Sweet spot

“It’s a zero sum game, sport. Somebody wins and somebody loses. Money itself isn’t lost or made, it’s simply transferred…from one perception to another, like magic”. — Gordon Gecko in Wall Street

I’m preparing to give a workshop (playshop) in June at the Yangshuo Mountain Retreat called, Breakthrough Strategies for Attracting Wealth. While the name might suggest it’s all about money, it’s really about self-awareness. The Get Rich gurus of the world would have you believe that by teaching you some secret laws of money, you can master the zero sum game. This post is for those who believe that there’s more to wealth than money and reveals strategies of the inner game we can use to enjoy the process of creating it.

I’ve never taught this workshop before. Well, not exactly. I’ve been teaching it to fortune 500 Companies for years, since those are the people who were paying me. So I was really focused on increasing wealth for the client, by helping managers build their productive capacity. Because it’s widely believed that when everyone is more productive, the company makes more money. But wealth creation goes far beyond simple productivity.

Over the past 15 years, my work in China with GE, Nike, P&G, Wrigley and the like, was a bit cheeky. You could say my motto was, “Workers of the world, relax”. Instead of talking about how to be more productive, we talked about how to be happy at work. And sometimes this requires doing less, or doing something completely different. After all, there’s plenty of data that links happiness with higher productivity. These workshops were more of a thinking space to create  insight for participants and raise awareness of choices that would best leverage their talents and passions.

I believe that wealth is created at the confluence of talent, passion and environment to satisfy some greater need. It flows from fulfillment of creative challenge. To leverage our capacity to create wealth, we must develop a conscious awareness of who we are in the process in terms of what we value, and how our definitions determine our outcomes. We deploy these strategies through an elegant and powerful personal leadership model called the Leadership Diamond®.

Over 10 years ago, I read an interview with Dr. Peter Koestenbaum in FastCompany called, Do you have the will to lead?. Dr. Koestenbaum is a classically trained philosopher with degrees in philosophy, physics, and theology. He works with CEOs around the world on helping them be better leaders by first wrestling with the question of what it means to be a successful human being.

As I read the interview, I realized his was a powerfully different way of thinking. Koestenbaum’s provocative ideas go to the very heart of what it means to lead, by leading yourself before you can lead others. I was so inspired by his approach, that I immediately ordered his book, Leadership, the Inner-Side of Greatness, which really clarified for me the importance of first being, not doing, as the prerequisite for successful leadership.

It was in this book that I came across Koestenbaum’s transformational Leadership Diamond® Model. Of all the models that I’ve seen from business minds in the last 20 years, this one creates a whole new paradigm.

I believe that the purposeful pursuit of the greater good is what generates wealth and grows our capacity for greatness, which is at the heart of Koestenbaum’s model. And it compels us to embrace the ambiguity and contradiction that’s inherent in this greatness. Each orientation of the model is in opposition to another which means we must explore and find a balance for ourselves between them.

When I have an idea for a project that resonates with my values (creativity, abundance, mobility, beauty) I explore it through the Diamond’s orientations and clarify my purpose.

Ethics: Whom does it serve and how?

Courage: What am I willing to do/not do or be/not be to achieve it? What am I willing to give up? What cannot be compromised?

Vision: What does this look like 5 or 10 years from now? How would I paint the ideal?

Reality: Where am I now? What resources do I have? What administrative discipline is required?

I suspect the reason that Koestenbaum’s ideas haven’t made it into the popular culture, is because the average person is uncomfortable with ambiguity. The cognitive dissonance one must face in this process gives most people a headache. People want easy answers; practical tips and tricks. Like how to find a better job, how to save more money, how to make smarter investments, or somehow beat the system. But the mark of a great leader is being able to hold two opposing ideas in mind at once. That is the beauty of the Leadership Diamond®. You envision yourself as wealthy while acknowledging the challenges of day-to-day reality. You are serving others by serving yourself.  You value sacrifice without sacrificing what you value. The paradox of our condition holds great rewards if we’re willing to take a hard look at ourselves.

Most people think about the endgame of wealth in terms of material prosperity, which is what drives their productivity. But this is an outside-in approach that values affluence for its own sake. And as Koestenbaum notes, there is a kind of wealth porn in our society that idolizes business leaders. It ignores character and focuses on profit. Through my own explorations of the Diamond, I found that I was stuck on always being the nice guy, and didn’t have the courage to say no. This was a problem of ethics, because I would promise things that I couldn’t deliver on and then in the end, I wasn’t being of service.

The power of “No” was huge for me, and I have Koestenbaum to thank for this. The more I said “No” (forget the Jim Carrey movie), the more I was able to focus on the “Yes”. If you are one of these “Yes” people who is overwhelmed, not happy with what you’re getting and looking to focus on what you value most, please read this superb article by Tom Chiarella in Esquire. In fact, I recommend it to everyone. By saying “No” to the things that I thought once mattered, I realize they didn’t really matter and made more room for the wonderful things that did.

By working from Koestenbaum’s model in my own life, I’ve been able to focus on the things I love and attract significantly more wealth. Because of this, I deliver my workshop with authenticity, as someone who has really benefited from using such powerful new thinking tools. I believe that the joy of sharing these ideas is something that contributes to my wealth by making the pie bigger for everyone. And what’s not to love about pie?

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2 thoughts on “Sweet spot

  1. johndorris says:

    Hi Chris,

    I am looking forward to the workshop in June. There is a strong correlation between being a “transformational” leader who creates engaging organizations that can rapidly change and adapt to it’s environment and the ability to handle “cognitive dissonance.” So I like what you point out about the Diamond model and how it builds an inherent link between to ideas that are held together. It’s not vision sometimes and reality sometimes but vision and reality at all times.

    I wrote something related last week that you can see here http://johndorris.wordpress.com/2011/04/11/fitzgerald-and-the-fourth-person-perspective/

    What do they say about minds working alike. 🙂

  2. Cool post, John. This is turning into a real love fest, isn’t it? I live in a 24/7 world of cognitive dissonance, evolving and unresolving. I eat adversity for breakfast. To acknowledge and accept our contradictory nature and have the elasticity of mind to make them work together, that’s poetry in motion.

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