I left Scarborough on Friday amidst a wild winter squall, Max totally terrified and Simba yowling from the cat carrier unfortunately positioned behind my head – only to arrive in Stanford sans electricity. The cats settled with an uncanny ease as I fell in love the Overberg beneath a blue moon. I know, soul deep, this is a good move as excitement blooms for the unchartered journey ahead. So on that note, here’s a brief look at clouds, silver lining and the unexpected nature of life’s little gifts ::
I received the most precious present in February 2006 whilst perusing a promising career in corporate America: a pituitary apoplexy. Life as I knew it ended abruptly. I was 27.
My endocrine system, working seamlessly behind the scenes suddenly failed to function: after the stroke, my body forgot to secrete the very hormones necessary to foster life. A cortisol crisis effectively derailed my career, leaving me to serious re-think my priorities. As energy became a scarce resource, I was forced to discern how best to spend it and this ultimately led me to make decisions more closely aligned with my well-being. In the course of the past 6 years, I’ve learnt to make life sustaining choices.
I decided to become a chartered accountant to ensure financially security – after ignoring several gentle ‘warnings’ from the universe, I’ve come to understand how short sighted and destructive this ‘rational’ goal was for me. Motivated by fear and the perception of lack, I sacrificed an authentically creative self, dressed it up in tight pinstripes and sent it off to work. Forced by a broken body, I grudgingly slowed down long enough to listen and acquire an abiding respect its innate wisdom. And as I began to follow a path I’m deeply passionate about (writing), my body started (contrary to medical precedent and to the disbelief of doctors) to heal. Every day I grow stronger, more appreciative of life and the body’s predisposition for vibrant health. In April, I underwent a Liquid Deprivation Test (just about as nasty as it sounds), proving conclusively that function is returning to my pituitary. My endocrinologist, initially typically sceptical expressed ‘cautious optimism’ and suggested the goal of having me all replacement medicine by the end of the year. Which is about as close to a medical miracle as it gets.
Ironically, though I may have significantly less money than I did as a high-flyer in NYC, I feel more secure and enjoy a better quality of life. I’ve learnt to recognise and celebrate the little things for true magic hides beneath the mundane – and once you see that, your soul is forever free. Turns out, almost losing my life, helped save it. And whilst seriously challenging at the onset, having a stroke has been a grand blessing. The same can be said for the recession.
As a reformed CA, I understand what constitutes a successful business and having started my career with Arthur Andersen (only months before mount Enron erupted), I feel intimately linked to this current economic crisis. The healing process allowed me time to stop and observe the world so I’ve studied the recession’s effect on corporates, small business and individuals with interest. I’ve observed consumers, motivated by the now scarce resource, money, become more discerning with how they spend it. More and more, people are drawn to and demanding value when they transact, often choosing to support local initiatives or boutique establishments instead of ‘greedy’ multinationals whose decisions are motivated predominantly by short term, profit driven, ‘bottom-line’ thinking.
Politically, individuals have started asking the hard questions, realizing they have rights and speaking out. Consider what the “Occupy” movement ignited: suddenly the previously passive, disenfranchised (not so much in terms as voting as the ability to exercise personal power) public found a cohesive voice. And a community of comrades. The lure of meek passivity has run out as the martyred multitude cease complaining, climb off their blighted cross and begin to make informed choices.
Most people I speak to are miserable working the shark infested corporate seas, slogging their hearts out in the 9-5, 5 day-a-week rat race, living for the weekend or their next holiday. They’re depressed by what they do – suffering to earn money to survive, wreaking havoc on health and personal relationships. Which is why people have to retire eventually – they’re simply spent, worn out human husks. Some even die shortly after the golden handshake. Why? Because their lives lack meaning when they stop struggling. Contrast that with people who bravely do what they love: musicians keep composing songs til they kick the proverbial bucket; artists keep creating; poets keep writing. Their work fuels life!
One of my favourite new initiatives is Kickstarter which helps cut the meddlesome middleman standing between creatives, like Amanda Palmer and her audience, one who has routinely taken a heavy pound for the privilege. Much the way churches and a power-hungry priesthood rose between man and god, raking in a pretty penny for doing nothing more than running interference. With the advent of the internet, jobs losses and budget cuts, the recession has proved a rude awakening from an eon long stupor as people realise the truth: no one ever really needed Mr Piggy (in the middle) to get sh*t done! We’re seeing a re-emergence of direct relationships and the inherent benefits that affords both parties.
Through a suitably ‘struck’ lens, I believe the recession is forcing us to face a glorious opportunity: to shift away from short-sighted opportunist economics and find more sustainable; holistic; value-centric solutions. One in which goods and services are based on fair exchange and offer true value; where the entire supply chain maintains integrity; meaningful investment is made to support and nurture staff; environmental impacts are considered and kept to a minimum. I see us shifting away from the old ‘profit for profit’s sake’ paradigm towards the growth of sacred capital: a long-term collaborative view to create sustainable wealth for all.
This led me to begin experimenting with a gentler, more inclusive business ‘model’ geared to recognise and celebrate the sacred. The basic premise is to stimulate conscious communities, empower local business and individuals as well as raise awareness of the area through an interconnected system of online networks by helping inform locals as to what resources/initiatives are available nearby. In turn, this fosters collaboration, carbon conscious and environmentally responsible choices whilst allowing the entire eco-system to thrive.
As the whole world is poised for radical change, so too is our economy. The recession has afforded us the opportunity to redress how we do business: to bring love, passion and integrity into whatever work we choose to do so we may build a more conscious, inclusive and empowering economy. Change is here! An exciting time to be alive on this blue planet…