In 2009, the portends and omens were not looking good for the global economy. It was the aftermath of the grand collapse of the-world-as-we-knew-it. The young people coming up (as well as every other person on the planet) were facing a future where the dust was still settling.
Scary times were not coming; they were already here. Everybody was scrambling, trying to make sense of the shifting landscape and trying to figure out which direction to take and what moves to make.
Authors: Dev Aujla and Billy Parish
Published by Rodale Press, 2012
Two young men, Billy Parish and Dev Aujla, both of whom were already successfully working in their own ways to help rebuild a broken world, connected with each other and committed to collaborate on putting together a book “on how to make a living while saving the world. It came out in 2012. It was titled, “MAKING GOOD: Finding Meaning, Money and Community in a Changing World.”
When they began working on the book, both Parrish and Aujla were already “making good.” Billy Parish dropped out of Yale University to co-found the Energy Action Coalition. He grew the Coalition into the world’s largest youth advocacy organization working on climate. Meanwhile, Dev Aujla was the co-founder of DreamNow, a charitable organization that works with young people to develop, fund, and implement their social-change products.
The men’s side-hustles, the ones that made the money they needed to live the lives they wanted, were aligned with their primary visions for putting the world back together. They were walking their talk.
The basic question they tried to answer in MAKING GOOD was a big one: “How do we translate the desire to do something good into a rich and sustaining life path that affects real change?” The question, posited in a more pragmatic way, boils down to, “How do I feed and support myself and my family while I work to help fix the broken world?” A very good question.
Parish and Aujla went looking for the back-stories of people who were finding the answers to that question, each in their own way. They talked to major players on the international scene. They talked to local, small-time organic farmers, artisans and business people who were working to make their communities better.
The authors distilled the lessons learned from these stories as well as from their own adventures to put together a book that – as promised – lays out how to sort through the confusing array of choices and options, opportunities and resources available in the existing, confusing mish-mash.
Their book guides you through assorted techniques and strategies you can use to find your own way through it all. It comes replete with encouraging stories about what worked well for other people as well as cautionary tales that help to ground your dreaming.
IT AIN’T EASY….
The authors do not promise “easy.” They tell you upfront: “This book is not a quick fix.” As the authors point out, “Real change requires diligent mental and physical training and consistent effort. It’s a marathon. We all have routines and patterns etched deeply into our lives, and finding free reign to start something ambitious might not be as appealing as the idea that change will arrive in a miraculous moment. We just wish it were that simple. But let’s get real.”
Nothing in this book will work without long-term, sustained, and mindful effort put in by you. That said, I do want to note that this book is one of the few I have seen that lays out the process and practice of creating a meaningful life in a clear, authentic and very do-able way.
The book unpacks and illuminates the six steps that make up the path that leads toward making up a life that is not unsatisfactory. These six steps are: REFLECT, ADAPT, CONNECT, DESIGN, LAUNCH, and ORGANIZE. Each one comes with an array of tools, strategies, and resources you can explore.
CONSULTING YOUR INNER SMARTY-PANTS
The one step that resonates with me is the first one, REFLECT. The start for successfully making the changes to get to a meaningful (and sustainable) life begins in your own head, the authors say. It starts, in other words, with consulting your Inner Smarty-Pants. You ask yourself the hardest Life Questions and then sit there and listen for the answers that arise.
The problem is your Inner Smarty-Pants lives in your right brain and it isn’t very big on words and talking. It tends to use shorthand and code so you have to unpack its messages your own self.
In the book the “daily practice exercise” that is meant to help you access your Inner Smarty-Pants is dubbed “Inner Knowing.” It is a four-step process that involves what they call centering, asking, receiving, and applying. It’s one of the daily practices scattered throughout the book that were adapted from ones presented by Robert Gass at the Rockwood Leadership Institute’s year-long “Leading From the Inside-Out” intensive training.
Personally I’ve encountered and tried similar exercises before and I’m here to tell you they do work. However, in my own Life-Built Poem-making, I did add a refinement to the basic daily practice thing in the book…mostly because sitting still waiting for my own cantankerous, stubborn Inner Smarty-pants to say something is just NOT my forte.
What I do instead of trying to quiet my over-active monkey-mind is this:
- I just ask one very important “burning question” as I am falling asleep.
- When I wake up in the morning, I usually have some sort of answer – usually only a vagrant sentence or two floating around like cauliflower in the soup that is my mind. I’ll write down that short message immediately.
- After I’ve got the coffee brewed and poured out into my favorite mug and the paper and pens ready, I’ll sit down and start writing out everything that comes to mind when l look at that wake-up phrase.
- I’ll keep looking at all the blather that accumulates until I can see what is in there and then I make a poem out of it all.
Very often that poem will contain either the answer I need or more directions to explore.
YOUR PASSION + WORLD’S NEED
It is necessary to point out in all of this that REFLECT is just Step One of the meaningful-life exploration. If you’re trying to figure out what to do with your life and where to go next, self-examination is only one-sixth of the process.
Besides taking a look inside the person in the mirror, you also have to look outside yourself and observe the world around you. You take in all the broken places and look at the parts that work well. You look for the place where, as theologian Frederick Buechner says, “…your greatest passion meets the world’s greatest need.” And THAT is where you will find the path you can walk to create a meaningful life of your own.
My final take on this: There is a wealth of valuable information in this pragmatic and inspiring how-to-do-it manual. I do highly recommend it to you.
Here’s a poem:
THROUGH THE MARSHES
Okay. Got it.
I am useful for your aims
So you reach out to me.
But, what is this?
Out of the loving-kindness in my heart
I am supposed to give and give and give…
To you. Just you.
Everybody else’s priorities don’t matter to you.
You’ve made that very clear.
Your imperatives are the ones that count.
And I have to ask:
What’s in it for me?
What about these other folks?
How does this thing work, exactly?
I am noticing that
There is a fine line between
Doing good and getting done good.
The shift can be imperceptible to
A heart determined to stay open.
So, here I am,
Picking out a trail through
The boglands of reciprocity.
“Interdependency” gets tiresome, I find,
When the one doing the carrying
Is ALWAYS me.
Am I a Sherpa now?
And I notice:
Gratitude is an ephemeral thing.
It get sucked down into the quicksand
Of new crises and other goals.
Over and over again.
The sound of mud resounds in my ears.
You know what?
I think I’ll just stay here on this solid bit for a while
And figure out a new plan.
I am realizing something:
It sure is hard to drain a marshland
When you’re up to your ass in alligators….
by Netta Kanoho
Picture credit: Amazon.com
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