The theme of tonight’s interview is expressed by this quote from Lynne Twist’s bestselling book, The Soul of Money: Each of us experiences a lifelong tug-of-war between our money interests and the calling of our soul. When we’re in the domain of soul we act with integrity.
Lynne has made a life’s work of living from the domain of soul. She is one of the world’s most effective humanitarians. She has studied and worked side-by-side with Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. She has raised over $150 million and trained thousands of fundraisers for the Hunger Project to eliminate hunger on earth.
In the 1990s, Lynne and her husband Bill traveled to South America where they had a remarkable experience with Achuar Indians of Ecuador. Out of that was born the Pachamama Alliance joining together indigenous people from South America with visionary leaders in North America to create an environmentally sustainable, socially just, and spiritually fulfilling world.
Bill Bartmann, who conducted Lynne’s interview, has been through it all: homeless at age 14, a member of a street gang, and a high school dropout. Bill took control of his life by taking the GED exam and putting himself through college and law school. He founded a company with his wife that made him a billionaire.
He’s been listed by Forbes magazine among the top 400 wealthiest individuals in America. He’s been featured on the cover of Inc. magazine and has been named National Entrepreneur of the Year twice by USA Today, NASDAQ, Inc. magazine, Ernst & Young, and the Kauffman Foundation. To learn more about Bill, go to www.BillBartmann.com.
BILL BARTMANN: Lynne and I don’t know each other, but I think by the time this conversation’s over we’re both going to know each other pretty well. I am just ecstatic to be invited into this circle and be able to talk to someone like Lynne. Lynne, it’s my great honor to be able to share a conversation with you tonight.
LYNNE TWIST: Bill, thank you so much. I didn’t know anything about you until Janet just did that spectacular introduction. Wow! What a life you’ve had! I’d like to interview you.
BILL BARTMANN: I was more impressed with your credentials. Mother Teresa happens to be high on my list. In fact, except for my wife Kathy, who I love dearly and to whom I’ve been married for 35 years, she is the other woman in my life. You’ve just stood in some very rare space, my dear, to be able to work shoulder to shoulder with Mother Teresa. What a great accomplishment.
LYNNE TWIST: Yes. I don’t take it as an accomplishment; I take it as a total gift of grace and blessing. I’ll treasure it forever. Thank you for saying that, but I really think it was a whole lot of good fortune.
BILL BARTMANN: Lynne, you’re right. We both know that, and everybody on the call knows that. It is about being in the right place at the right time. Without those two things happening, almost nothing else does happen; but it also takes a person to be receptive to recognizing the right place and the right time. You could not have accomplished what it is you’ve accomplished without that third part of that wheel being there. A lot of it is being fortunate and being blessed. All of those are great things, but being receptive ranks right up there, as well.
LYNNE TWIST: Yes. I think that’s very true. That is a big part of what I’ve learned, actually, over the course of my life. You’re definitely right about that.
BILL BARTMANN: Lynne, let’s start with talking about the role that your passion, the things that matter the most to you, have played in the work that you’ve done.
LYNNE TWIST: There are so many ways to answer that question. For some reason, what shows up for me when you ask that at this moment is being a child in Evanston, Illinois. I was probably around five years old, swinging in the backyard of my home on a swing, and I heard a report on the radio. My mother was sitting outside. It was a summer day. The report on the radio was about starving children in Korea.
This was probably in the early 50s, probably during the Korean War. I don’t really know when the Korean War was now. I remember hearing the report about children starving to death in large numbers. I got off my swing and went to see my mom. I asked her about it. It was a little bit hard for me to comprehend that any child would not have enough to eat. I asked my mother, What’s wrong with their parents? Why don’t they feed them?
Then she proceeded to explain to me that we were fortunate: we were well fed, we had a roof over our heads, and we were living in circumstances that many people would call fortunate and privileged. Most of the world wasn’t living that way. In fact, most children in the world were living in conditions that were less than desirable. Many, many thousands of children, in fact, she said were hungry. I just couldn’t believe it.
I remembered thinking at age five years old, When I grow up, I’m going to do something about that. Why weren’t the adults fixing that? I remember that very well. I remember the lilac bush that I was standing next to when I said it. I remember thinking thoughts about how I could make myself the kind of person who could tackle something like that. That was first inkling I had of living what I call a life that makes a difference.
BILL BARTMANN: Lynne, that is so cool. To think that age five, most of us, at least in my neighborhood, are not very concerned about what might be going on elsewhere in the world. Most of us were worried about just the day-to-day stuff, the What are you going to do this afternoon? kind of thing. Or, maybe we were complaining to our parents that we were bored and that there wasn’t anything to do.
Here you are looking for life’s work at age five. That is so astounding. To think that, then, the rest of your life followed that inspiration at age five standing next to a lilac bush. I know you can see the lilac bush, and I bet you can smell it.
LYNNE TWIST: I can. It didn’t happen everyday, so I don’t want to overstate it. I remember that moment. Then later in my life my father died just before my 14th birthday. I remember it was a very sudden experience for our family. He had a heart attack in the middle of the night. He was 50 years old. He wasn’t an old man. My mother was 46 with four kids. There was no warning. He wasn’t sick. He just died.
He went to sleep one night and didn’t wake up. I was so shaken by that. Of course, when you’re 14, your dad is your idol. Young women fall in love with their father before they have a boyfriend. That was my case. He was a musician, and I adored him. I remember thinking, I have to do something that will make him proud. I can, even now sitting on this interview with you, remember touching back to that five-year-old moment.
Later in life I had the great opportunity to be in the right place at the right time when the Hunger Project was created. It struck me like a chord, like a Kundalini experience, like an epiphany that that was my work.
BILL BARTMANN: Lynne, it is amazing that you took these two bad news events: hearing a radio broadcast when you’re five of children starving in some country that you don’t even know where on the globe it is-or at least I’m going to assume at five you didn’t know where Korea was-and then having what may be one of the more or most traumatic events of your life where your father passes away unexpectedly.
Instead of doing what some people would think to be normal, the crying and grieving process, you saw positive in that. You saw something compelling you to go rise above that. Again, you amaze me. You weren’t normal, my dear.
LYNNE TWIST: Thank you very much. I think that’s very generous of you. I actually do think that tragedy, shock, and trauma can be the greatest of all catalysts. Illness also has been for many people I know, and I think we all know, and I think it is for our global culture. You could say right now we’re getting a diagnosis that unless we change our ways, we’re going to be terminal as a species.
We can take that as a sign of disaster and breakdown that’s irresolvable, and be despondent and resigned. Or, we can use it as the great gift that it is to turn the tide and generate a whole new future for human life. I think that many people who I’ve known-and I’m sure it’s happened to you, Bill, from what I understand from that introduction-take the breakdowns that happen in our lives and turn them into breakthroughs. I really think that’s what they’re for. I think that is part of the great gift of life, to receive what’s been given in the spirit of knowing it’s the next great teaching.
BILL BARTMANN: Lynne, you are right. I so agree with you. I hope that of the many things that we want people to get from this call that you and I are doing today, one of them has to be to recognize that we have so much control over our own life that we didn’t even recognize we had. One item that shows up for all of us is these bad moments, these bad days, and these cataclysmic events.
We so naturally fall to our knees and say, Woe is me! because something bad happened in our life. If we just could stand back for a moment and look at them honestly and openly, whether it be your father passing away or hearing of starving children, within those sad moments there are these enlightened moments where you can look and feel so strong that you just know that you can actually take control of your life and do something positive with it.
You’ve done that. Lynne, I would love for you to share with all of us. Tell us the story of how you first got involved in working to improve life on our planet. I can’t wait to hear what you have to say.
LYNNE TWIST: I think, as you referenced earlier, I was in the right place at the right time. That’s how it seems to me when the Hunger Project was born. The Hunger Project was created in 1977. There are many different origin stories to the Hunger Project, which is a project devoted to eradicating world hunger, ending world hunger, on this planet. It was created in San Francisco.
I was lucky enough to be a student of the great Buckminster Fuller, who was a really remarkable human being. He was a scientist, an engineer, an architect, and often called the ‘Grandfather of the Future’. He lived into his 80s, and when he was 80 years old he did a whole series of Integrity Days, he called them, around the planet where he shared about the intellectual integrity of the universe.
I became captivated by Buckminster Fuller, who was often called Bucky by those who knew him and even by those who didn’t. I loved Bucky very much. At the same time as I was studying with Bucky, I also took something called the EST Training, which was a consciousness training, a human potential training, founded by Werner Erhard many years ago in 1971. It was my portal to the world of consciousness.
It just really woke me up. It had a really dramatic impact in my life and has for millions of people. I made a decision after EST Training that I would introduce Buckminster Fuller to Werner Erhard, and a miracle would occur if those two people met. I did introduce them to one another, along with others who had that agenda. My friend, Ron Lansing, and I cooked up a plot to introduce Werner Erhard to Buckminster Fuller.
Werner Erhard was a great thinker and genius in ontology, in the ontology of being, and training people in the principles of transformation. Buckminster Fuller was a great scientist and was one of the first people to really see a long-term breakdown that would come from unsustainable practices. He was an incredible man. When they met each other, they met in a setting and in a context that we helped to create, where they actually saw themselves in one another and saw a new future.
Out of that series of conversations with Buckminster Fuller and Werner Erhard, something called the Hunger Project was born. They actually saw that the greatest breakdown in human integrity was hunger. To let millions of people die of hunger in a world awash with food was an integrity issue, not a food issue and not a political issue, but an integrity issue.
Out of that, this remarkable project called the Hunger Project was born with help from John Denver, the great singer/songwriter, and others. It was first launched through the EST graduate body, of which I was one. I was just there at the right time. I became one of the first staff members of the Hunger Project. My life really unfolded from there in a direction of contribution, transformation, social change and service that I never could have dreamed of. Really, it was a miracle.
BILL BARTMANN: Lynne, I think you’re being modest. You had the audacity to want to introduce two great world leaders, to call two thought leaders together. It was the two of them rubbing against each other that created the spark that caused something else brand-new to be generated. Yet, had you not done what you had done, had you not had the audacity to say, I think I’ll introduce these two great thought leaders, and accomplished that, then the likelihood of it following from this just wouldn’t have happened. I think you’re being way too modest.
LYNNE TWIST: I feel very grateful that I was one of the many people who made sure that those two people came together. I think there were other conspirators, but I was one of them. Certainly, it was a seminal thing for them and for all of us who knew them. This was because what they did really, to tell you the honest-to-God truth, Bill, which really shaped my entire life, is they took a stand.
They made a commitment so profound that it created a field of commitment, a field of declaration, and a field of stand-taking in which I and ultimately millions of people could live a completely different kind of life. I’m deeply grateful to both of them. It moves me to tears to think about it. Bucky really took a stand with his life. He was a remarkable human being.
He was suicidal at age 27, and decided that rather than commit suicide he would use his life. He would use what he called a throw-away, failed life to see if one human being devoted themselves to making a difference on this planet, if they shaped their life to make a difference in a way that impacted all human lives, if it would give his life that experimental meaning.
Erhard, who also had a very checkered past, had a transformation of his own that was so profound that he knew the only thing that was worth living for was sharing that experience, that transformational experience, with as many people as possible. Thus, he invented the EST Training to do just that. These two remarkable people, then, together made a commitment to end world hunger. That’s a big commitment.
BILL BARTMANN: Oh, my gosh. I know what you’re talking about, but ‘big’ doesn’t describe it, Lynne, when you think of it. I’ve already used the word ‘audacity’ for you, and now I’ll use it for them. To think that any one of us, or even a couple of us, banded together can make a profound change, for most people that is almost beyond their comprehension.
Yet, in the examples you’re setting for us today, you’re telling every one of us that we have that power within us if we just have the nerve or the courage to put it out there, to stand up, to be committed, and to put some skin in the game. What great lessons you’re teaching.
LYNNE TWIST: I make a distinction between taking a stand and taking a position. I’ve learned over the years-and Werner was a great teacher in this domain-that when you take a position it always calls up its opposition. When you say ‘up’, it really creates ‘down’. When you say ‘yes’, it creates ‘no’. When you say ‘left’, it creates ‘right’. When you say ‘pro-choice’, it creates ‘pro-life’ in a way.
No matter where you are on that spectrum, the kind of positionality that comes with many of the great issues of our time really does create its opposition. The more entrenched one point of view gets, the more entrenched the other must get. Taking a position is useful and important and, if I can use a football analogy, it moves the ball down the field. However, you have to be in a position to move it to the next position.
At the same time, what I really learned during that seminal time in the Hunger Project and over my life is that there is a distinction called ‘taking a stand’. When you take a stand, as Archimedes said 2,000 years ago, Give me a place to stand, and I’ll move the world, and you can and you do. A stand is not a point of view. A stand is a place where you have vision. A stand honors all points of view, allows them to exist, and lets them be heard.
A stand is that domain of distinction that distinguishes Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa, César Chàvez, or Nelson Mandela. These are stand-takers who actually ultimately changed the course of history. They weren’t for or against, as much as they were standing in a field of power, beauty, and integrity that allowed positionality to dissolve around them so that the destiny and evolution of the human family could actually move forward.
I think all of us have the capacity to take a stand. Werner, Bucky, John Denver, Bob Fuller and others took a stand to end world hunger. They made a profound commitment knowing that what was missing was the will, the commitment, to end world hunger. Out of that grave and bold commitment, the Hunger Project was born. I was in a field, an energetic environment, taking a stand, and I found myself taking one, too.
It was to make a difference with my life, to use my life as an instrument to end hunger, and to be a person who used my life in a way that mattered. Out of that, it led me all around this beautiful planet. It led me to Mother Teresa, who I had admired since I was a little girl. I was raised as a Catholic, and I prayed.
BILL BARTMANN: Tell us how that happened.
LYNNE TWIST: I was raised as a Catholic; I was a little Catholic girl. I actually must say, and I probably shouldn’t say this, that at that time I didn’t really have a relationship with the Pope, and I wasn’t so sure about him.
BILL BARTMANN: I know. I was born Catholic, too. I get it.
LYNNE TWIST: That didn’t float my boat, but what did touch me and really move me was Mother Teresa’s example of true Christianity and Catholicism and love, let’s say. I imagined, Maybe I should become a nun, after my father died. I was deeply engaged with the possibilities of religious life. I can hardly believe that now, but that was where I was.
BILL BARTMANN: Actually, you’re not that far away. There is an artificial line that separates those two. We sometimes think it’s a great wall, but it really isn’t; it’s just kind of a small line written on the ground. You are remarkably close. You’re just doing it in a different direction and in a way that we all can love and honor.
LYNNE TWIST: Thank you for that but, really, if I had designed my whole life to meet Mother Teresa, I don’t think I could have done it. Through my stand, my commitment to end world hunger, ultimately I found myself in India with my mentor and teacher, Joan Holmes, who was the president of the Hunger Project and still is, working in India.
During the time I worked in India, off and on for more than 20 years, during some of those early years of being in India-working there, organizing things, launching our projects there, and really learning from the Indian people-I had a thought, Gosh, I’m in India. I’m working on hunger and poverty issues. Maybe someday I’ll meet Mother Teresa. It sort of occurred to me like a revelation, like a flash, Oh, my gosh. Here I am in India.
I wrote to my mother, I remember, and this is way before Internet, and I said, I’m in India, and I’m going to send a prayer that I somehow have the privilege of meeting Mother Teresa. That same day I met a friend, a Hunger Project volunteer friend, named Indira, who I greatly admire. She is a doctor in India. I mentioned to her what a thrill it would be someday to meet Mother Teresa. She said, Oh, I know Mother Teresa. My father’s her physician.
BILL BARTMANN: Talk about the six circles of separation!
LYNNE TWIST: Yes! I’ll be happy to introduce you. She said that, and I just about fainted. Nothing happened, I think, for a year. Then one day I was in Delhi, and I called her. She said, You’re in town! Perfect! Mother Teresa’s here. She’s at her orphanage in Delhi, and I’m going to arrange a meeting with you for her tonight. I just about fainted I was so excited.
I must confess, I hadn’t been to Mass in 10 years or something, and suddenly I’m going to meet Mother Teresa. I cancelled all the meetings I had with the IMF, the World Bank, UNICEF, and everything that day. I went straight to a church. I went to confession. I did the rosary about a 100,000 times. I did everything I could to prepare myself.
BILL BARTMANN: People on this call who aren’t Catholic don’t know what you and I are talking about right now. I’m laughing inside and out because I know exactly what you’re saying.
LYNNE TWIST: I had to kind of ‘holy’ myself up to meet Mother Teresa. I got books on her. I was all in a twitter. Would I wear an Indian kurta, a sari, or Western clothes? I just went into kind of a tailspin, and eventually was prepared enough to get in a taxi and travel from New Delhi to Old Delhi to her orphanage for girls. That was really such a thrill.
BILL BARTMANN: What a great story. What a great honor to be able to meet someone with the class and dignity of this little 86-pound woman. It’s just amazing. Lynne, tell us what inspired you to write your book, The Soul of Money. Please share that with us.
LYNNE TWIST: I worked for many, many years at the Hunger Project. I was always in charge of fundraising. When you’re in charge of fundraising, which for me is a sacred profession, a holy thing, to reallocate the world’s financial resources in every way you can-away from fear, destruction, violence, consumerism, killing, weaponry, which is where most of the money is going on the planet-it’s to reallocate towards that which we love: the health and well-being of children, the health and well-being of our environment, the health and well-being of all children of all species for all time.
I’ve always seen fundraising as a sacred profession of facilitating the reallocation of the world’s financial resources away from fear and towards love. That orientation for fundraising is somewhat unusual. I don’t have any text, techniques, or tips to give people about fundraising. I’ve always felt fundraising is an act of love. In my work as a fundraiser, I trained our fundraisers all over the world for the Hunger Project in many, many countries.
I was responsible for fundraising operations in 47 countries: Ethiopia, Botswana, Ghana, Senegal, Bangladesh, India, as well as countries like Sweden, France, Germany, where we all think money is. In particular, I worked with people to raise money in places like Mozambique, not from The World Bank but from each other to realize that they have their own wealth.
It may be smaller in terms of numbers on a balance sheet, but that wealth that comes from the heart and is expressed in money is very, very powerful. Actually, I call that kind of money ‘blessed money’. It goes a long, long way. Many people told me from time to time that I should write a book about this stuff. I said, I can’t do that. I’m an activist; I’m ending world hunger. When am I going to write a book? I couldn’t even imagine it.
BILL BARTMANN: There’s an old adage, If you want something done, give it to a person who’s busy. You’ve given proof to that old adage.
LYNNE TWIST: I had enough people tell me that, and eventually I gave a couple of speeches about money that inspired some publishers and a literary agent. Then they started telling me I should write a book about money. They had a little bit more experience under their belt and knew it would be a useful book. I actually started to realize, My gosh! I’d better do this. I didn’t know how to stop and write.
I just started taping everything, and eventually I was lucky enough to hook up with a really fabulous woman, a collaborative writer, whose name is Teresa Barker. She transcribed everything. She started to help me organize it. Were it not for Teresa Barker, there would be no The Soul of Money book, I promise you. Over several years we talked every day, sometimes from 6:00 AM to 8:00 AM, sometimes from 5:00 AM to 7:00 AM.
Always before my day, I would spend two hours on the phone with her. We would tape record stories, conversations, experiences that I had. With her help it ended up to be a book called The Soul of Money. It took me some real elbow grease to get it done. I did it, and I’m so happy that people have read it and enjoyed it and that it’s making a difference. That’s the story.
BILL BARTMANN: What a great thing to be able to write a book, to share your mission, your goals, your life, and this grateful teaching that you have because of your experiences with people you’ll never meet, people who’ll never stand in front of you as you give a speech, people whom you may never know. You’ve taken the time, the trouble and the effort to put this down in writing, and it will last a very, very long time.
That’s essentially powerful. There’s one part of your book that interests me. In the book you talk about the tug-of-war between our money interests and the calling of our soul. Explain that, if you would, please.
LYNNE TWIST: I think many people sell out in order to earn money or to accumulate more money than they’ll probably ever need. Not everybody does that, of course but if you look at our world community, the seven billion people living on this planet, most people are making a ‘dying’ rather than a living. By that I mean they’re doing something that they hate, doing something that demeans them, doing something to bring home a paycheck that may sometimes even have a criminal implication.
Most people, even working in factories or doing something completely legitimate, are not expressing themselves in a way that we all know people can. I call that ‘making a dying’ rather than a living; in a way it’s kind of selling your life for money. We also have a goodly number of people on this planet who are making a killing rather than a living. By that I mean they’re doing something that they know is hurting someone else; damaging the environment; cutting down trees; polluting the air, rivers, or the very fabric of life.
That’s making a killing rather than a living. Somehow our culture legitimates that. If you make enough money somehow people turn the other cheek or turn the other way; they turn their head the other way. I think that we have a commercial-consumer-capitalist dominated culture that fosters and, actually, foments people doing things for money that are completely unrelated to the soul of who they are.
I don’t think that’s necessary. I think you can stay connected to your soul and express yourself in a way that you are compensated for your service. First we have to recognize that we sold ourselves a little bit, and that we’re not connecting our soul and our money.
BILL BARTMANN: Do you think then that the desire for money by itself is a bad thing?
LYNNE TWIST: I don’t think the desire for money is a bad thing as long as we know that money is not an end in itself. Money is merely a medium of exchange, merely that. Because we’ve come into a world now, of course, where there is this huge financial crisis, which I can talk about too, where money’s become more important than the services it provides. It’s moved from being a medium of exchange to an end in itself. That is very confusing. That is inappropriate. It’s inaccurate.
The desire for having the resources that you need to care for your family is not a bad thing, and having the resources that you need to contribute to society is not a bad thing. However, to accumulate massive amounts of money in order to manipulate, dominate, or control other people, and even ecosystems or countries, has gotten us to a place where we’re really in trouble. Obviously, the financial crisis is a huge, gigantic expression of a society that’s lost its way with money.
BILL BARTMANN: Lynne, also in your book you talk about creating a legacy of enough. That can be a little confusing. Maybe it just takes a little bit of clarification for me, anyhow. Does that mean that we shouldn’t have the desire to enjoy great abundance in our lives?
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For more information about Lynne Twist and her work, please go to http://www.soulofmoney.org/.