I’ve received several requests to write something about the apparent financial crisis in the USA, not to mention the upcoming election. Erin has received similar requests. At first I declined because so much is being written about this already, but people said they just wanted to hear my take on it, so here goes…
First off, I don’t own any corporate stock — haven’t for years — so I’m not as deeply invested in the financial markets as some. There aren’t many public companies that are strongly aligned with my values. I don’t even buy mutual funds or index funds because that means putting my cash in too many companies whose business models depend on keeping people’s awareness levels low. As people become more conscious, they tend to gradually withdraw their financial support from certain corporations. This happens as we accept more responsibility for our personal impact on the world and seek to reduce the amount of harm we’re doing.
I do consider myself an investor, but I don’t have the same priorities as most other investors. In a general way, I want to maximize the return on my investment, but I don’t define the return in monetary terms. For me the return on my investment is what kind of impact I can have on the collective consciousness of humanity. If an investment seems to help people live more consciously, it’s a good one (a net gain). If an investment lowers people’s consciousness, it’s a bad one (a net loss).
For example, I believe that building StevePavlina.com was a very good investment. Writing my book was another one. Doing public speaking is another. These investments required virtually no money, but they required a significant amount of time. Time is a more precious resource to me than money, so my ultimate goal as an investor is to have a significant consciousness-raising impact on the world during my lifetime.
When I think about investing money in exchange for more money, it honestly bores me to tears. It seems like a complete waste of life. Why would I want to devote my precious time to such a hollow pursuit?
I’m sure some people think that if they have lots of money, it will make them happier and give them more of what they want. I found that it’s easier to get what I want by going for it directly instead of using money as an intermediary. I found a way to be free, to do what I love, and to help people. This happened before I had much money. I would not sacrifice those things for billions of dollars.
The proposed financial bailout (which hasn’t been passed at the time of this writing) is in my opinion a patently stupid idea. I’ve been pleasantly surprised to see that so many people are expressing opposition to it. I’m not sure it will be enough to help though because presently the U.S. government seems to have quite a strong capacity for putting short-term thinking ahead of long-term thinking. Unfortunately, it seems that the reason the bailout failed to pass the first time is largely because members of Congress were thinking even more short-term than usual.
In my opinion it’s best to let some companies crash and burn, even if it creates negative consequences for all of us. It’s better to deal with it now than to put it off to be dealt with another day. A company that bases its operations on something that doesn’t create sustainable value for people might as well crash and burn. It will be best for their employees and stakeholders to find more conscious, fulfilling work anyway. It’s too bad our leaders are such short-term thinkers. Pouring more money into operations that don’t create much value to begin with is a short-term fix that will only lead to a bigger crash later.
Even though the financial markets may be doing poorly right now, overall I think it’s a good thing. This sort of situation helps to wake people up, to give them a kick in their complacency. Not everyone — but more people than usual.
The Role of Money
The role of money is to serve as a medium for trading value. Of course many people have tried to turn money into something else. They adopt a moocher mindset, playing the money game to win at someone else’s expense. Many large corporations operate from this mindset. They either produce nothing of real value (and wouldn’t be missed if they vanished entirely), or their products and promotions actually serve to lower consciousness instead of raise it.
Money has its place, and it’s not a bad thing to become wealthy, as long as you become so by creating and sharing an abundance of value with others. This will bring more money into your life if you so desire, but you’ll likely find that under such conditions, money isn’t the most important reward.
There are many “returns” on my investments that I believe are much more important than money, including the impact I have, the goodwill my work generates, and the relationships I build. If the financial markets crash, those things can still hold their value, while my cash could end up being worthless. So my relationships are a much more useful and flexible currency than cash. I engage in many exchanges with people where no money changes hands, but value is certainly shared, and goodwill is generated. I don’t need money to continue making such exchanges.
If given a choice between losing all my money and financial assets vs. losing all my relationships and connections with people, I’d rather lose the former.
Does it bother me that my financial assets (such as my home) may go down in value because of the broader financial meltdown? Not really. The numbers in my life may get smaller, but money isn’t the primary way I store the value I’ve created. I prefer to hold excess value in goodwill and relationships, not a number in a bank account. I’d rather have a million friends than a million dollars.
The stuff that’s most important to me in life can’t be bought — it can only be earned. I can still fulfill my heart’s desire even as my assets decline in value. Since I don’t play the game of life for money, I’m just not that attached to the particular numbers that swirl through my life. They’re largely irrelevant.
I don’t even set specific financial goals anymore. I found that when I did that, I was giving too much power to money instead of wielding that power myself. Then I could use the lack of money to justify not fully committing myself (and risking failure and rejection). So instead of setting financial goals now, I just aim for what I want straightaway. I can’t think of anything I’d really like to do that requires being rich first. Pursuing money is just a delay tactic, an excuse not to live consciously.
What about retirement? I don’t expect I’ll ever retire. But if I spend the rest of my life helping people grow and cultivating lots of goodwill, I think I could enjoy a fantastic retirement even if I end up penniless. Think of all the people I’ll be able to spend time with. I could probably even do that now. Lots of people have offered to put me up in their homes if/when I travel to other countries, for instance.
This isn’t a special situation. Anyone can do it. Do you really think you’ll need to worry about retirement if you dedicate the rest of your life to helping people with an open heart? Do you really think that money is the most powerful currency? You can have all the money in the world and suffer a very unhappy retirement. Money may allow you to meet your physical needs, but it won’t make people care about you. However, if you learn to open your heart and connect with people, you need never be alone. You can be quite happy without a dime. And when you reach this state, you just won’t care about money so much. You’ll realize that love is truly the most powerful currency. A heart filled with love will do more for you than a wallet filled with cash.
I’m fully aware that we don’t live in a Utopian society. I know the U.S. government is largely controlled by corporations at this time. I know the Fed essentially operates as a private corporation and that it would be inaccurate to call it a part of the U.S. government. I know that certain entities gain by manipulating the money supply, allowing them to buy up other companies for pennies on the dollar. I know that our government’s budget is largely a joke.
I’ve been exposed to many theories about how the markets really work. There’s way too much complexity and duplicity for me to discern the whole truth, but I don’t need to know all those details to see that the whole financial system operates at a fairly low level of awareness.
None of this really matters to me though. It’s not a game I pay much attention to. My focus is elsewhere, not because I don’t care but because I know that focusing on such problems can’t possibly help.
Who I’m Voting For
Who am I voting for in the next election? No one. I’m not even registered to vote — never have been. Does this make me a bad U.S. citizen? Perhaps. I see myself more as a citizen of the world. My loyalties are with humanity at large, not some political entity.
Voting as an individual in the USA seems rather pointless to me at this time, especially given our current political climate. Instead of voting as an individual, I could vote with my blog by endorsing a particular candidate. But I honestly don’t resonate with either Obama or McCain. If forced to choose between them, I’d say that Obama is the more conscious of the two. However, personally I’d much prefer Dennis Kucinich because he seems much more conscious and aware. He’s also a fellow vegan who believes that all life is sacred, so of course that’s a big plus in my book. He’s done some gutsy but unpopular things, and I really respect that about him. Unfortunately people like him are still a minority in Congress.
I don’t expect any political leader to be perfect, but I’d like to see something much more conscious than our current levels. I actually feel that’s an achievable goal.
I do have a vote to cast, but not in the upcoming political election. My vote is for a more conscious humanity. I have to vote with my conscience, and that requires that I cast my vote through my work, not at the ballot box.
As I see it, the main problem is the soup of low awareness that permeates American society. The fact that we Americans will select a guy like George Bush as our leader doesn’t speak well of us. (Well, okay technically we picked Al Gore.) I’d sincerely like to apologize to the rest of the world for that. It’s pretty embarrassing when you think about it.
Our political leadership is a sign of the times. The “soup” that encourages people to spend the bulk of their time working at a meaningless corporate job for money is the same soup that puts people like George Bush in power. I don’t blame George Bush for that. I’m sure he’s doing the best he can. But the very notion that my fellow Americans would pick someone like that to lead us makes me very cognizant of the fact that as a whole, this country is pretty low on the awareness totem pole. But the bright side is that there’s plenty of worthwhile work to be done in this country. You don’t have to look very far to find important needs that require filling.
So what can we do about this? As I see it, the solution is to fix the soup. And the only way to do that is to raise your own awareness as an individual.
I like to take personal responsibility for everything in my reality, especially what I don’t like. Since I’m not a big fan of the current economic and political climate in the USA, I assume that I’m responsible for fixing it.
Some people might see this as a hopeless cause or an overwhelming task. I don’t see it like that. I see it as a worthy challenge.
We Americans have so much potential. We just need to cultivate an environment that allows us to let go of our Cro-Magnon nationalism and start living like citizens of earth. We have the potential to create massive value for this great planet instead of being a corporate-owned bully.
Obviously there are many people working against the vision of a conscious America. Some people are polarized to benefit from an environment of fear and control. On a daily basis our mainstream media gives us reason to be afraid. Our politicians tell us to be scared, and they say they’ll protect us. It’s all nonsense though. In every moment we still have a choice. We can tune out the fear mongers and decline to participate in their silly games. We can stop subscribing to fear and start being brave and strong as individuals.
This is a case where if you aren’t part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. If you aren’t living consciously, if you’re playing follow the follower, if you’re just going through the motions of life, then you’re one of the “bad guys.” You just don’t realize it yet. And by your example, you’re encouraging others around you to do the same. You’re adding to the low-awareness soup. If you live unconsciously, if you settle for less than your potential, if you devote your days to being a corporate cog in an unconscious profit-seeking machine, if you use food and idle entertainment to numb your senses, then you’re part of the problem.
At this point in history, all that’s required for the USA to become one of the greatest blunders of all time is for you to keep on going through the motions just like everyone else. The only true enemy you must face is your own complacency.
The Blame Game
We can never hope to improve the soup of our country by playing the blame game. To blame others is to deny your own responsibility. If you don’t like what our political and corporate leaders are doing, it’s pointless to blame them. That cannot possibly help. If you think that someone should do something about it, that someone is you. If you blame others but take no direct action to fix the problems you perceive, I guarantee you’re part of the problem. You have only yourself to blame. You’ve been swallowing the soup of unconscious living, and it’s time to spit it out.
If you don’t like what’s happening, it’s up to you to fix it. That may seem like an overwhelming task if you’re living unconsciously, and it surely is. But once you really embrace conscious living and dump all the low-awareness garbage you’ve been clinging to, you won’t feel so weak and disempowered. You’ll realize you’re much stronger than you ever thought possible. You’ll begin to see that living consciously is all the solution you really need. When you live consciously, you inspire others to do the same. You help to change the soup. You make it safe for more people to wake up. You become a beacon for positive growth. Once you’ve begun to experience life at this level, it’s really hard to go back. You just can’t fit in the old box anymore.
While unconscious people consent to the current climate through silent approval, conscious people say, “No, this situation needs to change, and I must be the one to change it.” Then they get busy. They don’t waste time whining and complaining. They work on themselves, and then they share themselves with the world. They work to become stronger, more loving, and more aware. They build their capacity for service. They help teach us how to connect with each other instead of feeling disconnected and alone, they help bring purpose and passion to our lives, they empower us, and they offer honest and authentic leadership.
Are you worried about the current financial and political climate? If you’re worried, then turn and face those fears. Accept responsibility for what’s happening. Is there some part of you that wants to get something for nothing? Do you value money ahead of personal relationships? Is greed more important to you than service? What will you need to change in order to live more consciously? What must you learn to let go of? Are you living your life as part of the solution, or are you part of the problem? You choose.