Jim McKelvey: 'People who solve problems are happier'

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    21st century Renaissance man

21st century Renaissance man 01:13

Who: Jim McKelvey is an engineer, entrepreneur, artist, community activist, environmentalist, and citizen of the world. Co-Founder of Square, Co-Founder of Third Degree Glass Factory, Co-Founder of Mira Publishing, Director of Emerald Automotive, General Partner of Cultivation Capital, he is a man who embraces challenge in many forms. Tune in Sunday, January 6 at 2 P.M. E.T. to watch The Next List's full 30-minute profile on McKelvey.

Why you might know him: McKelvey is most well known as the Co-Founder of Square, the mobile-payment system. In fact, it was his belief that small entrepreneurs endured abuse in the credit world that led Square to focus on payments.

Why he matters: He’s tackling some really tough problems with imagination, passion and grit. Most notably, McKelvey is working on creating a new economic model to help keep the struggling publishing industry alive. Why? Because “that’s meaningful work -- people who write, they need every bit of resource they can get.” If that’s not enough, he’s launching an initiative to try to help reduce violence and provide a path to jobs for highly motivated but poorly educated kids in crime-ridden sections of St. Louis.

McKelvey’s philosophy: That any problem can be solved with enough resolve and the right people. Even if a problem was too big yesterday, everything is changing all the time and new tools are available every day to take on even the most complex problems.

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Favorite McKelvey quote: “In my experience, the people who solve problems are happier people. And I don’t know why, but I also spent a lot of time with artists. I’m an artist. They’re not as happy. I spent a lot of time with attorneys. They’re not happy at all.”

    McKelvey on the biggest challenge facing the planet: Intolerance and the walling off of people with alternative ideas.

    “We have this fantastic thing called the Internet which spreads information. But the Internet also allows you to silo off information. So now you can pick your news sources, you can pick the people you listen to, you can pick the people that you agree with. In the old days, craziness was very hard to spread. These days, you know, crazy, hurtful, behavior spreads very, very rapidly and if we cultivate intolerance, were going to have a lot more grief.”

    Something you might not know about him: McKelvey owns a 2000 Honda Insight, the first hybrid car model sold in the U.S. He says it gets 69 miles per gallon.

    McKelvey on McKelvey: “I don’t know if I’m an expert at anything. What I’m really good at is working with people who are truly gifted. That’s my real skill. You’ve got to be able to listen, never interrupt. You know, geniuses have personality quirks. I can deal with a lot of weirdness -- pretty used to that. Kind of enjoy it.”