Saturday, February 17, 2018

Generosity Knows No Need

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Alright.  This post is a bit different so let’s agree to stay with it to the end.  Most of the moments of my life pass and I don’t pause to deeply reflect on them or assimilate “deeper wisdom” from them.  This is not one of those “most moments”.  This one is special.

I don’t know when human relationships started being transactional.  And try as I might, I can’t for the life of me see a rationale for that behavior.  Each day of my existence has been viewed through a simple lens.  I exist.  I exist in a context made up of others, a plethora of matter and energy, and the sum of all the experiences I and others have had and elect to share in some fashion.  And the “doing” of what I do involves perception, activation, design, conscription, action, reaction awareness, synthesis into experience and the cycle starts again.  For better or for worse, I don’t have a default that includes concepts like approval, permission, or validation as these are, in the end, notions that require the caprice of others – something that I have found largely unhelpful.

Due to my default towards self-directed action, the majority of those in my communities of influence assume that I “have all I need” and “there’s nothing that they can do to help.”  The former is almost true.  The latter is patently false.  But it’s not quite that simple. 

The value of the worldview with which I operate is a central understanding that I, and all of us, have ALL.  The notion of “need” – the very construct of the impulse that bears that name – is objectively erroneous.  We live in a world where abundance is reality and the illusion of “need” is derived from the unequal distribution of, and access to – not to the objective quantity of – anything.  (I find it fascinating that our common use of the term “need” has tripled in the last century suggesting that the industrio-consumer illusion is making us less satisfied.)  In short, when I do something, I don’t “need” anything as it is mine to accomplish the undertaking with the resources and energy I can conscript and engage. 

The corollary about nothing to do to help is incorrect.  While I’ve spent most of my life as an opportunity alchemist – in other words, taking what wasn’t visible and rendering it accessible and functional – I’ve done so in an effort to demonstrate the persistent and generative possibility of that mode of action in others.  I don’t do a thing so that others do it.  But I do do things, in part, to demonstrate that they can be done by merely engaging as a conscious being.  This distinction is important.  The motivation to act in every instance emanates from within an endogenous (internal) process.  And the action is not taken for a transactional return.  All that said, over the past several decades, I’ve been deeply saddened by the individuals I’ve experienced that come to expect benefit, absorb goodness, and neglect activating an equivalent mode of engagement in their own spheres.  When people come to expect a benefactor to “just be there” without considering the well-being of that person, resentment arises not from the absence of a transaction but from the neglect to enliven for the benefit of others.

Bottom line: there’s Enough to Go Around to quote my friend Chip Duncan’s book title.

Two parables in the New Testament of The Bible are wonderful examples of this.  The first, from Luke 17:11-19 is the story of 10 sick men who experience a healing.  The healer doesn’t heal expecting to be thanked.  He heals because he perceives the suffering of the men.  One, a foreigner, returns to thank the healer.  The other nine take and acknowledge nothing.  The other story is from Matthew 18:23-34.  In this story a debtor is forgiven a large debt by a king.  Once forgiven the debtor goes out and finds a servant who owes him money and, rather than perpetuating the mercy he’d just received, forces the servant to pay his debt.  Both of these stories (and thousands more) tell of acts of kindness, mercy, goodness, courage or generosity that are done.  Not FOR something.  They’re just done.  But the grievous offence is when the recipient of goodness does not then go on to embody and engage the same.  Goodness, like Light, just emanates.  When it’s absorbed or experienced, that’s great.  But when it doesn’t experience a propagation – NOT a reflection – then darkness builds. 

Now this is a long way to get to the beginning of this week’s post.  But you’ll see that it was worth the wait in a moment. 

Nineteen years ago, a dentist walked into my office with a polymer licensed from a regional university.  His aspiration was to use the polymer for the treatment of xerostomia – a painful condition afflicting many of his patients.  To his consternation, he learned that the pharmaceutical company selling a highly ineffective treatment for the disorder at exorbitant prices filed and owned a patent blocking a non-pharmaceutical intervention.  In other words, the drug company decided to make sure that their drug was the only solution available despite its limited effectiveness.  Holding the polymer in my hands, I suggested that the material could be used to cover burns and wounds and do so without harming the healing tissue.  The dentist and his business partner left and formed a company which today has healed the wounds of thousands.  In 2009 I was asked to develop a strategic product roadmap for the company and suggested a number of products which would address various infectious diseases and other health concerns.  One – a means of addressing the proliferation of MRSA – showed some early promise in military medicine.

A few weeks ago, I received a letter.  In it I was advised of a new commercial venture that was being considered based on one of my suggestions from a follow-up briefing in 2011.  “What would I need,” to be involved was the gist of the letter.

Yesterday, the same dentist and his wife came to my office.  As we gathered, I expressed my deep gratitude for the fact that this meeting represented the first time that anyone has returned to include me in a commercial idea that I gave them.  Billions of dollars have been made on ideas that surfaced from me.  This was the first time anyone came back to acknowledge and engage!  We sat down and had a deep conversation about the journey from 1999 to the present.  We talked about the ups and downs of the two-decade effort to build a company that now serves patients across the country.  We talked about the importance of keeping humanity in business.  We talked about the distraction and resentment that can come from being overlooked and ignored for the contributions that you make for the benefit of others.  We talked about the toll that our innovation ecosystems had placed on our families and relationships.  But most of all, we expressed gratitude for the fact that we shared common values about alleviating the physical suffering of people.  The greatest reward we both had experienced was the recognition that anonymous beneficiaries had better lives because our lives had intersected, activated and propagated goodness.

As I reflected on the conversation, I realized something quite profound.  This unsolicited impulse to re-engage, include, and collaborate ignited within me a strange new spark.  The ease with which the strategic roadmap for the new business flowed was effortless.  The provisioning for taking the first step to prototype was in place by the time the meeting ended.  By being fully human, by sharing a common commitment to hold gratitude as the cornerstone of our interaction, and by integrating whole-of-life conversations – not the B.S. that tries to keep “business” and “personal” apart – we put into motion commercial and social greatness that will keep us going for the next 20 years.

I’m the beneficiary of effervescent goodness.  I didn’t need it.  I didn’t want it.  But let me tell you what!  My life is the better for it.  Thank you, Guy and Robin Levy!

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Sunday, February 4, 2018

It’s Not Debt, It’s Soviet-Style Central Planning

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The last time a President and Congress combined to indebt the country like this year’s nearly $1 trillion proposed borrowing was when another President was yelling across the border taunting someone to “Tear Down That Wall!”  Funny how times have changed.  And above all, funny how those who celebrated Reagan’s badgering of the Soviet Union in how it treated its border regions are now those who are clamoring for…what’s that???  A wall!

Now, in fairness, it takes a lot of $20 billion walls to blow through a trillion dollars.  But as I watched the Super Bowl 52 (well done Philadelphia Eagles!) on my toasty Melbourne Monday afternoon what I found more irritating than the slightly over 2 minutes Tom Brady had at the game’s end to pull off a Brady come-back was the drumbeat of ads from the Australian Government in Canberra talking about the $200 billion it plans to spend on the “defense industry” in the next 10 years.  You heard that correctly.  In a world where civilized economies could be diversifying industries towards the 21st century in fields of health, food sustainability, energy and alternative utilities, the U.S. and its marsupial infested cousin to the South are going into debt to fund future conflict.  And before my holier-than-thou readers wag their heads in disapproval about what “others” are funding, let’s remember that the Treasury shows that it’s “households” that hold $1.345 trillion in Treasuries for their retirement, investment and insurance savings.  That’s right, to maintain the standard of living that you currently plan to have in your later years, you are funding a tired, conflict fueled behemoth.

Let’s unpack this a bit.  In our Soviet-style economic planning, we subsidize the industries that we use to define our national interest.  In the case of the U.S., no peacetime economy has ever lasted a generation without subsidized conflict.  Oh, and by ever, I mean since the 18th century!  From DuPont’s gunpowder to Raytheon’s missiles, we’ve decided that our ‘nation of values’ values death and destruction more than any other industry.  For the lazy reader, I’m including our obese expenditure on “health care” which spends over 30% of the TOTAL expenditure on the last year of “life”.  Dying, death, and debt are our national values!  And this year, this President and Congress are driving the hearse with NASCAR aggression. 

Now, in the case of the U.S., spending enormous sums on military technology, infrastructure and development makes sense.  We fight a lot!  And many of our policies disenfranchise the majority of the world’s population igniting hostilities in various locations.  But in the Land Warfare Doctrine of Australia, the last 40 years of deployments for armour have been in Vietnam, Somalia, Timor Leste, Iraq and Afghanistan.  With the exception of Timor (strategically important due to the oil and gas revenue “shared” with Australia), none of these conflicts were of strategic importance and none of them were fights that Australia picked.  In fact, NATO conflicts account for much of Australia’s defense “partnerships”.  That’s right!  The NORTH ATLANTIC!!!  So when the government announces $200 billion in expenditures in the next 10 years, what precisely is the Australian taxpayer getting for their money?  Security?  No.  They’re getting centrally-planned economy financial returns.  Defence of Australia (DOA) is not about the continent’s security.  It’s about maintaining global economic ties with certain allies. 

If one is to examine the present state of geopolitics, one of the highest probability conflict zones in the near future is the Northern Pacific.  Petulance between Washington and Pyongyang could ignite conflagration.  But with the inertia of history, conflict between China and the U.S. is highly probable.  Australia has 41% of its economic input coming from… uh oh… the wrong geoparadox.  Australia’s defence doctrine is unapologetic in its U.S. loyalty and its U.S. and European technological subjugation.  And when the U.S. and China are in conflict, Australia’s defence infrastructure will be pledged to the detriment of its largest customer (4 times more trade with China than the U.S.)!

President Trump’s massive debt expansion to subsidize the conflict he sees as inevitable almost makes perverse sense.  Australia’s military expansion to support that conflict stretches beyond the limits of ludicrous.  And while we’re at it, China’s offensive military capability is more likely to be in the communications and cyber infrastructure arena – not in an arena dominated by planes, submarines, and armour.  Is that the spending priority of the Turnbull government?  I’m afraid not.  In short, in a planned economy, bad decisions make bad industrial and economic policy inevitabilities.  In an unplanned, planned economy, $200 billion and the future of a nation are placed in peril.  But, never fear, according to the TV ad campaign, it’s where the jobs of the future are to be found!

Now back to the real winners.  China and emerging economies.  While the World War II allies continue their relentless descent into oblivion chasing the armored illusions of a secure past, real leadership is considering a world worth living in.  While Western-style economies have war, banking, disease management and electricity as their only levers, other parts of the world are examining alternative industrial futures independent from these legacies.  And while classically trained economists run around talking about the Fourth Industrial Revolution fueled by Klaus Schwab and his parka-clad sycophants in Davos, much of the world is seeing the Internet of Things, 3-D, quantum computing virtual as a world not worth pursuing.  Rather than looking at gadgets, real leadership is examining emancipation from the impulse that gave rise to the first industrial revolution – namely, the dominion of the few industrialists over the consuming masses.  Real markets, real economies, and the potential for actual civilization will not be delivered in a 4th turning.  It will be possible when We The People start treating each other with respect and humanity.  This could be called the First Human Awakening!

Take 2 hours and check out a deeper exploration of this latest film I'm working on:  American R/evolution


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