Mindful Awareness: Seed of Creation – Seed of Wealth

I moved, last night, to the treehouse. There is energy, peace and quiet on The Beech Treehouse that I lovingly built. It is my best place to cultivate self-awareness, nature-awareness, other-awareness, creative problem solving and focusing my energy to do and create.

Steven Covey said that all things are created spiritually before they are created physically. His metaphor was God’s creation of the universe. In the beginning was the word. The word is spoken thought and truth that preceded creation. The universe was created in the mind of the creator before it existed. Similarly, Napoleon Hill wrote Think and Grow Rich. Hill’s thinking preceded the book. The book inspired seeds of thought that preceded wealth creation for millions.

Wealth comes in many forms. Money is essential. It is the easiest form of wealth to quantify. But it is only a means to greater forms of wealth. (See “Money, Entrepreneurship, Meditation and Joy“).

All forms of wealth are created beginning with self-awareness.

Roger Hamilton said, “I believe entrepreneurship and this whole idea of raising consciousness come from faith and three things: self-awareness, then self-mastery, then self expression. You can only get to self-expression, which is where all the money gets made, if you’ve actually got clear in self-awareness first.

Self-awareness is where you begin. It is where you learn your strengths, talents, weaknesses, interests, values – the things that will direct and guide you through life, give you purpose, drive and energy. It is the place where you begin to understand the needs of others as you explore needs in yourself.

I was asked to teach marketing strategy as an adjunct at the University of the South (AKA Sewanee). I taught for five years. Most basic among marketing principles is that the marketer must satisfy an unfulfilled need of a defined group of people of significant size. The quickest, most sure way to find that need and that market (people with that need) is to look within. The self-aware person understands at depth, his own needs and is able to intuit those needs to others faster, more accurately and with nuanced understanding better than big data with artificial intelligence.

Great men and women changed the world, overcame intractable problems and became fabulously wealthy because they saw needs more clearly and complex solutions more simply and elegantly than all the MBA-enabled smart people around them. Self-Awareness is always the beginning point. Our modern examples include Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and my favorite, Mahatma Gandhi. Extraordinary self-aware minds, extraordinary impact.

You should know yourself better than anyone else can. I say “should” because most people don’t. Hence they fail in business and in life because the seed of all creativity fails. No seed, no roots, no stalk, stem, trunk, branches, leaves, flowers – no fruit. Self-awareness is not the be-all, end-all. It is just the beginning. But it is the solid beginning without which there is no happy ending.

And so, I go to my place of meditation to explore myself. The process is not born of narcissistic navel-gazing. No, it’s a process that begins with self, but quickly transitions to connecting dots outside the self. Then, to energizing, hope and faith-filled dreams and strategies. Dots that, in our distracted, frenetic world seem unrelated, irrelevant or unimportant. Yet, these are the very seeds of creation, elegant strategy, wealth through and beyond money – JOY.

Throughout my business career, I discovered that my greatest strength was in strategy. At times, I was able to create a vision that inspired action in others, solve problems or develop a franchise that flowered into more than ten thousand stores, producing wealth and convenience for millions of people. That story is for another time.

It wasn’t enough. I tired of the constraints of large corporations. I “retired” to become an entrepreneur. I made every imaginable mistake, yet I succeeded on the back of the ability to change strategy nimbly and effectively when situations changed radically. I bet the farm on 750 acres of land, three miles of breathtaking bluff line to develop a high-end, gated residential community, anchored by a Medical Spa that would holistically care for retiring baby-boomers. That strategy was based on market research and what I thought was a bullet-proof business plan. Three months after committing my entire life’s savings, with debt secured by everything I owned, the sub-prime mortgage Real Estate crash occurred. It was followed in 2008 by the whole economy. My target market disappeared. Every developer with similar plans and aspirations on the South Cumberland Plateau in middle Tennessee closed up shop. My bank was awash in foreclosed land from failed developments like mine. But, they stuck with me because I was making a few sales when no one else was making any. My banker could see that my new strategy, market positioning and personal passion were aligned and working. I was still making lots of mistakes that slowed me down. But that alignment saved me. It came from knowing myself and knowing that others in similar conditions and similar mind-set would want what I wanted.

Today, the Village on Sewanee Creek is alive and well, an intentional community quietly fulfilling its purpose in the lives of those who live here. They reassure me that what I created was good. It blessed their lives. That is meaning, purpose, joy and a kind of wealth. I reflect on the seventh day of creation, where God stood back, Took a deep breath, rested and proclaimed his work “good”. That is a kind of wealth called Joy.

Today, after teetering on the edge of bankruptcy and despair, I am not financially wealthy. I lost most of it. But I am debt free and wealthy in other ways. I am confident that money will return as I satisfy the needs of more and more people. The Village has been an exciting (sometimes depressing) ride. I have learned much about myself and the world I live in. That is my seed for creating great wealth of many kinds.

It’s been thirteen years in the wilderness. Like Henry David Thoreau, I came here to live my life deliberately. Over that time, I systematically, deliberately, thoughtfully developed a natural strength into a proven process that is changing my life for the better. I hope to use what I have learned to change many lives for the better.

I thank God and all his creations (including people like you) for making all this possible.

Ikigai – A Hero’s Journey

My quest for existential JOY began early. First memory: probably one or two, lying on my back on the lawn, in summer, gazing into the clear San Diego sky and feeling amazed that I exist. The beginnings of a profound sense of gratitude, which I later learned is foundational to a sense of existential Joy – the joy of being.

Existential joy, as I define it is independent of outside stimuli. It therefore can exist even in times of stress or pain. It simply exists. It is the ultimate form of self-reliance.

A bit later in life (1971) at the age of nineteen, I volunteered to serve a two-year mission for my church. I was sent to Japan, a place I knew absolutely nothing about. My mission to the Japanese revolved around a central message, “Man’s Search for Happiness” which was the theme of the church’s pavilion at the Osaka World’s Fair of 1970. During my two years in Japan I experienced existential Joy at a level most never experience in a lifetime. I learned infinitely more than I taught, as teachers always do. Others experienced it too.

That 2-year period was anything but easy. I struggled to learn the Japanese language like nothing I had ever done, often crying myself to sleep, discouraged and mentally exhausted. Yet in the depths of despair, I found purpose and meaning, something the Japanese language has a unique and wonderful word for. It is “ikigai” and before I learned that word, I experienced it.

Ikigai (生き甲斐, pronounced [ikiɡai]) is a Japanese concept that means “a reason for being.” The word “ikigai” is usually used to indicate the source of value in one’s life or the things that make one’s life worthwhile.[1] The word translated to English roughly means “thing that you live for” or “the reason for which you wake up in the morning.”[2] Each individual’s ikigai is personal to them and specific to their lives, values and beliefs. It reflects the inner self of an individual and expresses that faithfully, while simultaneously creating a mental state in which the individual feels at ease. Activities that allow one to feel ikigai are never forced on an individual; they are often spontaneous, and always undertaken willingly, giving the individual satisfaction and a sense of meaning to life. Wikipedia

The loving, passionate energy I put into those two years paid back incredible dividends throughout my life. Because I had achieved a level of mastery of Japanese, I was given more opportunities to serve in senior level business positions, developing big American retail brands all over the world, starting with Japan. Today, there are tens of thousands of stores (ihop, 7-eleven, Baskin-Robbins, Dunkin’ Donuts, Papa John’s to name a few) that I was instrumental in establishing. Those stores provided jobs and income and customer convenience to millions of people. My heart is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the opportunity to serve and impact the lives of so many. IKIGAI.

But, along my journey, I became disillusioned with some of the selfishness, greed and politics that go along with functioning in large corporate environments.

Hero’s JourneySo, about thirteen years ago, I left to develop an intentional community with lofty goals that involved my ikigai based on self-reliance, integrity and mutual love, service and an abundant lifestyle within a closely bonded community. In October 2006, I purchased about 750 beautiful, remote acres on Tennessee’s Cumberland Plateau, the Grand Canyon of the Southeast. It was just three months before the sub-prime mortgage Real Estate bust. It was my personal version of the “hero’s journey”. It was filled with all the elements of such a quest – challenge, failure, loss, disappointment, betrayal, fear, forgiveness, redemption and more. My life came into question as did my quest for existential joy. I fell into a state of depression as we teetered on the edge of bankruptcy for years, living in a state of lack. We now live simple, debt-free, peaceful, abundant and happy lives, but it was a rough road getting here.

There is a place in the iconic hero’s journey where the would-be hero falls to a low state. Then, through another mighty struggle with his own demons, overcomes. In the next stage of the quest, he returns home to teach what he has learned. This stage solidifies his learning and sets the stage for his next adventure. This is every brave man or woman’s journey.

And so was my struggle to recover existential joy. I have always been a deep-thinking introvert. My mentor boss at Dunkin/Baskin, upon his departure to head up Red Lobster, which he turned around and then took private, gave me a memento that still reminds me of my strongest talent. It is a brass giraffe because he said I always had my head in the clouds. It’s true. I am a big-picture visionary. I see trends and opportunities coming long before my peers and I develop detailed plans in my head to take advantage of those opportunities. One of the guys on my team once told me that I was exceptionally self-aware. I wasn’t sure how to take that at the time, but I have come to appreciate what a wonderful gift that is as well.

Over the past two years, I began an earnest quest to understand and recover existential joy – to define all of the principles that contribute to it and to develop self-mastery in applying those principles. Because of earlier life successes, I wasn’t in unexplored foreign territory, but I was beginning from the bottom of a pit that, in my hero’s journey, I had fallen into. Thankfully, my gifts of self-awareness, introspection and vision enabled that quest. I am now prepared to share the results of a lifetime of seeking existential joy.

My previous post speaks of some of those principles – productive creativity, meditation and gratitude. As described in the above Wikipedia link that defines Ikigai, the path to finding it is unique for each person and cannot be dictated or forced. It requires a great deal of self-awareness to discover one’s unique talents, gifts, passions and so forth. But, I believe there are solid principles beneath all that messy uniqueness. These are universal. They apply to everyone. My daily discipline involves testing these principles against the rigors of life to see if they hold up – always – and figuring out where and how the unique pieces fit into the universal principles. To date, I have identified and tested over a dozen discrete yet inter-related principles.

In coming posts I intend to share my discoveries. I hope to find a larger audience who will seek, test, find, validate and share joy that leads to wholeness of their life and then share it with others. If you are interested in the discipline that brings ikigai, or what I call existential joy, please subscribe and share my posts. Then share your experiences by commenting.

For those serious about accelerating your path to joy, come to my place in the Village. I will teach you my personally proven methods of practical, applied meditation. In peaceful, private natural places for deep meditation, like our waterfall,

the Beech Treehouse,

huckleberry point lookout

Overlook #17

or several ancient Indian rock houses on the property.

Discover who you are, your talents, passions, demons and opportunities to thrive. I will personally coach you how to practice the discipline necessary to change your life against your will, habits and addictions, to become your best, most joyful and prosperous self.

Call or text for an appointment or a stay-over. (931) 450-2426.

One week later, Still in Thanksgiving mode

This year the thanksgiving holiday (and feelings that go with it) have been extended more than usual as I have focused on the blessing of being married for 25 years to an angel.

But I think it is difficult to stay in a thanksgiving mindset these days, not because times are hard, but because we still have so much (although perhaps less than we had a few years ago).   As blogged elsewhere, the abundant life is more a state of mind than a state of having lots of material stuff.  Now comes more rigorous thought from economists on why that is the case. Do you remember those boring lectures in Econ 101 about the theory of utility?  Basically, the theory says with each additional (or marginal) thing we get, its marginal utility decreases. And with decreasing utility, so goes our thankfulness for it.

Here is the article that discusses “Thanksgiving and Marginal Utility.”

So Thoreau was right. The formula for optimizing thankfulness and therefore, Joy, is to minimize excess stuff and live in a state of mild deprivation.

Hmmm, deprivation. that sounds kind of bad doesn’t it?  I have found that deprivation, in itself, doesn’t necessarily produce gratitude or joy any more than our greenhouse always produces the best vegetables.  There are plenty of miserable poor people to attest to that and it takes more than just solar heat in the daytime to grow good produce.   But, like the greenhouse, maintaining the right environment is important where, with some additional care and tending, the fruits of thankfulness and joy can be most rewarding.

I know this advice is falling on a lot of deaf ears.  “Mild deprivation” doesn’t sound very appealing even with some quasi-scientific/Economic justification.  OK, so try a dare based on the more traditional Biblical justification found in Proverbs 30:7-9.

Two things have I required of thee; deny me them not before I die:
Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me:
Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the LORD? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain.

Economic theory confirmed in Scripture or the other way around?  All I know is that this week, as I have focused my attention on being thankful for the simple, non-material things of value in my life, I have felt a deeper, lasting sense of peace.  That feels pretty valuable right now.

Best Preparedness Manual

A very wise man said, “perfect love casts out fear”  1 John 4:18

Another wise man said, “if you are prepared, you shall not fear”.

In a world rife with fear of many things, these two dictums are prescriptions for peace and harmony. Our motto is, “In harmony with people and nature” .   We seek to follow both of these prescriptions for peace.

I have frequently blogged about the need for communities to be bound together by a commitment to living the Golden Rule, the most basic manifestation of love towards fellow-man.  Communities where that is the dominant principle will do well during periods of social and economic chaos.

Top Ten rules for Self-Governance,   Neighborhood rules for a Sustainable lifestyleAustere but Without Fear, Antidote for an Economy of Fear, Top 9 Antidotes for Hard Times

But, there is another popular dictum that says, All you need is love” . . .  NOT!
Yes, it’s important to surround yourself with loving people, but regardless of how heartfelt the singing, kumbaya does not feed, clothe or shelter.  That’s where other forms of preparedness come in.   To cover ALL you need, combine personal preparedness, know-how and self-reliance in a like-minded community with a commitment to support, share and care.   Another name for that is the Village on Sewanee Creek.

My blog also has a lot of information on preparedness like  Top ten Self-Sufficiency and Survival Skills, and we periodically sponsor preparedness fairs and workshop  events open to the public,

Just as Holy Scripture is the manual for a life committed to love of fellow-man, there is a manual recognized by many as the final, comprehensive word on prepared, provident living.  It’s called the LDS Preparedness Manual and you can download it FREE here.

Follow this manual and you’re halfway there.

Top Ten Rules for Self-Governance in a Self-Sufficient Community

On SewaneeCreek.com, my blog and preamble to the Village Covenants I have stated that the only rule of great import in the Village should be the “golden rule”. I also recognize that this rule may be the most difficult of all commandments to live in its fullness.

Some time ago, I recorded in my journal that for the past several mornings, our family spent our morning hour considering Christ’s monumental Sermon on the Mount. I marveled how he wove together sometimes seemingly contradictory concepts, presented back-to-back, not only achieving complete harmony between them, but a richness, depth and texture only seen or felt when the tapestry is viewed as a whole, stretched out on the wall and illuminated. One such observation was his comments on being non-judgemental, immediately followed by a caution not to cast our sacred pearls before swine. At face value, the determination of who qualifies as “swine” requires judgment. But stepping back from the tapestry, I was stunned to behold the picture of a supremely wise, quiet and untrammelled person who sees no need to judge others for their shortcomings because he is so focused on overcoming his own. With such a focus, he is so much at peace that he also feels no compulsion to share (or foist) his wisdom upon others who may not understand or appreciate the subtleties of truths he holds dear, having learned them by the hard knocks of personal struggle and knowing that without similar struggle, understanding does not follow. He walks his path at peace with himself, caring about others and prepared to love and uplift them without judging and without compulsion.

With this beautiful tapestry in full view, my heart-felt at peace. I wanted only to understand and emulate the words of the master.

Recently in reading Mahatma Gandhi’s autobiography, I observed this same great spirit of peaceful wisdom. Gandhi commented that Christ was his greatest example and that Christ’s Sermon on the Mount is the best example of how we should live. Yet, he commented, the people who least understand or practice Christ’s teachings are Christians. Whether that is true or not, I do not know. But I do know that mature wisdom dictates that we follow the principles laid out in this supernal sermon and lay aside our petty tendencies to judge, to exercise compulsion or to arrogantly consider ourselves above any other of God’s creations, our brothers and sisters.

Although I hold myself as a flawed, yet sincere disciple of Christ, I have discovered nuggets of great truth among all peoples and all spiritual traditions of the world. I hope that, just as the great Gandhi, a Hindu, was able to recognize the wisdom of Christ’s teachings, we can open ourselves to truth wherever it is found, meditate upon it, personally adopt and emulate it and become people of deep and abiding wisdom, faith, hope, and love for one another.

Can that happen in a world so full of strife? Are the principles taught in Christ’s Sermon on the Mount really practical to live? Though many would dismiss it as impossible in our modern, complex and competitive world, I submit that it is no more difficult, no less possible than it was in Christ’s time. And if we are to find peace in this life, the ONLY way.

The Spirit of Self-Sufficiency

There seems to be a general consensus among people that times are hard and will likely get harder.  People are fearful and dissatisfied.  Some who are awake to the fragile nature of our world are frantically provisioning for all sorts of real and imagined calamities.  While it’s good to prepare, our best preparations are not in things.  They are in us.

This is illustrated in a book I finished just last evening.  Unbroken is the true story of Louie Zamperini–a juvenile delinquent-turned-Olympic runner-turned-Army hero.  It tells of his horrendous suffering as a castaway on the Pacific and in Japanese POW camps, of deprivation, hatred, redemption and his resilient, unbroken spirit.  I awoke peacefully this morning thinking of a journal entry I made several years ago.  I had completely forgotten and was surprised to find a second notation about a dream I had where I too was an Olympic runner.  Funny how much the subconscious mind remembers and connects when all is lost to the conscious mind.  Here are some excerpts from my journal.

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3/24/2009 – Journal Entry

I have a new favorite scripture.

Philippians 4: 11-13
Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.
I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.
I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

As our family read this passage, I was inspired by Paul’s strength and courage in a Roman prison – for 5 years.
We had a wonderful discussion about what it was that made Paul so strong in the face of deprivation of everything that normal people hold dear – especially his freedom. It strikes me that the last verse holds a key.
Paul asserts with infinite confidence that he can do all things. What caught my attention was the why and how of that strength. I noticed that in the King James Version it does not say, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Instead, it says which strengthens me.  The antecedent that which refers to is doing through Christ.  By doing His will, acting on His eternally wise counsel, we are strengthened. Paul emphasizes an important part of that counsel when he says he has learned to be content in whatever state he finds himself.  In modern terms, “happiness is not in having what you want, it’s in wanting what you have”.

I am filled with His Spirit, His strength and His peace most, not when I am on my knees begging for it, but rather when I am doing my best to do and be as He counsels…. then I am strong, capable and confident that I can do, be and withstand all things. In those moments, a deep sense of peace distills upon me and I am happy regardless of what is going on around me.

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Some one hundred years ago it was determined that the average American had about 70 wants, things he desired to have. A similar survey was taken of his grandson and he had nearly 500 wants on his list and today, I’m sure that number is even higher. Why? Because people are not content in what they have!
(Joe Guglielmo)

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10/9/2009 – Journal Entry

In the past few months I haven’t thought much about this scripture.
Last night I had a strange, vivid, unusually coherent and powerful dream that seemed to last most of the night. I dreamed I was in the Olympics as a sprinter and surprisingly (as I dislike running and have no talent for it) won a medal. After the race, there was a great deal of pomp and confusion.  We were dressed in regal clothes with lots of patriotic emblems and medals representing our athletic accomplishments.  We were taken to special stores where we could buy more commemorative stuff and shuttled about for photo op’s and interviews. At one point the whole group was asked to think hard and come up with 100 short quips about goal setting that could inspire others.
In my dream, I came up with only one statement. It was “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me”.

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Paul was right.  Self-Sufficiency is not about physical preparation as much as it is about spiritual and mental preparation.  We must learn to be at peace, strong, contented in whatever state we find ourselves.   A wise man once said, “If ye are prepared, ye shall not fear”.  Prepare your state of mind by wanting less.