Tag Archives: EMMF

Our Spending Choices Are Changing the Economy

coinsHow we choose to spend our money will determine whether the emerging economy increases or reduces poverty, protects or further degrades the planet, and makes us a happier or a more miserable society.

Our individual consumer habits matter. Every dollar is a vote for the world we want to create. Worried about climate change? Notice how often you tank up or travel for leisure. How about that new plastic gadget? How long before it ends up in the landfill? How about food shipped from a distant part of the country? As millions of us awaken to the detrimental impacts of our spending habits on the environment and on our health, we will generate a major shift in how our economy functions.

An economy should serve the greatest number of people for the highest good. It’s a system that we invented for the primary purpose of generating value for one another. We don’t just work to make money. We work because we have an inherent need to contribute to others. Human beings have spent the majority of their history working together in small groups to survive. Deep in our social DNA is the protective instincts of taking care of one another so that each of us can make our necessary contributions to thrive as a group.

There is far more cooperation in successful economies than we realize. Think of the coordinated efforts in providing you with this book to read. There are too many companies to list that were involved in making the complex products and providing the services necessary for me to write on a computer, email it to an editor, have it uploaded onto a publishing and distribution format, notify you that it’s available, and prepare the cup of coffee that you might be having while reading it.

Imagine if we understood the notion that the best economy is one that works for everyone. The tragedy of poverty would end. The United States has more than enough resources to eradicate poverty, literally overnight if we chose to do so. These realities can happen once a critical mass of people adopts a new paradigm about the purpose and goals of the economy.

From the book: Enough Money, Meaning & Friends ~ By Scott C. Miller

To learn more about Scott Miller, please see his website here.

Thriving in the Emerging Economy

“Science fiction is the very near future.” –Mark Lautman, author of When the Baby Boomers Bail

Looking into his crystal ball, my friend and colleague Mark Lautman, national economic development architect and author of the book When the Boomers Bail , gave me his well-informed forecast about the emerging economy. He tells me we are dispensing with most blue-collar jobs and even the white-collar ones like attorneys, mortgage brokers, etc.that can be done with automation and artificial intelligence. On the one hand—good — people don’t have to do as much grunt work. But where are the jobs for all the people we want to support out of poverty? Although it is unclear, there may be a completely new concept of an economy being birthed that holds the promise of providing people with enough money to pursue enough meaning and friendships to thrive. This new economy will likely be a hybrid of paid work, community work, and a new level of sharing that reduces expenses while increasing a sense of community with others.

I realized that our program, Circles USA, and other approaches like it are offering intentional communities where people have each other’s back to help secure basic needs as well as to advance in the emerging economy. In Circles, we recruit people from middle-income and upper-income households to enter into powerful and meaningful relationships with people who want to become economically stable. Ironically, many volunteers recognize that they, like me, carry around a lot of financial anxiety through unconscious spending. The relentless pursuit of making and spending money has contributed to both a sense of ennui and isolation. We are sacrificing time for meaningful activity and quality friendships in pursuit of the quick fix that a new purchase provides. I suggested to our Circles USA leadership team that it was time to refocus on the message of supporting everyone to have enough money, meaning, and friends . We need a new American Dream that will help more people live happier lives.

Too Much Evolves into Just Enough

Using a more appropriate measurement than the outdated poverty guidelines adopted in the mid-’60s by the federal government, the current economy, according to a recent New York Times report, is generating a 50% poverty rate. The official White House assertion in 2018 was that the poverty rate is actually 3%. Quite a difference in the “facts.” Regardless of what the rate really is, the emerging economy is trending toward more disparity and fewer people experiencing the ideals of the American Dream of the ’50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s. Therefore, new structures such as Circles are emerging to help people learn not only how to have enough money, but enough meaning and friends as well.

According to the website Sapiens, https://www.sapiens.org/debates/simplicity-culture, almost 60 million people in the United States are embracing voluntary simplicity — working fewer hours, spending less money, and being more mindful about how they live. Perhaps the Great Fog is beginning to lift for a critical mass of us.

From the book: Enough Money, Meaning & Friends ~ By Scott C. Miller

To learn more about Scott Miller, please see his website here.

Visible and Vulnerable: The Honesty of Leadership

We live in an age where leaders are exposed to a near-constant barrage of criticism. The media thrives on scandal and focuses its attention on what grabs the audience share rather than on what is truly worth our attention. Leaders are visible and therefore vulnerable to being attacked. Social media gives people ample opportunity to generate negative commentary. Opinion makers love controversy and will find leaders to undermine at every turn. As we watch leaders being criticized on a regular basis, it can be easy for most of us to conflate leadership with potential exposure to shame and humiliation.

The great lie of our culture is that we are not good enough. Leaders, like everyone else, are susceptible to feeling inadequate because of the culture-wide conditioning that we somehow do not measure up to others. If I do not conform to society’s religious or sexual norms, there is something wrong with me. If I don’t make as much money as “they” do, I am less than they are. If I make more money than they do, then there is something better about me. Perhaps making more money will protect me from feelings of inadequacy.

There are taboo subjects that generate shame, confusion, and feelings of less-than. The main topics that many of my generation were told to keep private include money, sex, politics, and religion. Yet we live in a world in which money, sex, politics, and religion are central elements of our lives. To not talk about these issues with others is to deny human nature.

The most atrocious assaults that we humans make against each other come from distress patterns related to one or more of these taboo topics. The shame surrounding these topics creates toxicity within us that can compel us to shy away from leadership.

In sharing views on the taboo subjects of sex, money, religion, and politics, we open ourselves to attacks from others. The more visible we are, the more exposed we can feel. If you look like you are doing really well, people who don’t feel successful might turn their feelings of jealousy into weapons. Unconsciously, we don’t want to raise our heads above the crowd just to have it chopped off.

As a leader, I find myself shying away from telling people I am a member of a new-thought spiritual center. “Is that even a church?” one person asked me. Not really. It’s a center where people study and practice a spiritual pathway together, in community. We draw from the ancient wisdom that informs all of the great traditions of spiritual disciplines.

Many of my peers have had brutal experiences in religious upbringings that used fear and guilt to manipulate them. And yet, being from a traditional church in which so many of the congregants don’t embrace the spiritual pathway of the church is somehow more acceptable than being a member of a congregation that embraces diversity, dismantles shame, and explores the full potential of what it means to be a human without trying to control anyone in the process.

Because of my position as a national nonprofit leader with donors, volunteers, and those we serve being of different political affiliations, I also shy away from owning and sharing my political preferences. I was taught that you don’t talk about politics in public. But why? Politics affects what happens to the environment, the economy, the legal system, and almost every other important aspect of life. If I say I am affiliated with this party or that party, I invite attacks—more so now than at any other time in my life.

The time has come for us all to get honest, to openly discuss the important issues of the day, and to allow leaders to be human. This shift is essential to support our most dynamic leaders who are creating a world that works for everyone.

From the book: Enough Money, Meaning & Friends ~ By Scott C. Miller

To learn more about Scott Miller, please see his website here.

Letting Go of the Drama Triangle

There can be a strong temptation for some of us to try to rescue each other from our problems. This attempt often backfires and creates resentments in our closest relationships. Circles USA warns volunteers about the Drama Triangle, also known as the Rescuer Triangle.

In his book A Game Free Life (karpmandramatriangle.com), psychotherapist Dr. Stephen Karpman explains the roles and interaction of the Drama Triangle:

Persecutor: Appears controlling, critical, angry, authoritative, rigid, superior.

Rescuer: Needs to be needed. Enables others to remain dependent and gives them permission to fail; rescuing helps rescuers avoid facing their own issues.

Victim: Appears oppressed, helpless, powerless, ashamed—finding it difficult to make decisions or solve problems.

As friends, we are vulnerable to being lured into the Drama Triangle frequently. How do we know we are in it?

  • We criticize, blame, and do our best to make someone else wrong—assigning fault.
  • We feel we don’t have viable options or the ability to negotiate to get what we want.
  • We rush to fix something so that someone else feels better.

As Americans, we tend to be indirect in our communications, taking a more passive-aggressive approach when we are not getting what we want. In Circles USA, however, we encourage everyone to learn how to steer clear of the drama triangle and simply ask for what they want or need, knowing that if the other person can’t give it to us, we have other options for meeting our needs and wants.

As a leader, I receive occasional invitations from people to jump on the Drama Triangle with them. It typically starts with someone’s feelings of disappointment, the subtext being “you are not doing what I want you to be doing, and there is something really wrong with you for not doing it the way I think you should be doing it. I am going to try to make you feel guilty enough to give me what I want.”

If we don’t get onto the Drama Triangle, there is no drama. There is simply a renegotiating of expectations and moving forward under a new and updated agreement. Or, the agreement might be that we don’t go forward together but rather move in different directions. Either way, the result is healthier than making decisions and acting while still emotionally stuck in the Drama Triangle.

If we make decisions because we feel attacked and shamed, then we will resent the other person in the relationship. If we decide to quit a relationship while angry or feeling victimized without communicating clearly what we want instead, we risk ending things prematurely and recreating the dynamics with someone new. We miss out on the lesson underneath what the distress is all about, a lesson that makes us stronger and more cognizant of our own unhealthy patterns.

I have organized my work and personal life so that I have fewer and fewer interactions with people who use the Drama Triangle as a way of doing business with others. If we create an environment in Circles USA that reinforces direct and respectful communication and extend that into all of our professional and personal relationships, it can become second nature to simply say “no” when the invitation to play in the Drama Triangle shows up next.

While stepping out of the Drama Triangle may necessitate leaving some friends behind, the relationships you consciously choose to keep will be of a higher quality, which creates more stability in the long run.

From the book: Enough Money, Meaning & Friends ~ By Scott C. Miller

To learn more about Scott Miller, please see his website here.

Having Enough Friends

“Wishing to be friends is quick work, but friendship is a slow ripening fruit.” – Aristotle

Harvard’s Happiness Research Points to Quality Relationships

An 80-year longitudinal study by Harvard revealed just how important caring relationships are for health and happiness. “Good relationships don’t just protect our bodies; they protect our brains,” Harvard researcher Robert Waldinger said in his TED talk.

A University of Kansas report published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships by associate professor of communication studies Jeffrey Hall states that it takes roughly 50 hours of time together to move from mere acquaintance to casual friend, 90 hours to go from that stage to simple “friend” status, and more than 200 hours before you can consider someone a close friend.

Close friends provide us with an emotional immunization from some of the suffering in life that we might experience otherwise. A good friend can give us comfort, guidance, perspective, and resources when we need it the most. Investing some of our 112 waking hours a week in developing and sustaining close friendships is time well spent. When we have enough friends, our sense of belonging is satisfied and we are happier.

A national survey of adults 45 and older conducted by AARP Research revealed that one in three people are lonely. The percent jumps to one in two if their income is less than $25,000 a year. The report also cited health studies that put loneliness in the same risk category as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. For many, this loneliness comes with social isolation—lonely people simply do not have enough structured activity in which to engage with others. We, humans, have a tendency to keep this loneliness in our lives with more than 40% reporting that their loneliness has lasted more than six years.

How much friendship is enough for each of us is a very individual determination, but on average, people who reported in the AARP study that they are not lonely have 8.2 people who have been supportive in the previous year, compared to 4.3 people for the lonely group. When asked how many people they discuss matters of personal importance, the not-lonely group said 4.0, and the lonely group said 2.1.

Like money, the number of good relationships we need to be happy is probably less than we might think. While the brain might be able to handle up to 150 relationships at a time, those whom we really call friends are few indeed. A study by Robin Dunbar, an evolutionary psychologist at Oxford, shows that the average person does not have time for more than five close friends at a time. If you are in a committed relationship, the number may be smaller. Her research shows that you can be happy with just one close friend.

From the book: Enough Money, Meaning & Friends ~ By Scott C. Miller

To learn more about Scott Miller, please see his website here.

The Tale of Two Mindsets

The call to adventure, as described by Joseph Campbell, the well-known mythologist, professor, and lecturer, is always characterized by the invitation to leave the known and enter into the unknown. It is a tale of two mindsets. For some period of time, we contemplate whether we are going to accept the call. We have one foot in the old mindset, and we try to dip the toe of our other foot into the unknown. The problem is, we can’t keep a foot in both worlds for very long. If we truly want to have the new experience, we must answer the call and put both feet into the unknown. Follow the yellow brick road, Dorothy.

The call to adventure that I am personally hearing is to change my thinking about money, leaving behind the past four decades of assumptions and habits. It is time for me to let go of many of them and become my own personal scientist, finding ways to increase my sense of community and deepen my purpose. What does it feel like to volunteer more often? To really take the time to study music, art, food, photography, and history? To have more time to smell the roses? To say no to money-making opportunities that seem outside of my purpose or values?

As in every call to adventure, we spend some amount of time and energy refusing it. For me this evening, I had a case of the “what-ifs.”

  • What if I retire too soon, and we run out of money, and I have to re-enter the work world at a lower rate per hour than I can earn now?
  • What if the agency that I have been leading for two decades can’t handle my working fewer hours and then things collapse?
  • What if the next generation of organizational leaders do things in ways that are at odds with my approach?
  • What if I retire and get bored and depressed with too much free time and not enough structure? Also, that’s my wife Jan’s main worry about my next chapter of life.
  • What if I keep overworking and have less energy to address lifestyle changes I want to make with eating, exercise, connecting with others, volunteering, and studies?
  • What if I continue working full time, the great opportunities keep coming, and I am once again stressed out with too much travel, thinking, and complexity?

I shared these feelings with Jan, and she encouraged me to challenge them by asking if my concerns were real. When I wrote down my fears, the worries subsided. It is important to note that six months later after writing these worries down on paper, none of them are a concern today.

While it was tempting to get back into more work that felt familiar to me, I knew I would be happier following the call to adventure into the uncharted waters of an unknown world. The happier I could be, the more likely I was to make a new and significant contribution to others. By listening to my heart rather than my head, I left the known, which is no longer in alignment for me, and entered the unknown.

The tale of two mindsets ends when we finally answer the call. Assistance has come from outside of ourselves in some manner–often through one of our allies—those who tell us the truth about what they are hearing us say we want to do. As allies, they challenge the rationalizations that keep us clinging to the known. They encourage us to let go and step into the new world.

Our society places an unwarranted premium on making money. Millions of ads over our lifetime have told us that we should make lots of money and buy from an endless catalog of stuff we don’t need. Our sense of reality has been largely shaped around habits of consuming things. But for those of us who are tired of chasing more money and more stuff, a new world awaits. That world is rich in meaning and friendship and guided by a more modest standard of living, a standard that requires far less money than what we think we need to achieve a better version of the American Dream. This is the new mindset that can change the world.

From the book: Enough Money, Meaning & Friends ~ By Scott C. Miller

To learn more about Scott Miller, please see his website here.

Having Enough Meaning

How Do You Feel?

We feel good when we are “in the flow.” We are doing what we want, and our attention is fully engaged. We are doing something that doesn’t generate anxiety from being in over our heads or that gives us a sense of ennui from being bored or adrift. We have a mission, and we are engaged in it enough to give us an overall feeling of well-being. We have enough meaning to be happy.

Ennui (not enough) ——————Flow—————-Anxiety (too much)

We can pursue a simple organization of our mission and objectives to help structure our attention, so we stay in the flow, often referred to as being in the zone.

  • What is my life purpose?

Mine is to inspire and equip myself and others to be happy and thrive. What is yours?

  • What is my purpose for this period in my life?

For this year, I am focused on establishing enjoyable new rhythms in my week. What is yours?

  • What is the daily objective that will help me achieve my life purpose?

One of mine is to focus on doing one thing at a time and kick the habit of multi-tasking. What is yours?

Anxiety and ennui are guardrails on the path of purpose. When we take on too much, we can generate fear and anxiety. Delaying action that serves our life’s purpose will generate feelings of ennui. Finding the sweet spot between the two creates a wonderful sense of flow that comes from engaging in whatever is the meaningful activity to us.

Getting on with One’s Purpose

Years ago when I considered going back to graduate school, I asked my friend Dr. Steve what he thought about my idea. He asked me if, when talking to the many Ph.D.’s I had interacted with during my career, had I ever found myself not understanding what they were talking about as it related to my field? I had to admit that had never happened. He said getting that kind of degree involves a lot of work and that unless I had a burning desire for it, maybe I should skip it. Great advice! I decided I would work closely with people who had Ph.D.’s but did not need to fit the round peg of my personality into the square hole of academia.

Of course, I salute my friends and colleagues who got their Ph.D. and now use it to pursue their careers and personal mission. They are accomplishing what they set out to do. Certainly, higher education degrees are necessary for many strategic and technically complex jobs. However, there are a million and one excuses we can give ourselves about waiting to make our unique contribution to the world. It’s important to tune into one’s heart and ask these questions: Am I ready right now to passionately chase my life’s dream? If so, then what is the next step? If not, why not?

By tuning in to our hearts, and talking with others for perspective, we can better discern whether more education, apprenticeships, preparation, time, or something else is required before we get on with the next chapter of our lives. The world needs inspired leadership now. The more of us who get on with it, the better chance we all have of sustaining our future for the next generations to come.

From the book: Enough Money, Meaning & Friends ~ By Scott C. Miller

To learn more about Scott Miller, please see his website here.

Tasks to Balance your Time and Money

  • Reflect on being financially independent
  • Track expenses for 30 days
  • Brainstorm ideas for increasing your nest egg
  • Brainstorm ideas to declutter and simplify your life by dropping or reducing expenses
  • Set your money goals and define your circle of allies

Three Tools for Success in Becoming Financially Independent

1. Goal Setting and Structure

Without a plan of action, you will achieve little. By creating a game plan for success, you establish a path, and the steps are clear. All that is required is a focus, the support that is provided by your circle of allies, and the desire and perseverance that can come only from you.

The structure is what keeps you on track, especially during times of challenge and discouragement. When the inevitable stumbling blocks appear, you must not only continue to put one foot in front of the other, you also have to know which foot goes first.

2. Circles of Support and Accountability

Without a supportive community, a person can become isolated, lonely, and discouraged. By surrounding yourself with allies — family members, friends, helpers, and colleagues who are willing and eager to see you succeed, the path to balance becomes joyful and easier. Your commitments to action are only as good as the actual work you do.

Your chances for accomplishing this work are increased significantly by having someone hold you accountable, check-in with you to find out what progress you are making, and offer a level of encouragement that is difficult to achieve on your own.

3. Reality Test

Each individual must operate from a high level of certainty and acceptance that the goal is achievable and worthwhile. Until you truly believe in your goal, the necessary passion and motivation required for success are missing. Can you believe in your own new reality?

From the book: Enough Money, Meaning & Friends ~ By Scott C. Miller

To learn more about Scott Miller, please see his website here.

Enough Time to be Human

Recently, two people mentioned to me that there was not enough time to get things done. One of them said he was working seven days a week. How does this happen to us? Perhaps the shift to digital technology has pushed our overwork patterns to new levels?

There is certainly an addictive quality to social media, email, and all things related to the computer that make many of us wonder how to rediscover the human being in us while swimming in a growing sea of shiny, digital things. Our ability to focus our attention has been compromised by the pace of digital activity.

Although we are part of nature, the artificial life of the digital age has us living in our heads much of the time. Eventually, we can lose touch with ourselves. We postpone love, art, solitude, engagement, and fun. Why do this? Why not take charge of one’s life and honor it with what it means to be a fully alive human being?

I have been using the clock my great-grandfather built as a daily reminder that there is always enough time to do what really matters. Perhaps we are taking on assignments that others should be doing instead of us? Maybe we feel that staying busy is an important badge of honor? Do we justify our value by our to-do list?

Or is busy-ness a way to medicate uncomfortable feelings of unworthiness that are so prevalent in our society? Do we stay busy so we don’t have to feel the unpleasantness of our own existential angst? Sometimes those unpleasant feelings are a call to a new adventure in our lives. Listening to them might open up a possibility we never thought of before—something profoundly meaningful.

What is a little temporary discomfort in exchange for being able to dramatically improve the quality of one’s life?

From the book: Enough Money, Meaning & Friends ~ By Scott C. Miller

To learn more about Scott Miller, please see his website here.

Having Enough Money & Time

When we have enough money, meaning, and friends, we can thrive. We are capable of stepping more fully into our authentic human nature and enjoying what life has to offer at higher levels of satisfaction.

When we have enough of what really matters in life, we do not have to answer the question, “How are you?” with comments like “Things are so crazy” or “I am so busy.” We can give ourselves the time we need to listen to our heart’s whispers of guidance and inspiration. We can spend quality time with our friends and family members long enough to hear what they are experiencing and join them with love and compassion.

While the culture of consumerism screams for us to make money and spend it all as fast as possible, many of us are rejecting this addictive and unsustainable way of life. We are drawn to concepts such as slow spending, small footprints, relational living, local sustainability, etc. We are finding our sense of enoughness that brings us a consistently satisfying life experience.

Climate change is also telling us it is time to slow down. Our bodies are telling us enough is enough. We have exhausted ourselves trying to keep up with a society that is largely out of touch with what it means to be a human being. Yes, we are miraculous beings full of unlimited potential, but we still function in a world of necessary physical limits. We have only so much time, so much psychic energy, and so many physical resources to use. Balancing our unlimited potential with these natural limits is what we as human beings are being called to learn and master at this time.

From the book: Enough Money, Meaning & Friends ~ By Scott C. Miller

To learn more about Scott Miller, please see his website here.