Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Small Matters

My street cred awareness has been one of my biggest aha moments of this year.  I realized a few months ago, how I was fighting for credibility in areas where I had none (mindfulness, yoga) and this was not only with cold call prospects but among my closest friends and family.  I was constantly running into a lot of positive affirmation but not much follow through, although I would hear of follow through by them in other paradigms under the same intention.  Then it dawned on me, I had no credibility. 
For months I wrestled with this, trying to understand my reaction to it.  And then i realized thats what much of my life was about...chasing, or following paths in search for credibility. Everything needed a name.  Was at a dinner party and someone asked me what I do, and I realized how important it was for me to have an answer for that question.  Finally I said  - why do I need to be a specific thing.  Why should I spend much of time being busy doing this stuff that gives me credibility, when there is so much opportunity to partner with people around me on a day to day basis, helping them get from 0-10 as much as helping them get from -10-0.  Life always seem to be measured in what I might get paid for, or what i thought others saw as my label.  It was right around then when my Mom needed to goto NJ, and she was scheduled to take an Amtrak. And i thought to myself what am I thinking!!?? I put my plans for that day to the side and drove her up, and then came back.  Yes, I will need to do something to pay the bills, but my mantra has changed to partnering with people I know or meet along the way, doing whatever I can do. My choice these days is as Goethe said "Not the maker of plans and promises, but rather the one who offers faithful service in small matters.  This is the person who is most likely to achieve what is good and lasting"

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

CEO's can only do so much

In early October, NRG Energy capitulated to investor craving for short term gain.  NRG has successfully been leading the charge amongst traditional fossil fuel companies in implementing green energy portfolios'.  They have lead by example.  As CEO David Crane said to New York Times columnist Joe Nocera almost a year ago “It’s like Wayne Gretzky said,” he told me before hanging up the phone. “We are skating where the puck is going, rather than where it is now.”" Which is in fact the last time NRG was written about in the Times.
Investors being dissatisfied with NRGs stock price has put pressure on the company to divest its focus on the alternative energy and go back to what works now.  Coal powered plants.
In a time when polls and meta-analysis of news and opinion show that the majority of Americans are concerned about climate change, if not for the impact on our lives then definitely for our children's.  With the exception of some of the most conservative of republicans.  I doubt the latter constitute the majority of investors in NRG stock.  Which begs the question, why are we punishing a company for working so hard for the health of our future(thats us and the planet), even with promise of sustainable long term profit?  Based on the business trajectory of NRGs wind, solar and home solar business's it seems like a sure bet for a long term investment, as sure as any other business, including fossil fuels.
Alternative energy works now, just like Fords first assembly line car did when it drove out of the factory.
We need start putting our money where our principles are.  We need to start investing in our future not just talking about it.  Companies like NRG should be rewarded, not punished for working for our well being.
Let's pay attention to where the puck is going, and head in that direction!!!!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

It pays to care!

"The most conscious companies give more, and they get more in return. The inescapable conclusion: it pays to care, widely and deeply"

Friday, November 20, 2015

"There are certain things we should not do, certain people we should not work for, lines we should not cross, conversations to which we should not descend, money we should not earn however easily it may come, and things we should not allow ourselves to be called in public" - David Whyte

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

It's not difficult, gentlemen, making the consumer enjoy their products

"Investing in product, investing in comfortable seats - it's not difficult, gentlemen, making the consumer enjoy their products."

Said by Emirates Airlines President Tim Clark to the major american airlines in response to their pressure on government to stifle Persian Gulf airlines.

This comment exemplifies the link between opportunity and compassion.  "Make the consumer enjoy their products".  "Comfortable seats"!!  

What do companies do with all their profit?
They recognize the profit only 4 times a year...when they release earnings.  The rest of the time out of  fear of not being able to meet those profit expectations, they say to themselves money is tight, and investments like employee benefits, and upgrading the subtleties of their consumers experience, don't seem necessary.

And in this case, they find ways to stifle their competition...a unsustainable strategy.  

Common gentlepeople - its not difficult! Just use the golden rule, when you goto sit in the proverbial seat wouldn't you be much happier if it was comfortable.  

Built it and they will come!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Lets widen our net of Empathy

"It is not tolerable, it is not possible, that from so much death, so much sacrifice and ruin, so much heroism, a greater and better humanity shall not emerge." - Charles de Gaulle

I start with that quote because it's the first time since Friday that I've heard something that has made sense to me. I am left confused and with a lot of questions.

October 2 – 18 dead – suicide bomb – Nigeria
October 5 – 57 dead – car bomb - Bagdad, Iraq
October 10 – 102 dead – suicide bombs – Turkey
October 10 – 38 dead –suicide bombs –Chad
October 14 – 42 dead – suicide bomb – Nigeria
October 23 – 27 dead – bomb – Nigeria
October 23 – 22 dead – suicide bomb – Pakistan
October 31 – 224 dead – suspected airplane bomb – Egypt
November 12 – 43 dead – suicide bomb – Lebanon
November 13 – 19 dead – bomb – Bagdad, Iraq
November 13 – 137 dead – bomb/shooting – Paris

These are the attacks I could find in the last month and half where more then 15 civilians died – I left out the 100s that were injured.  It includes an attack the same day as Paris.

What's been niggling my mind is why Paris has taken center stage. Why haven’t we shown as much empathy, concern and solidarity with all the other civilians as they went about their daily life?

As I set up for a yoga class on Sunday, I heard someone behind me tell someone he had two friends killed at the concert. So is it that there are less degrees of separation between us and people in Paris?  Or is it that Paris is systematically closer to us? Or geographically closer (but not much)? 

Or is it that Parisians represent a similar ratio of race, religion and culture to us? Is our empathy racist?

Or maybe our empathy just has limitations. Maybe we only have a certain amount of empathy and save if for certain circumstances?

Granted that ubiquitous coverage of the Paris attacks leaves us little option but to pay attention, but I do think the scale of coverage represents something we ask for, not a pro-active decision by the media.

Perhaps our net of empathy is growing and in time it will find its way to the further corners and cultures of this planet. I mean not long ago, it would have taken days for the Paris news to get to us, and without the detail we might have cared less. There was also a time not long ago when this would have been a blip on the radar of death by humans. In fact in some of those far away places, violence is still taken for granted.  Do we take it for granted in those places just like the people who live there?

Im with De Gaulle! And I'll add, over half a century later that better humanity has emerged. As our net of empathy grows, the violence will continue to subside. 

And then one day as Carlos Santana sings “One day there will be no borders, no boundaries, no flags and no countries and the only passport will be the heart.”

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Aggregating Consciousness

This morning NPR had a piece centered around carbon offsets –– with the rhetorical question – Isn’t paying $50 to plant 18 trees to offset the carbon footprint of the flight you just took, like putting a bandaid on a bullet wound.
I listened as I drove north on the 101 toward Santa Barbara, with a clear view of 7-10 offshore oil rigs. My thoughts drifted to distaste as I thought of all the animals that are effected by the leakage, and then to the bigger picture of the eventual burning into the atmosphere of all that oil. Who do these people think they are? Don’t they know about climate change? Don’t they have compassion? Don’t they care about our future?
I always seem to have those same thoughts about the rigs while Im driving. I don’t know what I would do if I couldn’t drive places each day. I take it for granted, I depend on it, its convenient, its kind of great. This is why those rigs are in the channel. I can’t imagine the conversation about climate change changing, until I/we are willing to “Be the change”
We are not going to stop driving cars anytime soon, probably not until, cars have been replaced by something that hovers and is fueled by a flux capacitor.  But until that time we can at least be more attentive to SOURCE! Who makes the car?  Who drills for our fuel?  Do these companies have our best interests in mind, are they the ones trying to invent the flux capacitor?  Are they willing to forgo some revenue for the mission improving our well being and considering our future.
This morning I filled up at Sunoco, rather the Exxon across the road. It seemed like the lesser of two evils.  I need a new car, and not surprisingly there are some great deals on VW.  Im going to consider a Ford or a Toyota hybrid.  
Its this constant attention to source that will change the climate change conversation into climate change action.  
The power lies in the aggregation of regular marginal conscious decisions by billions of people!!!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

By gifts one makes slaves and by whips one makes dogs

Said by an Intuit hunter in response to being thanked for giving meat to a friend.
I am reminded of a blog post by a friend which talks about the different levels of giving.  Imagine ordering a coffee at your favorite coffee shop.  And when the barista turns away and no-one is looking you stuff $10 in the tip jar and walk away.  Thats the ultimate giving, anonymous, and you don't need to tell your friends how big of a tip you left.  At the other end of the spectrum is giving out of obligation like taxes and doing the dishes as Ronen writes.
How do we do business?  How do we conduct our personal relationships? How do we earn our money?  How do we give?
If it feels like a string of IOU's, think for a minute about all these questions from the perspective of an Inuit hunter or a level 4 giver....might we feel more human? might we be more prosperous?
Does the feeling of IOU or UOM hold us back from a more fluid business mission and life experience?

Thursday, October 22, 2015

A lesson from VW

“By 2018, we want to take our group to the very top of the global car industry,” said the Volkswagen CEO four years ago.
 For social and environmental investors or for that matter for all investors that should have been a red flag. A month ago it was discovered that VW knowingly rigged their emissions control system. So they lied and they were environmentally irresponsible. Their intention of being the number one car -maker prevailed, and so then did short cuts and cover-ups. Hundreds of thousands if not millions of investors, customers and employees have been negatively impacted. The fall-out is still uncertain, there is talk that the German economy may suffer as well
 The intended goal of “building the best possible product for our customers, and working toward the most efficient fuel efficient technology” an admirable goal in itself, became just glossy presentation on the road to number one. Sustainable profit requires sustainable practices and fostering sustainable resources.
 “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.” – says Warren Buffet.
 The lesson we learn is that setting goals that are not directly correlated to the greater good is not productive. The greater good will always prevail; it’s in our nature.
 P.S. The science of this can be found all over the internet. Firms of Endearment (click on the “performance tab”) is one example.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Its all about the Team!

“Coming together is beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.” —Henry Ford
This week I heard someone saying that they are struggling with employee satisfaction/engagement, and then they changed the subject and talked about how they are trying to decide whether or not to buy another company for $100million. The two situations seemed to be unrelated in their mind.
I can't say that I can relate to the pressures and nuances of the c-suite although at one point in my life I was responsible for 60 employees, and a $2 million budget, which pales in comparison to what most of the influential corporate decision makers have on their hands. But, if I remember correctly the emphasis on spending money outside of salary is marketing and product development. Mostly,  salaries are seen as a financial burden, while money for developing new products and selling them is a bottomless well.
Isn't a company not very different from a sports team. Aren't the players the most important component? Without productive, fulfilled players, spectators don't show up.  
Companies that have figured this out are thriving. The old school style of management, which treats employees like a commodity, is going the way of the Dodo, and so will leaders who don’t shift their priority to building and fostering a strong team.
Does it really make sense to consider a multi million acquisition, when your team is not fulfilled and thriving? Why not spend that money to built an elite team. Not necessarily an increase in salary, but specialized training, career path enhancement, services and reduced work load.  Think improving employee well-being. It's not until the employees are fully engaged and on board with the mission, will the mission succeed. Only then should client interests and shareholder demands be considered. It should be a corporate leader's job to make the clients and shareholders realize that it's in their best interest to have engaged employees. Is that not an executive’s fiduciary responsibility?
“A good objective of leadership is to help those who are doing poorly to do well and to help those who are doing well to do even better” – Jim Rohn

Friday, October 9, 2015

The Porcupine

We came across a porcupine last week walking through the Maine woods.  He (as his gender assumed) in our dinner conversation later that night, walked away from us as fast as he could with his quills at attention.  Porcupines can't move very fast.    He walked up a rock gentle face and we followed and then he stopped and we stopped.  I sat down and put my hand down on the rock making a soft clicking noise.  After a while he put down his quills and I could see his eyes relax.  Then he lifted up on to his hind legs and turned to face us.  He was about four feet away from us and slightly up hill. He stood there and watched.  Long claws and short arms at his front like a T-Rex, but with the demeanor of Albert Einstein.  His yellowish rodent front teeth, front and center - giving me pause about whether to reach my hand closer.  He moved slightly closer and continued to watch us.  After a few minutes passed he lowered himself, turned and slowly walk off into the brush.

I was left feeling invigorated from what felt like a deep connection with nature.  It was a Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi moment.  All thoughts, inhibitions, fears fell away and what was left was feeling not too different from getting into a hot shower on a cold day, or drinking a glass of cold water after a long summer run.

Egoless connection = Bliss!

I wonder what the Porcupine wrote in his blog?

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

CEO's can only do so much

This week saw NRG Energy capitulate to investor craving for short term gain.  NRG has successfully been leading the charge amongst traditional fossil fuel companies in implementing green energy portfolios'.  They have lead by example.  As CEO David Crane said to New York Times columnist Joe Nocera almost a year ago “It’s like Wayne Gretzky said,” he told me before hanging up the phone. “We are skating where the puck is going, rather than where it is now.”" Which is in fact the last time NRG was written about in the Times.
Investors being dissatisfied with NRGs stock price has put pressure on the company to divest its focus on the alternative energy and go back to what works now.  Coal powered plants.

In a time when polls and meta-analysis of news and opinion show that the majority of Americans are concerned about climate change, if not for the impact on our lives then definitely for our children's.  With the exception of some of the most conservative of republicans.  I doubt the latter constitute the majority of investors in NRG stock.  Which begs the question, why are we punishing a company for working so hard for the health of our future(thats us and the planet), even with promise of sustainable long term profit?  Based on the business trajectory of NRGs wind, solar and home solar business's it seems like a sure bet for a long term investment, as sure as any other business, including fossil fuels.
Alternative energy works now, just like Fords first assembly line car did when it drove out of the factory.
We need start putting our money where our principles are.  We need to start investing in our future not just talking about it.  Companies like NRG should be rewarded, not punished for working for our well being.
Let's pay attention to where the puck is going, and head in that direction!!!!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

McMansions, Leftovers, Stuff and Time

Taking a leisurely cycle through a flurry of McMansions in beautiful Southern Chester county, it occurred to me how much free and available room there is.  How many houses have spare rooms or space that is not used and is never or rarely even passed through. With that thought fresh in my mind I pulled into a cafe for a coffee to see someone dumping their unfinished breakfast into the garbage.

We live in a world where there is so much discussion and talk about the lack of resources, especially for those people in the lower tax bracket, the really low tax bracket.  Many people who live under the poverty level, or for that matter earn $2 a day or around that amount, struggled for food, shelter, clothing and clean water each day.

Running in parallel each day are millions of homes around the world who have spare rooms, a lot of stuff that is never used, a never ending waste of running water in the form of baths, showers, toilets, gardens, pools etc.  And then millions of people go grocery shopping or go out to eat and a percentage of each purchase makes its way into the garbage, or compost heap.

There is a stark imbalance of resource usage, NOT a stark imbalance of resources, neither is there a shortage of resources.  The latter is even more true because of the resources we use to to get the stuff that we don't use or waste.

And then there is our time.  How do we really spend it, and does the way we spend it really contribute to the well being of all those around the world we have empathy for?

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Take aim through a lens!

Whose more of a bad ass? Who is the better tracker? Who had the most exhilarating experience? The photographer with the photo on the left on the wall, or the hunter on the right with the trophy on the ground?
I was a young teenager when the campsite exploded with commotion as two lions chased a buffalo through the campsite. Doors slammed. Campers scrambled for their cars. And then the silence of the African Bush. After navigating the bull elephant grazing on the tree above our tent in the morning, we learned that the lions had killed the buffalo just outside the camp. Lions are at one of their most dangerous when eating. A fact my Dad somehow overlooked when he decided that we should find the kill...on foot. At that time of year at Mana Pools in northern Zimbabwe, the grass stands at around 6 feet, at least I remember it being overhead, as well as I can remember the how terrified I was. But also how Alive I felt! After a while we found an anthill to scramble up. And there we stood, Mom, Dad, sister and myself, on this perch looking for our quarry. I am happy to say we didn't find the kill. Twenty years later in the Kruger Park in South Africa, a ranger, a few others and myself tracked a couple of cheetahs on foot. I took no comfort in seeing that the ranger had armed himself with a couple of throwing stones. This time we found the Cheetahs. We kept our distance
I've never hunted. But if its danger a hunter is looking for, or bragging rights I can't imagine any experience more fulfilling then tracking a dangerous animal. Having fly fished for many years, I know that the adventure of tracking, and learning and sharing the quarry's environment like looking for a large predator is the experience. Its the opportunity to get close to our primal self that we crave - I can imagine that is true for a trophy hunter as well. So why kill it. Take aim through a camera lens for the trophy. Then reward yourself with a long hike back to the lodge for a steak and a glass of wine! It will be the best experience of your life!

Name the Animals

Cecil had a name.  The 800 other lions killed did not.  I have lived half my life in Southern Africa, including Zimbabwe, and I know that the method of luring Cecil to the kill is used a lot.  So in summary what happened to Cecil happens regularly to Lions, Elephants, Tigers, Bears, Ducks and Deer.

Our empathy and awareness increases significantly when something or someone has a name.  If we name a plant, we are much more likely to morn its death.

I don’t know who named Cecil, but that person should be nominated for the Nobel peace prize.  And based on the outcry about Cecil, we all have plenty of time to name all the animals in our community and make sure the world knows their names.  This might not soften the hearts of trophy hunters, but the threat of public cyber stoning and mention of Zimbabwean prisons will make them think twice before they pull the trigger!

Lets name the animals and for that matter lets name all the people as well!

RIP Cecil

The Yoga of Profit

Yoga of profit

"Every investment we make is a statement of intention, a statement of purpose, a speculation about the future of humanity and our role in the scheme of things, not merely a financial speculation" - Woody Tasch, Slow Money

Do you have a few hundred, a few thousand or maybe 10’s or 100’s of thousands of dollars in a savings or retirement account? What is that money doing? What is your intention for that money?

Money has power. More power then a vote. More power then a protest. More power then a war.

Don’t judge something…do something!

The only way to enjoy the long term annualized growth of the companies (which we fund) who have the biggest effect on our lives… invest in them. The best way to influence their intention…invest in the right ones!

For the longest time I wondered how my deepening yoga practice, how this inward journey, translated into the capitalist world I enjoyed and depended on, and the financial industry where I had worked for 15 years. Besides, as aware of my own footprint on the environment and my influence on others, I still drive a car, fly on airplanes, purchase packaged goods, eat food from far away and am totally addicted to a never ending flow of water and electricity. And how much do I really do to improve the lives of others in the community around me. I’m inclined to donate to charities or hand money to a homeless person, but I certainly don’t take 30 minutes of my time and sit with that person and talk over a cup of coffee. Sure I try hard to temper my consumption and consider the providers’ footprint, but whether I'm flying on the most environmentally responsible airline or whether I’m careful about which gas station I use, I am still taking. How much taking is OK? Where is the line?

Then it occurred to me. How our contemplative practice translates into capitalism is very much the same as how it manifests within us. Corporations are living organisms, the sum of all their employees who are like their cells. As our practice transforms us, then surely a corporation that practices mindfulness must transform into a being that feels better and is more compassionate. I had a hard time believing that business people had not figured this out and used it to their competitive advantage or more so that there were high level executives or decision makers whose contemplative practice drove a successful management style.

After two years of research I am happy to report that there are publicly traded companies, household brand names that are humble, that are compassionate and that embody social and environmental responsibility. This small but growing list is companies who put the community and environment ahead of profit. They are driven by building sustainable business’s with the manifesto of increasing our well being and preserving the environment. As Aetna CEO, Mark Bertolini said at Wisdom 2.0, “Profit is not the goal, profit is the output of a mission driven organization who delivers consistent products to its customers”

What are the indicators? A combination of qualitative and quantitative evaluation including financial strength, products that are unequivocally good for us, the lowest possible use of natural resources, happy employees, women make up twenty percent of the board, low CEO pay - relatively, company wide offering of yoga/mindfulness, humble CEOs and a C-suite who have a personal contemplation practice, and compassionate intention written into their Form 10-K annual report. That's the quantitative. Qualitative is reading between the lines, by scanning the news and blogs for indications of embodied social and environmental responsibility, by hearing feedback from users of their products and services. Looking for indications of yogic decision-making. Checking off the yamas and niyamas, the eight-fold path, the middle way, the golden rule.

My research has resulted in an investment portfolio of companies. Companies I invest in and share with others. I feel more confident investing in humble companies with strong ethics, and I am much less afraid of loosing my investment especially when the market crashes. This portfolio has opened my eyes to companies who really care and I always choose their products. Often I will go without a product or service if a compassionate company does not offer it. I plug these companies on social networks for their intention. I go out of my way to give them feedback; quite often they don’t know what they don’t know. Our guidance is important. My hope that a company’s mission, rather then its earnings and products become what its brand name represents.

Corporations have more influence on our well-being and future than anybody except ourselves. There are companies out there who have transcended the “profit at all cost” approach perfected during the industrial revolution. We can play a bigger role in our evolution by investing in the companies that care, by being more mindful of how we spend our money and by bringing awareness through dialogue to the potential of the corporate world helping us into the next age.

"As long as the way we invest is divorced from how we live and how we consume our befuddlement will worsen" - Woody Tasch, Slow Money

Friday, August 14, 2015

Aetna is hiring a Chief Mindfulness Officer

A title once reserved for a monastery or ashram has found its way into a Fortune 200 company. A healthcare company nonetheless. Shhhh, don’t tell the Senate Health Care committee.

This is a sure signal of the role that mindfulness is playing in the corporate operation. SAP, the software company has a Director of Mindfulness and Google boasts a Chief Happiness Officer.

The role of these positions is to make sure that this practice has a seat at the executive table, to be integral in the growth and sustainability of the company, its employees, and its clients. Executive titles only come about when it is clear that this person’s work has already played the latter role.

Who is your Chief Mindfulness Officer?

Monday, July 13, 2015

Food Foresight from Thoreau


"Whatever my own practice may be, I have no doubt that it is part of the destiny of the human race, in its gradual improvement, to leave off eating animals, as surely as the savage tribes have left off eating each other when they came in contact with the more civilized" - Thoreau

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Mindless Barista

I write this on the sidewalk outside of a coffee shop in West Chester, PA, soaking up a spring morning in the summer. Sipping on an almond milk latte. With awareness around how many water sucking almonds it takes to make it, I am trying to make sense of its creation...from my order to a cup in my hand.

These days I make a point of drinking coffee in a "to stay cup" at the coffee shop. For me it's important to sit and enjoy the moment, an opportunity to slow down the rat race even for just a for 15 minutes. In ordering a ceramic cup I'm also aware of the reduction in waste. One less paper cup in the "recycling" cycle or pehaps the city dump.

This morning I order the Latte for here. The barista used a plastic cup to decanter the almond milk from the carton. Then he poured that into a paper cup which he used to steam the milk, after which he poured it into the ceramic cup and handed it to me. He threw both the plastic and the paper cup in the garbage. 

My mind wanders to the mindless waste this represents in our society. There is no accountability for how much we waste. We waste food, water and resources in a way that further harms the source of all of these. Take a look around you next time your at a restaurant at all the food that doesn't get eaten. Why do we continue to do this. Why do we continue put our convenience ahead of our future and well-being.

I will appreciate this latte more then ever because it cost much more then the $3.75 I was charged and because it will be the last I ever have from this coffee shop. Starbucks is just around the corner!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Getting on the Bandwagon

The Financial Times reported that a study made by Insead concluded that “coaching programs based on introspection and meditation techniques, without any discussion about CSR [corporate social responsibility] topics, exhibit a significant impact on both the probability to act in a socially responsible way and on the factors that influence the probability to behave that way”.

Last week we heard that Verizon has purchased AOL for $4 billion. Considering that AOL is a holding in the Yoga Capital portfolio, it got me to thinking how this reflects on this portfolio’s purpose. It prompted a soul searching of social and environmental investing. If AOL, is indeed a stalwart of socially and environmentally aware companies, then does that mean that Verizon is also such a leader, or does it mean that AOL is not. Does this purchase by Verizon indicate a move by them toward being more sustainable. I’m not going to pretend to know the answer, but I do think the answer should be more obvious.

Again the question is prompted which companies are socially and environmentally responsible because they truly are compassionate and truly care about the community and environment as opposed to being trendy, or wanting investors and clients to see that they are playing their part.

The Insead study indicates what I believe to be the most important indicator of CSR. Companies whose executives or decision makers who have personal contemplative practices, tend to organically be socially and environmentally compassionate. It is these companies that are the most sustainable. It is these companies that represent a new era in capitalism – a new industrial age. To identify and segment these companies is to create an investment class that represents the future of investment. This is still advanced strategy, so to have a rounded portfolio might require broader exposure, but the tide is turning and to have a portion, if not all of ones money in this investment class is essential.

This type of awareness when investing represents our deepest knowledge and beliefs. There is not a sustainably successful investor who does not show attributes of mindfulness and social and environmental awareness.

In order for Yoga Capital to truly represent this strategy, it’s time to take its screening process to the next level. Currently we pick companies that score high on the rating system, and then we find the companies whose executives have a personal mindfulness practice, and then we take those who have strong financials. But this is not enough. We must now look closer at the companies output and ask the question, “Is this company paving the way to the new era in business, or is it stuck in the old “profit is the goal” way of operation”.

Keurig Green Mountain has also been a holding despite the controversy around the plastic K-cups. My defense has been they have s short-term action plan to overcome barriers to recycling. But I was asking the wrong question. And then I saw someone using a Keurig coffee machine. The K-cup goes in, a pull of the handle and the user hurries off to the chaos of the day. The paradigm of the machine is the problem. I doubt quick coffee will be integral to the new era. Coffee, maybe. And just when Keurig comes into question, it offers up a soda machine.

Deutsche Bank is another one. They made the cut because of a company mindfulness program. A breath of fresh air in a stodgy banking industry. But that’s not enough. Investment banks in their current form have no place in the new era of capitalism. If a bank is going to make the cut, they will have to show extreme proactive signals that profit is not the goal. Goldman Sachs, believe it or not, is on the watch list, but certainly not ready.

Yoga Capital will shortly reallocate, and rebuild with a keener sense of awareness around the real trailblazers. We will find the boardrooms that decide with compassion, that strategize with the future of themselves, and the world around them in mind. As Patagonia does, build companies that will last 100 years. As Google does, do no evil!

Businesses on the mindfulness bandwagon -


Friday, May 8, 2015

Conversation with myself

Me “Whats the secret to being happy”
Me “Stop thinking about yourself”
Me “Huh, Easier said then done”
Me “You asked”
Me “OK, so how do you do it”
Me “Well that answer is not so simple.  Entire religions, philosophies, cultures, books exist to answer that question.  I don’t really know what to tell you other then…stop thinking about yourself”
Me “Is that even possible, what about if I’m hungry, or if I hurt myself.  How can you not think about yourself.”
Me “Well, when I say yourself, I mean your ego.  Don't think about the person you think you are.  When you are hungry or in pain, bring your attention to the feeling.  That is happiness.  As soon as that attention moves from observing that feeling to thinking about how uncomfortable it makes you, or how to wanting to get to the point of not being hurt or hungry, then you are thinking about yourself and you are unhappy”
Me “Hmmm, makes sense.  I can see how complicated it can become, because even when you think you are thinking about someone else, its quite possible that you are actually thinking about yourself, because thinking about someone else might make you feel better”
Me “Yes.  Say you have $20 in your pocket, and you go into a coffee shop and order a latte.  And today you feel like you really want to make the baristas day.  Option 1 - is to give the barista the change…all $15, but you hand it directly to her because you need to receive recognition or thanks.  Option 2 - is you put all $15 in the tip jar but make sure they see you from a distance so you are comfortable they know they have received the tip from you.  Option 3 - is you stuff the $15 in the tip jar when they clearly aren't looking and walk out…complete anonymous giving.  That is not thinking about yourself”
Me “Thats not easy”
Me “I hear you. When we become interconnected, we think less and less of ourselves and become happier and happier.  Try meditating for 5 minutes with the focus of brining your thoughts to your breath and away from yourself. Even if you only have fleeting moments of selfless thinking you will understand”
Me “I get it”
Us “So lets move forward one moment at a time…meditating, giving anonymously, loving unconditionally”
Us “And when we feel unease creep in, just recognize where are our thoughts, and allow thoughts of ourselves to drift away”

Us “I really appreciate our time together, it makes me so happy!!”

Listen to the whispers so you don’t have to hear the screams

The article below highlights and creates awareness around one of the most unknown, underestimated, and discounted indicators of health. Inflammation!!!

We can have internal inflammation and not know it, in fact most of us do. Overtime, if not immediately, internal inflammation wears down the body and leads to disease, injury and depression. Joint pain is inflammation. Congestion is from inflammation. Low energy is from inflammation. Any tiny aches or pains are usually linked to inflammation.  Research is now showing that some neural disease is also linked to inflammation. And the list goes on.

As this study shows, a diet change of just two weeks can affect inflammation. The good news is that we can enjoy immediate benefit (and we love anything immediate that is good!)

An Apache proverb says…”Listen to the whispers so you don’t have to hear the screams”

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Life begins at the edge of our comfort zone

4 a.m. Wake up, take an Uber to pick up a rental car and then drive up to Carpinteria.  By the time I got there it felt like a long day and I hadn't had anything to eat or drink, but I still had two hours before my meeting.  Hedonism was pulling me toward the Lucky Llama coffee shop where I might enjoy a hot almond milk latte and relax while mindlessly scanning the Internet. But part of me, a small part wanted me to pull into the parking lot of the Carpinteria Bluffs and go for a hike.  Spending time sitting in a car seems to drain my energy, and it was bit chilly out...all in all the Llama seemed a lot more appealing.

At the last minute an invisible force yanked the steering wheel to the left and into the parking lot I pulled. Whew, what happened, who did that? Well I'm here, I might as well get out. I just started walking.  Two hours later I was back at the car, feeling more alive then ever.  Thinking that without fail, going to edge of my comfort zone is always the best option, but certainly a very difficult decision.  The instant gratification of hedonism lasts for a moment, the transformation that comes from a bit of struggle lasts a lifetime.

And the interesting thing about my morning, is that it was far from a struggle. It was a state of flow, struggle ceased to exist.  The only struggle was deciding not to take the comfortable option.

I hiked along the cliffs and then down a gulley to the beach.  Along the rocks I found a three foot Leopard Shark trapped in a rock pool. I grabbed her by the tail, and after a bit of a wrestling match, I got her back home into the sea.  Further along, I saw a spout and stopped to eventually sea a Grey Whale making its way north about a hundred feet off the beach. A couple miles later I stopped at Rincon point to watch some short board surfers enjoying a quick left/right break wave. Then back to the car I headed. Buzzards circled high in the distance. A few dogs were walking their owners.  The sand was displaying the sea floor bounty left behind by a full moon high tide.

I cruised into the Llama ready for my scheduled meeting on how to propagate well-being in the world.  With energy that caffeine couldn't dream to offer...I indulged in that latter nevertheless!

Rest and relaxation is so important, but in order to transform, to evolve, to really appreciate life, to have fun....making the uncomfortable choice, especially knowing that it is a good choice, seems to come as an epiphany each time, and yet each time the rewards are infinite!

Monday, May 4, 2015

What is the American Dream?

"Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" - says nothing about making a lot of money, but somewhere along the line we made that translation.

Recently I heard someone say that successful people consider money a reward for self-actualization.  Said differently, my guess is Warren Buffett would not do much differently if he lost all his money or if he was making the minimum wage. If you happen to cross paths with him please ask and let us know? The American dream is the freedom do do what we are good at, what we enjoy doing, what we look forward to doing, and for most people that does not have to be restricted by net worth. That same "most people", however, now are anxiously chasing pay out, the title and the recognition - constantly managing our identities - and are missing out on doing what we would really enjoy doing. Yes, the latter might mean an adjustment in economic expectations, but the quality of life becomes much higher when one is doing what we love to do then by owning a nice house, nice clothes, a new car and the latest iPhone. If your not convinced look to those who are dying. As they say 20/20 vision is the most acute and perhaps the most objective, and without fail people who are at the end of their life report their regrets of not spending enough time doing what they wanted to do, even at the risk of less money. Let's learn from the wise!

So what about this selfish perspective. This selfish approach turns out to be the most selfless way we can live. When we are doing what we are meant to do, our impact over our lifetime will be much greater on the world then if we conform to spending our time cultivating our image. We will enjoy an optimal experience which will reflect in our work, and our interaction with others, both of which will have unimaginable positive impact on others. There is an expression - "if a butterfly flaps its wings in Brazil, there will be tornado in Texas". In the same way, maybe you love to build rock gardens and after building one for someone, that person everyday will enjoy seeing that rock garden and their interaction with each person they see that day will be positively effected, and those people in turn will be effected and so on. And the joy you might feel after building that rock garden will reduce the chance of any destructive behavior that may come from stress. 

The American Dream is not to make a killing, it is do what we love to do. It doesn't necessarily mean a drastic change of career or job, but simply to find the opportunity to realize our gifted talent within what we ready do. And make no mistake, we all have a innate talent.

Life, liberty and doing what we enjoy doing...that's the American Dream!

Monday, April 27, 2015

Meaning and Purpose - CIPP Chronicles

Having meaning and purpose is a necessity for survival as much as a necessity for a long happy life.

Think of stories of older people who have to retire and die soon after.  How about people who come back from war, yes they may have experienced trauma, but also they miss the purpose of defending their country and protecting their fellow soldiers.  Think about ourselves and how times in our life when we don’t feel like we have a purpose can be quite melancholy.

There are four stages to establishing or enhancing an already purposeful life.

Stage 1 - Remembering a Positive Past

Think back to the times in your life when you were at you best. When you were in the FLOW.  What comes naturally for you. Often we have to think back to times in your life before conformity might have steered you away from that thing that you do best.  What is it that you were doing or who were you with when you were at your best?

Stage 2 - Imagining a fantastic future

Imagine or write down your ideal future.  Professional and personal, mind and body.  Where would you be, who would you be with, what would you have accomplished, and what would the world around you look like because of your work and influence.

Stage 3 - Make concrete commitments

Start with long term goals don't hold back - as big and as far out as you can imagine.  These maybe daunting, so then reel them in a bit with some medium term goals and then short term goals.  Finally Kaizen.

Or as I like to say “aggregating marginal gains”, the term used by British cycling coach Dave Brailsford, when he started coaching the team in 2010.  He looked for a 1 per cent improvement in all aspects, from riding alignment to diet to the pillows the cyclists slept on. In 2012 his rider won the Tour de France, and his team won 70% of the Olympic gold.

For us, in the spirit of Kaizen, just do a little bit each day in the direction of of your fantastic future, on a foundation of doing what you do best!!!

Stage 4 - Authentic Action

In 1999 Fortune Magazine published a study about Why CEOs Fail.  Execution.  CEOs who execute, do well.  And those who don’t, fail.  So once you have established stages 1-3, now is the time to execute.  “Just do it” as Nike says.  Each day do a little.  And allow for the process to take time, because it will.   “Life is too short to be in a hurray” - Thoreau

Disclosure - I am currently taking Certificate in Positive Psychology(CIPP) taught by Tal Ben-Shahar and Whole Being Institute.  In the CIPP Chronicles I am writing about the lessons learned in my interpretation, using a combination of my words and those used by the CIPP teachers.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

In the Zone!


Im guessing that most of us have been in the zone, that state of mind where we are so focused on a task that everything just comes together, and all distraction just falls away. Thinking back, it is during these experiences when we not only remember being the most productive but also having the the most fun, even if its a task that we might usually abhor. And time flies. This zone has been talked about for eons, and has taken on different names and descriptions. A recent trending way to describe or at least practice for this experience is mindfulness. Another great reference or description is being in the FLOW.

Thinking back to my most mindful moments they are moments alone, as well as being with others. I can remember the calmness in the chaos many times like being in a trading frenzy on the NYSE, or finding the zone during a squash match or a running race, or floating through a day of administrative work. Also memorable are those boardroom meetings that fly by as ideas come together and dialogue(as opposed to debate) ensues. All of these experiences of being in the zone by myself or with others came from being mindful. Paying attention to what I was doing in those moments.

Musicians practice so that they can get better, so that they can have more meaningful experience, so can we practice to get better at our day to day lives, whatever that may be. Mindfulness practices whether it be in the boardroom, on the field or doing the dishes, increases the chances of us finding that more productive and enjoyable zone.

Mindfulness is thought by many to be a cult as a recent Harvard Business reviewdescribes. But that seems like saying that paying attention is a cult. We are taught from the beginning to pay attention, it is in our nature to do so.

This weeks New York Times article about Aetna’s CEO's personal practice and company wide offering gives us some relatable perspective to the personal and corporate benefits of these practices.