Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Love-based Economy

There's been a lot of talk about what sort of economy will replace the Consumer Economy as the central engine for creating human well-being and delivering a high standard of life for the most people.

Many people think it's the New Energy Economy - providing clean, cheap, abundant energy to a world that needs it. I've heard people talk about an economy that's less dependent on material goods and places a higher value on human intelligence and innovation - a Services Economy or Intelligence Economy.

It's hard to know or predict. Sometimes it's easier for me to imagine 5000 years in the future than next Thursday.

I would imagine that our economy in five thousand years would be inclusive and beneficial for all human beings, that it would bring out our best on every level, serve everyone on earth as well as the planet.

I've been talking to people about the role of purpose in drawing out our talent and drive and value-creation for the world. "How much more effective are you when you are engaged in meaningful work?" I asked the president of a Portland art school. "Oh, about eight times," she said.

Did I hear that all meaningful activity begins with the love of something small? You love something, so you do something, and that creates wealth and abundance - for the world and then back to yourself. A Love-based Economy.

Examples of the Love-based Economy abound. Howard Schultz loves coffee culture, and Phil Knight loves running and innovation, Steve Jobs loved computers as tools to draw out the human spirit, and look what happens. The love leads to sustained action and you become a nuclear reactor creating abundance and energy for the world. You might be an example of the Love-based Economy yourself.

I've left out an important piece. It isn't enough to love that thing itself, that object of your passion. Coffee, or shoes, or computers, or whatever. You have to love people. You have to do your work in service to humanity. If you want to create profit, you create wealth, and the best door in might be love.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Rise and Shine

I received a comment from an anonymous blawg reader who wondered why I didn't write about more serious matters these days. Surprised I didn't have anything to say about the protests happening in Portland, for example.

Anonymous, it's true, I've chosen to spend less time that way on the blawg. I tend to write lighter entries that I can complete in ten minutes or so. I'll occasionally use tweets and FB to share my thoughts, but mostly I've been doing my blawging and thinking and doing off-line in the form of speaking engagements and consulting and conversation and in my work.

But if you're a loyal blawg reader, I bet you can guess how I feel about the protests, and how the Occupy movement fits into my view of what's happening in the world.

The stories we've been depending on for 60 years or so are broken or bent or distorted. We're struggling to find a new narrative, a common purpose, the deep story that informs our culture. To a lot of us, the Occupiers and the Tea Partiers and the Hope'08ers, it's become increasingly obvious that something's not working, and we're struggling to work out what's next.

I did attend a day of the protests. First impression was that the crowd didn't feel very inclusive. Seemed fringe. Impressed by the signs though, and the slogans. Walk like an Egyptian. Great.

Have asked people around me how they felt about the demonstrations. "At first I was cynical - I thought, Oh wow, Generation Y discovers that life isn't fair," the manager of my local coffee shop told me. "Then I realize, I agree with basically everything they're saying."

We're hungry for a new story, one we can all share. 99% is too small, even. If it excludes any of us, it's not big enough.

This morning as I was getting receipts out of my wallet I pulled out a few old-fashioned bills that I've received in change over the months. The designs date back to the thirties. I hold onto them because I like how they feel, the stories they tell about our country and our intended character.

The style evokes strength and equity. Balance. Reason. Points to our political roots in Greece and Rome, in a government for the people.

Lincoln's portrait. So determined. The farmer/lawyer/poet who did what it took to hold the country together. What a bad ass.

In the Fourth Turning, William Strauss and Neil Howe talk about the collapse stage that Americans regularly confront in our historic cycle. This 'Fourth Turning' happens every 80 years or so, or four generations. First it was the American Revolution, then the Civil War, then it showed up as the Depression/WWII. The authors predict - the book was written 1997 - that our fourth Fourth Turning would begin around 2000, possibly precipitated by a terrorist event, or a global economic failure, and last until 2020-'25.

The book is sobering but hopeful. The authors tell us that it's by discovering our shared purpose and reasserting our common values that we make it through the hard times, and if we commit to coming through it together, we can even emerge strengthened.

Marshall Herskovitz told me the story of the U.S. discovering its purpose during World War II. We were a hurting, poor and struggling country, just out of the Depression. Suddenly the stakes were raised, and if we wanted to save the world, we had to make thousands of tons of high-tech weapons using untrained female workers.

We set an unattainable production goal, simply unattainable, but we tripled the shifts and the workers knuckled down and what do you know, we accomplished that goal, ahead of schedule.

So we doubled the goal, and accomplished it again. Doubled it again, and accomplished it again, doubled it again, and well, you know what happened.

Human beings. Miniature Universes, R. Buckminster Fuller calls us, able to create anything, do anything we decide. Miracle machines. Endlessly regenerative, particularly when we identify our purpose.

So, yes, I agree with the protesters and the pundits and the philosophers and the poets, Strauss & Howe, Buckminster Fuller, Thomas Friedman, Eckhart Tolle, Steve Jobs. Something is unfolding out there, we're all invited to play a part in it, it will demand our best, and the the quickest way in, individually and collectively, is to identify and answer the call to our deep story.

There's been a lot of talk about story these days. Deep story is different. Deep story is the place your story connects back to the timeless story. Deep story means answering your heart's call and seeking a goal bigger than yourself. Deep story is the overlap between what you love and what the world needs. The world is full of people creating abundance for the world by living their deep story. Could we all be invited to live our deep story?

At the end of a couple of recent speaking events, I've handed out this small red journal. There's a sticker sheet tucked in the back pocket with three questions to help you think about your own deep story. The journal also contains a card with my email address so people can write back and report what happened when they filled it up, if anything.

I've been surprised by the response to these little journals. I've made them available on my website. I also include a little letter-pressed card with my deep story model. You can order a journal and fill it out and see what happens.

Story has power. As I heard Van Jones recently say, our greatest power is our imagination. By living our deep story, we imagine possibilities for ourselves and the world.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Halloween night

I'll be portraying Emmor Stephens, b. 1777, d. 1846, first burial in Portland's historic Lone Fir Cemetery, at the Tour of Untimely Departures, held on Halloween night at the cemetery itself.

For $10, you'll take a walking tour of the cemetery, stopping at half a dozen grave sites and hearing the firsthand story of that person's untimely death. It's not really kid-friendly, unless you like your kid hearing story of people being murdered, blown to bits, that sort of thing.

As the patriarch of both the Stephens family and the Cemetery, I'll tell the story of when the cemetery was a farm, part of the eastern edge of the Stephens property, which ran from Stark to Division Streets, and from Central Catholic High School all the way to the river.

My death was not untimely, but the story of the people who bought that property from my son, with the promise the keep up my grave site, theirs is story full of untimely deaths.

One of the stones nearby, the grave of a central character in the story I will tell, it has this image carved on it.

I asked Frank, the guy who puts together this event each Halloween, if he knew what the symbol meant. "Oh yeah," he said. "The tree that's been topped. A life cut short."

And across from the grave is this fir tree, an Oregon Heritage Tree , the lone fir tree on the Stephens farm that inspired the name of the cemetery. And if you'll notice, the top of the Lone Fir is also topped, the result of a storm a few years back.