Laddership Breakout On Money+Transformation

Posted by Audrey Lin on Jul 19, 2015
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From India to France, Canada to Dubai to California and beyond, thanks for yesterday's breakout on Money+Transformation! :)

So many rich insights shared, from themes of children and play-- like Kozo's childhood relations with monopoly money, Min's teenage observation of the incongruities between money earned and value produced, Joel collecting (or not collecting :)) money on his childhood paper route, Natasha's 3-year unplanned unpaid adventure in remembering herself as a 'child of the universe'-- to the idea of stewarding resources-- such as Deven sharing his family's home in Goa and receiving so much in the process, Zilong's guiding principle of life's impermanence and opportunity to share PB&J to visiting school kids :), how Arathi's decision to subsidize a summer sublet ultimately supported the young subletter's journey-- to Sachi's balance of social and corporate sectors, Pranidhi's mention of the pragmatic responsibility of money and privilege, Saejung and Geet holding space with their deep listening and pre-reflections, and Bonnie, Fernando, Lacey, and Birju submitting their thoughts on the theme, even though they weren't able to join the call!

For those who'd like to listen to the call, we've posted a temporary (raw) audio recording of it, which you can access through that link for the next week.

Thank you all, for co-creating such an enriching conversation! Much gratitude to Deven and Joel, for seeding the circle with your rich questions and experiences, and to Min, for guiding the conversation with such vibrant perspective!

As a bit of a recap, Min opened our circle some probing questions. As a teenager growing up in Singapore, she wondered, "One side of my family is in banking and making so much money while the other side is involved in social work and making much less money. Can we really say one side is creating more value?" and asking her parents, "If Singapore is getting richer, who's getting poorer?" To which her parents replied, "Go ask your uncle, he's an economist." :)

She noted that "our own relationship with money requires immense self-honesty and learning," and wondered: How can we shift a fear and scarcity relationship towards abundance and flow?

Next up, Deven in India shared insights from his wide range of personal and professional lenses on money. From spending 20 years in capital markets focused on earning money to shifting over the last few years towards service, he's viewed money from multiple perspectives and always with an underlying theme of how it interplayed with his inner and outer world.

He pointed out the practice of over-charging, and highlighted an point in 2008, when he was running a startup and was selected to anchor a television show geared towards bringing people out of debt. As he got involved, he realized that while the face of it was messaging an intention to bring people out of debt, in actuality, it was actually creating deeper cycles of debt. Though the position offered also included a high salary, as Deven realized the underlying intentions and practices behind this show, he sat down and prayed to find a way to peacefully step away from his commitments to it. A few days later, the show announced its cancelation, due to issues with the production company.

Another theme Deven shared was around multiple forms of capital. One example from his own experiments with this occurred when he and his wife decided to open up their home in Goa. They lived in Mumbai and rented out the second property in Goa, but the decided to offer it as a space for friends and other community members to stay there, completely as a gift from their hearts. In the process, he noted, "The kind of people we were able to host, and the kind of experiences we were able to follow transformed both of us."

Then, last year, he visited the US for a conference and didn't have a clear sense of where he'd stay. He downloaded Air BnB and Uber apps on his phone, and all he knew was that Birju would pick him up from the airport. But for the entire 40 days of his trip, he never once needed to use those apps. As he engaged with people he met--from strangers to friends to strangers-turned-family-- he was continually taken care of without asking or expecting it. In reflection, he noted how perhaps the spirit with which he decided to share his home in Goa for others enabled him to tune up with that same spirit from those he met on his travels.

With the array of perspectives, we transitioned to Joel in Paris, who began his share with gratitude for the opportunity to engage in this conversation together. He then noted how transformation is an on-going thing: "It's not like, 'Oh I'm going to get my relationship with money one day,'" but rather, it's a dynamic, ever-evolving process that really never ends. :)

Then he shared some stories from growing up in the United States-- how being from the Baby Boomer generation, his parents had actually grown up in the Great Depression. As a boy, he had a paper route which he enjoyed a lot. And after delivering papers, he would go and collect money from the homes. As a child, he didn't need that much money, and when he had collected enough money for himself, he would stop and not bother to collect money from the homes along the rest of the route, even though he had delivered them papers. When his parents found out about this, they scolded him. :) Looking back, he noted how at that time, there wasn't much thinking around what to do with a surplus of money-- and how to employ that surplus in a way that supports others.

As an adult, he began working in banking, and started earning very high salaries. But he noticed, he simultaneously started accumulating debt. Throughout his time in the banking industry, he "always had about 1 year's salary in debt." Later on, after a life-threatening illness, he shifted his focus and fell into a singing career across Europe. Being exposed to so many languages, cultures, and currencies openned him up to the array of lifestyles. He built relationships and connections with people, and started to see how "money is really about the kind of engagement" we hold with others. For 20 more years, he focused on engaging with people rather than making money, and noticed that he rarely needed to worry about his finances.

At the turn of the 21st century, as his singer career began to tone down, he began creating programs for business schools in Asia. In that process, he saw more deeply how "business is relationships and money is a tool". Through his array of experiences, he highlighted two themes: Surplus: How do we foster the best usage of our funds/resources, when there are abundant resources? Debt: Are there conditions under which borrowing and lending can be an empowering experience for everyone concerned? Min added to the pot of questions-- wondering, on the topic of surplus, "How much is enough? How do we even understand our notion of enough?" as well as on balance: "Is balance about being engaged in that childlike understanding of flow, when we stop thinking and worrying about the material stuff? Or is it about apportioning our time between earning money and engaging in pure giving and service?"

With such rich opening shares, we flowed into a vibrant open mic conversation. Below are some quotes heard from around the circle.

Arathi: "Right before I jumped on the call, I realized I lost my credit card. It was an interesting intro into this call... I'm just sitting right now a lot with just living in the questions for myself, of understanding how to heal our relationship to money, and how to change my approach of feeling scarce. When there's not a steady stream of income coming in, I jump into a scarcity mode more quickly than I'm able to be aware of it. ...I'm coming to realize that everybody's relationship with money deepens and heals based on insights into their journey and wisdom. Everyone's got their own tools to live into that question."

Sachi: "Working in a business, it's a social entrepreneurship, and we're trying to build a business on values. It's hard, because, honestly, the world is not like that. We're in a cut-throat competition situation, and trying to figure out how to be with those values and not feel the scarcity that the world wants to make you feel."

Pranidhi: "How do we make change fundamentally in these systems, so that the system's relationship with money is transformed? And so we start to value contributions in a different way. So perhaps we get to a place where investment bankers aren't making millions of dollars while cooks in the back of a restaurant are making less than minimum wage. How do we make that transformation on a systemic level?"

Joel: Lynne Twist has offered a really interesting language shift around this. She's worked a lot with what we have called, "poor people"... and she points out how most of those people who are in 'resource-poor' circumstances have more courage in one day to live than the rest of us could come up with in our lifetime.

Zilong: "One question that helps me to be less uptight about money (or other resources like peanut butter and granola in my drawer :)) is the thought that I could die tomorrow. ...We have lots of school groups who come through [Casa de Paz, where I live], and there was a big jar of peanut butter that I bought that I was really excited about, and the school group just made it disappear. I was really frustrated, and thought "That's MY peanut butter!" But then another thought came: "Well, there's a real possibility that I could die at any moment. Would I rather die with a full jar of peanut butter sitting in the drawer? Or would I die with a happy group of school kids who have enjoyed their PB&J sandwiches?" That thought helped me loosen up to realizing "Great, if this is the moment, let all the resources go. And open myself up to other forms of capital."

Arathi: "This conversation really makes me think about that deep element of trust and walking into that uncertanty. And it has nothing to do with that actual, physical abundance, but everything to do with where we are internally."

Natasha: "Individually, and collectively, we have this very adult thinking that we're in control... You look at children, and they have no concern as to how they're provided for... There was a time in my life when I disconnected with the commercial world, and I was put in a circumstance where I had to become like a child. ... It was amazing to remember that I was a child of the universe, and that I didn't have this control.... Going back to that place of being a child and realizing that I have faith in the universe. And that collectively, our issues around money can be resolved in ways we can't even imagine are possible. And also coming back to this sense of play. The practice that comes up for me is: Find Your Play. ...Those 3 years, I was completely in the moment and passionate about what I was doing from being in a place of service... It's play, surrender, and work with all your skills."

"I went to India and thought I'd go and serve these kids in the slums, and I came back realizing these kids are happier than all the kids here who live in such abundance."

Kozo: Bonnie wrote, “If money had a personality, I bet it’d want to get out there and play.” ... It reminds me of play money, as a kid, I remember playing monopoly and how there was all this money. When the game was over, I thought, 'I'm going to keep this money.' I put it in my wallet, and after a few days, I'm walking around with $500 monopoly bills and I thought, 'This stuff is completely useless if you're not playing.'"

Deven: "I was reminded of 3 questions that I've used in this life-planning process: (1) If money wasn't a constraint, what would your life look like? What would you do if money wasn't a concern? (2) If the doctor said you just have 5 years to live, what would you want to accomplish? (3) What if this was your last day? What are the things you'd regret not having done? When we answer these 3 questions, we often reflect on why we're stopping before looking at these things. It’s often our own constraints that make us think money is not valuable. ...In almost all my interactions with resource-poor people, ... I've seen a common thread of this belief in God or the higher self and the idea that "someone is going to take of us". I think learning about money and inner transformation from resource-poor people, at least the ones I’ve interacted with, has taught me some of the most important lessons."

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