All around the country, at water coolers and across dinner tables, in airports and on Facebook, fiery words and strong emotions are flying. While we respect and acknowledge the many things that many groups are rightfully afraid of these days — violence, poverty, hard-won rights that seem threatened — we here at CONSCIOUS COMPANY believe in the enormous power of facing threats not by tightening into fear, but by easing our way toward something else, something better.
This is the lesson handed to us by humanity’s bravest heroes and wisest sages: Jesus, the Buddha, Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, and Malala Yousafzai, to name a few.
Letting go of fear, even — especially — in the face of real threats is no easy task. It’s not something you do once and put behind you. It’s a practice; a discipline. It’s something that happens one action, one conversation, and one deep breath at a time. But of all the choices we can make this year, facing our fear, seeing it, acknowledging it, then setting it aside and picking up something more hopeful might very well be the most important one we commit to. Because in a country divided by anger, in a world wracked with complex challenges, in a business landscape that often still does more harm than good, we need to do better than cower, better than react reflexively, better than lash out. We need to model a way to move forward, towards the world we want to see, even through pain and uncertainty.
The CONSCIOUS COMPANY team obviously has some strong ideas about what we hope to do instead of feeding fear. Our individual answers to the prompt “Fear less, ___ more” are on page 4, and our collective vision rings through these pages in every article we publish. But please don’t just take our word for it. We’d be nowhere if not for the support and hard work of the conscious business community, so we invited an assortment of leaders and thinkers to share their thoughts as well. The following pages include a selection of our favorite responses, but this is by no means the final word on the subject; you’ll find more ideas on our website, and we’d love for you to join the conversation by emailing your response to [email protected] or sharing it on social media with the hashtag #FearLess_More.
We’re ready for you, 2017. Let’s do this thing.
Fear Less, ____ More
We asked CEOs, entrepreneurs, coaches, and other conscious business leaders to fill in the blank for 2017: “Fear less, ___ more.” Here’s their best advice.
“I believe Donald Trump exploited a very serious gap in the conscious business movement, and in progressive politics. We have failed to adequately collaborate; sometimes with the very people we want to help. Working class whites and many people of color see us as out-of-touch elitists who don’t understand or care about their day-to-day plight. The high level of intellect within the conscious business community is one of my favorite things about the movement. It’s a stimulating group, full of vibrant ideas. At the same time, we must learn to use our intellect to climb down out of our idealist ivory towers, and to create broader alliances. We also need to create broader alliances with each other. We tend to stay within our individual ‘swim lanes’ within the conscious movement (i.e., social justice, environmental justice, green energy, gender empowerment, etc.) rather than understanding ways to create broader alliances across our various segments. In order to move forward, we will need to do a much better job of creating broad-based alliances than we ever have before. The average Jane/Joe needs to believe we understand them. Trump managed to do a much better job of creating broad collaborative coalitions than we ever have. We ignore that at our own peril.”
// Gerry Valentine, president and founder of Vision Executive Coaching
“As a culture right now, most of us are reacting from a scarcity mindset. We think we are in competition with each other for a few diminishing resources. This is why diversity is so scary! While it’s true that we do need to conserve, we are missing out on the abundance of ideas that come from working together. When it comes to workable solutions, we all have a small piece of the puzzle. Coming together in a spirit of collaboration helps us remember how much we need each other — especially when we hold diverse perspectives — and how much more powerful we are when we act together with respect for the common good.”
// Gracy Obuchowicz, owner of Beautiful Life Self Care
“Before anything of value can ever be accomplished, we must first envision the future we want to see. All things that are visible now were once invisible. If the people who start, build, or run companies today don’t take hold of great visions, then they will not achieve great things. The more conscious companies wield their influence, envisioning a better world, the better our world will become.”
// Michael Jones, co-founder and CEO of THRIVE Farmers Coffee
“There will always be obstacles and setbacks. The key is to go over, under, or around all of these hurdles. Don’t let them stop you. Keep moving forward.”
// Kevin Rutherford, president and CEO of nuun and company
“ENGAGE IN POLITICS”
“Before the presidential election, I was distracted by the stress of my business, the strain of nonstop teenagers storming through my kitchen, and my social calendar in the distance offering a cool compress of relief. I thought I could comfortably watch from the sidelines, a spectator sport unfolding before my eyes. I thought founding a mission-driven company was enough, as I focused on the three P’s in the right order: People, Planet, and Profits. But that isn’t even scratching the surface of the revolution we need. There’s a fourth P that’s missing – Politics! After November, a fire boiled in my belly as I watched the white billionaire boys’ club parade into Trump’s cabinet, smirking with greed. I began collecting donations for Standing Rock; orchestrated my friends to participate in the Million Women March in Washington, DC; donated to environmental and reproductive justice groups; signed petitions and wrote letters of dissent; supported real news sources (with real journalists); made lists of how to get involved with city council, mid-term elections, and organizations needing volunteers — engaging in the civic process like it was my part-time job. When I think of the happy hours, road trips, leisurely Sunday mornings that turned into all-day rest-fests, I realize I wasn’t truly engaged and sacrificing for our country. I was satiated and comfortable, but not devoting my time to true civic engagement. Sure, I had the excuse of work and kids, but that’s not good enough. We can all find five hours a week to fight for our republic. I’m thankful to be reminded of my duty to participate and engage. If Hillary Clinton were president, I would still be in a light slumber, my inner fire still unlit. Trump’s election is our wake-up alarm, a constant harsh whine in our souls to stand up for social justice, protect our immigrant neighbors, stand for gay rights, protect our Muslim and Native American brethren and our women and girls. May we all take that fourth P — Politics — and incorporate it into our free time, ventures, and vision. It’s our civic responsibility to help preserve our country with the highest principles of honor and justice — for all.”
// Brook Eddy, founder and CEO of Bhakti Chai
“ENGAGE” [AS SHAREHOLDER ADVOCATES]
“At Trillium, we believe that the power of active shareholder ownership can help create a positive incentive for change, regardless of the policy environment. Every company has environmental and social impact and it is our responsibility to use the tools of shareholder engagement to effect positive change in corporate behavior while improving the wellbeing of ecosystems, communities, consumers, employees, and other stakeholders. Through our work, we can highlight companies that are moving in the right direction and put considerable pressure on those that need to improve.”
// Matthew Patsky, CEO of Trillium Asset Management
“MAKE EVERYONE AROUND YOU THRIVE”
“That is the key to happiness, success, and the purposeful life.”
// Kip Tindell, chairman and co-founder of The Container Store
“Belonging is vital to health and happiness. Focusing more on community-building and developing authentic relationships will result in a more successful long-term business, too. Businesses often think of community building as an after thought. They hire ‘community managers’ straight out of college to ‘do social media,’ when community architecture is the backbone of any company’s success and should be taken more seriously.”
// Radha Agrawal, co-founder and CEO of Daybreaker
“If we are to protect and promote the values we care about, we must commit to small and large actions each day that manifest those values and help to bring us closer together. That means aligning our personal and professional values, ensuring our work has a positive impact, and collaborating purposefully with like-minded peers and partners to scale and compound our impact.”
// Simon Mainwaring, CEO of We First brand consultancy
“Gandhi taught us to be the change we seek in the world. As businesses, we have the chance every single day — through our actions, our team members, and our products — to build the world we want to see. We don’t have to wait in fear for someone to create it for us — it’s in our hands. Let’s do more to build that world today.”
// Nikhil Arora and Alejandro Velez, co-founders and co-CEOs of Back to the Roots
“Where some see problems, entrepreneurs see opportunities for innovation. It’s that vision and optimism that drives forward solutions to the world’s biggest challenges.”
// Jill Sims, co-founder of Energy Excelerator
“I have heard and continue to believe that we should lead how we want to be led. 2017 will bring plenty of uncertainty. We can’t pull away in these times. For Catalyst, this requires courage and bravery. To lead in these uncertain times, where the culture is dividing at a rapid pace, we have to trust in our faith and choose to be judged on how we care for others. If our team doesn’t [demonstrate that we] believe the messages we are sharing by implementing them, our message will be all for nothing.”
// Tyler Reagin, executive director of Catalyst Conference
“In some ways, it’s now or never, and to us, that’s a good thing. If business is now the default answer to everything — fixing our prisons, our schools, our military, our food supply, our environment — then so be it. There has been enough conversation, enough measurement, enough discussion of how and why and with what methods investors should put capital to work in mission-driven companies. That hand-wringing could go on for another generation, yet we may not have that luxury of time. “Whether you see opportunity or doom in the shifting way government may or may not help in fixing social or environmental issues, now will be the time to do something about it or sit on the sidelines for good. We’d rather be proving that business can and should achieve results.”
// Peter D. Henig, managing partner of Greenhouse Capital Partners
“Change is what voters want and it’s what the country needs. But we cannot let it be change that turns back the clock on the progress we’ve made. With the excuse of making policy changes that are ‘business-friendly,’ policymakers are poised to move the country in the wrong direction. Responsible business leaders need to speak up, step up, and show up. There are many ways to do this, from leading their companies to engage in visible, public ways to lobbying their elected representatives and speaking out in the press. We cannot stand by with so much at stake. We need to be in public and with policymakers, saying clearly what we stand for — and even more clearly what we will not stand for.”
// David Levine, co-founder and CEO of the American Sustainable Business Council
“Learning to coach yourself — what we call ‘better me’ — so that you can coach others — ‘better you’ — will lead to a better world — ‘better us.’”
// Meghan Messenger, co-CEO of Next Jump Inc.
“We must learn to listen to the ‘other,’ even if we respectfully disagree, and to work hard to remember the values of humanity that bring us together. We have to step back and collectively reflect on how to protect and elevate the values we share — respect for one another, kindness, empathy, humility, warmth, and the conviction that we can make a positive difference for our children and for each other, to name a few. Empathy and kindness are often confused with weakness. Actually, it takes strength to be kind, particularly when we feel most vulnerable. Empathizing with and listening to ‘the other,’ to feel comfortable putting yourself in the shoes of someone with whom you deeply disagree, requires enormous amounts of self-confidence. Now, more than ever, it’s important to listen and seek to understand, both in business and life.”
// Daniel Lubetzky, founder and CEO of KIND Healthy Snacks
“My cofounder Rory Eakin and I met almost 15 years ago, and one of the first things that attracted us to each other was that we had opposite views on many things, but we could debate on merits — not emotions — and listen to each other. I worry our country has lost much of that in recent times. Civil discourse has often been replaced by anger and distrust. But civil discourse is integral to building thriving businesses and cross-cultural understanding and advancing humanity.
No matter what your political views are, I hope 2017 gives everyone the beautiful opportunity to try to rebuild that civil discourse, to respect other people’s opinions and to share yours in a constructive way. That all starts with listening.”
// Ryan Caldbeck, CEO and co-founder of investment marketplace CircleUp
“There’s a collective sense amongst our company’s community that we are tired of feeling powerless in the world. That sitting on the sidelines feeling bad about the destruction in Syria, the human suffering in war-torn areas, the discrimination and inequality across the globe isn’t ok, and we are tired of just ‘feeling bad’ about it and want to DO SOMETHING. We are harnessing the strong desire for each of us to feel we can make a difference by joining forces with Carry the Future and donating our old baby carriers (and/ or funds!) to connect with parents of the Syrian crisis on the most personal of levels: carrying and caring for our babies.”
// Kim Graham-Nye, co-founder of gDiapers
“This, now, is our moment as conscious companies. As businesses, our expertise is creative problem-solving, whether it be consumer or retailer needs, operational challenges, or marketing opportunities. We can lead the charge of making this world a better place and continue to grow the tribe of companies that are making a commitment to solve more. Every single day, we should ask ourselves, how can we solve more, how can we be better?”
// Sheryl O’Loughlin, CEO of REBBL functional beverages
“We live in a world of tremendous pain and suffering. That is why I believe the ultimate meta-purpose for all of us needs to be about healing. Healing is about becoming whole and complete. We need to heal ourselves, each other, our families, and our communities. We need to heal our companies and our countries. We need to heal the planet and all the life forms that it teems with. We need to heal the past, present and future.
The great thing is that nature has programmed us with the intelligence to heal ourselves — if only we can stop inflicting pain and suffering on ourselves and each other. We simply need to get out of the way and let nature’s infinite wisdom operate through us.
If we are not part of the healing, we are part of the hurting.”
// Raj Sisodia, co-founder and co-chairman of Conscious Capitalism Inc.; professor at Babson College
“FEED” [PEOPLE AND CHANGE]
// Thierry Ollivier, founder and CEO of Natierra Superfoods
// George Siemon, CEO of Organic Valley farmer’s cooperative
“WORK HARDER TO CREATE SUSTAINABLE ENERGY INDEPENDENCE”
// Ryan Creamer, CEO of sPower