40 years of financial and individual deregulation has not worked in the Western World. Life expectancy is now shrinking in the US, the leading proponent of the winner takes all social experiment. Anxiety and depression rates are at record highs across the developed nations, inequality is breaking new barriers and global debt has reached unimaginable levels. In order to fuel this mis-step we have plundered our planet, possibly beyond repair.
The pandemic has been the final nail in the coffin of GDPconomics. It is no coincidence that the US and the UK have competed for the highest death rate. When the right to pursue individual economic success is the central tenet of a society, that society will fail. When the goal becomes saving lives globally, rather than maximising individual bank balances, we rediscover what makes us human.
- The ability to communicate and co-operate on a local and global level.
- The ability to use our extraordinary brains to discover and manufacture vaccines and treatments almost overnight.
- A return to our families and to our communities highlighting what we have known for a long time. We are spending our time and energy in the wrong places, pursuing the wrong goals.
Many of us have sleepwalked into this. Signing up to the mantra of GDP and growth as the master solution. Hoodwinked by a creed that celebrates money and awards medals, we barely stop to consider, let alone challenge. Plugging ourselves into the machine that runs only one code- maximisation of shareholder value. We have become part of, or aided, the creation of the selfish elite that as Jack Goldstone notes, always precedes the end of a civilisation.
We commute – we leave our communities and families- and we give our best energy and creativity to line others’ pockets. We return depleted, without even the energy to confront our lack of meaning. We turn away from those that we love the most and that need us the most. We turn back to the comfort of our devices, our work where we feel needed, or we sooth the void with food, alcohol, media or other forms of self-medication. We know something is wrong, living lives of outward “success” but inner dullness.
We often want to change, talk about change, need to change, yet stay still. Signals come from all around, our bodies complaining and aching, our children demanding our attention, our relationships waning, the news in our communities and in the world steadily worsening. We know In our hearts we are not on the right path, yet our minds insert insurmountable obstacles allowing us to cuddle up to the comfort of what we know.
Some have changed and taken less orthodox paths. These Mavericks have craved autonomy and impact. They have felt a passionate need to fix a problem, to make things better, to serve both themselves and others. It is not an easy path. The gravitational pull of societal expectations around wealth, power and fame is strong. This blackhole has been turbocharged first by advertising and more recently by social media. This is crack cocaine for our egos.
The Maverick path starts by looking honestly at ourselves, at the lives we want to lead, at the dreams we have. Then having courage, taking risks, and actively creating that life for ourselves. Not overnight, not in a linear way without setbacks, but over a period of months, years and a lifetime. Moving from passenger to pilot of our lives. The path starts with honesty, with a long hard look at what we want, what we are passionate about, what our skills and strengths are. Then we need to consider if these align with what society needs and can pay for.
Once we have figured out the right pitch for us to play on and have committed to stepping onto the pitch (no spectating here), we need to think hard about the right position. Brain surgeons do not tend to run hospitals. Our egos may all want to be the centre forward scoring goals, but the successful team consists of many people on the pitch, coaches on the side of the pitch and support staff in more hidden roles.
Having our cake and eating it means a life where we are not deferring future fulfilment for short-term financial gain. Where we are not damaging ourselves and others around us for some vague future payoff. A life where taking our own path automatically benefits not only our own souls but society as well. A life where we blend ourselves, our work and our relationships with others, spending precious time and energy appropriately.
It is time to start making our own definitions of success:
- Definitions that include a broader set of measures than likes and bank balances.
- Definitions that recognise we can only flourish when we have meaning in our lives and that meaning is only achieved when others benefit.
- Definitions that move us from the win-lose economy that was kickstarted by Reagan and Thatcher to the win-win-win life. I win, you win, we all win.
- Definitions that are intensely personal, and internally assessed, releasing us from the burden of measuring up to external expectations we did not even realise were optional.
We have heard all too much about Financial Capital. We have started to hear about the importance of Social Capital as written about by Robert Putnam in Bowling Alone. We need to add Personal Capital. The reality is that unless we are in good shape with batteries charged, we cannot take the Maverick Path. We cannot spend best energy on those that need it the most, ourselves, our families, our communities and then our society.
This is a call to action to those Mavericks who want to strengthen their path, and for those that want to Go Maverick, to change path. We have 10 years to build on the lessons from the pandemic and course correct around climate, equality and joy.
- Together we can and will. As a collective of individuals we will:
- Build lives where work is meaningful and Is part of an enjoyed life
- Build companies where people and planet sit ahead of shareholders
- Build democracies where taking a 30-year view is not incompatible with winning elections
Let’s start now with a quick exercise. Without thinking too much, write down the three-sentence eulogy that would be written about you today.
Now write down the three sentences you would like to be written about you when you do die. Let’s close that gap.
Thank you for reading this far. This is the introduction to the book I am writing – The Modern Maverick. I would love to hear your thoughts and feedback and plan to share some excerpts in this newsletter over the next few months. As always, if you feel you know someone how might benefit or enjoy this then please do forward the email and they can sign up here.