Money and Power and Swimming with Sharks

08/10/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011
  • Lee Schneider Communications director at Red Cup Agency. Minimalist. Writing on the intersection of culture and technology

This month I'm conducting an experiment in not striving. I'm nine days in. It's going pretty badly. Pushing, grasping, wanting and hoping are kind of like getting up in the morning: I strive, therefore I am. Some sharks are like that -- they can't stop swimming because then they stop breathing. Let me try taking a breath while staying motionless in the water. How's that feel? Terrible, can I start striving now?


Being meditative and reflective, accepting where you are and preparing to receive abundance are all really easy things to do. You can start by sitting cross-legged on a soft surface and staring into the sun until your eyeballs explode. No, that's not what's supposed to happen. But that's what it feels like for me. I've never been good at meditative postures. I like running -- did a 10K last weekend. After a couple miles I reach a humming-along-with-the-universe state that feels about right. Afterward I find my decision making clearer, I treat other people better and go easier on myself. I get just as much stuff done but with less effort. Is that what not striving is like? That might be worth striving for.

One path to not striving might be found in one's relationship to power. As our friend Lotta said in her recent newsletter, "Power comes to us when we stop reaching for it. It's actually always with us, but it's our striving that gets in the way." Striving doesn't give us power. It can, in fact, take it away. The Soul of Money, by Lynne Twist, works this idea through, bringing in some thoughts on money.

"Each of us experiences a lifelong tug-of-war between our money interests and the calling of our soul. When we're in the domain of soul, we act with integrity. We are thoughtful and generous, allowing, courageous, and committed. We recognize the value of love and friendship. We admire a small thing well done."

Things change, she writes, when we enter the domain of money, and then, "It is as if we are suddenly transported to a different playing field where all the rules have changed. In the grip of money, those wonderful qualities of soul seem to be less available. We become smaller. We scramble or race to 'get what's ours.' We often grow selfish, greedy, petty, fearful, or controlling, or sometimes confused, conflicted or guilty."

Ok, let's get real. The world is pretty greedy, petty, fearful and confused already, right? Does this mean I have to quit show business and work in a granola factory?

There will always be friends (I'm talking to you, East Coast) who will say "Who cares whether you cash your paycheck with integrity? Take the money and run." Well, I'm thinking there's more. I'm thinking Lance Armstrong, who came out of retirement to ride the Tour de France after winning seven times. He has a slim chance of winning eight times but he showed up anyway. "I feel good, I feel strong," he said, as quoted by the AP. Showing up, feeling good, feeling strong, accepting where he is. There's something to that.

What if you can do a job that fires you up, and therefore you can do it better, get paid more for it and stop and breathe at the same time? I can give that a go without striving for another 22 days at least.