This is the first post in a series called "Transformational Economics".
I no longer live in a world with a collapsing economy. I am creating a new one.
This Christmas our family decided to give non-material gifts to the adults in our family.
The week before the big day, I sat down at my computer and wrote letters to everyone in my family.
I have a big family and by the time I was done, I had worked fourteen hours crafting the words that would truly express why I love the people I love, who they are for me and why I find them special.
When I was done, I found a new and unexpected peace. This struck me as strange at first because I am a man who acknowledges those he loves. After some thought, I realized I had never once spent that much time in one sitting, thinking about the people I care about. I saw my new found peace had always been available to me. My obsession with my "agenda" in life had merely obscured it.
I had enrolled my family in a "new kind of gift giving" in advance. When we gathered to celebrate it was like no Christmas in our past. My family is an intimate and loving group. We have had many wonderful times together in the past, but by removing ourselves from commercial culture and expressing our love directly instead of by purchasing (let’s be honest) unwanted gifts, we discovered a new and profound intimacy.
The experience changed me and helped me create a new conversation I had been crafting, a conversation designed to be shared.
The Myth of the Collapsing Global Economy:
Falling down is not always a bad thing. Waterfalls do it with abandon and are one of the most beautiful phenomena on earth.
Like almost everyone on the planet, I wasted a lot of energy in the Fall of 2008 locked in fear about the financial markets and how their collapse would impact me, my family, my businesses and my life. Every day the news reports seemed to add to my internal experience of failure and helplessness.
But I found a way out of that morass. I realized in early December that the “collapsing global economy” is just a story; a repetitive, debilitating conversation that lives in fear and insufficiency. It is a "created reality" like all other realities.
I am not saying it is a myth without power. That disturbing drama has its impact on the real world. Self-destructive conversations have consequences not only for individuals, but also for nations and economic systems. People are hurting and afraid.
But though its effects are real, the sad and pitiable tale we are telling about the global economy is also a self-fulfilling prophesy. At its core is a commonly held bad attitude, an anxiety-addicted belief in scarcity.
At our house, our finances are stretched. We have had to give up things we care about…but really, we are just fine. We are healthy. Our children and grandchildren are well and happy. We are not starving. The sun rises every morning. Most of us in this country have what I often refer to as “rich people’s problems.”
Billions of people in the world – and some here in the U. S. - really live on the edge of survival. They would laugh at our self-pity. They face much worse every day and have dealt with it their entire lives.
So I am no longer going to play that game. On Christmas day I made my stand. I will no longer meekly engage in that economic melodrama like a sheep being led to slaughter. I choose not to live like I am powerless. Living in fear, buying the spin so eagerly promoted by Fox and CNN is not putting money in my pocket, supporting my family, making me more effective or enhancing my life in any way.
To the contrary, it has exactly the opposite effect.
A New Conversation:
In 2009 I am creating a conversation that is more powerful, more fulfilling and more workable. I am creating hope and abundance. I am creating a world in which anything is possible, a world in which people all over this planet make the impossible possible every day. I am creating a life for me and my family in the new paradigm I see building all around me.
You may think I am a pie in the sky idealist, but I argue I am a pragmatist. Think about it. How is that negative story working for you? How do you feel when you wake up in the morning? How do you feel after you finish watching the news? Is something good happening in your life because you are sure things are bad?
I doubt it. Why don’t you give a new story a try?
The tale I am telling is that the changes going on in our world are the collapse of a tired old way of being and the genesis of a new one that will transform our lives for the better. I am creating a conversation about a new "bottom up" economy in which all are included, one already being built all over the planet by the young and the visionary.
I am creating a system of exchange and value that recognizes our interdependence and is endlessly innovative. I am building an economy of infinite possibility, of sufficiency and abundance…an economy that works for everyone.
The conversation I am having is that the old is falling away and the new is born. I am telling the story of a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis, its wings unfolding…a story of the glory of flight.
The tale I am creating is not one of soft-hearted idealism. It lives in the material, in the brains and words of human beings. It is a story of hard science, corporate and political realities, a pragmatic evolution forged in technology and human cultural evolution that has been growing for many years. It is a new interpretation of reality that is available to everyone all the time. Real people can act on it in their lives at any moment. It is a conversation that makes things work where they do not, like all new technologies that have value.
We are going home, home to our better selves, home to new relationships, new systems of behavior, new technologies and new societal and economic structures. Given the state of the world we have had in the past, that is a good thing.
But before we can move forward, we have to see the debilitating conversation that prevails around us for what it is. We must turn negativity into possibility. We must make our stands for a world that works and act upon them. We must quiet the cruel wind of fear that fills the tattered sails of the sinking ship of excess, failure, scarcity, corruption, partisanship, self-interest and greed that has plagued our country and our world.
Sounds too big and too hard? It’s not. All we have to do is change the subject. All we have to do is notice the "glass half full" rather than the "glass half empty" and share what we see with those we meet. After all, positive interpretations are no less real than negative ones. There is ample evidence for both and I would assert that positivism is more practical and effective.
Perhaps you are convinced the world really is going to Hell in a handbasket and there is nothing you can do about it. Well think about this.
Throughout your life, neurons and other nerve tissues in your brain grow in response to your environment. The process is called neurogenesis. New synapses and whole new neurons are actually being added into the circuitry of your brain in response to the world around you. Metaphorically, they grow a lot like muscle tissue. If you use your muscles, they grow and get stronger. If you sit on the couch all day and watch TV, they atrophy.
Something (roughly) similar happens in your brain. Everything you think, feel and experience is a result how those nerve tissues respond to your experience. Experience grows new neurons and creates new neural networks.
The more often a particular neural pathway is reinforced by environmental cues, the stronger it gets and the more embedded in your memory. So the behavior, attitudes and values with which you approach life – and the nature and context of your relationships with others – are built into your nervous system. They are not just ethereal ideas or attitudes. They are aspects of your physiology.
How you see the world and how the world sees you is built into your brain. But because your brain is constantly changing and growing, over time you can change that hard wiring simply by altering your thoughts, actions or your environment. Attitudes and values are not casual things. They are physical and the source of your everyday experience of life.
That means your words have power. Speaking is an act of creation. Over time, the way you describe the world creates your world. If you want a "better world," all you have to do is "cast your vote" each day for the world that is already working.
Ever notice who is always around when your life doesn’t work? You are. You can blame it on your circumstances if you want to, but all that does is make it persist. You can blame others, but all that does is make you suffer. Maybe you should consider an alternative.
I invite you to join me in a new conversation. We can create it together in the days and months to come…and before you know it, a new and vibrant economy will emerge.
Thursday, December 25, 2008
This is the first post in a series called "Transformational Economics".