by Joel Solomon
“What’s the single most important thing young entrepreneurs can do for future success?” That’s a question I often get asked when I’m promoting clean money at business schools or incubators.
My answer is always: “Learn inner skills.”
Cultivating insight and mastery of yourself is the secret of a successful life. You can know all the mechanics and necessities of business, but if you skip learning how to handle conflict, how to understand your own feelings, and how to be in relationship, you will likely wreak havoc. You might succeed financially, but you may die unhappy and leave a tainted legacy. Financial success and power can have big value, but there is much more to life than that. We must also be successful as human beings.
As children we absorb habits, behaviors, and assumptions from our parents and siblings. We endure later struggles and even traumas—everything from broken relationships and hurt feelings to personal failures and violent assaults. As has been well articulated by addictions specialist Dr. Gabor Mate, these ingrained patterns leave scars that affect how we respond to the world. Self-esteem challenges, abuse, and prejudice can leave us wounded and perpetually recreating what was familiar. That can mean abusing and wounding others in the process.
Our careers can also work against us. We can win the race for money, and find ourselves unhappy, lonely, and alienated from meaning. More enlightened states—compassion, joy, honesty, self-esteem— are at risk. Even the most fortunate of us face realities that can confuse and distort. Sadness, fear, insecurity, envy, greed, ego-inflation, and vexing challenges greet us throughout life. Strong as our Western culture is on intellect and ambition, it is proportionally weak in delivering good skills for thriving relationships, balanced power dynamics, crisis management, emotional health, and peace.
We lose what Martin Prechtel has called “the honey in our hearts.”
Knowing how to love, how to be a good person, how to reduce fear or the suffering of stress—understanding our mind-body relationship and how to enhance it—these are skills of the examined life. As you these master emotional skills, you will feel good, and “feeling good” increases trustable leadership and right action. Corporate professionals, entrepreneurs, artists, homemakers, parents, hourly workers, students, retirees—we all need more awareness of and facility with our inner lives. As we challenge our preconceptions, shine light on blind spots, and stretch our emotional comfort zones, we will activate our spirits toward honorable, satisfying mastery. We can leave legacies we’ll be proud of.
The truth is that money has no values of its own. Money doesn’t account for fairness, justice, beauty, consciousness, or love. That’s our role, and it’s ever more crucial that we assume it. We need to start to talk about money in ways that dethrone it and make it subject to human ethics and standards of love and decency. An obsession with growing and clinging to wealth can damage us and those we love. We need self-awareness and spiritual grounding for safe, healthy engagement with money.
Money is embodied energy. It’s a tool. Using it with a divine intention to help others is wonderful. Without some inner guidance to steer by, lust for money can become the meaning and purpose of life. This incredible movement, the “clean money revolution,” is about causing less harm and doing more good. It is also about cleaning up our relationship with money. That means learning how to notice, acknowledge, and address our own inner damage. Maintaining a mental block about the mischief our money is doing—to whom and what, right now, on our behalf—is a corrupt morality. What will our descendants think of our financial choices? What do we tell our children when they ask: “Didn’t you know that you made your money investing in climate change and injustice?” Do our children need money and power, or do they need our inspiration as role models who show us good pathways to fulfilling opportunity? They may want both, but without the latter, they may be spiritually empty and aimless, wondering about the meaning of their lives.
We know the better business leader understands their own insecurities, fears, reactions, and ego. Organizations that motivate people, build self-esteem, and support self care and conflict resolution do more good for everyone. Without those practices we become narrower. As the inner world of leadership contracts into fear and negativity, our businesses, organizations, and institutions suffer. Our families suffer too. We grow callous. We teach our children and others we influence to perpetuate our poor or reactive examples.
The examined person thinks creatively and more independently. They trust an inner knowing, the mix of intuition and practicality. They get things done with flow and ease. They express clear boundaries. Nurture themselves. Speak truth to power. Such people live adult wisdom. They inspire. They are model ancestors. They are peace warriors for the future. They are all in. They show the way.
Love will drive people and businesses to know where their money is and what it is doing to the world (or for the world) at this moment. It’s the most important responsibility of our lives, and will lead us into the great adventure of creating the future. My intention is to raise consciousness about how we can use money in a regenerative way, rather than investing in damage and destruction.
The clean money revolution is on!
About the author:
Joel Solomon is a pioneer in the emerging world of mission-driven finance. His new book, The Clean Money Revolution: Reinventing Power, Purpose, and Capitalism, challenges us to take a deeper look at the role of money in our lives, exploring a massive economic shift that’s creating new, ethical, and sustainable businesses that are making the world a better place. He speaks regularly to investors and wealth managers across the U.S. and Canada.
TEDx Talk JoelSolomon.org