The great poet and philosopher, Khalil Gibran, expressed the nature of passion and work. He said, “Always you have been told that work is a curse and labor a misfortune. But I say to you that when you work, you fulfill a part of Earth’s furthest dream, a sign to you when that dream was born, and in keeping yourself with labor you are in truth loving life, and to love life through labor is to be intimate with life’s inmost secrets.” This quote can be found at the beginning of the book written by our guest tonight.
This is a man whose life is dedicated to making work the expression of love. As CEO of Cause Alliance Marketing, Jeff Klein designs and facilitates collaborative cause-related marketing programs. He currently serves as president of the Conscious Business Alliance and Conscious Capitalism, Inc., a nonprofit dedicated to liberating the entrepreneurial spirit for good, co-founded by John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market.
Jeff’s new book, from which our quote from Khalil Gibran came, Working For Good: Making a Difference while Making a Living, was released this Fall. He wrote it to support conscious entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs, leaders, and change agents at work.
JEFF KLEIN: Chris, thank you. It’s delightful to be here with you.
CHRIS ATTWOOD: Now, Jeff, you know that the title of this series is Passions of Real Life Legends. Will you share with us how your passions, the things you care most about, have led you to the work that you’re now doing today?
JEFF KLEIN: Certainly, Chris. Thank you. I think many share this passion with me. I happen to be one who’s pretty much pursued it my whole life, and that is the passion to make things better and somehow make the world a better place. It’s the passion to see people growing, developing, and flourishing; to grow, develop, and flourish myself; and to foster health in all respects: health of mind, body, spirit, and community. Those have been my passions for as long as I can remember, and they’ve really informed the decisions I’ve made in my career throughout my life.
CHRIS ATTWOOD: It’s such a great vision that I think you’ve created as you’ve worked with others to create this whole concept of conscious capitalism. I’m looking forward to talking about that, but before we do, many of our listeners and readers have a hard time thinking about how you make the transition from working in order to pay the bills to working and getting paid to follow your passions and do things that are meaningful to you and that will make a difference in the world. You’ve made that transition. Will you tell us the story of how you first began getting paid for doing things that you love that make a difference in the world?
JEFF KLEIN: I’m smiling as I hear you ask the question, Chris, because in a certain respect I’ve always followed my passion. Fortunately, part of my passion is seeing things grow and develop, specifically things that touch people in some way. I’ve had the opportunity to work in building companies and on projects that by their nature were meant to deliver some sort of deep value and benefit to people. It’s easy for me to get passionate about creating something new, building something from the ground up, and then building something that has the intention of serving people in some way.
Again, for me, the two have always been aligned. What I’ve found is if I pursue my passion and only do things that I’m passionate about, those things are going to manifest into some sort of revenue-generating or life-sustaining activity, or something is going to come and present itself to me that provides an opportunity for me to make a living. To compromise and say, “Okay, I just need a job,” I’ve never even thought that way, and I’ve never done it, so I don’t relate to it.
CHRIS ATTWOOD: That’s great and good fortune. Would you tell us the story? There was a time when you started out and you got your first job or your first inspiration. Will you tell us that story of how you got started?
JEFF KLEIN: I will. I was on a bus from Allentown, Pennsylvania, to New York City, reading a book called Agricultural Development in the Third World. I was, and still am, very interested in the idea of sustainable agricultural development and broad-based feeding, helping feed people throughout the world. A gentleman sitting across the aisle from me said, “Excuse me. What’s that book you’re reading?”
I showed him, and he asked if he could see it. I handed it to him. Then he said, “Could I come talk with you?” I said, “Of course.” It turns out that was Robert Rodale, who at the time was the chairman of Rodale Press, the publishers of Organic Gardening magazine, Prevention magazine, and now Men’s Health, Bicycling, et cetera. We got to talking. He asked, “Why are you reading this book?” I said, “Because I care about this.”
He obviously cared about it, as well. Then he told me about an idea he had for a research project on natural resource and social economics. This was 1981, and he was saying, “I want to really understand what’s going on in the way of new thinking about economics and business so we can inform our publications and deliver content related to it and also perhaps inform our business.”
Needless to say, that’s something I cared about, considering my passion was making the world a better place. I want to add that I had a very specific focus, which is really manifesting now. My specific focus is how you can use the power of business to make the world a better place or transform the world in positive ways. I said yes and did that project for several months, wrote a report, and ended up leaving.
That led to the next thing, but that was my first experience. To a considerable extent it’s been that way throughout my career. I might add, Chris, that at times I’ve left things that I was doing. It wasn’t right for me, it wasn’t right for the project or company, or it was clear that it was time for me to move on. I didn’t always know where I was going next. I would say, “Okay, it’s time for me to leave,” without knowing where to go next.
Then when I really focused inside and said, “What is the next thing? What’s the next step? Either it would become clear to me, “I need to pursue this,” or something would show up. Somebody might call and say, “I have this opportunity,” or “I’m interested in doing this. Are you interested?” One way or the other-by me actively pursuing it or me getting very clear on what I wanted to focus on-someone would show up. Does that make sense?
CHRIS ATTWOOD: It makes complete sense. If Janet, my partner and co-author of The Passion Test, were on the line, she’d probably be saying, “Now here is an example of someone who’s really aligned with his passion.” The question that comes up for me is that it takes a lot of courage to leave something. You feel like the time is up or it’s time to move on, not knowing where you’re going.
That seems to be a theme for people as we’ve talked to hundreds of people now who are following their passions, but it also can be a bit scary, I would think. How did you have the courage to step out not knowing what was going to happen next?
JEFF KLEIN: That’s a really good question. I do want to acknowledge it takes courage. Yes, it does take courage. First of all, I must be aligned with my passion and my sense of purpose, or I shrivel. I just don’t feel alive. I have no choice. I have to go with what is life-enhancing and life-sustaining. It’s just my nature. Then you take the risk once or twice, and you start to understand that when you take the risk, when you go with your passion and that inner voice that says you must, things just do work out.
Obviously, you don’t sit back and do nothing. You engage with life. I think it was Thomas Jefferson who said the people who work hard tend to be luckier. That’s paraphrasing. It’s like saying luck happens, but you have to work for your luck. Also, there’s a wonderful quotation by Goethe that says, and I can read this to you if you want. I have it handy here.
“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way.
“Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.” There’s that. Just say yes to the thing that’s calling forth, that says you have to take the step. You have to take the step. When you do and you align yourself with that, things happen.
CHRIS ATTWOOD: I want to talk for a moment about conscious capitalism, and then we’ll get into your book. A lot of the work you do today seems to be related to this whole idea of conscious capitalism. As I mentioned in the introduction, one of the organizations that you had is FLOW, Freedom Lights Our World, and the Conscious Capitalism Alliance.
Will you talk first about what these organizations are; second, what you mean by conscious capitalism; and third, how does conscious capitalism and ‘making a difference while making a living’ tie together?
JEFF KLEIN: Great question. FLOW was co-founded by John Mackey, who’s the co-founder and CEO of Whole Foods Market, and Michael Strong, who’s an educational entrepreneur. Both of them consider themselves do-gooder libertarians in that they believe in the classical liberal philosophy that markets, individual initiative, and entrepreneurship are powerful tools that humanity has created.
They’re among the most powerful tools for making the world a better place. They also believe in human development, human potential, and cultivation of community. They had friends in the libertarian world and friends in the consciousness and social ‘do-gooding’ world, and they were not reconcilable. The libertarians would say, “What are you doing? You’re doing great, John, building this amazing business, but what’s this social responsibility thing?” or “environment sustainability?”
Then his farmer friends would say, “John, it’s great what you guys are doing with the animal compassion standards and sustainable agriculture, but what’s this? You just bought up another chain. What are you, a capitalist pig or something?” John was thinking, “You guys are all full of it. These things are totally congruent and reconcilable.” I really need to make it clear that you can be for entrepreneurship and markets and for social and environmental sustainability.
Let’s bring them together with human potential. That’s where FLOW came out of. I met John and Michael four years ago, and they asked me to essentially build the organization with them. I’ve been doing that for four years. The first day on the job, as it were, I came up with the line “liberating the entrepreneurial spirit for good,” which reflects the intention and mission of FLOW.
Out of FLOW, I brought my Cause Alliance Marketing model, which is designing programs to address social issues in collaboration with other organizations. Over the course of the last four years, we have four programs that have emerged: Freedom Lights Our World, Peace Through Commerce, Accelerating Women Entrepreneurs, and Conscious Capitalism. Conscious capitalism is one that John said, “I want to do one focused on conscious capitalism.” Is that a good enough background for you?
CHRIS ATTWOOD: No, that’s great. What do we mean by conscious capitalism?
JEFF KLEIN: By conscious capitalism we mean something very specific. It’s a model or way of looking at business that has three principle elements. The first element is purpose, recognizing that every business has a purpose beyond return on investment. That purpose is to serve people and society in some way. It can be something like Southwest Airlines, for instance, which has a purpose of democratizing the airways and giving people the freedom to fly.
Wal-Mart has a purpose, and it’s had a purpose from its origin. It’s really coming back to that even more. Their purpose is make goods available to people who would otherwise not have access to them by providing good quality goods at a reasonable price. That’s their purpose. Whole Foods’ purpose is to bring people healthy, nutritious, organic foods and help them live healthy lifestyles through their food.
It could be a whole range of purposes. It doesn’t have to be to make the world a better place, but it’s beyond return on investment, and it’s something you’re actually bringing to the marketplace and society. The second one is this. Rather than looking at business as a tube where you input labor, capital, and resources in one end and you have profits come out the other end, you look at business as an ecosystem.
It’s a system made up of different stakeholders. For instance, Whole Foods and many companies recognize their ecosystem or stakeholder system to be comprised of customers, team members or employees, investors, vendors, the communities they do business in, and even the environment. If you look at a business as an ecosystem, the way you manage it is by delivering value to all of the stakeholders and facilitating a harmony of interest between them.
That’s a very different way of looking at a business than saying, “Our purpose is to make money, and our orientation and focus is on the shareholders.” Rather than that, it’s, “The purpose of the business is to deliver some great meaning and value, and it’s to deliver it to a whole system.” Do you have any questions about that?
CHRIS ATTWOOD: No, that sounds great.
JEFF KLEIN: There’s one other pillar. The third pillar or principle is now the kind of leadership that facilitates or manages that kind of a business. You can call it conscious leadership, steward leadership, or facilitated leadership, but it’s leadership that’s purposeful and focused on delivering the value to the whole system rather than focusing on myself.
You include yourself as well, but it’s not all about how much money I’m going to make and what my golden parachute is going to be. It’s about how I facilitate the stakeholders to elevate this whole system in a way that we all win. It’s the leadership that embodies those two other principles.
CHRIS ATTWOOD: Fabulous. I wanted to bring this back to your book. The subtitle of your book is Making a Difference While Making a Living. How does conscious capitalism relate to that?
JEFF KLEIN: Conscious capitalism is one element of that. One of the things we recognize is that to build a conscious business takes conscious people. My book is really focused on how we cultivate ourselves-whether it’s in the job, as an entrepreneur, as a social entrepreneur, and as a manager-how do we cultivate the skills in and for ourselves to build a conscious enterprise? How do we work and cultivate the relationships between us so we’re building a more conscious enterprise? That’s the piece my book and really my work in general principally focuses on.
CHRIS ATTWOOD: That makes a lot of sense. Tell us what came first, your work with John and these organizations, or your book and the knowledge that you present in the book.
JEFF KLEIN: I started the book 11 years ago, so this is really part of the same process. This inclination to use business as a vehicle for making the world a better place and for transforming business so it’s more conscious has been something I’ve been focused on for 30 years. The book is a reflection of what I’ve learned in the process. One of the key things that I’ve learned is you can focus a business on doing good.
You can say, “Let’s address some social or environment issue,” “Let’s make some healthy foods,” or “Let’s create some sort of program that makes people healthier.” You can do that, and you can deliver that product or service. In the process, the way you treat yourself, if you trash yourself, each other, or others, what you’re going to end up creating is going to be less than the optimal potential, and it’s going to be less than what your intention was.
While what we do is important, I’ve come to understand that how we do it is at least as, if not more, important. Back to your question, the book didn’t come first and these organizations didn’t come first. My work over 30 years came first. Writing the book and being in these organizations and building these organizations, is a reflection of the ground that I’ve been cultivating for all those years.
CHRIS ATTWOOD: It makes a lot of sense. Initially, as least when I saw the title of the book, Working for Good: Making a Difference While Making a Living, I thought it was more of a treatise of what that means. As I got into it, you seem to talk about working for good more as a state of being, almost-that’s the way I would describe it, but I don’t know if you’d describe it that way-as opposed to just an idea.
Would you take a minute and go a little bit more deeply for our listeners into what you mean by ‘working for good’ and why you’ve incorporated sets of exercises?
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For more information about Jeff Klein and his work, please go to www.WorkingForGood.com.