He Who Dies With The Most Toys, Still Dies, Week 4
Posted by Liam Chai on Jul 7, 2016
Audrey kicked us off with seed questions for the first round of sharing:
How was this week’s practicing of converting one form of wealth to another?
What questions emerged from the theme of the week?
What are examples of multiple forms of capital that you encountered this week?
John, our opening batsman started off with a very genuine share on his relationship with money. “I get so frustrated by money because it just complicates so much of what I want to do and where I want to go... People are always saying to me, "John if you don't value yourself nobody else will value you." But i don't feel valued when I get money, I feel valued when I look someone in the eye and realise that I've impacted them.” Coupled with needing to provide for his wife and four kids John had us all empathising with the challenges of this balance.
Laurie shares that she is looking for the right way - as if there was a right way. “How much do I need to think about money and how much do I not need to think about money?” She echoed John’s sentiments about not feeling valued when she receives money, “it’s about the miracles that happen between people.”
Meghna, after having a different type of conversation with relatives offered a beautiful quote, “If I take care of myself, the world is not going to take care of me. But if I take care of the world, the world is automatically going to take care of me.” She asked questions about where the seeds of hatred were being planted, and what if we could hold it right from it’s foundation? Not just addressing the upper level symptoms of terrorism, violence or greed, but down to the roots where we can start working individually, however we are.
Rina shared her family’s background, and how her parents grew up in poverty, “and even now there’s this sense of fear of not having enough.” She notes how she is seeing that financial capital isn’t the only form of capital, and shared a story of how a mentor of hers who she would often get advice from ended up coming to her to ask her for advice about alternative forms of capital. “I graduated from school and for years i thought i was going to take over my family's business or go into a corporate job... but i decided not to do any of those and see what would emerge… All these other doors are opening, it's almost like magic.”
During her time in London, Samar set a challenge to live on £5 a day. She reflected on how it was easy to live on little, but also how she used to throw money all over the place. Coming back to her family in Beirut she wanted to share what she learned. “How do you scale [the idea of multiple forms of capital] to family, and then other people?” She reflected on the circle of reciprocity, and the challenges of having a small circle (like within a family). “In the family, the whole thing of reciprocity breaks down. One person becomes the constant giver or constant receiver.”
This week Bill reflected on some of the decisions he made in the past. “Could I have done more good if I stuck it out [in my job] and applied that wealth into a transformation of something better? Was it the best decision for not only my family but overall?” He reflected that there were moments of regrets, and maybe a wish that things were different, but 90-95% of the time everyone feels it was best for everyone in general. “I see around me that I am being a better influence in a number of different ways and it’s having a positive effect.” Although that possibility of perhaps doing more with more money is still there.
In India, Joserra shared about doing an experiment with gratitude capital, “I did one experiment this week, expressing gratitude to people using bicycles. I put postcards on bicycles in the street this week with heart pins - thank you for using the bike and taking care of our air. Taking care of our health.” :
I shared about dialing in from a patch of grass in a cemetery, noting the Nature Capital and Life Capital around me. There was also a funeral procession happening, and I reflected on the gift of life that we all have. I also reflected about how you need a bank account or the cash system in order to facilitate financial capital, and so maybe in order to facilitate compassion capital you need a base of attention capital first.
Nipun then transitioned us to popcorn style sharing on the theme, “How do you design for multiple forms of capital? Sometimes it’s very tangible, sometimes very intangible.” Like an hour for an hour within a timebank can be very neat. But asking someone to pay-it-forward can be very intangible.
Three Types of Reciprocity:
1. Generalized: giving without expectation of return/no concern how gift is affecting (giver) Example: parents giving to their children
2. Balanced: give with the expectation of return/time varies. Example: birthday gift
3. Negative: get something for nothing. Example: theft, gambling etc
In a circle of reciprocity, what goes around comes around. But when a circle breaks down, because one person is taking a disproportionate amount, do we have a tragedy of the commons? If there is no connection, there is no circle, therefore no flow of gifts - and a whole series of capital gets stripped away because of that lack of basis.
Audrey shared a story of seeing two kids with a lemonade stand while driving with a friend. Even though they were very late for a party, they had to pull over and support them. It wasn’t about financial capital, it was more about the connection and wanting to support two kids that had such great intention. She then shared the research [pdf] at UC Berkeley that finds we “Pay More When Paying for Others”.
Nipun then reflected about the design constraint of paying it forward. Maybe I gift to you and you don’t pay it forward until 30 years later. He also shared about Zilong’s pilgrimage and how he is logging every non-material gift he is receiving, and choosing to pay it forward at a later date.
Then Mihir shared, “You can put a value on only those things which you think you can see, but there are so many things behind which are invisible which you cannot value... So to put a value on something is predominantly an intellectual activity and therefore inherently fragmented, so right now all of you holding space for me to say what i want. What is the value of that? And if someone were to ask me, is it valuable to you? I would say yes. And if they asked how much? I would say I don’t know! I can’t put a value on it.”
Samar noted about a school she is doing her therapeutic training at doesn’t take any money from clients and how that changes the dynamic of the relationship with the clients. A sense of closeness is added because of the lack of money.
“We all probably know this, but when you have love then the effect of it is much different… We can add a lot of wealth to money with our volition” reflects Joserra. He then brought up Lynne Twist and the story of $50 vs. $50,000. Laurie asked, “What is so powerful about that? Intellectually I know the power was in the difference of what that money meant to the givers, yet I feel like there was much more to it, I’m not sure how [Lynne Twist] built so much of her life on that moment.”
Mihir mentioned the space from which those two gifts came from. “The guy who was giving the big amount came from a space that gives birth to and perpetuates poverty.” But the space from which the lady gave had the power to transform. Laurie said, “I still see it as making proportional value based on the number [e.g. $50 vs. $50,000).” What was it that made that turning point? What made Lynne Twist so moved by the $50?
Joserra reflected on seeing some of his heroes do certain things, and how that “has an affect on me and I cannot measure it… I want to be more compassionate and more loving because of that action I witnessed. How far that compassion travels with me, I cannot measure… And I think for Lynne Twist that was the power of that moment - it ignited something very deep in her.”
At an event a few weeks ago, John shared how he spoke up against some big organisations that were boasting about how much money they had given to the community, throwing the term ‘philanthropy’ around. John defined the term as ‘a love for humanity’ and what he saw these organisations do was not that - it was not about the size of the check, it was about the human being.
In answer to the question, “What would you do if a VC came to you and offered you a million dollars but you felt it was not from the right space, would you accept it?” Bill said “Yes I would absolutely take it.” He reflected about how it was about his motivation and what he would be able to make of it that mattered. “How can you transform it into something greater?”
“It might not be from a good space, but another space can be created” said Samar. She shared a story of a Seeker and a King who invited the Seeker to his palace to stay. After a few years of this, the King kicks the Seeker out and the Seeker is able to just leave it all behind with no attachments. “Money does not destroy space, it’s our attachment to the space that destroys it.”
John then shared a personal story of refusing an incredibly lucrative offer from a billionaire. He felt it was coming from a wrong space and that “I would have been sacrificing what I’ve been building up.” He shared how a few days later another billionaire approached him “who would be the polar opposite [of the other billionaire]”. And instead of asking him for support, “I’ve actually offered him stuff! I don’t feel like I have anything to ask him for [despite a lot of people advising me to ask him for this and that]”.
Meghna reflected about working with a superstar celebrity in the past and how a lot of her team’s values were being compromised. “But to keep that spirit authentic, we had to transform ourselves first.” When asked whether she would work with a celebrity again, “it depends on where the person is coming from. If this person wants branding, then definitely no. But if this person is trying to come to this space of understanding what we are creating in this process… If that’s there, yes of course.”
Audrey reflects, “When I feel motivated to give even though I don’t have a lot, it’s because I don’t feel like anything is mine. So it’s not even that I’m giving, it’s more like I’ve been given so much that I just want to keep it flowing because it’s not mine to hold onto.”
"He who dies with the most toys, still dies."
Adding a unique perspective, Rina says “Perhaps it’s not our relationship with financial capital that is the issue. It’s the relationship with the other forms of capital that we have in our lives.” She recalls growing up how her parents gave her the time capital that made her the person she is today. She shared how instead of spending 40 hours a week at a job working for financial capital, she is spending that time capital building other forms of wealth. Perhaps building up enough equanimity capital so she won’t even worry about financial capital.
In closing, everyone shared a sentence for what was coming up in that moment.
"Anything that is physical is just a tool and whatever you do with that physical entity is just giving birth to multiple forms of wealth in that process."
"There's always this conflict in intention, which form of capital is better? Should I be doing this, should I be doing that? If there is this background of stillness, the right choice will emerge by itself, rather than me trying to choose it and messing everything up"
“I want to keep cultivating a heart of giving because I know when I cultivate this heart and i cultivate that kind of giving, then there is always automatically receiving and I am taken care of."
"Through you all and in this conversation, something is cracking open in me, helping me to examine, honour and celebrate these other forms of capital that I receive. There's a part of the loop that you all are helping me to see."
“In a previous discussion I mentioned we can't know the value of a smile to the person receiving it. But can we do more to increase that value so that we are transferring more wealth than we anticipated?”
“In this circle, I've really noticed a shift in many different ways. I feel like there is a change and dynamic in the group. But I also feel that there's a change in myself. I'm very very thankful. This is the greatest value and greatest gift that anyone can actually receive. to be in a group like this is such a gift, such a powerful space.”
“I'm reminded of David Foster Wallace's speech of ''This is Water”... I feel like these conversations help me realise what’s the water I'm swimming in.”
“I have an answer to my question - make the circle bigger, fill it with water and keep swimming.”
“What is the greatest gift that anybody has ever given me? I'm realising it's the ability to be inspired. I feel very grateful to be inspired.”
“Reverence capital, a bumblebee has just arrived and I'm feeling gratitude and reverence.”