Rethinking Wealth, Purpose and Change-Reflections from my Recent U.S. Trip

August 19, 2019

At the Applied Improvisation Conference, I’ve attended recently, I had the precious opportunity to have a chat with Dr. Thiagi, Sivasailam Thiagarajan as we were walking through the Conference Venue. One of the questions I asked him was “As consultants, business people, we are always looking to persuade and sell more. How can we differentiate ourselves so that we don’t have to sell?

“The only way to get out of this cycle is to not sell, and the only way to not have to sell is to be very wealthy,” he deadpanned.

I was dumbstruck (no, annoyed is probably the more accurate emotion) by his answer to what is a very legitimate question. “Of course you can say that when you are already so wealthy! Duh!”

However, I am talking to a very wise Teacher to many, so there must be some wisdom to what he shared. Upon reflection, I think I understood what he meant.

I have been defining wealth only in monetary terms. It is A LOT more.

Little was I to know that that conversation would set the tone for my trip to the U.S. and indeed I am wealthy. blessed with great friends, made several amazing connections, and having uplifting conversations. As I reflect on what was a whirlwind two weeks there, I feel that words alone cannot do justice to the inner growth and expansion that I have experienced, but nevertheless, here are some of the highlights of what I took with me.

1) Taking a Posture of Contribution – Realigning my Purpose Again

In a world of uncertainties, disagreements and lack of trust, such as the recent shootings in the U.S. in Philadelphia, El Paso and the subsequent push for gun laws (hence my t-shirt here), and the escalating riots in Hong Kong. We need more hope and reasons to believe.

Over the last 2 weeks, I am profoundly moved to have met so many fellow warriors of the light, people with missions to make a positive contribution to the world. At the Applied Improvisation Conference, I’ve met several interesting people, people who use Improv and Theatre not only for the sake of performance but also for serving people. I have met therapists who use Theatre to rehabilitate people with mental illnesses, social workers that use Improv to empower at-risk youths and to give voice to people with autism. I have also met activists leading community and social change initiatives, and consultants or coaches doing organizational development work.

At the <<Conversations>> retreat, the facilitator, who is my friend and mentor, Gary Hubbell got us to inquire into our lives as “contributing members of society,” and that activity gave me a profound new insight. I have always been thinking about business and making money, but now I am inspired to open my perspectives and take a high-level approach. I am now asking myself the question:

What is my Greatest Contribution to the World?

How can I best serve the world at large that is unique to my collection of skills, tools, knowledge, experiences, and wisdom? How am I making a Unique Contribution just be “Being Me”?

That got me to the insight,

“If I adopt a Posture of Contribution, I will naturally send out positive vibrations to the world and attract all that I need. I am already “Wealthy” that way, and by appreciating this fact, I no longer have to focus on Being the Best in the World. Instead, I take the heat off, and just focus on Being the Best FOR the World.”

2) The Power of Right Being, Wise Actions

I have often heard several business and success gurus say, “Words are cheap! Take action!”

While having good intentions, and I can appreciate where they are coming from, but I feel that is not complete advice and may lead to more harm than good in several occasions.

How many of today’s problems are caused by people jumping into actions, taking knee jerk reactions? How often have spoken words (and dare I say, Tweeted words) create divisions rather than connections, and manipulated mass societal thinking and intellectual discourse? In the news, on the TV and in cafe conversations here in the U.S. for the past two weeks, I have been hearing about how Donald Trump is creating divisions with his racist comments. I actually think that he is doing that intentionally, to deflect from the real pressing issue about the recession in the economy, which people should really be discussing. In the world of smokescreens and mirrors, we should not be prizing “taking actions” over right thought and discernment.

Actions don’t always matter… INSPIRED ACTIONS do!

Inspired Actions come only from Self-Awareness and Conscious Intentions. We often don’t realize the words that we unconsciously use that create the narrow worldview we hold. When people are too attached only to their worldviews and not having empathy, fragmentations arise and conflicts escalate.

Human systems move in the direction of their most focused attention and actions. We have to inquire into our closely-held opinions and reassess the assumptions that have been blocking our progress. Transformations take place through relationships, and relationships are built through Conversations – one conversation at a time. Our words create worlds, and conversations are the bridges to positive transformations.

3) Transformation Don’t Happen In Occurrences, They Require a Whole Systems Approach

To solve the problems in today’s world, we have to transcend our fragmented thinking. We often compartmentalize things into categories and give them labels, which come in buzzwords like “Innovation, Inclusiveness, Diversity” but we seldom understand the essence of these words.

We lose sight of the fact that things are all interconnected systems, whether it be business systems, political systems, health systems. In an organization, HR policies, recruitment approaches affect company cultures, and leadership and reward systems affect what behaviors are exhibited and which are not in companies. Companies who bang on the drum of “Innovation” but penalize mistakes curtail the very behaviors they want to have exhibited. Yet, they take only piecemeal approaches of plugging gaps instead of taking a whole systems approach and seeing the big picture of the Real Purpose – what are we hoping to achieve?

Similarly, we have personal systems that are interrelated. If I do not have a high-positive self-regard, I am less likely to watch my food consumption and have an optimum exercise and rest regime. As a result, my energy and vitality level is depleted and that stops me from bringing my best self to work and my relationships. The stress that I experience as a result of my poor work performance further affects my valuation of self.

While the above are examples of negative loops, understanding that we have to take a whole-systems approach, we can then create virtuous cycles of positive change.

Moving Forward with my Posture of Contribution

To conclude what was an amazing trip, I recall a conversation with my friend, Scott Tang when we caught up in his hometown, Chicago. As we were walking by the Chicago RiverWalk, he asked me, “What’s your life’s purpose and motto Coen?”

In a moment of extreme clarity, and without much hesitation, I replied,

“I envision my ideal world where people are Loving, Accepting and Whole, and I want to adopt a POSTURE OF CONTRIBUTION to this world by Empowering People to Appreciate the Beauty they already possess and Express Themselves Authentically and Impactfully in Service of others.”

It has always been what I’m all about, and I just needed to remind myself of it. I would not want to have it any other way.

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