Originally published on Conscious Capitalism's website here.
Dear Conscious Capitalism Community,
Four years ago, I attended my first Conscious Capitalism conference in San Francisco. Fifteen months ago, I joined Conscious Capitalism, Inc. (CCI) as co-CEO. Today, I am honored and humbled to write this letter as CEO of this incredible organization.
We live in a world begging for Conscious Capitalism. We know of capitalism’s proven ability to raise billions out of poverty. But we also know that, like anything with great potential power, it can be abused. Only by being exemplary stewards of Conscious Capitalism can we, as a unified movement, prove free-enterprise capitalism to be inarguably the most powerful system for social cooperation and human progress ever conceived. In the face of mounting moral and ethical challenges presented by what some consider “business as usual,” we must remain steadfast in our determination to let the truth about Conscious Capitalism’s potential to elevate humanity through business win the narrative.
CCI would not be where it is today without the incredible and dedicated work of trailblazers over the years.
It began when Muhammad Yunus first used the term “socially conscious capitalist enterprise” in a 1995 Atlantic Monthly article about Grameen Bank’s efforts to develop poor economies with innovative lending products. In 2006, a small nonprofit called Freedom Lights Our World, started by John Mackey, Michael Strong, and Phyllis Blees, began organizing “Conscious Capitalism” gatherings to articulate the philosophy. Over the following years, like-minded business leaders began to join the meetings and push the philosophy forward, such as The Container Store’s Kip Tindell, Stagen Academy’s Rand Stagen, Panera Bread’s Ron Shaich, Starbuck’s Howard Behar, Costco’s James Sinegal, Jamba Juice’s James White, and many others. By 2010, Conscious Capitalism, Inc. was its own 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. Today, due to the support, energy, and commitment of countless executives, coaches, and chapter leaders, this community is vibrant, diverse, and poised to change the world.
In particular, I want to express my gratitude to Doug Rauch, the first CEO of CCI, and my co-CEO for the last 15 months. What Doug did for the movement and how he did it cannot be understated. When Doug took on the role of CEO in 2011 (originally presented to him as an “interim” role while the organization sought a full-time CEO), he set three principal goals for his tenure: (1) to unify the diverse Conscious Capitalism efforts under a single organization that would be stronger together than separated; (2) to create an organization that is “transpersonal,” i.e. it does not depend on any one individual or business to succeed; and (3) attract a viable, strong full time CEO. Without question, he accomplished the first two. I hope to live up to his belief that he has done the third.
What’s more, Doug is the embodiment of Conscious Leadership. He honed his leadership philosophy and skills while president of Trader Joe’s, and brought forth warmth, humor, and wisdom that was a pleasure to experience as co-CEO. I am glad to know that he will remain an active member of the CCI Board, and I am encouraged to see that his other project, Daily Table, will be receiving more of his much deserved attention. I am reminded of when Thomas Jefferson became ambassador to France. When asked what it was like to replace the esteemed Benjamin Franklin, Jefferson would respond that Dr. Franklin could not be replaced; he was merely Franklin’s successor. I am no Jefferson, but Doug is certainly a modern day Dr. Franklin.
I recognize both that a great deal of trust has been vested in me and that a great deal of responsibility has been given to me. The most important thing I learned during my tenure at Students For Liberty, when the organization grew from a flicker of an idea to a global movement changing the world, was that it all came down to the people. An idea alone has no power. The right idea with the right people, though, can change the world. My commitment is to bring the right people together in this community to do just that, contributing what I can: a strong back to carry the load, an analytical mind to build the future, and an open heart to experience this journey with others.
So, what can you expect of CCI going forward?
I am here to serve this cause, this community, and this movement. To the extent that I am able to help this movement fulfill its potential, it will be because I am standing on the shoulders of giants who came before and working arm in arm with those who are here today. And because I am confident in the abilities of those who came before and are part of this movement now, I am confident in saying: You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
What inspired me to join CCI in the first place is the foundation upon which this organization was founded. I believe that the words of the Conscious Capitalist Credo will continue to guide our way forward, and I encourage everyone to share it with those who wish to know more about why we are so passionate about the need for this movement.
Conscious Capitalist Credo
We believe that business is good because it creates value, it is ethical because it is based on voluntary exchange, it is noble because it can elevate our existence, and it is heroic because it lifts people out of poverty and creates prosperity. Free enterprise capitalism is the most powerful system for social cooperation and human progress ever conceived. It is one of the most compelling ideas we humans have ever had. But we can aspire to even more.
Conscious Capitalism is a way of thinking about capitalism and business that better reflects where we are in the human journey, the state of our world today, and the innate potential of business to make a positive impact on the world. Conscious businesses are galvanized by higher purposes that serve, align, and integrate the interests of all their major stakeholders. Their higher state of consciousness makes visible to them the interdependencies that exist across all stakeholders, allowing them to discover and harvest synergies from situations that otherwise seem replete with trade-offs. They have conscious leaders who are driven by service to the company’s purpose, all the people the business touches, and the planet we all share together. Conscious businesses have trusting, authentic, innovative and caring cultures that make working there a source of both personal growth and professional fulfillment. They endeavor to create financial, intellectual, social, cultural, emotional, spiritual, physical and ecological wealth for all their stakeholders.
Conscious businesses will help evolve our world so that billions of people can flourish, leading lives infused with passion, purpose, love and creativity; a world of freedom, harmony, prosperity, and compassion.
I was recently interviewed by Dawn Carpenter, a doctoral student at Georgetown University, for the launch of her new podcast: More Than Money. She dedicated an entire episode of the podcast to the Conscious Capitalism movement, which is now available on iTunes and online below. During the episode, I talk about the movement broadly and Seth Goldman, the founder of Honest Tea, talks about applying Conscious Capitalism's principles to everyday business. Check it out below and let me know what you think.
I am going to be speaking about Conscious Capitalism at Georgetown this coming Thursday from 5-6:30pm for the launch of the university's new More than Money podcast: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/reception-for-the-launch-of-the-more-than-money-podcast-tickets-33740179786. It's open to the public and should be a great conversation.
For me, the Salty Dog Cruise, a 3 day Irish punk musical festival on a ship sailing in the Bahamas, was a life-changing experience. The past two years, I have gone with my wife and an ever-growing group of friends and family. Each time, I leave the cruise with a renewed appreciation of life, the importance of living in the present, and most especially, a deeper feeling of love and connection with others.
Some may read this with skepticism. When I first signed up for the cruise two years ago, I did not expect this result. Sure, it looked like fun. And because my wife grew up with these bands, I knew she would enjoy it. But for someone who spends most of his time concerned with what's logical, dressing according to the surrounding norms, and concerned primarily with understanding and meeting the needs of others, the Flogging Molly Cruise was a radical departure from the norm, an opportunity to connect with another sense of meaning in the human experience. Sometimes, hyperbole turns out to be reality.
PUNK IS HEART
I never really went to concerts growing up; I never knew what to do with myself at them and always felt uncomfortable. Nor did I appreciate punk music; I listened to Green Day and The Offspring, but didn't think of them as part of a genre separate from other Top 40 I listened to. The 2016 Salty Dog Cruise was essentially my introduction to punk rock.
What I discovered on the cruise and have come to appreciate since, is that punk is special. It's not about being angry. It's about expressing emotion and finding pleasure in them, no matter which one you feel, whether anger, love, sadness, or joy. Punk isn't about hiding any of them. Punk, at its finest, is about passion and the interconnection of every emotion.
This is the diversity of the punk movement. When I first joined the cruise, I wondered, "How in the world can a genre bring together The English Beat (ska), The Attack (hardcore punk), Brogue Wave (traditional Irish), and Flatfoot 56 (Irish punk) together?" The answer is simple: They all come from the heart.
Here's another way of putting it (supposedly from the Bouncing Souls, but I can't find proper attribution): Heavy metal and punk are on opposite ends of the rock spectrum. Punk is all about heart and emotion. Heavy metal is all about the head and skill. Heavy metal is similar to classical music in its endeavor for melodic perfection, i.e. what is technically correct. Punk is far more concerned with free expression, i.e. what feels right.
MOSH PITS ARE FILLED WITH LOVE
The mosh pit is a microcosm of everything that punk and the cruise represents. To the outside observer, a mosh pit is anger and hatred, violence and subordination. To those who engage in moshing, it is about love and respect, dancing and support for others.
My introduction to moshing was a Rancid concert. I saw my wife dive into the middle of the circle pit while I stayed on the fringes and began to absorb the customs. The first five minutes of feeling shoved, pushed around, and uncertain of my position were jarring. Was I getting in someone's way? Was I being rude? What is my proper place? But as time went on, I realized that people weren't pushing against me, they were pulling me in to join. Standing still will get you knocked down. Joining the dance, moving freely, and expressing yourself, keep you balanced. In the words of Frank Turner (who I moshed to later that night), you "fight for this four square feet of land like a mean old son of a bitch" to give yourself the room to do what you damn well please.
Watch when someone falls down in a pit. They do not get trampled on. They do not get ignored. The exact opposite happens: everyone nearby circles around to protect them and lift them back to their feet. And as soon as they're up, they get shoved right back into the action. People care for each other in the mosh pit.
Crowdsurfing is started just as often by a group of people lifting someone in the air to give them the ride of their night as by someone asking to be lifted up. No matter how it's started, everyone pitches in to carry and safeguard the person in the air.
In many ways, the mosh pit is the embodiment of the abstraction of community. A group of people come together from many backgrounds and philosophies. They may not know each other. They may only have a few things in common. But they have chosen to come together to share the same space and dance with one another to the same music, creating a zone where people can fully express themselves. Do they run into each other? Yes, no person is an island. Does running into each other hurt sometimes? Yes, the best things in life come with pain, including, and especially, interacting with others. (At the end of the cruise, every member of our crew was covered in bruises and one person had to wear ankle braces for a week afterward.) Love involves pain. And the mosh pit, when done properly, is an expression of love.
Note: I have been to many shows between and since the last 2 cruises. There are, indeed, mosh pits filled with people focused on inflicting pain rather than just enjoying themselves. However, these are the exceptions rather than the rule. There are bad apples in any genre, industry, or group. It is important to understand whether they are representative of the group or anomalies. In general, they are anomalies in punk.
Yo Ho Ho and a Bottle of Jameson
So what's so special about the Salty Dog Cruise as opposed to a concert or festival? To be honest, it may not be. I have no doubt that the transformative experience people have at other festivals or Burning Man are just as meaningful. But, for me, here are a few reasons:
Everyone should find love, beauty, and free expression in their own way. I found mine on an Irish punk rock cruise through the Caribbean. The Salty Dog Cruise may not be for everyone. But it's well worth experiencing to find out.
During the 10th ISFLC, as I was no longer president of SFL, I only delivered one talk on the main stage: to present SFL's Alumnus of the Year Award to Dr. Tom G. Palmer. It may have been short, but I consider it one of the most meaningful speeches I have had the honor of delivering.
Over the years, the Alumnus of the Year Award has been given out to some notable individuals. They have all been an inspiration to young libertarians in some way. But this year’s Alumnus of the Year is someone who has played an important role in the lives of more young libertarians than anyone will ever know.
Students today can communicate with hundreds of activists by sending mass-emails that take ten minutes to write and send. When he was a student, he would take rolls of quarters to the pay phone at the end of his dormitory hallway and monopolize that prized tool for hours on end just to reach a handful of other libertarian students and check in on how they were doing.
This individual is the embodiment of the phrase, “a gentleman and a scholar.” There is no person who carries him or herself with greater poise or generosity. He did not go down the traditional academic route after receiving his DPhil from Oxford in philosophy, but he has written more books and articles than I can count, including editing and contributing to all 5 of SFL’s books from The Morality of Capitalism to Why Liberty. What’s more, he is an activist, putting his own safety on the line for the sake of others, exemplified by his experience smuggling copies of the Declaration of Independence into Russia at the height of the Cold War.
Nine and a half years ago, when we were organizing the first Students For Liberty Conference, he saw the potential in this movement long before we would. When we turned that conference into a nonprofit organization, he helped raise money, secure speakers, and advise us at every step. When SFL went international, he began recruiting new leaders for us in country after country visited. Since then, he has been SFL’s strongest advocate.
There is no greater role model that young libertarians today should strive to emulate.
Ladies and gentlemen, the 2017 Alumnus of the Year, the Atlas Network's George M. Yeager Chair for Advancing Liberty and Executive Vice President for International Programs, Dr. Tom Palmer.