agent.

Business neighbors Mary Bowler of Wags on Willow and Andreas and Ashley Hogue of Andreas Hogue Salon.

Business neighbors Mary Bowler of Wags on Willow and Andreas and Ashley Hogue of Andreas Hogue Salon.

Donna West and Carrie Londe from Londo Mondo, Best Chicago Clothing Boutique.

Donna West and Carrie Londe from Londo Mondo, Best Chicago Clothing Boutique.

Get Inspired by Shirley Ryan and Pat Ryan

Archbishop Blase J. Cupich, Pat and Shirley Ryan and Dr. Joanne C. Smith, president and CEO of RIC.

Archbishop Blase J. Cupich, Pat and Shirley Ryan and Dr. Joanne C. Smith, president and CEO of Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. (Photos courtesy of RIC)

Need inspiration to lean in and embrace your faith, intellect, gifts and power to create impact? Please get to know Shirley Ryan. Other-centered, eloquent and determined, she is a social entrepreneur extraordinaire, whose strategic and values-driven work to create opportunities that lift up others was honored yesterday at a ceremony celebrating the integration of two groundbreaking organizations. Thanks to a record gift from Ryan and her husband Pat, Pathways — a leading nonprofit research and rehabilitation center for children struggling with developmental delays founded by the Ryans decades ago — will join best-in-class Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago’s (RIC) state-of-the-art research hospital, AbilityLab, with the new institution renamed in Ryan’s honor — “Shirley Ryan AbilityLab.”

Read the full story on Make It Better.

3 Trends That Prove, Despite the Headlines, Good Will is on The Rise

The relentless beat of horrific news and constant drone of our perplexing, tiresome presidential election drown out much good news in this country.

Please pause with me now to reflect on three fundamental trends that demonstrate that compassion and benevolence are in fact on the rise, and we have much to be positive about.

1. NEW PHILANTHROPIC RECORDS SET

Giving USA 2016: The Annual Report On Philanthropy, released earlier this week, shows that America is more philanthropic than ever, setting new records for individual, corporate and foundation giving.

In 2015, total gifts of $373.25 billion were up 4.1 percent over 2014 (which had also set a record high). According to Peter Fissinger, president and CEO of Campbell & Company, a national fundraising consulting and executive search firm for nonprofits, “This is 2.1% of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and a watermark reinforcing Americans’ commitments to organizations that impact both their lives and those of their fellow citizens.”

2. IMPACT INVESTING ON THE RISE

What seemed a novel idea only a few years ago has become an explosion of interest in “impact investing,” aligning more capital than ever with business that do good, as opposed to businesses that only focus on their bottom line. Millennials (our future) are driving this change. They expect mission and meaning in life and work.

According to CNN and Bank of America, an astonishing 93 percent of Millennial Millionaires (individuals between 18 and 35 with over $3 million of investable assets) identify a company’s social and environmental impact as a key factor in their investment decision.

Savvy investment firms have developed funds and other vehicles to capture this trend too. Morgan Stanley was one of the first. Earlier this year, Mesirow Financial launched Mesirow Impact Management.

3. FEMALE LEADERS EFFECT FASTER POSITIVE CHANGE

According to Kiersten Marek of Inside Philanthropy, women’s perspectives on leadership seem to be pivotal to tackling big problems in new and more effective ways. She cites Clara Miller, director and president of Heron Foundation, as a prime example.

Miller fundamentally restructured Heron to better align its endowment with its mission — thereby helping smaller organizations get access to greater funding.

Women are on the rise throughout our economy and in academia. More women than men are registered in colleges and graduate schools. Women under the age of 40 are outstripping their male peers throughout the work force. A woman is likely to be our next president.

Despite complaints about glass-ceiling limitations, it is inevitable that these trends will also produce more women in leadership positions. Perhaps the same characteristics that allow mothers to intuitively and with common sense quickly respond to need also make them better leaders.

The numbers are clear, more than ever: Men and women in our “land of plenty” instinctively want better for others as well as themselves.

The internet allows all to quickly research options. We increasingly choose local, family-owned, organic, green and good values too. We expect greater impact with our charitable dollars and support generously the organizations that deliver this.

Our headlines and politics may still be ugly, but many of the trends of day-to-day life are very hopeful indeed.