Archive for the ‘economy’ Tag

Serious business

‘Round these parts, Christian churches of every stripe still sport roadside signs with changeable lettering, offering challenges to passers-by that are often corny but now and then actually inspiring.  The one I spied yesterday gave me a handle on thinking about doing business in these questionable times.

“The serious business of heaven,” it said, “is joy.”

This remarkable statement points to several things.  For one thing, grounded as we are in material greed, we seldom think of serious business and joy as having any relation at all.  These human experiences exist poles apart in our accustomed perspective.  For another, the statement suggests that heaven is involved in a continuing purpose, and not simply out there gloating.  And most importantly, the idea opens up to us the possibility that, like heaven, we can make joy our own serious business.

Possibly, this is the change we are beginning to realize.  Maybe the economic deflation can help us to reorient our purposes.  What if, as you go through your work day, you take the creation and realization of joy as your sole inspiration?  What if we learn to measure success by the quality of our emotions?  What if the richest person is the one who spreads the most joy?

Of course, changing to a new standard is a complex thing.  We’ve been so oppressed by the almighty dollar that most of us seldom experience natural joy.  We may be hard pressed to define it.  We may mistakenly think that material abundance equals joy, because we’ve never ventured beyond our lust and cravings.  To move to a standard of joy is to undertake a vision quest, to commit to nothing less than perfection.

So the question becomes, how can I find my joy?  Where do I look, and how do I recognize it?  How do I pay the bills if my focus is on joy and not on money?  These are certainly practical considerations, and I intend to study them here over the next few weeks.  My writings are often heavily philosophical, and it’s likely that readers seek more specificity.  I know I do.  The bigger picture always comes clear to me far before the details emerge; but plans mean nothing unless they’re implemented.  So I invite you to tag along with me as we ferret out the means by which we can re-invent the meaning of commerce in our turbulent world.

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Iconoclasm

Perhaps the key to our present economic dilemma is the good old “Think Globally, Act Locally.”  The phrase has been around for a while, but we’ve yet to really learn its meaning.

Seth Godin, in his infinite practicality, wrote yesterday, If you act small and think big, you are too small to fail. You won’t need a bailout because your business makes sense each and every day. You won’t need a bailout because your flat organization (no matter how large it is) knows about problems long before they’re too big to deal with.”

Trouble is, the idea of wealth as material gain will not be satisfied with acting locally. World dominion is the only dream of big business. The moguls seek horizontal growth, as far as it can possibly reach, and see little value in vertical digging in. More customers is the obsession of big business; deepening the relationship with current customers rarely if ever happens.

How much we are like children! Though we may suspect that world dominion is not only unsustainable but even undesirable, it’s contrary to human nature to turn away from big sparkly things. Give a child a toy that makes noises and lights up and he will learn to scorn the simple sticks and boxes that were his previous delights. But we’ve also learned that playing with everyday objects is far more nourishing to intelligence, creativity, and soul in general than the plastic do-it-for-you toys.

The issues of our time require evolutionary change. We are being called upon to improve the state of humanity on Earth. We are growing up into a time when childishness and selfishness will no longer suffice. It’s time to put away our toys, to devise truly sacred dreams, not merely ambitious ones. It’s time to leave behind the icons of material wealth and create gods that more honestly reflect the human spirit.

Economic fallout

“The great financial upheaval we’re experiencing is no momentary bout of bad luck, it’s the direct consequence of looking at the world as an economic engine that runs on money rather than a living organism nourished by natural and human resources. By learning that lesson, we’ll know everything we need to create a sound global economy that sustains everyone. The great financial upheaval we’re experiencing is no momentary bout of bad luck, it’s the direct consequence of looking at the world as an economic engine that runs on money rather than a living organism nourished by natural and human resources. By learning that lesson, we’ll know everything we need to create a sound global economy that sustains everyone. ”

Pretty amazing quote from Ode magazine last week. A great deal of the recent financial panic has been about fear, not grounded in fact. The thought of losing money is unbearable. What identity do I have without my possessions, without my bank account? If they take my money, they take my life.

Such is the result of centuries of willing subjection to the economic engine; of adoration for material luxury and distain for austerity. The norm is for us to give priority to financial welfare, to hedge all bets with money, to seek sufficient funds so that we’re protected from – well, anything. Enough money makes anything possible, right?

The transformation that’s called for by secular and sacred authorities at this time starts by obliterating this exclusive alignment with materialism. Then it continues with an understanding of this globe as a “living organism nourished by human and natural resources.” And then it trickles into the individual consciousness, where the idea of self grows from a relationship with soul rather than a bank account.

What now?

Well, what’s next?  It’s a gorgeous fall Monday, the weekend football was victorious, the lawn work got nicely accomplished.  But we return to the working world today with a low-level, insistent anxiety.  Things are different.  Our highest power, our federal government has done what it can to rescue commerce, and the rest is up to us.

Since almost no one has a comprehensive understanding of the economy, and the average Joe’s understanding is miniscule, ‘the people’ can have little sense of power in the current economic dilemma.  Many analyses suggest that we’ll be a long time pulling out of this hole.  Other than bailouts based on speculation and a vague promise of tightened regulations, the feds can’t do much for us.  Somehow, through the considerable fog, we ourselves have to find the solutions.

In my struggling little brain, when challenged by the unknown, it seems the best solution is to adhere to those things you know to be simple, true, and good.  So for each one of us, in our lives and businesses, the choices we make over the next many months must be limited by these bounds.  Being simple means to avoid anything that’s overly complex.  Being true means implementing that which has a proven success record.  Being good means considering the wider implications of your actions in every instance, and seriously limiting the risks you take.

An insistence on steadiness, a refusal to move too fast, a rejection of anything smacking of ‘get rich quick,’ and a firm committment to authenticity should take us a significant way back to financial comfort.  That word, authenticity, bears further examination, which I’ll tackle in subsequent posts.

Too big for our britches

An article from Time today suggests that historians will find fault with our leaders for not explaining sufficiently the economic woes we Americans are facing, and not making clear how their bailout plans will effectively address the problem.  The issues are complex indeed, and perhaps no one has a comprehensive explanation for the current crisis.

Sometimes it seems as though almost all our issues stem from the fact that there are simply too many of us.  We are continuing to use old systems and mores, ones that worked when the population was manageable; but since our numbers have exploded in the post WWII world, much of what we’ve held to be true simply doesn’t work anymore.

My much admired corporate spy, Hugh MacLeod, said a couple days ago: “I could also go on about how many good people I know are caught in oversupplied markets, and how every day they wake up, feeling chilled to the bone with dread and unease. Advertising and media folk are classic examples.”

In an oversupplied market, only the most cutthroat competition, the trickiest maneuvers, the whims of luck can advance the individual, and even then, only for a short time.  In an oversupplied market, we becomed preoccupied with show biz, and dangerously disconnected from real needs of real people.

How to avoid this trap?  As a nation, we’ve fallen straight into it, and will now be forced to claw our way out, one hopes with some grace and aplomb.  As individual business owners, we can be shrewd about avoiding oversupplied markets by seeking the creative core of our work and marketing with profound compassion.

Capitalism and competition both glory in human greed, and fundamentally depend on its continuous increase.  But the shadow side to this world view looms large today, and we are learning about its inherently destructive nature.  Perhaps appropriately for a nation beginning to move beyond adolescence, America must undertake a vision quest, seek effective ways of handling our growing population, and find new fulfillment through cooperation and profound individual creativity.

Copping a different beat

Time for another dollop of everyday creativity development.  This is the next installment in a long line of tiny little actions you can take, whenever and wherever, to help develop your creative abilities.  A well developed creative sense is the first step towards fulfillment in life.  Our western economy has all but destroyed individual creativity, and huge numbers of us don’t even know what the term means. 

If the analysts are right, though, the economy now developing – which is undeniably of global concern – depends on such precise self- and business-definition as to render competition irrelevant.  This means that you have so distinctly defined your particular gifts that you can be characterized in a way that’s entirely different from anyone else in the world.  Pretty tall order, huh?  All very well for Google and Twitter, but my individual path surely can’t be that creative.

Au contraire, we must remember that all businesses are made up of individuals just like us.  The only difference is that some individuals have taken the time to become deeply acquainted with their creative selves, and the groundbreaking advances their enterprises offer are the result.

So here’s today’s pointer.  A while ago I posted about habits, and how it’s helpful to switch them out now and then.  This is a related concept: dig deeper into your creative sense by trying out new responses to the same old same old.  Do you always grumble a brief “‘Mornin'” to your coworker upon arriving at the job?  Just once, try looking them in the eye and asking sincerely, “How are you today?”  Do you always hold staff meetings in a conference room?  Try scheduling one standing up around the office, or at the cafe down the street.  Is there a task at work you find distasteful and generally avoid?  Try facing it head-on despite your reluctance, pretending you’re thoroughly enjoying it.

Especially poignant is a new approach to someone who generally peeves you no end.  What if you refuse to respond at all to them?  What if you smile sweetly instead of allowing yourself to be frustrated?  Most likely, any kind of new and different response from you will make all the difference to your whole day.

Doing anything in a different way from the norm will open your eyes; and clarity in perception is a greatly helpful tool as you seek your creative potential.

A final note for all my fellow aging baby boomers:  switching out your responses, practicing variety in your actions, simply doing old things in new ways is a powerful weapon to combat dementia.  Want to stay alert through your old age?  Then do everything you can to climb out of your mid-life rut right now and enter into full realization of possibility.