At the age of fifteen, my grandparents escaped Russia during the Bolshevik Revolution. Their crime: they were capitalists. They arrived penniless in Cleveland, Ohio and later moved to Phoenix, Arizona. In both cities they were embraced by their communities where they started their own businesses and raised a family of five boys.
I remember that my grandmother would spontaneously jump up, throw her hand over her heart, and declare, “God Bless America.” She would save table crumbs to feed the birds, rent her back bedroom for next to nothing to needy new members of her synagogue, and give all he winnings from her penny poker games (she was a shark) to beggars on the street if they would sing her a song, play music for her, or dance with her around a street lamp.
My father was a successful entrepreneur. I grew up in comfort.
I believe that we have lost our sense of community and compassion. My grandmother knew real scarcity of money. Yet she did not know scarcity of the soul. I am afraid that our culture based on the individual accumulation of things and pursuit of profit is draining th lives out of our souls. This is the foundation of our economic woes, not the price of gas. If you are not starving and have a strong roof over your head, you are better off than most people in this world.
A scarcity mentality distances us from our core values, traps us in a cage of dissatisfaction and fear, and, as can be seen in our leaders, it shatters our integrity.
BRAIN TIP: Let’s change our cultural consciousness. Whether it’s the fault of advertising or just plain greed, we live in a world infused with chronic sense of insufficiency and inadequacy. There is never enough. We are never satisfied with our looks, our talents and our stuff. What could you do to shift your thoughts to gratitude and a desire to increase the beauty we see in this world together?
BRAIN TIP: Brainstorm what “compassionate capitalism” can mean for yourself, your company and your country. The father of capitalism, Adam Smith, argued that the benefits of the free marketplace should not serve only the individual, but the society as a whole. He said, “The average man and woman, along with the society in which they live, should be the primary beneficiaries of a wealthy nation.” If we brought back a sense of community to our lives and into our management processes, I believe we would build a solid and sustainable economy.
BRAIN TIP: Replace the fear and worry of loss with gratitude and a desire to contribute. Quit watching the news. Instead, listen to your heart and that small voice that is still telling you that happiness and contentment can be found somewhere else than in the pursuit of money.
THE WORLD IS SHIFTING FROM INDIVIDUALISM TO COLLABORATION (this is the age of the Internet…do you ever use Wikipedia?). The cure for our economic woes is bringing back our sense of community and working for the common good. Then, like my grandmother, may we all spontaneously jump up, put our hands over our hearts and bless the land we are so lucky to stand on.