Lady Ruth, a profound scholar on the subject of yogic science, has a very succinct way of articulating the nature of personal and spiritual evolution. One of her sermons includes a simple analogy, explaining that it you find yourself on the wrong train going the wrong way, simply get up, go to the other side and catch the right train. One group that needs to be reminded of this truth very loudly is Wall Street and the business community.
Thankfully, conversations have begun to take place about the need to break out of the cycle of greedy exploitation that has been the dominant mindset in business for so many years. An inspiring example is the opening speech delivered this year at the opening session of the World Economic Forum by Klaus Schwab, the founder of the event, in which he said, "As we begin the second decade of the 21st century, humanity is at a cross-roads. We can either continue to work as lobbyists for our narrowly defined self-interests and keep doing the same old things that got us into the crisis in the first place. Or we can act together as true global leaders, with the long term global public interest in mind and at heart."
Mr. Schwab's message to those powerful financial leaders was no different from the one Lady Ruth delivered to her yoga students: no matter what mistakes we've made, we have the ability to break out of what the yogis call "Samscara," or the cycle of doing the same, hurtful actions over and over again. This means that the party girl can wake up one day and say, "I like the morning meditator more than the late-night drunk." Just as the greedy oil executive can wake up one day and say, "There are creative, non-hurtful solutions to the energy problem that will make my company more lasting and stable. Our bottom line will actually grow if we behave like this."
Unfortunately, there are still some on Wall Street who would rather conduct "business as usual" than explore new ways of serving people and interacting with humanity. This stale, shortsighted attitude was on display last week when Business Week ran a joint review of my new book Super Rich: A Guide to Having It All alongside my mentor Deepak Chopra's latest offering, Soul Leadership (the review aside, it was humbling to even be mentioned in the same sentence with Deepak).
While reluctantly conceding there was a large audience for our books (accurately so, as Super Rich was just named a New York Times bestseller), the overall tone of the review was incredibly condescending. Readers of both books," BW complained, "will be struck with a revelation we've heard a lot of these tips before. Usually from our mothers. And often before the age of five."
What the reviewer failed to grasp, or perhaps just didn't want to accept, is that while Deepak and I might be inspired by yogic philosophy, we all know that the great religions run parallel and preach the same basic messages of love, faith and connectedness. That's why there's an entire chapter in Super Rich called "Being a Business Yogi," which details the importance of staying focused on building organizations, experiences, and opportunities that create long-term happiness, rather than greedily exploiting short term gain. The old way of thinking, where you only have one bottom line, is what keeps you in a vicious cycle of chasing money. If you are able to build businesses for the future that take into the account what people actually want, you begin to create double and triple bottom lines, you not only will be able to live in happiness, you will soon realize that you no longer have to chase money, money will chase you.
Certainly the success I enjoyed promoting hip-hop was only possible because of my belief in the music's ability to bring people together and uplift their collective consciousness. Even if "consciousness" wasn't in my vocabulary back then, I still sensed that by promoting the incredible poetry of the streets, I was helping the rest of the world become more aware of and compassionate towards the struggles of the communities the rappers had came from. It's that same belief in service and creating happiness that has fueled the success of the Rush Card. When I began to learn about how many people had been shut out of the banking system, I knew there could be a considerable interest in a new product that made it easier for people to access their money. I tried to run Rush Card as a business yogi, with my focus on creating long term service rather than a quick financial gain, by lowering fees, trimming my margins and creating value for people who had previously only known exploitation. The result is that Rush Card has become my most successful venture of my entire career.
As we come to the crossroads that Mr. Schwab spoke of, we have to ask ourselves, do we want to choose the path of self-interest or do we want to choose the path of greater good? Do we want to get rich off of the suffering of the animals, or do we want to use our resources to find better, less harmful ways for people to eat? Do we want to get rich off oil, even if it means draining Mother Earth and going to war with the people who live in oil producing nations, or do we want to find another way to fuel our society? Do we want to keep getting rich off of guns that bring pain, suffering and death to so many innocent people, or do we want to say that we've had enough?
These are the monumental questions we face at the dawn of the 21st century and if we choose the wrong answer, the result could be devastating. If we don't collectively get off of Lady Ruth's subway and start heading in the other direction, we're not going to like what we find at the end of the line. The earth will keep on spinnin', but we just won't be on it. Forget about technology -- our ability to evolve our collective consciousness will determine the very future of the human race. So let's start embracing and promoting consciousness and connectedness now, before it's too late!