In preparing for the Priceless Pricing Pod
that is starting this weekend, i decided to capture some of what I have been reflecting on about how our concept of wealth can integrate gross and subtle forms of value.
When I landed my first job after college in 2005, I found myself fully immersed for the first time in the logic of the prevalent financial system. I was working in a company that makes stuff and bought into the idea that if I could use my skills to add value to this company then it would exchange my work for money, and I could use that money to buy the stuff needed to live a happy and healthy life. I was invited to open an investment account to save for retirement. The idea was that if I could add enough value to make more money than I needed to live, then I could invest my savings into productive assets (bonds, stock, CDs, etc.) that would make my money grow. My money would grow by making it available to others who could use it to make and sell stuff. If I was hard working, then I could accumulate so many productive assets that I could eventually live off of the interest, and this would be a state of abundance in which I would not need to keep working to take care of all of my needs. Of course, if I had any self respect, I wouldn’t stop and would keep using my skills to build more and more assets to build my net worth. If I really wanted to help others, then I could find ways to give from my abundance to others through philanthropy
This system didn’t sound so bad. The economy was booming, the company’s stock was doing great and I was managing to accumulate financial wealth for the future. But, it didn’t take long for me to start to realize that this seemingly innocent system was captured by values that didn’t resonate with me. I began to get the sense that we were all wearing a set of glasses that were tainting our experience in the world a specific color, and that this was just one way of viewing the world, and not the only way.
After a couple of years, I became disenchanted with this system. I was actively designing stuff that was designed to break earlier than it should, so that we could sell more stuff, with no concern for what this meant for the environment. I was actively moving operations from one country to another, with no concern for the disruption it was causing the support networks and wellbeing of those left in our wake. Furthermore, I was rapidly buying into a race to outcompete my colleagues in a way that was disconnecting me from myself and others. When a financial crisis started to rear its head in 2007, this system revealed its true colors protecting its financial wealth at all costs - the only thing it really valued. Now I could see the glasses I had been wearing and how they were tainting my world. So I decided to take them off.
I have since tried on different ways of viewing the world, and have come to the conclusion that the predominant financial system captures some of the dynamics of wealth and abundance, but is a dangerous simplification that leads to a deeply unsatisfying life. I resonate with the basic idea of developing our skills to create value in ways that can be used to invest in productive assets to create abundance. What is missing is the fact that there are multiple forms of value to which our current system is blind. This makes our system incredibly ineffective and inefficient at creating abundance in the multifaceted ways that matter if what you want is a happy life.
It is worth taking a deeper look at what we really mean by “value”. The financial system tends to think of value in terms of how much something is worth in the market. But the market is really just the aggregated demand of what people want for their life. What they want for their life is rooted in their “values.” These values are really a conscious recognition of that which is important to satisfy our physical, emotional and transpersonal needs. Holistic wellbeing is best achieved if we pay attention to all of our needs, not just a few. From this standpoint, there is a fresh way in which we can look at the creation of abundance in our lives. There are a set of glasses that each help us focus our attention in ways that allow us to see and value different needs. When we see these needs with clarity, then there are elements that become subject to design with the help of specific skill sets that arise. Our design efforts can directly invest in the kind of assets that will create abundance in satisfying those needs that we can now see clearly. So, in a sense each of these colored lenses gives us a short cut, that gets us where we really want to go, in a much more effective way than the prevalent financial system. Here is a summary:
If we focus first on ways of focusing our attention on physical and emotional needs, you can see that the table essentially maps out a process of psychological development with continual processes of disidentification. When we are able to wield our attention in new ways, we can see layers of ourselves that we couldn’t see before, and which we can now see are not a core part of our deep essence. Somehow they are still a part of who we are, but we can see that our essence will remain without them, and we can rebuild them with skillful action if need be.
As this process of disidentification unfolds,
we eventually learn to focus our attention in a way that brings equanimity. Equanimity is the ability to see our physical and emotional needs for what they really are - desires, or aversions and addictions of our body - and observe them with neutrality. When we can learn to focus our attention this way, then it is natural to seek balance between all physical and emotional needs, recognizing the importance of each, without letting any need drown out the others.
Each of these ways of viewing the world functions in a similar way to the existing financial system, creating assets that then become fountains of abundance. The hidden flaw in our existing system is that it lacks the equanimity to observe that it sees mainly through the lense of audacity. At its roots, the existing paradigm values accumulating influence (AKA - power). Audacity in and of itself is as important as any of the other lenses. Many of us today cringe at the idea of building our personal brand as an asset of audacity. But, I believe that this is an unhealthy backlash that is a result of living in a system that overemphasizes this set of values because leadership without authentic courage is incomplete. To really move on as a planet, we must include and transcend, giving the values of audacity as much importance as the others, but not more.
If we are able to look at the world through multiple lenses,
then it becomes clear that money per se, isn’t really going to buy what we really yearn for. Everything we really want is priceless! What we really need to do is learn to wield our attention in ways that can help us distribute our time between the different forms of skillful action that help us to build assets that will bring abundance in each of these areas of our lives.
When we invest in the assets of equanimity,
we naturally realize that we are more capable of skillful action that is born from some ways of viewing the world than others. For example I am much more curious and committed, than I am appreciative and audacious, even thought I have been proactive in developing my ability to act skillfully from the different ways of focussing our attention. In that sense, we may choose to focus on strengthening some assets more than others and exchange from our abundance in some areas with others who have abundance in others. For example I may be able to use my agile, resilient and vital body to do manual labor which is useful to someone else in exchange for leveraging their knowledge in a specific area. And to make things easier, we may choose to use some form of currency to simplify exchanges between these different forms of value. But this would be a currency that honors all these multiple forms of value, rather than being rooted in one set of values alone.
If we look further down the table, we open to the possibility of including subtler forms of value,
that arise from the transpersonal perspective. As we develop as people (and a society), we can transcend the equanimous view of the world to place more of our attention on transpersonal needs. These are needs of the collective that awaken when a person is able to perceive that at an essential level, (s)he is one with everything else. When this first awakens, the viewpoint of interbeing makes it natural to see the world in terms of the co-arising interaction between structures, rather than the structures themselves, which we often assume to have static boundaries. If we focus our attention here, then we can lean into skillful action based on co-evolution to invest in creating symbiotic ecosystems as assets that integrate all former assets into a powerful network of symbiotic relationships.
As we deepen into a transpersonal viewpoint, compassion in its deepest form arises
, when we are able to see and experience that we share our essential identity with all forms of life as one unified consciousness. When we perceive the collective self, then the skillful action that emerges naturally is unconditioned generosity, in which regardless of how terrible a person may seem on the surface, an act of kindness is actually a gift to yourself on a deeper level. In that sense it is a deep form of self love. You might even call it a selfless (from the personal perspective) selfish (form the transpersonal perspective) act of love :) This kind of skillful action builds an asset we might call a gift ecology, which is like an organism in which parts of the organism give freely to others because the integrated whole depends on the parts.
This deepening process may never end
as we continue to disidentify with aspects that we used to consider with ourselves, opening ever more subtle areas of design that can lead to even more essential forms of abundance. Beyond compassion lies surrender, in which we can see the future and past as an illusion as presence deepens, in a way that makes it clear that at a subtle level, we don’t really make any decisions, which would require anticipating a future that doesn’t really exist. Here we are really committed to the emerging will of the collective consciousness, as we invest our skillful presence in an asset that is like an autonomic system that is able to respond from a source that is beyond all thought and emotion. And so the ever subtler process of disidentification continues.
What will it take to build an economy that recognizes the intrinsic value of all of these forms of capital?
How could we design a system of exchange that is anchored in multifaceted, multi-layered forms of value? How can we design an economic system that helps people see forms of value that they currently can´t see, and evolve in their forms of exchange to integrate ever more subtle and essential forms of value? How can we leverage skillful action to transform currencies and economic systems to reflect what we really value from the gross to the subtle?
On Nov 8, 2020 Colin wrote:
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