Saturday, September 25, 2010

An Ox Cart and a Gordian Knot

The legend of Gordian Knot stands with other epic fables as a simple reinforcement of archetypal values. Telmissus, the Oracle of Phyrgia forecast that that the next man entering the city driving an ox cart would be king. Confirmed with the omen of an eagle landing on the cart, the peasant Gordias, father of Midas, was this man and became king. In gratitude to the gods, Midas tied the auspicious cart to a post with the Gordian Knot which was without identifiable beginning or end. Centuries later, in BCE 333, Alexander arrived in Phyrgia and found the enigmatic knot and, unwilling to be bested by the puzzle, drew his sword and cut the knot in two fulfilling yet another oracle prophecy that the man who would loose the knot would be a Great. With an auspicious thunderstorm accompanying Alexander’s cleavage of the knot the priests and oracles declared Alexander the future king of Asia.

In modern times, the Gordian Knot has become associated with last week’s blog post theme – namely an epic challenge stimulus which calls for heroic, forceful action. We celebrate the blade that splits asunder and he who wields the blade but we don’t examine the other elements of the legend – the oracles, the signs, and the knot.

On Thursday, my office hosted several would-be Alexanders. Like millions who have been lured to the sirens of “entrepreneurship” and “angel” or “venture” investing I was dealing with several people who were confident that they had devised the solution for things ranging from data encryption to energy to metals to specialized magnetic motors. Joining the chorus in our present lottery-odds Greek tragedy, they sang of solutions to great problems, the promise of riches from their respective technical blades. And, in a style befitting Shakespeare’s rendering of Greek tragedies, many were morose when confronted with the fact that their illusion of uniqueness and creativity was a function of insufficient knowledge of interconnectedness – not invention. Like the innovator heroes of our times, their focus was on the sword and its master – not on the oracle, the signs or the knot. By shifting their focus from the sword to the knot, we actually began a process of a collaborative destiny – kudos to some courageous souls that day.

We are presented with numerous challenges in our time. How do we power our world without toxifying our air and seas? How do we extract minerals without depleting and toxifying water and displacing communities? How do we finance creativity when it has no tangible artifact to have and to hold? How do we determine stewardship of shared resources in the commons? How do we enable endeavors without becoming slaves to reserve-based money? We are, in a word, vexed. In a fifty year economic experiment, we allowed subsidized models of entrepreneurship to be promoted as the keys to wealth creation but we failed to tell the truth about these models. Modern entrepreneurship cannot exist without preferential procurement from governments (the fuel that created the U.S. private equity funding base); preferential tax policy which incentivizes wealth to be placed “at risk” for unlimited upside benefit; subsidized, socialized research (bear in mind that taxpayers fund over 70% of the world’s basic research – not private industry); and an established merger and acquisition market – the fate of most venture backed companies. If any of these conditions are not fully present, incumbent models don’t work.

Market and greed sirens on the rocks engage in a macabre dance which includes “innovators” and “capital”. Buoyed by half-truths and the lure of disproportionate wealth for the few, tens of thousands are devastated when the myths are exposed but, unwilling to expose the fraud to which they succumbed, sit quietly while others follow the same path to disappointment and poverty of spirit (and checkbook). We are, as it was in Phyrgia, a people without the metaphoric leader or king.

However, an ox cart driven by a peasant is on the path. And if we can re-examine the Gordian Knot, we just may be able to create a different narrative.

First, the oracle. The last two years have demonstrated quite clearly that our current model doesn’t work. Evidenced by the recent small business economic development boondoggle promoted by the White House and Congress and its equally ill-conceived cousins in Europe, credit is NOT the problem – Customers (or the lack thereof) is. In our love affair with our projection of “free markets”, we choked off the engine of economic development which is revenue from buyers – even when the purchases represent preferential customer selection. Oh, now some of you free trade wonks out there will howl about how the market should be devoid of these contrivances and manipulations. However, your academic and “think tank” perches from which you criticize were funded by titans of industry who became thus by way of effective monopolies or subsidized markets. So get over your myopic amnesia and get real. We need value to be exchanged between customers and sellers – not indebtedness to tax-subsidized banking interests. And we know that collaboration (whether its called open innovation, crowd-sourcing, or partnership) models are evidencing greater value than the cold-war isolation from innovation enclosure models of the industrial past. In a world where proprietary price controls once gained their efficacy by managing scarcity, we now are in a world where collaborative efficiency in development, production, distribution, and reuse will be the fuel of profitable endeavors.

Second, the signs. The ox cart, the eagle, and the thunderstorm are intriguing and overlooked elements in the Gordian Knot legend. However we ignore them at our wisdom’s peril. The ox cart can be seen as a metaphor for trade and exchange across distances. The eagle can be seen as the collaboration and confirmation of nature. And the thunderstorm can be seen as a metaphor for the natural energy that comes from nature’s dynamism. In modern, Occidental minds, omens are seen as superstitious. However in communities who have a better understanding of nature, signs are appreciated as markers of time, signals for change, and motivators for community adaptation. Many times, they are rather detached from a religious, superstitious or “belief” impulse. Community and culture simply know that when one thing happens, it calls for a change in action. Which of our greatest perceived challenges could not be solved from a renewed appreciation for looking at all the signals, not just the ones that get broadcast from the avatars on CNN, MSNBC, FOX, and Bloomberg? Why has humanity been given the opportunity to have several >7.0 magnitude earthquakes in a single calendar year? Is it to jeopardize our survival or is it an opportunity to learn? Why aren’t we studying why the 7.0 in Papua New Guinea involved no loss of life while the one in Haiti killed thousands? Why aren’t we letting the lessons be learned? And floods, desertification, energy shocks – all can be used as opportunities to learn and change behavior. None of this is possible if we see ourselves as “victims” looking for “hero saviors”.

Finally, the knot. What is notable about the knot is that it was tied as a symbol of gratitude and it was fashioned from living fiber. Quite possibly, the reason why Alexander couldn’t determine the beginning or end is because life had knit the two together. Any horticulturalist can tell you that certain plants and plant material actually seamlessly heal leaving their injury or graft undetectable. But what’s there to learn from the knot? Well, quite simply, it was constructed of multiple, living fibers. And here’s the key. We need to see innovation, capital, enterprise, trade and sustainability as an integrated ecosystem – not in isolation. Small business doesn’t NEED credit. Investors don’t NEED deal flow. To the contrary, we can take the artifacts of our isolation over the past 50 years and weave them into a network across which value can be exchanged by interconnected, inter-dependent efficiencies rather than scarcity based isolation. This means that every person who ever had an idea and wanted to take it to scale but failed, should be invited into a Gordian Trust. Every angel investor who ever put money into a deal (usually backing the person as much or more than the artifact) should be invited to place their deals into the Trust. And every researcher who was certain that just one more spin of creativity would have yielded a result should be invited to place their ideas into the Trust. Then, by explicitly interconnecting the seemingly disparate threads, an ecosystem could be built. This ecosystem would, from our analysis at M•CAM, have a present market value in monetary terms in excess of two trillion dollars based on what we know is in the public domain, sitting unused. And rather than ownership, every steward member of the Trust could participate as a common member of the trust dividing proceeds however they saw fit. Ironically, this would yield a structure that no blade could drive asunder and we just may solve – at long last – the real message in the myth. Maybe a knot, tied in homage to unanticipated success, has its finest destiny as a knot.

The ox cart is coming with an eagle flying in advance of the towering clouds…. FLASH!


Saturday, September 18, 2010

Dancing in a Barn…

I need a hero, I’m holdin’ out for a hero ‘til the end of the night...He’s gotta be strong, and he’s gotta be fast, and he’s gotta be fresh from the fight…
He’s gotta be sure, and it’s gotta be soon, and he’s gotta be larger than life.

- Jim Steinman and Dean Pitchford recorded by Bonnie Tyler

O.K., I’ll admit it. When I got the vinyl record of Footloose as soon as it was released in 1984, few things were more blood-pumping than to pop my home-recorded cassette copy of the album into the stereo of my fire engine red Plymouth Arrow (complete with a dragon hood ornament) and fly around the back roads of Lancaster County Pennsylvania. Windows down, I’d cruise past my horse-and-buggy driving Mennonite neighbors blasting this tune in hopes of letting someone know (even if was just the horse) that I was not going to be a conformist playing by anybody’s rules. By the way – same tape – Gloria (Laura Branigan, 1983) and Total Eclipse of the Heart (another Bonnie Tyler hit from 1982)! And in case you’re wondering – ABBA had its own tape!

As I waited for my flight in the US Airways Club in LaGuardia, I heard Anderson Cooper’s promotion of CNN Heroes awards. There was a great little piece on a young man – last year’s recipient – from the Philippines who created push cart classrooms to educate children throughout the country. “Send in your nominations,” was the admonition, “and then get ready to vote for your hero.”

I had come to New York on this trip for a number of reasons. I spent my morning meeting with a few folks who are looking a trying to deal with massive water contamination issues in the Rocky Mountain states where the oil and natural gas industries are dumping unimaginable quantities of water onto public lands. In the afternoon, I met with an exceptional couple who have grown a business from its humble start to a massive enterprise in seven years of hard work and tireless commitment. And then, in the evening I joined a few hundred fortunate souls in celebrating the opening of Ran Ortner’s Deep Water exhibition in Williamsburg – just across the bridge from the financial center of the expiring global empire.

Odysseus, Orpheus, Abraham, Jesus of Nazareth, Siddhartha, Achilles, Alexander the Great (did you ever wonder what happened to Alex the Mediocre or Al the Mundane?), Mother Theresa, Ronald Reagan, Osama bin Laden, Sarah Palin – pick your religion, culture, time, or insanity as the case may be and for some reason, we tell ourselves that we “need a hero.” Let “our” world collapse under our own greed and stupidity – as it has – and see a country like China actually see its fortune rising and suddenly, our spandex-caped superheroes like Tim Geithner, Chuck Schumer, and the horde of dysfunctional Congressional sycophant minions race to grab the mantle of bully-in-chief. What is it about our social value system which leads us to the pathologic addiction to seek heroes? Why is it that we seem to have a systemic incapacity to realize that what is needed is collective accountability and behavior adjustment? When will we have the courage to engage in anonymous change for a better manifestation of humanity?

I am reminded of a conversation I recently had with a dear friend regarding past lives. We were musing over the fact that most “past lives” aspirations seem to disproportionately claim ties to known figures. Few people recall being the village misfit. I’ve yet to meet the person who actually celebrates their past existence as an under-achieving, slothful dude at a pub who just drank his liver into oblivion. That’s it. Didn’t do a thing. Just coasted through a nameless existence and then, poof, died. Nothing. No, it’s far more interesting to be the person who stood in the rain with Joan of Arc, sword in hand, ready to do whatever was being done in the appropriately dramatically lit moment. It’s far more enchanting to have been Merlin’s alchemist. If we have sufficient humility, we realize that it’s pretentious to claim to BE Joan of Arc or Merlin but we certainly know that we were their right hand man or woman. Even better, we were their inspiration or muse! What’s even better is that many actually claim to have been mythical characters. I can’t wait to hear someone claim to be comedian Demetri Martin’s Paradoxataur – a mythical creature that exists only when you don’t believe it exists.

In St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City there’s a curiosity. If you go to the front of the church behind the altar, you see some of the most ornate wood carving in the place. In the Library of Congress, there’s a book cabinet with recessed hinges that are magnificent. In the Ming tombs near Badaling, five stories underground there’s a 10 ton stone door which swings effortlessly on a ball and socket pivot. At the Ha’amanga in the Kingdom of Tonga, three large stones are precisely placed to signify something very important that justified immense effort but has long been lost to time. And, in each one of these instances, the thing that stands out is that this unimaginable effort and mastery stands as evidence of greatness – anonymously.

As I watched Ran Ortner deftly glide around the gallery at the opening, I reflected on a conversation he, Adam, Colleen, and I shared previously. To understand how to paint his exquisite works, he took the time to understand HOW the masters painted. He wanted to know the chemistry of their oils and palettes. He wanted to know how restoration artists could reproduce centuries lost techniques. And then, through tireless experimentation, miles of canvas and gallons of nut, wood, and organic oils, he found HIS expression which now graces
the aesthetic of humanity alongside masterpieces of times before. Ran is not a hero. Rather, he’s an amazing role model of human discipline which confronts life with the humility of knowing that wisdom has come before and that the race against mortality is most delicious when lasting communications of wisdom can be shared.

Heroes are part and parcel of our reflex to see the world through the dramatic lens of crisis. We are not in an environmental or financial crisis. We are harvesting fruit long planted and entirely predictable. The fact that we’re the harvesting generation is not dramatic – it’s just the way things are. And we don’t need heroes. What we all are invited to do is realize that transformation happens not through Herculean bursts of strength. After all, the half-life of a reflex is only one quarter the time required to actually engage in cognitive response. Don’t believe me? Watch the squirrel on the road next time and see yourself in the mirror. Lasting transformation happens in the community accountability that recognizes that persistent performance – not panic – are animator, motivator and reward.

Bonnie, Laura, ABBA – I still groove to those tunes in the moments when the radio plays the flashbacks to the 80s. But like my cassette tapes and my Plymouth Arrow, we’ve outgrown this impulse addiction. But Kevin Bacon dancing alone in a barn doesn’t change a town. No, it takes everybody on the dance floor rockin’ a different tune. Let’s dance.

P.S. Thank you to the two contributors who actually shared information with InvertedAlchemists responding to last week’s challenge. See, there’s more than just a glimmer of hope for us all!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Sweet Little Lies

A record number of Americans now live below the poverty line. Four people lost their lives and hundreds were displaced by this week’s pipeline explosion in San Bruno. Two people lost their lives in Afghanistan during a protest of the threat of burning of sacred books. These are some of the facts that greeted humanity this week. And after we slowed down on the highway of life enough to create a traffic jam as we watched the stories unfold in disbelief, we passed another week with little more than a traffic jam. Next week, more headlines. Next week more cognitive traffic jams. Next week, more of…?

During the same week, violent clashes erupted in Guinea – the West African nation which is rich in aluminum and iron ore yet remains one of the most poverty ridden countries on earth with over 63% of the population officially under the poverty line according to UNICEF. The governor of New Ireland, Papua New Guinea, Sir Julius Chan was quoted this week in an interview by Radio New Zealand as saying, “We do not support the expansion of the mine [LIHIR just taken over by Newcrest] because we are not convinced that they are telling us the truth about the impact on the environment and the tailings dumped 150 meters down into the sea.” Marketed by Bloomberg Businessweek (August 30 – Sept 5, 2010) as “The Evangelist”, Thomas Kaplan was celebrated along with David Iben of Nuveen Investments (another Bloomberg hero) for their market savvy generating massive investment returns at the expense of thousands of people and generations of environmental destruction. At a recent meeting in Ulaanbaatar, I had the privilege of hearing Mr. Zorigt D., Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy of Mongolia and President Mr. Elbegdorj T. challenge a global audience to hold up a single example where a resource-rich country actually succeeded in aligning such prosperity with benefit to its people. The list, they both said, of failed experiments is quite long. However, the examples of success are isolated and short-lived.

Coming off the seven-week series on Integral Accounting, the headlines and celebrants of the past week were particularly poignant. Somewhere along the line, we’re going to find out that the pipeline in San Bruno had known problems and that it wasn’t “cost effective” to fix them. Just like it wasn’t cost effective to fix the bridge over the Mississippi prior to August 1, 2007. Somewhere along the line we’re going to find out that declaring a “war on poverty” is as effective as a “war on terrorism”. By picking an anonymous, de-humanized enemy, we can pretend to be doing something while accomplishing nothing substantive at all. Remember how well the “war on drugs” worked? Ask yourself how much we’re spending to “secure our borders” with Mexico and see if you can see why our reflexive response to things we don’t really care about changing is less than stellar in obtaining any outcome whatsoever.

Lyndon B. Johnson, during his State of the Union address on January 8, 1964 declared “War of Poverty”. To be clear, this week, we surpassed the poverty level that was the impetus for the war. Mission accomplished? I think not. Richard M. Nixon declared a “War on Drugs” June 17, 1971. This week, Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were sparring on whether Mexico was as bad as Colombia. Mission accomplished? I think not. In March of 1954, Joseph McCarthy declared “War on Communism”. A tired Fidel Castro told the Atlantic Magazine this week that “the Cuban model doesn’t even work for us anymore.” Mission accomplished? Hardly. In fact the last bastion of communist economic and social planning is the bank from which our capitalism is currently over-drafted. And in a recent op-ed in the Huffington Post, State of the World co-founder Jim Garrison laments that the fact that the forces aligned to tackle climate change and global warming have failed in their mission.

So I was thinking about what one can learn from legacy of the summer of 2010. In the past four weeks, we’ve seen ourselves as a human race come face-to-face with the reality that our Wars On… responses have all failed. Iraq is no safer and Afghanistan is seeing escalation in violence. Aging infrastructure is crumbling and exploding while “Jobs Stimulus” money is being used for repaving over our rotten pipelines. Democrats and Republicans volley accusations about what to do about the economy while the G-20 leaders hang their heads in exhaustion facing the realization that none of the levers that they used to wield seem to work on the economic locomotive currently hurtling out of control. And central bankers can’t even find respite fly fishing in Wyoming as they know that new bank regulations won’t change the fundamental problem.

Wars appear to work when people are ignorant of all the facts. Wars appear to work when frenzy can replace facts. Wars appear to work when ideologues replace civil, respectful repartee with rhetoric. Wars appear to work when we accept the lies we are fed by the purveyors of propaganda. We’ve got to end the policy of accepting lies as explanations for the way things are. Bush era tax cuts didn’t create jobs and extending them won’t do a thing. Throwing money at road projects while sewers, pipelines, bridges and oil platforms rust and fail doesn’t stimulate the economy. Promoting “democracy” at the end of a gun barrel where ideologies have never valued individual freedom doesn’t get us closer to human rights. Celebrating mineral investment returns while seeing growing environmental degradation is NOT acceptable. Bloomberg should tell the other stories and see how they’re received. This past week, we highlighted one of the biggest tax abuses in the U.S. – the research and experimentation tax credit. For the past five years, the Internal Revenue Service has had evidence of massive abuses in this credit – they’ve even written internal memos about how abuse-prone it is – yet the Obama administration has the audacity of suggesting that making this permanent will “stimulate the economy and create jobs”.

To turn this around, we need to reclaim dignity and integrity. Beginning this week, tell the truth and expect the same in return. Beginning this week, if you see a bridge that’s rusted, write a note to the department of transportation. If you see profits being celebrated, take the time to look behind the numbers and see if that cheap aluminum in the airplane manufacturer’s product is coming from Guinea. Look at your investments in your retirement account. If you don’t know how the money is being made – FIND OUT! The only way lying works is if people like you don’t care enough to fact check what you’re being told. And if you start fact checking and sharing what you find, others will too. I challenge you to the following. Add one piece of information that you didn’t know about one of your investments to the end of this blog so that others can see it. One of two things will happen. Either none of you will rise to the challenge and thereby reinforce my point that we’re too lazy to care… or… some of you will do it and we’ll all be better for it. In the first instance, we’re still better off because when we know we don’t care, we actually are close to realizing that WE are where transformation needs to start. Let’s declare peace with truth and see if the warring impulse fades.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Integral Accounting: Well-Being – Part 7 of 7


…the capacity for any person or ecosystem to function at their optimal level where conditions are suitable for a person to be at liberty to fully engage in any activity or social enterprise entirely of their choosing as and when they so choose

Our current economic models abandoned humanity in the 18th century. While we take great consolation in the celebrated end of the trans-Atlantic slave trade we seem to conclude that slavery has been eradicated because it’s not a fixture in proximity to where we live. While we celebrate the more visible contribution of women in professional roles (now surpassing their male counterparts in absolute terms in many fields) we seem to conclude that gender discrimination is an anachronism. We don’t have our child labor sweatshops blighting our neighborhoods and pronounce public programs which will “leave no child behind.” Our multi-lateral organizations proclaim that we will “end poverty”, “empower women”, and defend the “rights of children”.

However, thinly veiled behind our proclamations is reality. When the military recruits most of its combat enlistees from economically disadvantaged communities promising a pathway to economic and educational benefits, are we really seeing free choice? When we see a world in which single mothers (a growing percentage of child care-givers) have to extend their work hours to make ends meet costing them personal and family engagements, are we really closer to a gender honoring society? When our children are fast-tracked into training and conditioning programs (marketed under the labels of head-starts) at the expense of spending time with grandparents, parents and friends, are they more likely to be equipped to choose lives of personal and community citizenship? In a world where philanthropy and multi-lateral non-governmental organizations rely on the largesse of those who gained their wealth through exploitative consumption, are we closer to ending poverty, oppression and injustice or are we placating what’s left of a conscience?

If you are reading this blog (first of all, congratulations for sticking with the series) I’ve got some challenging news for you. If you share an Integral Accounting world view and seek to live in a more rational human community, you will likely need to take stock of where you are in the system and get ready for some adjustments. If we really want everyone to have opportunities to engage in a world at their optimal level, we will need to find a path to suitability and modesty in a way that is foreign to many.

And herein lies the deepest challenge between US and transformed consciousness. And, mind you, we’re not alone in our predilection, in expediency, to conclude that it’s simply too much work thus reverting to the complacency that leaves our headaches for future generations. After all, when Eleanor Roosevelt, Rene Cassin, Charles Malik, Peng Chun Chang set out in 1948 to get the world to agree that all humans “are born free and equal in dignity and rights,” they thought this concept would take off. Their vision, which launched what became the seven core human rights treaties (International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD, 1969); International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR, 1987); International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (HRC, 1976); Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW, 1982); Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT, 1987); Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC, 1990); and, the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (CMW, 2004)). However, in its most recent report, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) is sanguine about the fact that many States are neither reporting nor addressing the conventions’ adherence. Backlog in complaints extend beyond two years in several instances. Precisely how long can one be hungry, homeless, enslaved, trafficked or oppressed before “backlog” becomes a euphemism for “we don’t care”?

You see, in a scarcity-based, mortality-incentivized, debt-ridden consumer industrial model the world accepts that we’re “doing what we can” with the resources optioned from national governments and philanthropic sources. However we’re missing the deepest point in Integral Accounting. Supporting Well-Being isn’t a nice-to-have luxury to be supported by discretionary largesse derived from profits. Well-Being is a TOP LINE INVESTMENT. Well-Being is about an ecosystem in which we operate – not the moralistic clean up operation after we’ve bankrupted our land, communities and fellow human beings. Double-bottom line – NONSENSE! By the time we get to the bottom line, we’ve already acquiesced and the line between charity and condescension is terribly blurry. We need to wake up to the fact that there is NO profit in a model which forced another human being or any other component of our shared ecosystem to suffer in silence so we could pretend that we profited.

At this point it’s relevant to point out that most of what passes for “conventional wisdom” in how business is done is propagated and manipulated by the spokespersons for less than 1% of all enterprises on earth – publicly listed companies. The vast majority of enterprises on Earth do a better job at approximating Integral Accounting because they realize that they’re only as good as the team that makes them tick. And even giant firms often have Integral Accounting in their earlier history. The great Dutch bank – Rabobank – began as a financing cooperative between farmers and bakers.

Which brings us to an interesting point. It is quite conceivable that our biggest stumbling block towards a more viable, suitable world is our insatiable delusion that “bigger” and “growth” are metrics of success. Ironically, every possible data point in nature tells us that this proposition is ludicrous yet somehow we maintain the insanity that “growth is good”. History shows us that bigger and well-being are not frequent companions. In fact, I suspect you’d be hard-pressed to find a single instance where the bigger an enterprise got, the more well-being was evidenced in its ecosystem. I’m reminded of a large company which is consistently rated as one of the best places to work in America but, interestingly has an employee divorce rate over twice the local average. It may be a great place to work but something about the ecosystem implies that it’s not quite as great a place to live and love!

What does TOP LINE Well-Being look like? For starters, it means that the entire ecosystem in which an endeavor is undertaken sits at a table (with full, equal, and informed transparency) and organizes the endeavor aligned with the principles set forth in this series. Rather than asking the question, “What percentage of the workforce will be hired locally?” it commits to insuring that all parties engage in whatever level of an interaction they wish to engage. And guess what. If you’re exploring for natural gas in Papua New Guinea, this means that you will train brilliant local talent to work alongside geologists and engineers so that they have equivalent participation. If you’re planning to extract rare earth metals out of coal fly ash, it means you engage the children of miners who died from black lung and have them involved with deploying technology with a conscience. If you’re expanding an investment banking analyst back-office programming shop in India, you make sure that your recruits spend as much time in New York and London as the MBAs from Wharton, Chicago, and Darden. If you’re looking to expand business into Mongolia, you start with an investment in re-engaging the nomadic yak herders who saw 20 million head of livestock die in the icy winter of 2009. If you’re building a publishing business to promote a service industry in the US, you make sure that your staff is part of your success from day one with great housing, access to schools, and all the benefits of life. TOP LINE Well-Being is an explicit recognition that every endeavor is made possible by factors well beyond the control or influence of a single person or entity. And if ANY part of the value chain is placed under stress and fails to benefit in a suitable fashion, the entire value chain is placed at risk.

I’m pretty sure that Well-Being will not be achieved by conventions, declarations, and rights. I’m pretty sure that Well-Being won’t be legislated or imposed. In fact, I suspect that we won’t get closer to Well-Being by launching the next campaign to end whatever is the scourge du jour. No, I am certain that Well-Being will be recognized when we see ourselves and our surroundings for what they are and then follow an impulse that aligns our momentary appreciation with the sentiment evoked by those surroundings.

I sat at a rooftop dinner in Manhattan this week with a 28 year old media professional. This young lady was deeply engaged in a conversation that swirled around the globe touching on issues ranging from the environment, to economics, to politics, to intrigue. When I raised the topic of the media’s silence on issues of injustice around the world, I saw something change. She said, “I wish that there was a way to tell people and make them care but, at the end of the day, it’s all about business – if you’re story doesn’t sell something, nobody cares.” Her face darkened as she said this and she found a recess in her being somewhere which longed for a different narrative. “Well, that will change,” I replied.

So, here’s the deal. Having conducted business for almost two decades by practicing an ever-deepening understanding of Integral Accounting I know that I’ve learned a lot. I also know I’ve got a lot left to learn. But I thought the perfect way to end this series is by offering you something in exchange for your taking time to be part of this effort. If any of you would like to have a detailed Integral Accounting audit or brainstorming session for your company, organization, or group, I’ll commit to doing a one day session in exchange for you evidencing at least two dimensions of integral value exchange with third parties. If you come to Charlottesville to be my guest, you’ll also find out that I’m a good cook – but that will be a different blog! Love and Light! Dave