Key Takeaways from Brian Sheth and Jane Goodall’s 2018 Milken Institute Conversation

Jane Goodall sits down with Brian Sheth to discuss conservation efforts around the world

Many know Dr. Jane Goodall for the work she accomplished working as an activist and a primatologist. Many may not know Brian Sheth as well, though he, too, is a champion of helping with conservation efforts around the world. 

The two came together to have a conversation through Facebook Q&A. The topic was diverse, and the sentiment thought provoking. Here are some of the most important moments of that conversation.

Everyone Matters

One of the most important parts of the work Goodall does is noting that every person – and what every person does – makes a difference. “Every one of us makes a difference every single day,” she says. That is the message of her Roots & Shoots conservation program, which is a program that is now present in over 100 countries around the world. “One of the things the Jane Goodall Foundation does that I feel is really most important is to try and give people hope, to try to get people to understand that every single day we live, we can make a difference.”

She’s Just a Girl

Speaking with Brian Sheth about her efforts and what helped her to get to where she is, Jane Goodall stated the following. “When I was 10 and dreaming of Africa, I saved up enough money to buy a small second hand book called ‘Tarzan and the Apes.’ That’s when my dream began.” She continues, “Everyone laughed at me and said, ‘You don’t have money, it’s far away, World War II is raging, and you’re just a girl.”

Even with limiting circumstances and such high goals, she knew she could do it. Her mother encouraged her and told her she would have to work very hard to get to her desired dream.

Redefining What Human Was

Throughout her conversations, she mentions the many times where she’s helped to change what being human means. She notes that mankind was defined as the only creatures in the world who could make tools for specific tasks, though her early work showed just how well chimps could do this. 

Eventually, she enrolled in a PhD program. Upon arrival, she was told that all of her work thus far was wrong. In her conversation, she says:

“I was a bit nervous when I got there. Many of the professors told me I had done everything wrong. I shouldn’t have given the chimps names, they should have been given a number. I could not talk about them having personalities, a mind capable of any kind of thought, and certainly not emotions because those are all unique to us.”

Destroying the Planet

Another important part of her conversation is about the “only intellectual species” and why it is destroying its only home.

“There seems a disconnect between this clever brain and the heart, love, and compassion. I know only when head and heart work in harmony can we achieve our true human potential.” 

It is through this belief that she has built a strong focus on children within her efforts to save the planet. The Roots and Shoots program, which is made up of 150,000 groups of kids, is changing the world on an organic level as a result of her inspiration. Many of the children that were a part of the Roots and Shoots campaign have grown up now, and they have become government administrators, teachers, and parents, all sharing the same message of caring for the world around them.

Overcoming Disagreements 

Brian asked Jane during the conversation how she managed to deal with people and countries that do not understand or are not behind the thought of conservation and perhaps could not see the value of it. Her answer is an important lesson in itself. “The best way I found, my mother taught me. If you meet someone who disagrees with you, number one, listen because maybe they have some ideas you’ve never thought of, and maybe you say, ‘Oh, I see, maybe I’m wrong.'” If after that does not work and you still think you are right, she says:

“Certainly don’t be confrontational because people stop listing, but instead to tell stories, to reach this heart which is within each one of us.”

She says that she often hears later that her stories are what change people and open their minds to new things and concepts. 

Brian Sheth, along with Dr. Wes Sechrest, co-founded Global Wildlife Conservation. His work in doing so was inspired by the tireless advocacy that Jane had instilled in him even as a young person looking for a way to make their way in the world. Speaking of this, he says:

“Jane’s leadership as a voice for species who cannot talk, for young people who live inherit the planet and for the communities who are at the forefront of the conservation battle, make her a rare leader and a sage of our time.”

Brian, who is an entrepreneur and successful professional and the founder of the Sheth Sangreal Foundation, writing about his conversation with Jane, has this to say. “In business, it is all too easy to become enamored with one’s success and to believe that what worked yesterday will keep working tomorrow. Curiosity, passion, a commitment to innovation, and discipline matter. Great leaders in all fields, including business and philanthropy, must be life-long students.

It is easy to see how this is the case when it comes to learning from Jane, which is something people continue to do around the world because of how much she has changed it for her good work.

Watch the full conversation between Jane Goodall and Brian Sheth here: