We want more out of business. We want more out of the way we consume. The easy path to getting that “more” seems to be adding.
Add a bit of “one-on-one,” add a pinch of “organic,” add a dose of “artisan,” add a dash of “local.” We layer more & more of the good stuff on top of what already exists.
But when do we make time for questioning what already was? When do we strip down business to its very basics? When do we throw out the definition, the “how-to” of what business is supposed to be to find out what business could be?
It’s not enough for the You-Centered Economy to support business-as-usual with a flair for the Other. The You-Centered Economy requires us to get down to the heart & soul of commerce.
While many of us are supporting ourselves on businesses that were built to nurture us, and many more of us are working towards that goal, I believe we have not yet gone far enough. I believe there is more to question, more to redefine, more to tear down & then build back up.
My question to you is:
What would business look like if you had never been taught how to do business before?
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What would your business look like if you forgot the sales training, marketing advice, and branding help you’ve experienced? How would your systems be different? How would you communicate differently?
How would your day-to-day interactions with clients & potential clients be different if you stripped away all the “supposed tos” and just concentrated on what felt truly, divinely right?
Got an inkling? Don’t worry if your answer isn’t fully formed. Scroll down to the comments and leave me a little note: What would business look like if you had never been taught “how to” do business before? And what are you going to do about it?
Money is a religion.
That’s not a condemnation of our consumer society. It’s just a fact.
What is religion? Let me break out my diploma and tell you that there is no good definition of religion. So you must craft something that describes how you engage with religious beliefs – your own or others.
I’m inclined to start with a definition of religion proposed by Dr. John D Caputo, of Syracuse University. Religion is:
…something simple, open-ended, and old-fashioned, namely, the love of God.
In this case, “God” is a word that stands for your higher power. It could be a personal god or it could be an idea, object, or belief that you hold higher than any other.
A definition like this one makes it clear: there is a religion of money.
Money is both an object of faith – you don’t think those bills in your wallet are actually worth something, do you? – and a system for guiding our behavior – we do what we need to do to get the money we “need.”
We put faith in the fact that the number in the corner of a paper bill is what the bill is actually worth. We put faith in the idea that a plastic rectangle means we will pay what we owe. We put faith in the check that we get at the end of each week.
On the flip side, money guides everything we do. It is its own set of commandments. Thou shalt get a job. Thou shalt pay the bills. Thou shalt save for retirement. Thou shalt buy a [car, house, appliances, etc…]. If you break a commandment, society tells you about it.
Understanding money as a religion – even a poor one – has helped me to better understand the nature of pricing, become more comfortable with exchanging money for service in a transaction, and develop a philosophy for commerce that extends past my own business.
So if money is a religion, how does my own faith affect the way I make money?
Perhaps more important to me & my angle on the conversation:
How does my philosophy of religion affect my philosophy of business?
My philosophy of religion stems from the work I did in college. I studied the thread of the Reformation that eventually became Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s idea of “religionless Christianity.”
Bonhoeffer was a Lutheran pastor & theologian. He was also a committed pacifist who was involved in an attempt to assassinate Hitler. He was hung for his crime days before his prison camp was liberated. He’s a complex dude.
While he sat in Tegel Prison, Bonhoeffer began to construct a theology of “religionless Christianity.” While the title may be provocative, the premise is simple:
Jesus is there only for others … The church is the church only when it exists for others.
The system of religion that Bonhoeffer saw all around him was one in which the self was the center. I do this, I am absolved, I become closer to God.
He found this counter to the message of Jesus, to the core of Christianity.
While the work was not completed before his death, Bonhoeffer sought to strip the religious “system” of me-centered rites & rituals and turn to a simple code of “live for others.”
See where I’m going? Bonhoeffer was building a you-centered faith.
It’s no wonder that I see the emerging economy as you-centered, other-centered. It’s no wonder that I am convinced that the path to personal success is paved with other-centered business practices.
Bonhoeffer’s gospel was very much a social gospel. But even more, it was a community gospel. It was a simple prescription for creating communities that worked. His work begs the question: how can we be uncared for if it’s everyone’s desire to care for those around them?
Expressing yourself and your love & gratitude for a higher power becomes an intimate, connected experience between people, here & now.
Why should commerce be any different? Why rely on a system of investments, operating budgets, and procedure to dictate the credibility of a particular business?
What if we remove the barriers to commerce – to connection – and engage each other as individuals with immanent value?
Who needs the old system of business, commerce, and consumption when we can strip that all away and create more meaningful transactions (connections) between each other as human beings?
Click to tweet the word!
Just as the truth of your own faith – whatever it might be – is found in your own experience, the truth of your own business is found in its ability to connect people and highlight their own value.
Your position as “business owner” in the You-Centered Economy is inherently other-focused. You are in business for the benefit of others. The rewards you reap are directly related to your ability to shine your light on those you serve.
When viewing business through the eyes of faith, you can put money back in its place. You can remove money from the realm of religion and see it, instead, as a representation of exchange, a currency for action.
Money is a symbol – a representation of meaning – of the connections we are creating. First, create connection. Second, assign appropriate value to that connection. Third, exchange the currency. Money merely stands in place. The meaning stands on its own.
Invest in connection, spend the dividends.
Just as our faith transcends the actions we perform on others behalves, our value transcends the transaction & the currency exchanged. Yet both of these scenarios are dependent on the immanence of human connection.
If you enjoyed this post and are hungry for more, check out my posts Stop Trying to Make Money From Your Passion and Towards You-Centered Economics.
Would love to see your thoughts & reflections on this on Twitter. Use the hashtag #youeconomy!
To make it really work, we might need a new indie economics (of creativity and innovation), plus a new indie set of political policies.
— Bruce Nussbaum, Fast Company Design
I’m nailing my theses to the NYSE door. This is economic Reformation.
What is the New Economy?
What Nussbaum terms “indie economics,” I call “you-centered economics.”
You are not used to being at the center of the economy. You have not been the linchpin of economic growth. You have been a mere cog in the machine. You were a commodity to be traded.
You are becoming the heart & soul of a new engine of economic growth. You are influencing giant corporations through your words & actions. You are forming microbusinesses and taking earning into your own hands. You are less dependent on “the system” and more dependent on your community.
But “you” doesn’t just mean you. You is also “the other.”
When you make business decisions, you not only think of “me,” you consider the “we.” It’s not enough to make a business decision for your own singular benefit, you make business decisions that serve others as well.
You understand that a business is nothing if it doesn’t serve a greater good. All business is social entrepreneurship, to you. All business has an obligation to create a legacy of sustainability, creativity, innovation, and service.
Businesses serve people. People do not serve businesses.
Global is the new local.
Indie economy is local. They are small scale. They are built on relationships, trust, and mutual appreciation. They find power in the individual and growth in the community.
Indie economy is global. Communities are no longer limited to location. Convenience is no longer defined by how quickly you can get there in your car. Accessibility is no longer constricted by long-distance phone calls and postage stamps.
Businesses operating in the You-centered Economy realize that community is connected through values, purpose, and affinity. What we have in common is more important than where we live. The internet is a tool for intimacy and connection not a weapon of anonymity.
Local economies have gone global. Global economies are local.
Are you a member of the Entrepreneurial Generation?
Today’s ideal social form is not the commune or the movement or even the individual creator as such; it’s the small business. Every artistic or moral aspiration — music, food, good works, what have you — is expressed in those terms.
— William Deresiewicz, New York Times
This generation – defined again by affinity and not by year of birth – is attracted to small business as our chief medium of expression. Entrepreneurship is a manifestation of the commerce culture we grew up in, heightened by an ever-increasing accessibility to the engines of that commerce.
Entrepreneurs are not just salesmen. We see entrepreneurs as innovators (bringing us one step closer to the realm of science fiction), beacons of hope (business brings change – for good or bad), and a key check in a system that is increasingly without checks.
By becoming entrepreneurs, we’re inserting ourselves in a system that we don’t fully understand – because we crave the connection. We crave the understanding. We crave a different way.
It’s not that we hate consumption – it’s that we hate what consumption looks like now. It’s not that we hate big business – it’s that we hate what big business looks like now.
The Entrepreneurial Generation is one that still has hope – despite college loan debt and a poor economy. We have hope that we are a part of the change.
Entrepreneurs are artists, reformers, saints, and scientists. We are innovators, communicators, leaders, and visionaries. We are attracted to business not because it is business but because of what business allows us to accomplish, how it allows us to express ourselves. Click to tweet it!
It’s the fierce ideals & vision of this kind of entrepreneur – paired with infinite accessibility to communication – that are propelling her & her generation towards affluence.
The bellwethers of a New Economy entrepreneur…
New Economy entrepreneurs are always looking for the triple bottom line: profit, people, planet. They believe individualism can coexist with collectivism. That sustainability can coexist with growth.
New Economy entrepreneurs value themselves and the work that they do. They are so over the romantic notion of the starving artist. They set prices and work in business models that reflect a desire for quality over quantity. They understand just how special their product or service is in the lives of those they serve.
New Economy entrepreneurs seek purpose & meaning in everything they do. Instead of asking themselves “What?” they ask “Why?” Instead of seeking to fill a need, they seek to create an experience.
New Economy entrepreneurs pursue mistakes. Why play it safe when you can challenge yourself? Why default to status quo when you can invent a new standard?
New Economy entrepreneurs are more interested in what they don’t know than what they do. Business is a learning opportunity. Customer service is an education. Sales is scholarship.
New Economy entrepreneurs embrace the quirks of a niche. They’re not in the people-pleasing business. They’re in the right-people-pleasing business. They don’t walk on the eggshells of the mass market. They look for ways to crack all the right eggs. They invite others to crack eggs with them. Mostly from free-range chickens.
New Economy entrepreneurs understand that there are infinite choices. There is no such thing as competition in the New Economy, only opportunities for differentiation.
Towards a Connected Economy
Why now? The sense of disconnection has reached a boiling point.
The average consumer is tired of being thought of as a wallet to be put to use by government policy, big business, and corporate fat cats. It’s a system based on disconnecting us from our humanity.
We crave the connection – with ourselves and with each other. We crave control. But, ultimately, we crave our divine creative power.
As we reconnect with our creative power – as artists, makers, developers, writers, philosophers, designers… – we have discovered the need for critical selling. Critical selling is the process by which we examine our output in the marketplace. It connects our humanity with others. And it does so in the universal language of our times: money.
This is the You-Centered Economy. This is the commerce of connection, meaning, and experience. This is how you & I do business. Click to tweet it!