Insights from Satya Nadella, Microsoft CEO, speaking in London


A very kind soul gifted me two tickets to hear Satya Nadella, Microsoft CEO, speak about his new book Hit Refresh, at a sold-out event. Satya argues in his book that as technology increases, the very human quality of empathy & being able to relate to each other will become increasingly valuable.

I attended with a friend; together, we are pretty clueless about artificial intelligence or quantum computing but figured we could ‘broaden our horizons.' I had decided beforehand to ask a question & got an opportunity to do so, after raising my hand a few times, pretty shamelessly.

Here are some things I learned & observed:

  • Satya was born in Hyderabad, India. I wondered if he still likes spicy food.

  • His father worked in the civil service and had Marxist leanings. His mother was a Sanskrit teacher. They didn’t agree on much including how to parent him, he said humorously, so he got away with a lot, including playing many hours of cricket - one of his passions.

  • The word 'empathy' was mentioned multiple times by him; I stopped counting at 10. He also said the word 'vulnerable' – Brene Brown would be over the moon! He said companies need to be great at listening to the unarticulated needs of their clients; Seth Godin says similar things. I approve.

The last question by the interviewer, tongue-in-cheek, was something like, 'Please can you explain Donald Trump to us?' which got the audience laughing. Satya took a long breath & gave a fairly diplomatic answer. He also said, “I attribute two things to America: amazing technological reach and history of an enlightened immigration policy”.

I particularly enjoyed the story of his first job interview with Microsoft, age 25, where at the end of an 8 hour grilling, focused mainly on mathematical algorithms, he was asked, "what would you do if a baby fell"? His response back then was ‘call 911’. The interviewer on his way out told him, if a baby falls, you pick the baby up. He realised that he didn't learn an empathy algorithm & although befuddled by this question, still got the job.

He attributed learning empathy to his life’s journey, including having his firstborn son, born prematurely with severe brain damage & cerebral palsy. He noticed that his wife, Anu, who he referred to as 'the real leader in the home' (who introduced him to NVC and other great books) was a natural at caring for his son taking him to therapy sessions and bonding with him. As an engineer, he had to work at this as it wasn't a natural skill.

My question to Satya was: Thank you for helping me settle a long-standing disagreement with my husband; my husband thinks NVC will never be 'mainstream'. Your mentioning it in interviews just helped shoot it up the Amazon bestseller lists, so thank you! What are your thoughts on NVC and business, did you have any pushback from your team when you suggested reading it?

Satya stated the reason for the success of the 'growth mindset' or  'NVC' inside the company. He felt people are drawing upon it because it gives them or inspires them to be a better partner, a better parent, a better colleague, a better leader and in fact, harmonises their life with work.

Regarding pushbacks, he said his attitude was: take it if it appeals to you, he didn't promote it as new dogma. He holds the view that people interpret things differently, we are shaped by our life experiences and respond differently at different stages of our life experience.  He observed how he was different at 50 than at 25; knowing that how he would have reacted to NVC at 25 would be different than it is now.

I am so glad I attended. None the wiser about artificial intelligence or quantum computing although I made mental notes to understand Cortana a bit more, after hearing Satya actually does use it as his digital PA. I feel high hopes to hear this consciousness towards diversity, empathy & caring about deeper human needs from a leader of a large global corporation.

Thank you, Trishna for the lovely gift – meeting needs for learning, inspiration and community!

Nonviolent Communication & Corporations - Marshall Rosenberg

Nonviolent Communication & Corporations

In a video on YouTube, called Nonviolent Communication and Corporations, Dr Marshall Rosenberg talks specifically about how the old domination structure affects how businesses function. As he passed away, this is the closest I can get to sharing his teaching; I have transcribed his words to share how he thought about this topic – radically different to our usual way of thinking and very inspiring. In the first part, Marshall explains mainly about Nonviolent Communication and less about Corporations - although he refers to them as gangs, in the middle of this interview (if you want to skip to that part). I also like how he describes sticking to solely the profit motive may be life-alienating rather than life-serving for businesses.

Paula (Paula Gloria): In this show, we explore the limits and the potentials of human consciousness; maybe we can say the 'unlimited-ness'. Today, we have a really special guest, Dr Marshall Rosenberg, who is the founder of a process called Nonviolent Communication. And I think, as we talk to Marshall Rosenberg, we’ll hear that indeed what we thought was limited in human ability to communicate, to share and to understand, is I feel with his method really unlimited. So, thank You, Marshall, for joining us.

Marshall: I'm very glad to.

Paula: How did you develop this process of Nonviolent Communication?

Marshall: Well, I started it by some questions that have been in me, deep in me, since I've been very young. My family moved to Detroit Michigan- just in time for the race riots of 1943. Thirty some people were killed in our neighbourhood in four days. We were locked in the house during that time, and this was a powerful learning experience for me as a young boy; that this is a world in which people may want to harm you for no reason other than your skin colour.

Shortly after I went to school, I found out that not only my skin colour could be a stimulus for violence, but my name could be a stimulus for violence. So that's really what got me started in this work- just that consciousness that this is a world where people can want to hurt others for such reasons.

And that developed in me a deep interest as a boy. Why is this so? What happens to human beings that makes them so violent in regards to such things? And I was fortunate to see that of course; not everybody is this way. I saw people who were just the opposite- very compassionate, very loving.

So, I had in my consciousness as a boy growing up to learn about this. Why do some people respond compassionately to others and why are others so violent, so those questions got me started. I studied clinical psychology hoping that this would give me some insights into this but what I saw in clinical psychology was really a perpetuation of the violence. Because it was based on looking at people who behave in ways we don't like as though there's something wrong with them, as though they're mentally ill and at that time I was starting to see that this was part of the problem. This kind of labelling of people, this kind of dehumanisation that comes through our language in which we think in terms of wrongness. So I then started to study people who were really living in a way that I valued, to try to see what contributed to their being able to stay compassionate even in the face of violence around them.

Paula: Can you give examples of some of those people?

Marshall: Well, in my book I mentioned one of them. I was very fortunate as a young boy to have an uncle who came to our house each evening and my grandmother was totally paralysed and was on a bed in the dining room. And each evening, he would come home from his hard work, he worked eight hours, and then he would come over to our house, and help my mother take care of my grandmother and the whole time he was taking care of her, he had the most wonderful smile on his face.

Well, whereas in the streets I saw the smile on the people's faces who were beating me because I was Jewish and the observers watching it and enjoying it- I saw that kind of smile. And then I came into my house, and I saw the smile on the face of my uncle as he was taking care of my grandmother. And of course, I saw many such examples of people like my uncle that no matter what's going on around them they got more pleasure out of contributing to people's well-being than getting caught up in the violence.

Paula: Some people would say you create your reality. So, in a certain way, the fact that you were able to draw into your life more better examples than worse examples - it might have shaped your direction. Because you're certainly not a wimp; you don't avoid conflict or helping people who are not the benevolent “smilers” so to speak, you see the good in others?

Marshall: I like your concept that we create our reality but we got to, and I'm sure you're aware that this can often be heard in a way that implies we're blaming the victim for their conditions.

Paula: Oh, I agree with you.

Marshall: So, yes to a large degree how we look at things and how we behave creates our reality. But of course, we need to be conscious, that to a large degree, gangs create our reality. Some gangs call themselves gangs; some gangs call themselves multinational corporations, some gangs call themselves governments and these gangs create a lot of our reality.

Paula: But you're not.. You're not afraid of these gangs; you use Nonviolent communication to reach in and make your life more beautiful as a result of that reaching in.

Marshall:. Yes, one of one of the aspects of our training is not only to train people to be more compassionate to themselves and to be able to connect with others in a compassionate way. But to transform whatever structures are making it difficult to relate in a compassionate way. To transform the structures -the gangs as I'm calling them; to transform them, so they support people contributing to one another's well-being rather than people competing with each other or dominating each other.

Paula: Well, many experts who have analysed the whole multinational corporate structure, you know, wind up giving data that's very discouraging. It's not like any one person's trying to hurt things - but like there's a momentum of the machinery that set up, that's not helping people get the most of what they can with the planetary resources.

Marshall: If you see those structures and what power they have, and how many people support them, it certainly can be scary. Even if you're as fortunate as I am to work in many countries with people who are banding together and getting things done, and transforming these structures, it's very encouraging. Especially in the last few years, as more and more people become conscious of how these gangs function, and what we can do when we get together to transform them - it's very encouraging.

Paula: So, you help these groups of people to communicate better and also can you give an example of how they can communicate with the corporations using your methods?

Marshall: Well, first of all, to get the access to the people who maintain the corporations is a very big step. So, our training shows people how to use our training, to get access to the people we need to communicate with.

Almost all of us know someone, who knows someone, who can get us in touch with the people we need to communicate with. But we need to communicate with these people; we need to communicate clearly what our life-serving vision is; we intend no destruction of corporations or structures. We want to transform them so that they serve life rather than whether wittingly or unwittingly oppress people.

So, our training can be shown in how you get this access to people in power positions. Part of our training shows once you have this precious time that they give you, how to make the best use of it- how not to get enemy images in the way so that they think that we are attacking them or accusing them. We want to use that precious time to really find a way to get their needs met, and our needs met.

Another thing- to get that done often requires a team effort. It's not that easy for one person to go through all of the access getting that's necessary, all of the communication that's necessary. So what we need to do, is also use Nonviolent communication to organise a support team of people working together, but after we organise them most of the political teams that we see organised - they spend as much of their energy fighting within as putting energy outward to transform the structures.

So we show them how Nonviolent communication can be used to get our own group to deal with its conflicts in a way, that all of our energy doesn't get burned out within, but we have energy left to now go and transform the structures.

Paula: I would imagine that some of these powerful individuals, probably mostly men who were running the corporations, some percentage of them do become interested from their side in your work, and probably ask you to bring this knowledge into their business?

Marshall: Well, we're working within many businesses showing them how to look first at their vision. Is it really a life-serving vision or not? Or is it mainly basically making profit for a few stockholders? If so, everybody pays for it in that structure. So, we try to then help people see how to transform their vision to be a truly life-serving one. And yes, they are very interested in our training, once they see that we don't have them locked into enemy images; and that we are not there wanting them to do anything, except look for other ways of getting their needs met, that meet ours as well.

Paula: Right. Can you explain a little bit what Nonviolent communication is because you mentioned even in our words, even in our language, it can be alienating, and we can view others… Blaming them, judging them and not allowing the goodness to come forth.

Marshall: What Nonviolent communication is, is really a synthesis, not only of communication but of intentionality- consciousness about how we choose to live. So Nonviolent communication begins with getting people clear of this consciousness; a life-serving consciousness that we call it. And then we show them, language that we think… Language and communication that we see serving... life-serving consciousness. And now, the process itself, the language and communication is remarkably simple.

Almost everybody who studies it says two things about it how simple it is; the next thing they say how difficult it is. Now what makes it simple is that it basically suggests that we keep our consciousness at all times on two things -what's alive in us and what would make life more wonderful. See, what's alive in us…what's alive in others…what would make life more wonderful for us…what would make life more wonderful. Now, that's simple; however, what makes it complicated, we haven't been taught to think and communicate in terms of what's alive in us. We have been taught to think in terms of moralistic judgments - who's right, who's wrong, who's normal, who's abnormal. So when you have been educated for about 10,000 years as we had to, think and communicate in moralistic judgments- which incidentally out of the basic religions have warned us for centuries, do not use moralistic judgments. The Christian tradition says it very clearly - judge not others lest ye be judged.

Paula: Right.

Marshall: But we hear that, but we have been trained from the time we've been infants to think in terms of moralistic judgments. Our parents and teachers use moralistic judgments with us – ‘that's a good girl’, ‘that's a bad boy,’ ‘that's a very smart thing you did,’ ‘that's a stupid thing you did’. So, having been trained so thoroughly for so long in moralistic judgments, it's very difficult for people to do what our training shows how to do - which is stay conscious, moment by moment- what's alive in us and what would make life more wonderful. Now the ‘what's alive in us’ basically focuses on human needs - what needs of yours are being met at a given moment, what needs are not being met. What needs of others are being met, not being met and then what could make life more wonderful -  means what do we want, what requests do we have to contribute to human needs being better met? So, that's the simplicity of the process - what's alive in us and what would make life more wonderful?

Paula: And, so when you're going out, and you're using this in the case of a corporation, how… You would say the corporation has a need for profits?

Marshall: We show that profits are not a need. A very important part of our training is to help people see a difference between needs and strategies. See, strategies are ways of getting needs met, so some people think that profits, financial gain is a need. No- it's a strategy that might or might not meet certain needs.

Paula: What would be a need of a corporation?

Marshall: Well the need of the people in the corporation the… probably I hope, be the strongest need that human beings have - a need to contribute to life.

Paula: Right

Marshall: Some people would call this a need for meaning, some would call it a need for purpose, but I call it a need to contribute to life -  to see that our efforts are really going to serving life, making somebody's life more wonderful. That's what all of the Corporations I think, say in their vision basically that they are trying to serve people. But when you really look at their actions, I think that they're getting needs mixed up with strategies and their real interest is in how to make profits.

That's what all of the Corporations I think, say in their vision, basically that they are trying to serve people. But when you really look at their actions, I think that they're getting needs mixed up with strategies and their real interest is in how to make profits.

Paula: Why is that, what is...?

Marshall: Well, because for 10,000 years we have been educated to live within domination cultures in which a few people benefit at the expense of many. So, people in the structures… they have been educated this way…they really see that this is the world for those in power to get their needs met, and to use others in the service of their own needs.

Paula: Now, that trickles down into the rest of society where you… even in a marriage… each partner fears to be dominated by the other.

Marshall: Yes, if you have people educated in a domination structure, much of the definitions of what love means, is all mixed up with domination.

Paula: Can you elaborate on that?

Marshall: Yes. For example, we often work with people, who are having trouble in their marriages. And, we asked them first, what are your needs that are not getting met? One time, a woman said to her husband, ‘well my need for love isn't getting met’. And he says 'well, I love you’ and she says ‘no, you don't.’ He says, ‘yes, I do’.  I said, ‘hold it, what are you requesting of him, when you say that your need for love isn't getting met, what do you want him to do, to better meet your need for love. She looked at him and said, ‘well, you know’ and he says, ‘no, I don't know’;  well, she says’ it's hard to say in so many words’, and he said, ‘if it's hard for you to say, can you see how hard it would be for me to do?’

So, I said to her, 'so tell him concretely, what do you want him to do to meet your need for love' and then she looked at me, and she says, ‘it's embarrassing’ I said,' yes, it's often embarrassing to see the oppressive games we’re playing in the service of getting certain needs met - so what do you want him to do to meet your need for love'. She says,’ I want you to guess what I want before I even know what it is and then I want you always to do it see well’. That's a very domination kind of concept because you play the game that if you really loved me, you would know what I want and do it. So, people don't usually say that out loud, but they keep that within because that's how you oppress people in a domination culture; you try to use guilt by saying if you loved me you would do this.

Paula: Why do we think that somebody else is responsible for our happiness because we all seem to grow up believing that and it's so hard to stop blaming and saying somebody else caused our happiness or unhappiness?

Marshall: That's again because, in a domination culture, you want to use guilt, as a tool for getting people to do what you want. Our training shows that certain strategies are very destructive, in trying to influence people. One is punishment. Another is reward, another is guilt, which we're talking about now, another is shame, and another is the concepts of duty and obligation. But, let's look at guilt - because it relates to this oppression… of trying to communicate to other people, that they're responsible for our feelings.

See, if you want to manipulate children by guilt, for example, you have to teach them very young that they can make other people feel bad. So, a mother or father might say to the child, "it hurts me when you don't clean up your room." And if the child has been educated to believe that you can make people feel as they do, then the child's going to feel guilty- to see that his behaviour creates such pain. In our training, we show people that it's very important to be conscious of what we are responsible for, and what we're not responsible for. Because if you don't get that clear, then you get what in modern terminology is called a blurring of the boundaries, or co-dependency- when you don't get these concepts of responsibility clarified.

So we suggest, that we are responsible for our intentions, and our actions. How others interpret our actions or our intentions is what creates their feelings, and we can't be responsible for something over which we have no control. I can control my intentions; I can control my actions, I'm responsible. So, I have the intention to express honestly to you something that you've done that is not in harmony with my needs, that's my intention. And I do it the best way I can, I say to you I'm frustrated when you keep interrupting when I talk because I have a need to be understood and …and.. be respected and it isn’t met? Now you say, that hurts me when you say that. See now what hurt you, it would hurt you if…

Paula: I say it hurts me because I feel that I haven't figured out what you needed?

Marshall: If you said that I'm feeling hurt because I’m not clear… Notice you're saying I'm feeling hurt because I, you're taking responsibility - so that would be in harmony with what we're showing people. But if when I said what I did, you took it as a criticism, you hear that you're being criticised and feel hurt… It wouldn't be my statement that hurt you; it would be how you received it- you received it as a criticism.

Paula: Right

Marshall: So, therefore we are responsible for how we feel because how we feel depends on how we interpret things. Other people are responsible for their intentions and their actions but not for how we interpret them and not therefore for how we feel.

Paula: So, basically, we get clear ourselves, and we're confident of our needs and feelings. And to go about getting these needs met- and then in the process of interacting with other people- we hold this clarity, and we can keep pulling them up. Even if they start to say, they're unworthy in… They won't say it in words… But maybe through their actions?

Marshall: Well, in our training, one of the things that people like most about our training, is that its utilisation doesn't depend on the other person's cooperation. So, we can show people how to stay with the process that will end with everybody's needs getting met, even if the other person doesn't have the skills to communicate in this way. So, for example, and that… what we were talking about earlier... if I say to somebody, I'm feeling frustrated, when you start to talk before I finish… Because I have a real need for space to communicate. And the other person gets hurt and says, 'that hurts me when you say that'. I might say to the person, 'could you tell me what you heard me say?'.  ‘Yes, you said I was rude’.

Paula: Right.

Marshall: You see…okay. So, now I can see that the problem wasn't what I said, it's how they took it. So, I say thank you. Why do I say thank you…? I ask him to tell me what they heard, they did. See, if I said… that isn't what I said; they'd hear it as an attack, so I say, thank you, I can see I didn't make myself clear. I was trying to communicate my feelings and needs, not criticise you for what you did. Let me try again- I'm feeling frustrated... because my need for space to communicate, doesn't get met.

Can you tell me what you heard? ‘I'm sorry’. Before you apologise, could you tell me what you heard? See to get another person, who is not trained to be conscious of what's alive in us; they’ve been trained to hear criticism.. to make criticism. I'm not saying it's easy to pull their attention, so they can hear what's alive in you… But you can do it. We teach people how to help the other person to hear a difference between you criticising them, and you're simply expressing what's alive in you.

Paula: So that kind of answers a question I had about Nonviolent communication not being used to control…or… Somebody or achieve a certain end, even to try to achieve a connection with them, so that they know what we're feeling. It could be viewed by some as manipulation because you're trying to make them feel what you're feeling. But it seems to me, what you're saying is that other people can actually be taken to a place, where they not only understand what you're feeling but they're actually having a greater repertoire of feelings themselves.

Marshall: We help them to develop the repertoire because our training shows us how to hear feelings behind any message that comes at you. So even if the other person has almost zero consciousness of what's alive in them, no matter what they say, we're trained to sense what they might be feeling, and in this way, we can help them get more in touch with it. Now we need to clear up one thing about the intention of Nonviolent communication. As you suggested, it's very important… that we do not mix up the intention of creating a connection in which everybody's needs can get met- that's the intention of Nonviolent communication.

Paula: It's not getting our way.

Marshall: It's not getting our way. Exactly. It's not getting the other person to do what you want. But that's a very hard intention to get through to people who have been educated in a culture who interpret that it is their objective to get the other person to do what you want. For example, many parents will say to me something like one did recently. She said, ‘Marshall how do I get my son to clean up his room?’ I said, ‘is that your objective?’. She said, ‘yes,’ I said, ‘then he won’t’. ‘Oh,’ she said, ‘so I'm supposed just to let him do whatever he wants, and I have to do all the cleaning?’

See, she could only see two objectives- to either get him to do what she wants or she had to be a loser and not get her needs met. I said, I'd like you to see another possibility... what we're saying is to create the quality of connection that will allow your needs to get met and your son's needs to get met. But in order for that to happen, you can't get addicted to the strategy of getting him to clean up his room. He may very well end up cleaning up the room once he sees what your needs are and trust that you are equally concerned with his needs.

Paula: Maybe this process makes us get a better idea of who we are, we may come in thinking that we want something but working with these connections with people, we may find as a result of listening to the feelings and needs of someone else, we may actually want something different… Greater… Better…

Marshall: This is why differences and conflict are wonderful if we go about it with certain consciousness. Yes, very often we come out with something far richer than we go in with- in terms of various strategies, that might be effective in meeting our needs. If what we go in with, we see it doesn't meet the other person's needs, through an exploration of them, how can we find a way to get everybody's needs met, we often do come out with a much more creative resolution.

Paula: Why are you so confident that everybody can get their needs met because I feel you're very optimistic and you're very convinced that there are no differences that can't be resolved?

Marshall: Many times people say, ‘yes how do you have this belief in the innate goodness of people’ and I say, it has nothing to do with a belief or a faith. In my work, I do a lot of conflict resolution, and a lot of it is between people that hold deep pain between themselves. I've mediated between tribes in northern Africa, where a quarter of the population were killed in the year before I started to work with them. I mediate between teams and groups of Hutus and Tutsis in Rwanda and Burundi. I've worked in Sierra Leone with the people who have had horrible thing happen with the other people in the room with them. I've worked between Israelis and Palestinians but actually, some of them are the most bitter conflicts I've been through are through husbands and wives, children and their parents.

Paula: Right.

Marshall: So, then an answer to your question, why do I have this trust that everybody's needs can get met? Because, I find out that when I can get both sides hearing what the other side is needing, what needs of theirs... what human needs are not getting met, you see, and what pain do they feel as a result of it. When I can get both sides seeing that, getting rid of all enemy images So that nobody is saying the other side is wrong, oppressive, stupid, anything that implies a criticism… but I can get both sides, at that level, they see each other's unmet needs, they don't hear any criticism… I get to find that the conflict almost doesn't resolve itself.

Part 2 is here and Part 3 is here...For more resources such as this, please subscribe to the 'Conscious Money' newsletter.

On fulfilment, integrity & money: An interview with Alan Seid (part 3)


In this part of the interview, you’ll find out how Alan maximises fulfilment & integrity in his relationship with money, also using the lens of Nonviolent Communication. Here is part 3 of the interview; for part 1, click here and for part 2, click here How does nonviolent communication affect how you view consume and spend money?

That’s a good question. My 'off the top of my head' answer is that I’ve installed NVC as part of my internal operating system that it’s running in the background unconsciously now so. How I view, earn and spend money- I think I’ve already answered this; I see money as a strategy that contributes to needs or not.

Sometimes after spending on a certain thing, I may say, oh Jeez, was that the most life-serving way of spending that money? I always look at it through the lens of needs. I’m able to feel my feelings, or my own life connected mourning around it and if needed beneficial regret. If I spend money on something that I later regret, I harvest the learning from it. For example, with my children, I’ve given in a couple of times when I’m with them in the car, and they’re just like (makes baby noises). Fine, I give in- we go to the drive through sandwich place. Afterwards, I think why did I get non-organic white bread,  overly packaged food that is polluting.  Then, I slow down, I give myself empathy, then I give them empathy,  and then we do something that I’m not going to regret. That’s also modelling something more life serving for them.

You know the other way that it’s affected me that’s important is about eight or nine years ago I became a business coach. People started approaching me for business advice which was mind blowing to me because I didn’t see myself in that way. I’ve transformed how I see marketing. I see that there is life-disconnected, life-alienated marketing and there is life-serving, life-connected marketing. One of the ways I define marketing is that it’s an attempt to describe to people how their needs are likely to be fulfilled when they interact with whatever it is we are offering.

So regarding earning money, also having an NVC lens helps me connect with my audience at the level of deeper needs so that I can contribute to them

Do you have a particular Aha moment from a money workshop that you’d like to share?

I’m thinking of a close friend; I remember sitting at her kitchen table, and she was sharing in a matter of fact way some very explicit and personal sexual fantasies. I think everyone around the table was like wow! And she was just matter of fact- like, you know, yeah, I prefer almond butter rather than peanut butter on my sandwiches. But then when she started to talk about money she could barely speak, she was quivering and broke down crying.

The Aha moment was realising, wow! Money is such a loaded topic. A lot of people have much more ease talking about sex than talking about money. So yeah I mean I’ve had a lot of people have Aha moments about how they use money - to manipulate their children’s behaviour or how money was used in their lives as a reward or punishment which created a lot of pain around money and so on.

Where do you mainly see the dysfunction of money in our society?

I see it everywhere on every level - individuals, couples, families, absolutely everywhere.  It goes back to this question of who are we as human beings? What constitutes the good life? What is our shared destiny on this planet?  When you look at it at a government level, there are so many things we can change -systems and structures. Taxation is a very simple one where we can be taxing things that pollute, create illness and destroy the environment. We can use taxes to create incentives for things that are more life serving. So, taxation could be a way of stimulating or curtailing different things I can't find anywhere in society where there isn't dysfunction around money.

What are your thoughts on common themes you come across, like scarcity thinking or lack of financial literacy?

Probably the most common theme I come across is 'money is bad'.  Also, its opposite, 'money is good' like 'money is my God.'  I see people spending decades chasing money because they think it will bring them happiness and they have a big house full of things but there's a spiritual emptiness,  a lack of meaning and purpose. I think those are our scarcest resources in this day and age -meaning and purpose.

In some ways, money tends to highlight who we are already. A kind person will probably use money to help others.

If I believe money is the best thing in the world, I end up chasing, chasing, chasing money and missing out on life. If money is bad or evil,  and then I struggle, struggle, struggle, struggle, struggle, struggle, struggle because money wants nothing to do with me, money stays far away from me because I treat it like it's evil. I have a very close friend who used to say to me,' money isn't important so I don't think about it.' And when we checked in with each other, he would share 'oh I'm so stressed out, because I don't know how I'm going to pay rent next month,  I'm thinking of moving to another city because there's more work,'  and he didn't notice that money was running his life.

Yes, because money is a great recipient of all our unconscious projections because it's so complex like you said and it is so deep that it is easy to put all the stuff that we don’t like on to money.


This is the last question Alan, in terms of your money related courses, what would you like people to know?

In terms of my money related courses,  I would like people to know, I will be launching the very first version of a brand new program called 'The Compass' later this year.

It will be the most comprehensive program that is based on twenty-five plus years of research into best practices so it's really a form of cross training for change agents, for people who want to leave the world a better place than they found it, and who are also devoted to their personal growth and development. There are eight curriculum areas, the eight directions of the compass and one of those happen to be the South, which is focused on money. Best to also head over to my website and check out the free resources.

Well, thank you so much, Alan. Is there anything that you would have liked me to ask you that I missed?

No. One thing I will add is that people misquote the Christian scriptures when they when they say 'money is the root of all evil. ' It is 'the love of money is the root of all evil.' I'm pretty sure that what it's referring to is an obsession over money. I mean, when I'm infatuated with money, that's the root of all evil. So that's one of the things that I'm pondering these days.

Thank you so much, Alan. I really appreciate your time. Fifty-five minutes and very, very precious.

Yeah, it was a pleasure and an honour. I appreciate it.

PS: I have no arrangements for money in exchange for any recommendations I make on my blog; I really only want to recommend people whom I believe in.


On fulfilment, integrity & money: An interview with Alan Seid (part 2)


In this part of the interview, you’ll find out how Alan maximises fulfilment & integrity in his relationship with money; also, using the lens of Nonviolent Communication. This is part 2 of the interview; for part 1, click here I was pretty blown away when I went on my first Vipassana course and there really wasn’t a ‘suggested donation.’

And everyone is a volunteer. The teachers, the centre managers, everybody is a volunteer and besides the technique, of course, the way that they run their finances just blew my mind.

Bill Mollison, who is one of the people who coined the term permaculture also inspired me with money. Bill Mollison says that money is to social systems what water is to natural systems. It is the transporter of goods, nutrients and information and the purpose is not more, more, more. Rather, the purpose is how do you maximise effective use between when this energy enters a system and when it leaves the system. If it is just more, more, more then you end up with a flood, where a flood is not natural.

That’s really a lovely analogy of nature actually; an apple tree doesn’t ever take more water than it needs. I read that the only really aggressive form of growth in nature is cancer.

How has nonviolent communication (NVC) influenced your work?

There's a beautiful overlap between the nine steps in the financial integrity program and NVC. Essentially what Joe Dominguez was getting at is, how do you develop a relationship with money that contributes to the deeper needs rather than simply to exteriors strategies or our story about what will be fulfilling?

So, what NVC has helped me to do is be a lot more connected to myself and to what's motivating me. As a result, when I look at money through that lens I realise that money is simply a tool. It's not a universal human need. It's a strategy that we use to fulfil lots of needs. But it's helped me get clear; what are the deeper needs or values that I'm trying to meet with this particular purchase or with this particular strategy around money.

For example, I might think that I need a Ferrari. I can look at why do I need a Ferrari or if I had a Ferrari then what would that give me.  Status and if I had that? Acceptance, and if I have acceptance then, what do I have? Well, then I have belonging, and if I have belonging and acceptance, then what does that give me? Well, then I feel OK about myself.

So, underneath acceptance and belonging is self-acceptance. I guarantee you that if we get clear on our motivation for a Ferrari, we can find a lot less expensive ways to meet our needs for self-acceptance, self-esteem and belonging than a Ferrari. So it's helped me separate the strategies from the deeper needs and find other strategies that meet my needs more effectively.

I love that, and you also demonstrated peeling the layers of the onion, to get to deeper needs. What are your thoughts on money as a request, do you think it is doable as a system in the world?

The short answer is yes. However, I'm not sure if our consciousness is there yet. When Marshall talks about jackal and giraffe, he defines jackal as life-disconnected or life-alienating thinking and language; giraffe or nonviolent communication is life-connected or life-serving thinking and language.

I think of jackal as pre-conscious or pre NVC. When you start to develop feelings and needs consciousness, you start to get more empowered and connected to your core motivators. You start to have clarity about what you want in particular situations and can make requests. You can get to a point where you transcend the form of NVC and we get to what people call informal NVC.

So, what Marshall talks about is that a life-connected, life-serving way of dealing with money would be expressing requests rather than demands. I find that very beautiful, but ultimately, my understanding is it didn't work for him. When he first did his workshops, he was travelling across the United States, and he offered his workshops on this mutual exchange model.

But first of all, people weren't used to that, it kind of fried their circuits and they didn't know what to do with it. Second of all, it brought up a lot of pain for them and so then he ended up having to give them empathy for how much pain they were in about their anxiousness or their fear of giving out of guilt or issues like this.  It ended up taking so much time and energy for him to do his workshops on this request model that he simply just started putting a price. However, even if his intention was to put a price on there as a request rather than a demand, people would still hear demands.

So, I think our consciousness is not quite there yet to trust that a request is truly a request. If you go to an event and it says 'suggested donation ten pounds', people still hear this is the price and believe ' if I don't pay, I can't enter'. We still interpret a demand even if the person says:' it's a request,  your needs matter, let's have a dialogue, let's see what works for you,'  people will still interpret a demand; money has an incredible depth and complexity at the psychological level.

Also, people may value things less if they experience that they're not paying for them. There is the psychological aspect that if somebody is paying a lot for something, somehow they experience themselves as more invested, more committed, so it is tricky. So I love it in theory that we could make financial requests and be able to find a win-win with money. In practice, I find it's relatively hard, and I think it has to do with where human consciousness is right now.  We are just simply unable to trust that it's truly a request and not a demand.

 I feel people that work in caring professions; even some NVC trainers struggle with asking for enough money. I'm wondering if you have anything to say about that.

Yes, I think that's quite common. I have a lot of compassion for that.  It's probably different for different people in different circumstances; we need to look at the stories we're telling ourselves. One of my favourite methodologies is Byron Katie’s enquiry process which consists of four questions, and there's something she calls a turnaround.

So, we examine those stories because whether it's out of guilt, shame, consideration for the other person, it's just a minefield filled with all kinds of psychological landmines. I have a lot of thoughts on it and part of transforming our relationship with money involves realising that money is not evil, money is just a tool. Like fire - I can light many candles & read an excellent book, or I can use fire to burn somebody's home down. And the same money can be utilised for very positive purposes or very destructive purposes.

As a professional who depends on a flow of money to put food on the table for my children, I need to realise a few things.  I need the revenue to sustain the message., to continue sharing NVC. That is an important axiom to keep in mind. Again, asking for money doesn't mean I'm greedy. We have many associations we need to look at and question. It will be different for different people; it's another level of valuing ourselves and standing up for our needs is to ask for enough money.

For part 3, click here


On fulfilment, integrity & money: An interview with Alan Seid

Alan Seid

Alan Seid works as a breakthrough coach with people who struggle with how to manifest or create their vision. He helps them break their vision down into a step by step process so that they can actually get there. Alan is also a Certified Trainer in Nonviolent Communication. He coached me, gave me a lot of clarity and support with my own vision, in the early months of starting my business. Alan & I chatted for an hour on Zoom, I have transcribed the interview for you to read and edited only for conciseness. You can check out his Blackbelt Money Skills course, get on the waiting list for it if you want to feel more empowered around personal finances.

What got you interested in teaching with the money focus?

Initially what I was interested in was not being stuck in a 9 to 5 till you die reality, not being caught up in what we call the rat race and work, work, work, work, work, work, work, work, work in order to buy stuff I didn't need with money I didn't necessarily have in order to impress people I didn't necessarily like.

I did not want to fall into that trap of work, spend, consume, work, spend, consume. A few years after this realisation, I ran into the precursor to Your Money or Your Life which was an audio course called ‘Transforming Your relationship with money.’

As I started applying the program to my own life, my life started to transform and blossom in many ways. It turns out that one of the things that come easily to me is to stand up in front of groups and articulate other people's information. So, as I was doing the nine steps in Your Money or Your Life, eventually I moved to the Seattle area and began teaching workshops on Your Money or Your Life because I was invited to do so.

I'd simply just had these opportunities show up to share the material and I was very excited about it so I kind of stumbled into the workshop and seminar business and it happens to be something that I do very well. So, initially, it was a personal interest that then just became enthusiastic sharing.

So, what is the Financial Integrity program all about?

I think what people need to understand about the financial integrity program is that it is not about making money. It is not about how to create a livelihood. It is really about how to have clarity and awareness and have money play a role in your life that is of integrity and in alignment with your values and your life purpose and so that you're maximising your fulfilment in relationship with money.

So you said the nine step program of Your Money or Your Life, led you towards financial integrity, would you share a couple of things that changed in your life?

Well, it happened as a result of just doing the steps in the program because the program is essentially a methodology for investing cautiousness into our relationship with money and when we're defining money in a particular way. When money is a representation of the hours that I spent in order to earn it, then money acquires an intrinsic value rather than simply an extrinsic value. So that twenty on a piece of paper now actually has real meaning because it took so many hours of my time or so many minutes of my time to earn that twenty. So, when I'm spending money, I'm spending my finite life energy, it's no longer this external paper or metal that comes and goes for my life.

Also, there are certain questions that you're asking yourself as part of the program: did this expenditure of my life energy bring me fulfilment in proportion to how much I had to work for it and was it in alignment with my values and life purpose.

I'll give you a specific example in the 1990’s; I was working as a Spanish interpreter in downtown Seattle. Back then I was a serious music collector and had been since about twelve years old; I love all kinds of music and I’m a musician myself. So back then I was buying one CD every week and when I was asking myself the questions 'am I getting proportionate fulfillment and is this in alignment with my values and life purpose', I noticed that automatically I started to spend less on music and this is before the internet, this is before everything was downloadable, this is when people were buying CD's. So my spending more or less organically just naturally started to shift so that I was buying one CD per month instead of one CD per week.

And so my fulfilment per CD was a lot higher. And it was more in alignment with my values to lower my demand on plastic, cream plastic in the world, and I enjoyed I enjoyed what I was buying that much more so that's an example of my fulfilment and my integrity going up my spending going down. And as a result, I was saving the other three C.D.’s a month that I would have been buying and that money was going into my savings.

Wow, that’s quite a tangible benefit.

So, it's not about cutting back, reducing, depriving yourself, it's about maximising your fulfilment and your integrity and as a result spending tends to level off. Which by the way is very good news for the planet.

True. If someone wanted to have a better relationship with money, where would you suggest they start?

I think by being truthful with them. Just acknowledge & notice what your patterns are with money. One of the toughest things about money is that the tendency to go unconscious with money is so strong; we would much rather just not think about it.

It becomes a very painful place in our lives and then and that tends to reinforce our not wanting to look at it because it's painful. A lot of what I think we don't know how to do very well in our society is grieving and mourning; allowing ourselves to feel the pain, the disappointment, the heartbreak, the stress, the frustration, whatever it is in relation to money and allowing ourselves to go through that process. By doing that, we can come out the other side a little bit more refreshed. Now, certainly, I could recommend Your Money or Your Life or my course Black-Belt money skills which is my articulation of the nine steps.

But that step would probably make sense after being honest, like really being able to look at yourself in the mirror and say ‘wow, my patterns with money are not working for me, I need to do something about this.’

I agree - so being truthful, and then examining unconscious patterns for what you might need help and mourning and grieving.

Yes. I think there are three stories that we really need to question in our society, they are stories about who we are as human beings, what is the ‘good life’, and then what is our shared future together on this little blue ball hurtling through space that we call Planet Earth. We are not just consumers. And the good life is not about more toys or more, more, more, more, more and lying in a pool on a rubber floaty thing with a drink in your hand; I get bored with that in about ten minutes. I think that a lot of the unconscious patterns that happen around money have to do with these stories about who we are and what constitutes the good life and I think we really need to question those.

Say more about who inspired you in your relationship with money

Joe Dominguez, Vicky Robin, Monica Wood, who was sort of like the godmother of the nine-step financial integrity program. Also, Peace Pilgrim; she is a genuine American saint of the twentieth century. In 1953, she abandoned all her material possessions and decided to go on a pilgrimage for peace. Her message was, ‘We are not going to reach peace between nations or between groups of people or between individuals if we don't first attend to our own inner peace.’ She carried only the clothes she had with her, a comb & a tooth brush. She carried no money, accepted no money and she walked until offered shelter and fasted until offered food. There is a video you can find of her teaching to a college class on spiritual growth and at the time of this talk, she had been walking twenty-six years.

I also found the generosity model of S.N Goenka’s ten-day silent meditation courses and the way they run their finances inspiring; when you do one of these ten-day silent meditation courses, everything about the Course is already paid for because previous participants made a donation for somebodies future course.

For part 2, click here