I was listening to Canada’s CBC Radio One recently as the host interviewed an Israeli professor of anthropology who had written a book about man’s evolution through the ages. His theory on humans’ quality of life through the ages stood out to me. He suggested that the hunter and gatherer era likely had the highest quality of life for man, as our needs and our stresses were fewer. Our bodies were performing actions that were natural to our physiological makeup. We had a connection to nature, a relationship which has been quickly disappearing since the industrial revolution and all the more now in the technological era.
It got me thinking about evolution, business, commerce and our need to consume, which is driven by a need to sustain ourselves through an economic model.
I have read many studies showing us that we have a desire to live longer. Yet our work lives keep us in an unnatural sedentary state, working in artificially created environments that are separate from our natural world. We have let go of something of inherent value for something we mistakenly deem as valuable. With increased demands to produce and be as efficient as possible, we have given up taking time to be. We have bought into a system that promises happiness later in exchange for disconnect now. With the money we earn in our glass and concrete boxes, we can purchase items that promise immediate happiness. But they only provide us with temporary pleasure, not lasting joy.
Even farming has followed this trend. In order for farmers to survive and keep pace with our choices, many have adopted practices that go against the wise and compassionate rules of natural law. Many grain farmers use pesticides and GMO seeds that are supposed to yield higher results at a lower cost, but we have seen the devastating effects where poor farmers are compelled to buy GMO seed and their crops fail. Indebted and seeing no way out, they commit suicide by drinking the pesticides they had bought to apply to their failing crops. We have seen the alarming increases in bee colony die-offs related to the use of pesticides, even though bees are far more essential to the cultivation of food than pesticides are. Unsustainable fishing practices have led to alarmingly low levels of sea creatures. We are running out of fresh water and forests are dwindling as they get clear-cut to grow palm oil or animal feed grains. The quest for global companies to hit quarterly targets and stable stocks may look good on the balance sheet, but that increased profitability comes at the expense of exploiting millions of third world citizens working under horrific working conditions, and burning fossil fuels to ship items halfway around the world to us.
We have the most automation, the most mobility, the most immediate communication, the most conveniences we have ever had. Yet, are we happy? Have all these conveniences helped to save anyone from a sense of disconnect, depression or despair?
Perhaps the anthropologist I heard is correct that hunters and gatherers were happier. Perhaps we do work harder now and sacrifice much more than we used to for an idea of happiness.
Some businesses, knowing this to be true, choose to produce consumer items and food with the compassionate “Seven Generation Wisdom” that was inherent in the thinking of our perhaps happier hunter and gatherer ancestors. A decision is discarded as unsustainable if it is not good for the next seven generations. While Seven Generation Wisdom is indeed compassion in action, it is also a wise way to develop a mission statement.
Imagine a business whose mission is to still be serving the needs of people 140 years into the future! We certainly can’t say that about many of the world’s current largest companies. In reality, the largest corporate organizations of today won’t be around 140 years in the future, likely because the resource they exploited in the first place would be exhausted, or the demand that drove their sales would no longer exist.
While we have come so far as an industrialized world, the time is now to start to bring compassion into our mission statements, into our actions and into the way we serve. Seven Generation Wisdom may well be the most important mandate any business imbibes.
This month, see if you can find at least three compassionate changes you could make in your business to bring it more into alignment with Seven Generation Wisdom.
Wishing you abundance and sustainability in your ventures.
Since 1994, Rishi Deva, founder and CEO of RishiVision and entrepreneurial coach, has empowered thousands of businesses. Rishi has an MBA in marketing and entrepreneurial studies and a BBA in accounting. He has spent nearly twenty years coaching, consulting, managing and supporting thousands of businesses from new startups to active global leaders.