Editor’s note: This is an excerpt from the new book Alivelihood: The Art of Sustainable Success (HMR Publishing). Horst Rechelbacher will be a keynote speaker at the local Beaming Bioneers Conference.
There are many books on business success and many others on self-improvement, but my philosophy and experience is that both subjects are interrelated. Every approach to self-improvement requires some form of internal and external negotiation, and in all of our interactions with others, there is some form of business transaction.
As an Austrian, I interpret the word BUSINESS from the German language, which in English can be translated as "transaction," or the exchange of action. The word "action" can also be interpreted to mean energy, your energy and my energy, so we could say that business is, in essence, the exchange of energy.
Looking at it this way, we are all in business, both inwardly and outwardly. Some trade cash, stocks or bonds, while others trade services, commodities, real estate, art or intellectual property. In our inner world, we trade thoughts, feelings, actions and information. If we were to observe all the inner transactions we conduct on a daily basis, we would be amazed to discover the many unconscious ways we do business in this regard.
By interpreting business as an exchange of energy, we can also observe that all of the biological life works as a business enterprise. Take plants, for example. Through the process of photosynthesis, plants absorb energy from the sun and convert carbon dioxide into oxygen. Hence, they use their energy to support other biological life, which reciprocates by using its energy to support plant life. But unfortunately, we Homo sapiens are no longer operating in this way; on the contrary, we are destroying our plant life by deforestation and clear-cutting. We are squandering our planet’s energy, especially the energy we derive from oil and petrochemicals, and in the process setting in motion unnatural cycles that threaten to destroy life on earth.
Before it’s too late, we must become aware that all the elements of our planet are in business together for the purpose of sustainability. We are not having honest and healthy business transactions with our planetary corporation, Earth Inc., and the way we do "business" with the earth is symptomatic of the greedy, self-serving way we do business on the stock exchange, as well as the fear-driven, unconscious way we do business with ourselves.
It’s time to make holistic, sustainable values an imperative in our lifestyles and our corporations’ policies. We have a great responsibility not just to our corporate shareholders but also to our planetary shareholders – to all living beings and to future generations. My companies have been founded on a single principle: that humans are interconnected with all of life. This is what I mean when I use the term "holistic" – it means that which takes into account all the interdependent elements of life. Let us learn to do business holistically – both inwardly and outwardly – and bring fair and honest exchange of actions back into all of our transactions.
My approach to "alivelihood" starts with I, Inc. – the art of managing our personal lives as if we were each a corporation. We should strive to become CEOs of our thoughts, emotions and sensory impressions. Instead of allowing them to take over the "business of being," which they normally do, we can make them our partners and work together with a unified vision and mission in service of others and the Earth. Then we can take the next step and form a merger – we can merge I, Inc., with We, Inc., and create a holistic business built on the values of personal responsibility, teamwork and interdependency. Finally, we can work together with other organizations to make Earth Inc. a successful and sustainable planet.
Once we understand the complex interconnectedness of: mind, body and spirit; the relationship between our actions and our senses; the association between ourselves and others in our lives; and the inescapable links between past, present and future, then we will begin to build a truly holistic lifestyle. Through awakening to the fact that all of life is in business together, and ultimately works together or fails together, we can become "eco-preneurs" and "eco-consumers" – creative partners in our own and our planet’s alivelihood.