The first time I tried to transform the world everything went wrong.
It was autumn and only one enemy stood between me and total conquest. After days of battle, my army seized the advantage and surged into final striking distance. But on the eve of victory the unexpected happened. It rained.
The next morning I awoke to calamity. Not only was my enemy massacred but so too were all my men. Chaos sprawled in every direction as lifeless bodies bobbed about in a sea of destruction.
“How could this happen?” I thought. I positioned every piece and now everything was ruined. My boots sunk into the sand as I slipped into a catatonic surrender.
I don’t remember who shook me out of it, but at the age of ten the great sandbox flood was an epic disaster. One thing was certain: world transformation wasn’t easy.
Although I lost a lot of good plastic army men, GI Joes and Transformers that day, I learned an invaluable lesson. War doesn’t work. If I wanted to transform the world, I needed a better way do it.
And so my search began.
I studied social leaders like Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and César Chávez. I poured over their marches, protests and acts of civil disobedience. Their non-violent strategies resonated with me. But something didn’t add up.
Their movements were typically fueled by the anger of injustice. And while anger was effective at mobilizing people, it wasn’t always effective at solving the underlying social problem. My foray with war mongering taught me anger didn’t mix with world transformation. So my search expanded.
I explored economics. At first, I was in unfamiliar territory. As a theology major, at the University of Notre Dame, the study of markets never moved my soul. But now, I saw how important money was in the social structures around the world. Something stirred. I was getting closer.
This is when I learned a nasty secret. Money can be used to enslave the world. Throughout history systems like Communism, Socialism and Fractional Reserve Banking have created financial bondage. This troubled me, deeply. I wanted to know if money could set the world free.
My economic odyssey turned to Capitalism – the realm of moguls, magnates and tycoons. At first, Capitalism told the same story. It reeked of greed, globalization, competition and a lust for profits. But something about Capitalism worked because it offered more freedom and opportunity than any other system. That’s when I came across a new, more evolved form of Capitalism.
I was smitten with Conscious Capitalism. It was Capitalism, but as a socially conscious pursuit. Where “old school” Capitalism failed, Conscious Capitalism stood for the common good and a deeper purpose for doing business. Instead of greed and absurd executive salaries, Conscious Capitalism compensated all stakeholders, employed conscious leadership and was cooperative, not competitive. Moreover, instead of seeking only profits, Conscious Capitalism helped the entire business ecosystem: people, planet and profits. For the first time in my short business life, I was home.
In the beginning, I was eager to find a way to use Conscious Capitalism with my internet business, but at every turn, I was mired in a world of technological ho-hum and struggle. In terms of purpose and impact, my business failed. My soul bellowed. If I was going to transform the world, I needed to go social. I needed to become a social entrepreneur.
I fell in love with social entrepreneurship for two reasons. First, it offered a practical application of Conscious Capitalism. It didn’t measure performance in profits, but in achieving social and environmental goals. Secondly, it succeeded where social movements failed. It addressed underlying problems and used entrepreneurial principles and practices to achieve true and lasting solutions.
But social entrepreneurship needed oomph. So I studied history in search of early social leaders and luminaries who sparked world transformation. Among my favorites were Saint Francis of Assisi and Florence Nightingale. I asked; what made them so effective?
The answer bolted through me. They changed lives. They created organizations of peace and purpose. And they walked their talk.
What made social entrepreneurship work was spirituality, the breath of life. With the power of Spirit, anything was possible. So I went on a quest to taste the spiritual world for myself.
I did something radical. I became a hospice volunteer. I wanted to observe transformation, live consciously, and learn what death had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover I had not lived.
By any logical standard, a VA hospice ward wasn’t the best place to learn about life. But what I found there – between the death rattles and war stories – was truth so real I’d never felt more alive.
It was there, at the Sepulveda VA in North Hills, California, I discovered the riddle to transformation. The world didn’t need transformation; I did.
“How obvious,” I thought. For so long, I was convinced the answer to world transformation was an outside job when, in fact, it was an inside job. Shaboom. I was blindsided by a miracle.
It wasn’t a glamorous walk-on-water miracle, but the kind of miracle defined in the classic text, A Course on Miracles. I experienced a correction introduced into false thinking. I realized it wasn’t really the people in hospice who were sick – it was me. I was a chronic false thinker.
So I learned to listen and be present for those in transition. That’s when things got rewarding.
One day, for example, I asked Dennis, who survived the Bataan Death March, if he was afraid to die. He beamed back, “How can we die if we never leave heaven.” Poof, a miracle.
And the time I asked Jennifer, my favorite nurse, if she was ever sad she couldn’t heal the patients. She smiled back and said, “Before we can change anything, we must accept what already is.” Poof, another miracle.
Then there was Mr. Z, who served at Pearl Harbor. When his earthly end was near, I asked him if he was afraid to die. “Nope” he said, “God is with me. The real journey is about to begun.” And so it went. The world poofed. I listened.
What I heard was the connected nature of all things. In hospice, just as everywhere else, we’re a collective consciousness. We’re not just physical bodies – we’re quantum, spiritual beings of dignity, direction and purpose. And through solidarity – whether it’s volunteering at the bedside or practicing conscious business – we can make miracles a reality.
And so, from waging war as a child, to sitting at the bedside of dying warriors, it dawned on me that transformation wasn’t something we do, it’s something we be. We must give up weapons of mass destruction and be weapons of mass creation. We must be masters of our destiny and use the tools of conscious capitalism and social entrepreneurship. And most of all, we must start where we should, with ourselves. We must be the transformation we want in this world.
Although economic troubles persist and many are suffering around the world – I dare to dream of global solidarity, a new humanity and a golden age of conscious renaissance. It’s a dream where our truest nature manifests as what is – love, compassion and peace. Together we can do it.
It may not always be easy, and there will be learning lessons along the way, but through our intentions and good acts we are the change makers we’ve been waiting for. Truly, we are the vessels and bridges of the common good and for each other – from generation to generation.
Now, as we set out on this adventure, may our actions be of integrity, and inspired not by greed or want, but by our deepest being. Together, let’s make miracles a reality and transform the world.
In case you’re wondering, the sandbox eventually dried up. It was a new beginning and my second chance at world transformation. I dug out my plastic army men and dusted off my Transformers. My Mom opened the porch door, surveyed the scene and said with a smile, “Whatever you do, remember to play big.” Thanks Mom, I will.