As entrepreneurs, we don’t live in self-created bubbles, insulated from the storms that flail the rest of the world. Our lives and the lives of our businesses are embedded in an ecology of systems and structures that shape each of us and our businesses in fundamental ways.
If you and I have wealth and privilege — however relative & contextual these might be — we have a concomitant responsibility to determine what the true and complex costs of our privileged lives are, who bears those costs, and how they are distributed across the world’s ecosystems.
First, let’s take a clear-eyed look at the numbers — what kinds and quantities of resources does it take to sustain the life you live, to support the life of your business?
Then draw closer — explore, invite, listen to the lived stories of those who make your privilege possible, and those who benefit from your privilege as well. What are their lives like? What do they feel, worry about, dream of, wish for, love? What do they want their lives, and their children’s lives, to be? What are their souls here to experience, express, serve and create?
Listen for stories from the human and non-human world, as well as from the Earth herself. Explore this rich treasure of stories in a variety of ways — through books, films, essays, reports, novels, poetry, plays, memoirs; through dance, music, art, writing, spoken word; through travel, fireside conversations, community gatherings; through soul investigations, deep attunement, contemplative prayer, direct communion with the non-human world.
Next, articulate what right relationship with wealth and privilege means to you, what right relationship with the ecosystems in which you and your business flourish means to you. Then, map out the pathways through which you will craft your life and business to accord with your values, to stand in right relationship with wealth and privilege.
Wealth and privilege are the promised land of entrepreneurship. After all, you’re in business to make money, otherwise you’re running a non-profit, not a business. Every choice you make arrives with its own costs. As a conscious entrepreneur, you want to understand what those costs are, who primarily bears them, and how the systems that allow you to gain wealth and privilege function to keep others outside an aspirational and in many ways fantastical and illusory paradise.
This is capitalism at work. But, for most small business owners, it’s more complicated than class rhetoric might indicate. You may have people working for you, but chances are, you are also working in your business. In Marxist terms, you are both capitalist and labour.
Small-business owners: We’re a breed that didn’t exist in Marx’s industrial model of class division. We take risks no sane corporate worker would dream of taking. We do it over and over. We thrive on a degree of adventure, a daily, brisk walk with the unknown.
Our ongoing dance with neoteny takes its toll on our health and well-being as well as the health and well-being of our communities and our planet.
Looking outside my window on this late October morning, I see vermillion trees dancing in the wind, their leaves dressed for joy, not yet releasing into descent. And I see others — bare branches with their last fluttering flags drifting silently earthwards.
There is a rhythm to the natural world that we, as entrepreneurs, would do well to emulate. Here, in the Northern Hemisphere, we are in the glory of autumn, a spectacular letting go, a final blaze of colour before winter’s steel-grey cloak descends to blanket us in rain, sleet, snow — in silence and rest.
Know which season your business is in. Know how the seasons of your business alter your relationship with wealth and privilege. Choose a way of being that aligns with the truth of your body, the truth of your world.
How much wealth do you actually need, at this stage of your life, in this phase of your business’s life? How much wealth and privilege do you need, to fulfill your soul’s purposes, the purposes of your incarnation, and the purposes of your Business Deva, at this time? Raising a young family, living with a chronic health issue or life-altering diagnosis, approaching retirement, investing in community development or a new direction in your business that will serve a deeper, more generous purpose — each of these will require different resources than when you’re in a phase of relative stability and consolidation.
Wealth is not innately bad, nor is poverty good. Wealth is provision, and provision is essential for all life on earth to flourish.
Wealth makes so much possible that remains out of reach when we’re struggling simply to survive. It affords us the leisure to deeply consider what kind of world we want to live in and to leave behind for future inhabitants of this planet. It offers us the means to make significant contributions to the web of interdependent being within which our own lives and all life is embedded. It gives us room to fulfill our own potentials, and to nurture the unfolding potentials of life around us. Wealth provides us with time and space for creativity, art, music, play, justice, equity, support for the causes we believe in and are willing to take a stand for.
The Deva of Provision sustains the life of our world, and we are its allies.
Ultimately, how mindful we are of the limits of the earth’s resources, and how we choose to allocate and share them, determines the quality of life for all beings.
Our past does not have to become our present or our future. We have the power to choose a more coherent, integral, wholesome relationship with wealth and privilege. One that affords all beings the possibility of fulfilling their soul’s purposes and growing into the fullness of their being. One that supports healthy bioregions and ecosystems in which all life flourishes.
If you choose, you can begin today by asking the questions that your heart yearns to explore about your relationship with wealth and privilege. Listen closely for what emerges from your enquiry. Take one small step, today, each day, to build right relationship with wealth and privilege.
Notice how your inner being, and the world around you, changes as you live into your enquiry.