Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Next Economy

What I am sooooo excited about is the “next” economy or the “gift” economy. I was introduced to the concept of a gift economy by Dr. Aumatma Shah, who runs a holistic health care clinic in Oakland called the Karma Clinic. In essence, she offers her naturopathic services as a gift, only charging for remedies and supplements. It’s not free though, it’s a gift, there’s an important distinction. The energy inherent in “free” is take. The energy inherent in “gift” is, “This is an act of love and service.” Dr. Shah explicitly says in order to heal it’s important to give away what has been given. One cannot hold on tightly to the gift because the energy stops there with them. Does that make sense? It’s like what I wrote about a few months ago when because of the generosity I’d been shown re: my kickstarter campaign I felt like being generous myself. The gift doesn’t have to be money, it can be anything.

The reason I love the next economy or the gift economy so much is because it’s based on these four principles:

  • Moving from transaction to trust,
  • Consumption to contribution,
  • Isolation to community,
  • And scarcity to abundance.

Wow! Talk about my ideal world! Some people may scoff and say it will never work, but let me tell you, it does. My business coach, a big proponent of the next economy, said he’s not going to charge me for his expertise because we’re friends and he wants to be of service and help me be of service. Instead, he wants me to help out when and where I can. Let me tell you, when he said that to me a big weight lifted off my chest because I’m not in a position at the moment to pay him. What I love so much about this economy model is it emphasizes our relationships and not material goods. I’ve been receiving so many instances of this lately, not just with my naturopath and business coach, but my friend who’s a photographer. I had some pictures taken of me at the beginning of the year but I feel so radically different I want new author photos. And my professional photographer friend said he’ll take them free of charge and to buy him dinner or something. Huzzah!

What gets to me is the kindness that has been shown to me. That there are so many people who are willing to help me, who understand money is not everything, and really live that way. It’s truly a gift to be surrounded by so many loving, talented people who are willing to share their services with the world. In my business coach’s blog he sums up the next economy thusly:

"Human enterprises will be designed in service to all human needs while benefiting the earth and all life. The goal of doing business in the next economy is to be of service to life while doing what you love – finding 'work' so full of joy and purpose you cannot really call it work."

That is precisely what I want and I’m incredibly inspired because I’m seeing evidence of it around me. People who are knowingly and unknowingly incorporating service into their business. People who understand our work lives and our personal lives shouldn’t be so radically different, because after all, we’re still people and deserve to be treated that way.

I dream of a world where we give what we’ve been given. A world where we conduct business with kindness, generosity, and love. A world where we take care of each other and focus on the infinite possibilities life has to offer. A world where we value relationships and respect each other. A world where we understand there doesn’t need to be a “business as usual” because there can be a new way of doing business.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Hitching Wagons to Stars

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote in his essay “Civilization” to: “Hitch your wagon to a star,” meaning, “Always aspire to do great things.” I’ve always aspired to do great things but somehow I always envisioned myself as the wagon and never the star. I always thought of myself in the supporting role. In some ways I think it’s a part of my nature – I’m a little shy, not that many people can tell that – so I’d rather be in the background than claim the spotlight. It’s funny how the universe arranges things so outmoded thinking gets swept away because that old paradigm crumbled around me about a week and a half ago.

What I’m referring to is the dissolution of my spiritual art and entertainment business. My business partner and I decided to go our separate ways because we had different needs and expectations that didn’t allow for us to continue working together. It was really painful; there’s still an ache in my heart thinking about it, but I know it’s for the best. I had this idea I needed him, that I couldn’t be successful on my own. That somehow it was “safer” to be in business with someone else instead of alone. I also had the notion I don’t have enough big ideas to run a company. But the truth is, it only takes one good idea to create a business and I’m never really alone. There are many people who play supporting roles in my life; there are many places I can go to ask for help and support. I don’t have to have a business partner in order to be successful.

Mostly what I’m getting at is I don’t need to hitch my wagon to anyone else’s star because I am the star. I have enough ideas, fortitude, skills, etc. to do this. “This” being run a publishing company, market a book, or whatever. I am capable of so much more than I thought I was. Not just with this business, but with my life. I can do anything by the grace of God. I think fear often tells us we need someone else around. That somehow going it alone is dangerous or unwise. It could be something as small as going to a concert solo. The thoughts are usually along the lines of, “Maybe I won’t have a good time. Maybe people will judge me, maybe my car won’t start and I’ll be stuck, maybe it will be scary,” etc. How often are those things true though?

When I go to things by myself, I find I have a pretty good time. In fact, on Friday I went to the movies by myself! Not because I’m a loser with no friends, but because I impulsively decided to go and didn’t want to rustle up company. And you know what? It was lovely. I got to see what I wanted, sit where I wanted, and leave when I wanted. It was just what I needed! I’m a big believer in doing what you want whether you have company to join you or not. So now I’m doing it with bigger things, not just the movies. I no longer believe my success/failure/happiness/security is dependent on anyone else. I no longer believe it’s strictly necessary to have someone else by my side. Because today I live in the truth I am my own star.

I dream of a world where we know we can handle life on our own. A world where we know we can shine brightly by ourselves. Where we understand our success is contingent on us and not who we’re socializing with. A world where we know we are each worthy of a leading role. A world where we feel capable and confident of our own abilities because in truth, we are each our own stars.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable. 

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Remembering. . .

There are a lot of things I want to say today. There are many things I want to talk about, but out of respect for what happened 10 years ago today, instead all I can really say is how horrible. All I can really say is my heart goes out to all of those people who lost friends and family members on September 11. But not only that, my heart goes out to all people, in all countries who have been victims of violence. Anyone who has been made to suffer at the hands of someone else. This won’t be the popular stance, but I’m also praying for the terrorists. I’m praying they’ll come to understand we are all people. We all fundamentally want the same things: love, acceptance, safety. I’m praying that those people whose hearts have been closed off due to fear and hatred will get opened. That they’ll see the error of their ways. I’m praying that people will really get just how interconnected we are and how one act of violence affects all of us and only breeds more violence. I’m praying for peace, knowing peace starts with me. I’m praying that we recognize the good in the world. Did you know started because of the terrorist attacks? Here’s a letter the CEO Scott Heiferman sent a few days ago:
"Let me tell you the Meetup story. I was living a couple miles from the Twin Towers, and I was the kind of person who thought local community doesn't matter much if we've got the Internet and TV. The only time I thought about my neighbors was when I hoped they wouldn't bother me. 
When the towers fell, I found myself talking to more neighbors in the days after 9/11 than ever before. People said hello to neighbors (next-door and across the city) who they'd normally ignore. People were looking after each other, helping each other, and meeting up with each other. You know, being neighborly. 
A lot of people were thinking that maybe 9/11 could bring people together in a lasting way. So the idea for Meetup was born: Could we use the Internet to get off the Internet – and grow local communities? 
We didn't know if it would work. Most people thought it was a crazy idea -- especially because terrorism is designed to make people distrust one another. 
A small team came together, and we launched Meetup nine months after 9/11. 
Today, almost 10 years and 10 million Meetuppers later, it's working. Every day, thousands of Meetups happen. Moms Meetups, Small Business Meetups, Fitness Meetups . . . a wild variety of 100,000 Meetup Groups with not much in common -- except one thing. 
Every Meetup starts with people simply saying hello to neighbors. And what often happens next is still amazing to me. They grow businesses and bands together, they teach and motivate each other, they babysit each other's kids and find other ways to work together. They have fun and find solace together. They make friends and form powerful community. It's powerful stuff. 
It's a wonderful revolution in local community, and it's thanks to everyone who shows up.
Meetups aren't about 9/11, but they may not be happening if it weren't for 9/11. 
9/11 didn't make us too scared to go outside or talk to strangers. 9/11 didn't rip us apart. No, we're building new community together!!!! 
The towers fell, but we rise up. And we're just getting started with these Meetups."
Because of things like this and more, I know another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Uniting as One

This afternoon I had the great privilege of attending a wedding. In some ways the theme this year seems to be weddings. Left and right friends and family members are getting engaged and married, and to be honest I’m inspired. I’m inspired because when I see the love transpiring from one person to another it melts my heart. When I see two people who say, “Yes, I commit myself to you. I’m ready to work out all of my issues on the day to day with you, I vow to ensure your all around progress in any way I can,” I know everything is right in the world.

I’m a sap. I admit it. But when two people find each other there’s something magical afoot. Out of all the people in the world, out of all of the possible combinations and relationships we go through with one another, to be able to say, “Yes, let’s get married,” that’s pretty special. It’s so uplifting to see that because the more we love one another the more love there is in the world. It spills over into all aspects of life. There’s that saying, “Happy wife, happy life.” I think that’s pretty accurate but applies to both parties. This human experience is all about connection and bonding. When our relationships with others are good, we’re pretty happy, or at least that’s been the case with me.

I debated whether to include this or not but the following is the crux of why marriage inspires me. In my spiritual practices, when someone gets married these are the vows they take:
"I say on oath I take upon myself all the responsibility for his/her food, clothes, education, medical care, etc. from today. I will be vigilant in every way to safeguard his/her mental peace and ensure his/her mental progress from today. I will be vigilant in every way to safeguard his/her spiritual progress from today."

And then the community says, “We say on oath that we are witnesses to this wedding. May we be helpful to the best of our capacity for the all-round progress of this newly married couple.”

There’s more to the ceremony than that, but the oaths are the gist of it. Maybe it’s because of the state of mind I’m in at the moment, but to have someone else say they are willing to do all those things for me, that they will take on responsibility for my physical, mental, and spiritual needs, seems pretty amazing. To find someone who wants to be my partner like that – wow. So when I witness weddings I get verklempt, as my friend would say. It’s inspirational to witness a partnership, a true coming together as one. To see out of love someone is willing to take responsibility for their partner. They are willing to serve someone else in a very real and intimate way. I can only hope one day the same will be true for me.

I dream of a world where we all feel supported. A world where we have a community to rely on. A world where we all have partners, romantic or not. A world where we know someone else (or multiple someone elses) is looking out for us. A world where we feel held, protected, and taken care of. A world where all our needs are met.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.