“There has never been a better time to be who you are.”
This is the conclusion I offered in a recent interview on Regina Meredith’s “Open Minds” show on GaiaTV. This is not some exhortation for higher self-esteem. It is becoming an enduring truth of economic transformation in a world that now demands resourcefulness and creativity rather than “toiling for the man.” In building a fulfilling and sustainable life, your output, your passion, and your originality connected practically to personal and community needs now matter more than your diplomas and your obedience to social formulas.
Cultural creatives now find themselves in a Learning Era with serious economic and environmental challenges demanding novel opportunities and approaches. Work options have changed and so have the social “rules” and guarantees surrounding them. As most readers have observed, there has been a tremendous historical shift away from steady solid-paying jobs. Guarantees about life-long employment and generous benefits have evaporated in a globalized economic climate. In America, not just good-paying manufacturing jobs, but professional jobs, like paralegal work, graphic design, and X-ray interpretation are being outsourced.
In fact, those students graduating with a law degree, for instance, find themselves increasingly with tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of dollars of debt and either no job, a body-breaking 80-hour work week, or an altruistic job, insufficient to pay down the student debt. Applicants with college degrees compete for barista jobs. This is not what the upcoming generations were promised if they worked hard and followed the conventional path to financial success.
I say, “Welcome the change!”
“Are you crazy?,” you might reply. “Accept broken promises, debt, and downsizing?”
Think of it: Now that you don’t have the option to sell out to a formula for the good life, you can go about creating your own.
Trust yourself, unplug, re-create yourself
What are the foundations of economic transformation for the new good life? In a term: emotional intelligence. This is something very few people have been taught in home or school. We have to learn to trust our deeper intuitions, unplug from habits that no longer serve us, and develop our “divine genius,” our unique passions, talents, and skills, to offer something of value to the world.
Trust yourself—How many come-ons have you received from online college programs, “can’t miss” investment opportunities, self-help books promising a sure and easy formula for business and life success? It should be patently clear to you by now, that their success is based upon your belief in them and your willingness to pay them money. Start with believing in yourself and looking for people who believe in you, whatever your enterprise. Learn to exchange services in a community of mutual support.
Unplug—Drastically lower your costs. Move in with friends. Avoid the quick dollar solution. Invest in yourself and your community. When you remove all the money and time you spend trying to buy the consumerist “American Dream,” you would be amazed at how much time and money you can free up to produce your own dream. Do an inventory on where you spend your time and money. You might find significant time and money are spent on mindless activity meant to fight modern anxieties or boredom. Take time to daydream about your deeper purpose and then find small ways to experiment. In my last post on Citizen Zeus I describe several important and simple ways you can unplug.
Re-create yourself—Be direct. Identify your passions. Research ways to develop your gifts. Experiment with ways to apply them. Find good people to work with. Let your dream unfold and expand along with your learning. Success is not about “hitting the jackpot” but about hitting your “sweet spot.” You don’t need to sell your tiny start-up to a corporation for a billion dollars to be a success. You can supply needed products and services, develop a regular clientele, and contribute back to the community.
To engage these approaches to the good life, each one of us needs to individually challenge instrumental thinking, the notion that if I do something expedient, but without integrity or authenticity, I can eventually succeed. “If I do this dehumanizing internship or plod through an out-of-touch college program I’ll get that ticket to do ‘what I really want.’” Look around at all the out-of-work people who did the supposedly “smart thing,” and you realize instrumental approaches do not work. The good life is an intrinsic enterprise, not an instrumental chore. In other words, the good life requires that you commit to being authentically and joyfully yourself, expanding and deepening into something fuller, rather than using yourself as an object of some distant vision of happiness that turns out to be an advertised illusion.
Portia’s Café: An Applied Economic Transformation Example
My sister, Portia, started her successful gluten-free, vegan restaurant out of necessity. Before her restaurant, she had decided to trust a friend who offered her partnership in a “can’t lose” business opportunity to sell music services to Nike stores in China. This “can’t lose” turned out to be a “can’t win,” as Chinese businesses simply took the service and equipment and refused to honor the contracts. Paid psychics kept promising that this business opportunity would eventually pan out and reap large returns. They were dead wrong. Portia’s friend skipped town and left her holding the bag.
What can be learned from this besides not trusting psychics for financial advice? Have faith in your inner gifts directly applied. Once my sister’s instrumental dream failed to fund a restaurant from an investment scheme, she had to trust herself intrinsically to build the business. She relied directly on her labor of love and her community.
People pitched in with work, skills, and money, because they wanted a vegan restaurant, and they wanted her to succeed. Portia saved money by buying equipment from restaurant equipment auctions, and she started small, in order to develop a sustainable business plan. Portia’s Café was immediately profitable, and remains so, and she now also owns a small natural foods store nearby. Her café supplies a vital need in the community and serves as an educational spot for alternative health seminars.
Portia went from a “taking economy” (getting money out of an investment to fund a dream) to a “giving and sharing economy” model (attracting money through good will and a needed community service).
Five Applied Meditations for the New Good Life
What are the takeaways from this essay? What can you implement philosophically and practically to improve your engagement with life?
- Move your mind from “standard of living” to “quality of life.” Actively recognize that happiness is not dependent upon money or possessions. It is far more strongly linked with community and experiences. Look for opportunity to swap houses for vacations, for instance. This is what I call “use value” over “thing value” in my book, Transforming Economy. Look for ways to engage life in active and applied ways that save money and deepen relationships.
- Go from a taking mentality to a giving and sharing mentality. Economic competition is giving way to collaboration. Find ways to create networks with other people centered around sustainable and healthy values. For, instance, my sister Portia buys from local entrepreneurs who supply everything from composting services, to kombucha, to a banana-based vegan ice cream. Research shows that when you feel “blah,” doing something for others is the best cure.
- Listen… and then say “yes.” You don’t have to quit your day job immediately to “pursue your dream” and achieve economic transformation. Take the time to listen to your deeper movements of purpose, and then find a way to transform your life to fulfill that deeper purpose. A friend of mine wanted to be a psychologist while working at Verizon and was wondering how he might get them to pay for his courses. I suggested he actively propose to use these classes to help train other Verizon employees in conflict mediation, thus lessening the time and expense of callers with complaints.
- Ask, “So what? Now what? For what?” When presented with a challenge where you feel some kind of anxiety, ask “So what?” “What does it matter if I do not know exactly where I am going? I will learn.” “Now what.” “What are the most promising possibilities to experiment with?” Finally, “For what?” “Who am I serving and what deeper purpose or value am I serving?”
- Choose to create and produce rather than consume when possible. The fount of a good life is creation and contribution. We are moving from material to non-material goods, and creativity is perhaps the highest non-material good, accompanied by relationship and meaningful purpose. Whenever possible look to maximize this good. Instead of just reading, why not join a book discussion group? Instead of just voting, why not run for office?
We need to give ourselves, and each other, permission to break away from the trance of past social and economic patterns. This is no longer business as usual. We are in unprecedented times of economic transformation. In unprecedented times, you need unprecedented approaches. There has never been a greater cry for us to give of our deep talents. There has never been a better time to nurture and support these talents as communities dedicated to a rich, just, and joyful world.
Interested in learning more about manifesting economic transformation in your own life? Visit www.transformingeconomy.com to explore the proactive alternatives you can personally use in this exciting transition between a system that has lost its meaning and a new society of real hope, promise, and collaborative, democratic action.