The focus of tonight’s interview was described by our guest when she said, “Welcome to the dawn of Conscious Capitalism-a popular, decentralized, broad-based crusade to heal the excesses of capitalism with transcendent human values.”

Patricia Aburdene is one of the world’s leading social forecasters. For 25 years she has helped thousands of organizations and millions of people make the most of social change and transformation. She is the co-author of the number one
New York Times bestseller, Megatrends 2000. Patricia’s newest book, Megatrends 2010: The Rise of Conscious Capitalism, is a blueprint of the social, economic and spiritual trends transforming free enterprise. As the tagline promises, the book describes seven new trends that will transform how you live, work and invest.

PATRICIA ABURDENE: Chris, it’s such a pleasure to be with you. As you know, we’ve met just recently, and not even in person yet. Yet, I really feel in you and in your organization, true kindred spirits. It’s such a pleasure for me to be talking to you.

CHRIS ATTWOOD: Thank you, Patricia. There’s no question about us being kindred spirits. Let’s plunge right in, if that’s all right.


CHRIS ATTWOOD: You know the title of this series is the Passions of Real Life Legends. Could we begin by you sharing how your passions, the things you care most about, have led you to the work that you do today?

PATRICIA ABURDENE: Chris, I think I have to go way back. I don’t know how I did it, but I followed the number-one rule, which is: “Do what you really love.” While I was still a young woman in college, I had this crazy idea that I wanted to be a writer. Believe you me, I didn’t have any idea how to go about doing this. The thought never occurred to me to go to journalism school, for example.

It’s probably a good thing that I didn’t. I believed it passionately. Naturally, I still had to make a living when I graduated from college. I did some interesting things, but always because I thought they would lead me to become a writer. That was my dream; I wanted to become a writer. I got a master’s degree in Library Science, which was extremely useful for research, especially. I used those skills all the time.

Then I eased into some writing work. I would say I spent my 20s learning how to write one good page. Do you know what I mean? Not just to put words down, but to really connect the words and bring them from one place to another; and hopefully bring the reader from one place to another. Off I went. Then I met a gentleman named John Naisbitt, who had a book in him. We met as a couple and were married.

We’ve subsequently lovingly dissolved our relationship. At the time we met I was probably around 30 years old or so. I really helped him to articulate the story of Megatrends that he had in his heart. That was his passion. His passions were these trends. I used my skills as a journalist. I was working for Forbes magazine, the big capitalist tool, as they say. I was a reporter/researcher at Forbes.

CHRIS ATTWOOD: What a great combination. It’s interesting to hear you describe how your personal relationship was somehow very intimately tied to your own passions at the same time.

PATRICIA ABURDENE: Yes, it was. We served each other in a really wonderful way. We were each other’s missing link. With our energies together, we catalyzed this amazing Megatrends path that we walked for many, many years. That was the beginning.

CHRIS ATTWOOD: Tell us a little bit of the story of how Megatrends came to be and how you got into thinking, writing and speaking about these social trends. I know you and John worked on the book together, but tell us a little bit about how it all happened.

PATRICIA ABURDENE: Yes, that’s a great story. In fact, people don’t usually ask me that question. We were a couple, meeting and falling in love. We went to a party and happened to meet a literary agent there. I was working at Forbes at the time. John had been speaking about these trends that he had been studying for a long time. He was probably 10 years into analyzing trends by the time this ever happened.

This guy said, “John, I think you have a book in you.” The thought to write this book had never occurred to John, which is kind of funny. One Saturday, we went to John’s office. This is going to make the young people really roll their eyes. He sat down at an old IBM Selectric. At least it was a correcting one.

CHRIS ATTWOOD: Thank goodness for that.

PATRICIA ABURDENE: This belongs in the Smithsonian now. He typed out a book proposal. The literary agent was named Rafe Sagalyn. He’s based in Washington, DC, and he’s a wonderful man and a wonderful agent. I know you have some experience with publishing and with the relationship between the agent and the editor who buys your book. The publisher is the company, but, it’s the editor who really says, “I will stand by this book. I’ll be the champion of this book.”

It’s one of the most important things. Rafe brought the book to Nancy Neiman, who was at Warner Books at the time. As they say, the rest was history. We were out on a book tour in the fall of 1982. We’d just finished up the first week of book tour, and the book made the New York Times bestseller list.

CHRIS ATTWOOD: That must have been a very exciting moment for both of you.

PATRICIA ABURDENE: Oh gosh, Chris. It was just thrilling. Absolutely.

CHRIS ATTWOOD: From Megatrends, of course, you’ve gone through some iterations. We’ve gone through a few decades since then. Now your latest book, Megatrends 2010, is entitled The Rise of Conscious Capitalism. I began this interview with a little description of it. Would you describe for us what you mean by ‘Conscious Capitalism’? Why is that such an emerging trend now?

PATRICIA ABURDENE: I would love to do that. At some point, could we get back to how I got from the fast track of Megatrends to the conscious track of Conscious Capitalism?

CHRIS ATTWOOD: Please, let’s start there.

PATRICIA ABURDENE: Do you want to do that now? Okay, we’ll do that now. I was relatively young when Megatrends hit the New York Times bestseller list. I wasn’t the author of that. I was the collaborator, which means that although I wrote lots of it and was very much involved in it, it was really John’s ideas. That was fine with me, although I must say my girlfriends will never forgive me: “Your name should have been on the cover of that book!”

Then we wrote Reinventing the Corporation. We wrote Megatrends 2000. We were co-authors of both of these, and my girlfriends were happy. Finally, we wrote Megatrends for Women, for which I was actually the lead author. I was in this amazingly fast-paced life. A little girl from Worchester, Massachusetts, who went to Newton College of the Sacred Heart, is running in the big leagues, having lunch with publishers in New York at the Four Seasons, and speaking for IBM.

I spoke to so many corporations: Exxon, IBM, GM and Fortune 500 companies. I was making a lot of money and living a wonderful life. I don’t know what, but something happened to me at a certain point. It was like I’d finished that song. I sang that song, and I sang it with all my heart. Then one day I thought, “Oh, that’s complete. I’ve ridden that wave where I want to ride it. It’s complete.” It was fabulous. It was wonderful. God bless it. That was around the time that John and I went our separate ways.

That would be roughly in the mid 1990s. My spirituality and my spiritual quest then went from being an important interest of mine to the absolute center and core of my life. That was a huge change. As I say in Megatrends 2010, I shut off the television and I stopped reading newspapers for two years, except for rare occasions. Sometimes if I was in a hotel room, I would turn on the television set. For two years I still had a television, but I basically watched the Weather Channel.

CHRIS ATTWOOD: That’s quite something for a future-thinker, right?

PATRICIA ABURDENE: Yes. My head was over-full of thoughts. Being really data-drenched, being a futurist and doing all that for so long, a voice within me just said, “Silence. Silence is what you desire.” That’s basically what I have. I lived alone for the first time in my life.

CHRIS ATTWOOD: That was a big transition for you.

PATRICIA ABURDENE: It was a huge transition.

CHRIS ATTWOOD: How did you move from that back to engaging in and looking at future trends again?

PATRICIA ABURDENE: I had a period of withdrawal from the world. I had a period of a good five years-probably more like seven years–where I wrote a novel, for example. I was just pursuing my spiritual path. That’s basically what I did. Of course, I meditated and all that, but my favorite tool that was really the most important for me was journaling. It downloaded from my head onto the paper.

It helped clear me and get in touch with what was really going on deep inside of me. After seven years of that, I had a longing to unite my love of business, which was still there but I had taken a break from it, with this spiritual quest that I had been on. The result was starting to write books. I wrote another book in addition to my novel about spirituality and business that was never actually published. It was a learning book for moving into this new thing.

I tried to get it published, but people weren’t interested in it. I got very clearly to go back to the Megatrend’s format to talk about this. That was in the spring of 2003. As you can see, from 1994 to 2003 a lot of time went by. I tentatively called what became Megatrends 2010, Megatrends for Managers. It was one of those things that I thought, “I know I have to do this. Maybe it will be a few more years of struggle. I don’t know, but I just know I have to do this.”

From the minute I made that decision, everything fell into place. The writing flowed and I knew what to do. I met the right people. I met my agent. I met my new publisher. Everything just unfolded.

CHRIS ATTWOOD: Wonderful. It’s interesting to hear you tell this story. You and I have talked previously about the fact I have been doing some research into what’s going on in Corporate America. There are a significant number of companies that are incorporating what we might call spirituality-sometimes it’s talked about as ‘social responsibility’-in a much more significant way than ever before.

That’s really happened as far as I can see in the last five to 10 years in a significant way. It’s interesting that your own personal journey was so tied and connected to what seems to be happening in society. Can you talk a little bit about that? What did you see as you began looking at the data and information, and meeting some of the people in the business world who had been incorporating spirituality into their work?

PATRICIA ABURDENE: It’s exactly as you say. It dovetails perfectly, and lucky for me. Once I decided to approach this from a trends perspective, it was a good thing that there was data out there for me to find. Otherwise, it would have been a pretty thin trend book. I was guided, obviously, to the right people and to the right information. People ask me, “How did you do your research?”

It’s great to be talking to somebody with a spiritual consciousness, because I can tell the truth, which is that it comes to me. I have a master’s degree in Library Science. I have a background as a journalist, but it really just comes to me. I go through the motions, but you know that serendipity; you know that phone call you get; you know that article you find where you say, “I can’t believe it! I’ve been looking for that stat for the past five years, and here it is!”

As I started Megatrends 2010, there had been all this ‘rah-rah’ talk about capitalism: “Greed is good. Greed is good.” I know that’s not right. How can I prove it? If I can’t prove it, how can I illustrate it? I don’t know. How am I going to do it? Chris, I went for a decade thinking this. Then one day, I turn on CNBC, and there is Alan Greenspan explaining what a threat greed is to prosperity.

I called my researcher. “Get the transcript for me!” As you say, there was a lot going on in business. One of the questions that we talked about that you might ask me is, “How is this being played out? How are spirituality-in-business trends being played out in companies?” I’m a big-picture person, so I speak in generalities. I would say there are two main ways: the classic top down and bottom up. They’re both equally important.

If you’re lucky, you could work for a company with a CEO or director of your division, who is a committed person on the path and who says, “For goodness sakes! I get my best ideas meditating. That has to be true for my team. I’m going to bring in a meditation teacher.” That’s wonderful, but it doesn’t always happen that way. I sincerely do not believe that your prosperity and success as an individual is dependent on a benevolent CEO. If that were true, then your inner power isn’t worth anything.

CHRIS ATTWOOD: In your book, one of the chapters is “Leading From the Middle.” Talk a little bit about that.

PATRICIA ABURDENE: It all has to do with how we define the word ‘authority’. We think of the executives, the CEOs, and the company presidents as the individuals who have an executive of every type. They’re the people who have the authority. They have the authority of a job title. They can hire people and fire people. There’s another kind of authority that is more inner based.

Sociologists have known about it for a very long time. Sometimes it’s called ‘informal authority’, and those are the people who wield enormous power in networks throughout organizations. The other type of power, which is more spiritual in its vibration, is ‘moral authority’. If you have a good reputation, just to describe it in the most user-friendly terms possible [indiscernible] among your peers.

If you’re admired for, let’s say, your technical expertise or for your inter-personal ability, you have a kind of currency that is valuable. Some would argue it’s as valuable as more traditional kinds of authority. The way you lead from the middle is by exercising your informal authority, the respect that your peers grant you, and your moral authority, the way that your values influence your team, for example.

I’m going to use the stereotypical thing. Let’s say you’re a woman on a high-tech team. You’re pretty darn good in your tech skills, and you can run with the best of the guys. However, there’s some business-way you have that can make them laugh. You can make them laugh, and you can help them open their hearts in a way that none of the guys can do. That’s leading with your gifts, I guess.

Another way of talking about leading from the middle and leading from moral authority is living and breathing your gifts when you’re on the job. That is absolutely a brand of leadership; there’s no question about it. You’re influencing people. That’s another key word. Do you have the ability to influence?

CHRIS ATTWOOD: I want to back up for a moment and have you talk a little bit about what you mean by ‘Conscious Capitalism’.

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