You know those moments when you’re sitting in the exact place you’re supposed to be at the exact time?
I had one of those moments tonight.
Normally, when I have that right place, right time, serendipitous feeling, it has to do with a guy, some stars and some crazy romantic story.
Tonight was different; it was about business. Not so sexy at first glance, but when you put a bunch of people in a room who are super passionate about making the world of business a better place—sure, in some way you can say that’s sexy.
Tonight I attended a discussion about Conscious Capitalism in San Francisco with Jeff Klein, author of Working for Good and Doug Rauch, the former CEO of Trader Joes. I was sitting in this room listening to these guys talk and found myself nodding my head in perfect synergy with mostly everything they were saying. It was one of those nights where every conversation was compelling, informative, yet familiar and reinforcing of ideas that I have had many for years. A room full of conscious, amazing business people who collectively participated in a form of guided meditation before they started engaging in conversation.
I’m home, I thought to myself. Yet, it took me a while to get here.
Before I get into the rest of my story, I want to briefly explain what we’re talking about when we use the word “consciousness” as it relates to business.
“To be conscious means to be awake, mindful… A conscious business fosters peace and happiness in the individual, respect and solidarity in the community, and mission accomplishment in the organization.”
~ Fred Kofman, from Conscious Business
Conscious Capitalism recognizes that capitalism is an amazing means for exchanging energy. However, we have to ensure that this exchange is done in a meaningful sustainable way, and that yes, this is possible. I would recommend checking out the book Conscious Capitalism, but the long story short of it, as translated by yours truly: be kind, innovative, creative, sustainable, create trust and opportunities where everyone (and everything, i.e., the environment) is positively impacted.
Simple enough, right?
For years I could never find a way to marry these concepts: business and consciousness. Like many of us, I had my businesswoman, Ann Taylor Loft-wearing, Lexus-driving, somewhat materialistic side. Then I had my conscious, yoga, hippie, gypsy side, who was afraid that making money would derail my path to enlightenment. These two sides of myself spoke different languages, wore different ‘uniforms,’ played different parts, and were completely unaligned.
During my many years of working in the corporate world, I often wondered why there was a lack of consciousness in business. Why is everyone so fake and competitive? Why is it okay to use “it’s business” as an excuse to throw all compassion, empathy, kindness (and sometimes ethics) out the window?
Colleagues would often say, “I’m only like this at work. I am actually a really cool, funny, nice person outside of work.”
Really? Well, then just be a nice person right now. I dare you.
I actually once had someone say they were working on being more of an asshole as part of their leadership development strategy (true story). Good luck with that.
As a former communications manager, I knew how to speak “corporate,” but would sometimes use words like “holistic” and “empowerment” in the development strategies I was creating—a clear no-no in business. I wasn’t surprised when responses to those words would often sound something like this: “Stop saying the word ‘holistic’ if you want to work in corporate America; it scares people.”
All of these instances in the corporate world eventually made me want to have nothing to do with it and I eventually became a full fledged “hippie/gypsy” who lived in a garage and decided I didn’t want to own any material possessions because capitalism was bad. But then, after my last stick of Nag Champa burned out, I realized that sitting in a room, in a garage in a beach town in Southern California wasn’t proving anything, and the entrepreneur spirit in me was begging me to get back out there.
So, I packed up my garage and began the co-creation of a company where we do things a little differently.
A year later, I have a growing brand and event management company that is committed to integrating purpose and meaning into everything we do. We ensure that every project we take on positively impacts the health, happiness, well-being and prosperity of all involved. I no longer have to play the part of an unaligned competitive businesswoman/part-time hippie. I can just be me: 70 percent businesswoman, 30 percent gypsy.
So, yes, tonight was one of those nights where the stars aligned, the messaging was clear and my thoughts of a business world where people were kind to each other didn’t seem like an impossibility. It was a night where I could talk about the beauty of collaboration, purpose and meaning in business, and people didn’t look at me like I was crazy.
No, the world won’t change tomorrow, but it’s nights like these that really make you believe it is possible.
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Ed: Brianna Bemel