Any of us who listen to the news are pretty much constantly bombarded with bad news. Is there any good news?
The comedian Louis C. K. recently appeared on Conan O'Brien with a brief spiel titled "Everything's Amazing, Nobody's Happy," which has been viewed more than a million times on YouTube. It is hysterically funny because it is so true; things are better than they've ever been before in history, and yet people are whining and complaining all the time.
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the author of Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, describes how, when people are engaged in creative, meaningful activity, time flies by; they are so immersed in the act of creation that they are unaware of time passing. Csikszentmihalyi describes this as the flow state, as an "optimal experience," and as happiness itself.
Suppose we could all move into a flow state most of the time, and while doing so we were engaged in making the world a better place. What if we could do good and be happy throughout most of our lifetimes? What if most of the world's seven billion people lived such lives?
Entrepreneurial creation directed towards doing good is such a life path. Moreover, an increasing number of organizations allow one to be an intrapreneur, with creative possibility within one's job, such that one can live life as an entrepreneurial creation within a corporation. At the same time, more and more young people want to work only for those corporations that are committed to doing the right thing, in order to ensure that their work is meaningful. And more and more consumers and investors are also interested in purchasing from and investing in businesses that are devoted to doing good. And, finally, more and more people have enough "stuff" and are more interested in adding meaning, purpose, and experience to their lives rather than buying more things that don't fit into their houses.
Is it somehow immoral to think optimistically in times like these, when the news constantly wants us to believe the end of the world is coming? The Buddhists teach non-attachment; for many of us, becoming a more conscious being implies not only becoming less attached to material goods, but also less attached to previous roles and expectations. The Dalai Lama, in The Art of Happiness, makes the case, as have so many other philosophers and religious figures, that happiness is primarily determined by one's outlook on life. One can learn to discipline one's mind away from negativity such that one has a serene, positive outlook on life that allows one to be more effective in the world while simultaneously becoming a more compassionate being.
John Mackey, the CEO of Whole Foods Market, is a follower of the Course in Miracles, of which a central teaching is "Love is the opposite of fear." If we are living in a state of fear, we are not living in a state of love. A world in which everyone is acting out of fear and neediness is not apt to be a positive world. A world in which everyone is acting out of a sense of contentment, compassion, and love is apt to be a more peaceful, positive world.
What does all of this have to do with business? Many people these days tend to have the notion that capitalism is an evil system that is based on greed. But this is an arbitrary, and often false, assumption. One can be completely devoted to the good, one can live life as a mindful person, and also be an entrepreneur or a business person. What does life look like when one integrates consciousness and capitalism, both on an individual level and, more broadly, on a collective level?
And might it be possible to solve an increasing number of the world's problems if more of us integrated our entrepreneurial abilities with our commitments to doing good in the world? Might it be possible, if we revise our legal systems appropriately, to solve all the world's problems entrepreneurially? What would that look like?
Be the Solution combines an eclectic set of entrepreneurial stories, many from outside the world of technology (e.g., industrial-scale composting; an investment bank specializing in reforming property rights registries) with a very diverse set of articles on how to apply entrepreneurship to making the world a better place. Taking a longer-term perspective, both of the past and going forward, it shows how entrepreneurs and "Conscious Capitalists" have solved global problems in the past and how, given the right legal frameworks, they will solve even more problems in the future.
The world is amazing, and we can live life happily in a creative flow state going forward as we make it even better. So watch Louis C. K. and laugh, and then get busy enjoying yourself as you change the world for the better.