Gaurav Sinha’s Compassion Inc. : Unleashing The Power of Empathy In Life and Business a meaningful must-read book. Arrackistan.com, in association with Penguin Random House India, brings an exclusive extract from the book. Read on.
ROE | Return on Empathy
I am an analogue soul in a digital world who strongly believes mankind has the power to make significant positive contributions to address humanitarian and environmental issues and live more meaningful lives.
The cosmic energy of good human values can be activated and harnessed across the world, if we choose consciously to move towards a purpose that transcends frivolous gratification and short-term profiteering.
This is not a crusade against capitalism but a fundamental position of rational optimism, intelligence, intent and action. It’s building a movement around mindful consumption and equitable returns. If we don’t address these critical issues surrounding overconsumption and sustainability, there’s a threat that we will become bottom-feeders while retaining our position at the top of the food chain.
The earlier chapters should have presented you with a robust understanding of my argument about compassion being a critical driver of prosperity, both in life and in business. It has been proven that the power of collective thought and action can shape new realities and we must consciously seek to create and consume products and experiences that are rooted in ethics and empathy.
KARMA IN CAPITALISM
The laws of cause and effect are not just physical but also philosophical. Newton’s Third Law of Motion tells us that every action has an equal and opposite reaction, so if one object collides with another there is an equal force that goes in the opposite direction to impact the original object. The same principles also underpin the philosophy of karma, which emphasises that the sum of one’s actions is directly related to what happens to one in the future. To illustrate the point, if you were to say something kind to someone it would also give you an uplifting feeling; on the other hand, if you were to cheat someone then eventually something similar will happen to you. If I suspend the spiritual side of this argument these laws of cause and effect can also apply to the way we consume products and experiences – if you spend beyond your means, you will definitely be in debt; if you eat beyond your dietary requirements, you will definitely put on weight, and so forth.
RoE | RETURN ON EMPATHY
Return on empathy is a both a life philosophy and a business strategy. It can yield exceptional results by being considerate towards the needs of holders of shared values, as opposed to shareholders alone.
These are the key constituents of compassion in capitalism and can be nurtured through principles of engagement, empowerment, experience, environment and excellence as the main drivers towards building a portfolio of prosperity, in both life and business.
Return on empathy does not necessarily dilute profitability; it amplifies a corporation’s or individual’s contribution towards driving positive social impact.
If you change your mind, everything changes. How you invest your time and effort has a clear impact on your life. You are accountable for the results of your actions and you can channel those actions to your advantage using compassion as your compass. The first stage of recognising what’s really of worth is by channelling your attention to what is truly valuable. Safety, Wellbeing and happiness for yourself and your loved ones seem like pretty obvious first choices and then it cascades across all virtuous actions that are ethically aligned to good human values. All those clichés about ‘the more you give, the more you get’ or ‘giving is receiving’ are clichés for a reason: they work.
If you are a negative person, you will attract negativity and it will manifest itself in your life, causing stress, pain and suffering that could be avoided through positive rationality. I recently watched an Indian sage state his simple principle in life: ‘If you cannot do something about a problem, then why worry about it? If you can do something about a problem, then there’s nothing to worry about.’ It’s not worrying about issues that solves them, it’s the actions that support these issues that create change.
Elevating the ways in which we think is critical to how we act and influence our life circumstances. Being pure, principled and passionate are the core pillars of living a meaningful life and also creating happiness for others.
The mind is a reluctant master, but an easy servant, so it succumbs to temptation more easily than conquering things that require greater effort. Our lifestyles make it easy for us to order in and watch television, while it takes more effort to cook a meal or go for a jog. As a society, we are lazy at the best of times but if you want to achieve something great you have to be audacious in your efforts.
This was the main argument about the benefits of monastic materialism as a philosophy and it’s important to understand the impact of the decisions we make in life. This righteousness about mindful consumption also needs rigorous practice and we cannot let complacency hijack the process of being consistently aware of the decisions we make. Evolutionary thinking and revolutionary action are the rites and rituals that will propel us towards new levels of sustainable prosperity, as we can apply these simple principles in our daily routine and eventually it becomes effortless to be positive, compassionate and kind.
Symmetry in principled thought and structure in consistently compassionate action can be aligned with the theories of causality, too. We can become a force for good if we channel our energy towards goals that are enriching for both the planet and its people and move away from a vicious cycle to a virtuous one. Clearly, there are many variables and external factors that are out of our control, which might skew or tilt our perspectives or dilute the impact of what we intend to achieve, but that is not sufficient reason for us to deviate from our focus on creating meaningful positive impact, whether as individuals or as a corporation. My 4Ps of Passion, Positivity, Persistence and Paranoia apply well in this context; we can’t do ordinary things and expect extraordinary results.
WEALTH AND WELFARE
In a capitalist economy, return on investment (RoI) is the benefit to an investor that is the result of an investment of any particular resource, whether it’s capital, assets, time, effort or expertise. In business, RoI is a measure of profitability that evaluates the performance of a business by dividing net profitability by net worth. It is measured over a specific period of time with rates of returns on money invested in an entity, and usually any investment with the highest RoI gets most priority.
That’s the business of capitalism – maximum profitability with the least investment; these are the smart deals that get people excited and motivated. Bang for buck. Business strategists and consultancy firms conduct feasibility studies with ruthless diligence, finding the ideal ways to mitigate risk and maximise returns on behalf of investors. It’s shareholder value, above all.
Management cultures in large corporations live and breathe this, figuring out ways to leverage the instruments of wealth creation to their benefit, and most boardroom conversations are structured to measure and manage profits. As we know quite well, there’s an entire industry of private equity, investment and financing that’s built purely on making prudent investments by identifying opportunities that provide both scope and scale for growth and profitable returns. The tech sector is booming with companies that are valued in billions of dollars, even though they don’t make a profit. I find the valuations of tech companies awe-inspiring as it’s clear evidence that human ingenuity, when applied thoughtfully, can present great results, as the perceived value based on future returns captures the imagination of the stock markets. Suddenly we have unicorns walking among us. If only we could apply the same energy and effort to encourage companies and causes that stand for social good to monetise similar instruments of valuation, but the sad part is that there is limited collective confidence among investors and most of them cynically roll their eyes when the agenda for ‘greater good’ gets tabled for discussion.
As someone deeply entrenched in the travel and hospitality sector, I have observed the rapid growth of online travel agencies (OTAs) and been amazed by the power they command in the industry by channelling demand to their sites as they aggregate room inventory and flights from across the world and bundle them into great deals for consumers. I wanted to launch my own OTA at one stage, an altruistic travel company that would put humanity in motion by sharing its commission with charities or causes selected by its customers. I fail to understand why this is not embedded in our psyche and why we can’t convert every journey into an expression of enrichment for others. I found other companies offering certain incentives to support good causes but every single one was at the expense of the customer, not a dilution of the companies’ commissions or margins of profitability per transaction. I developed this concept as an experiment but failed to raise the funding that was required purely because those in private equity did not believe that there was enough distinction – I was told people just want cheap flights and hotel rooms.
I took this rejection on the chin but now I was acutely aware of the possibility of using my expertise and passion to promote this idea of socially responsible profitability and I am glad to see similar ideas take wing with Kindtraveller.com and Goodwings.com, both of which are slowly chipping away to increase their market share.
From marginal gains to monumental valuations, the world of capitalism places profitability on a pedestal and worships those who have made billions easily. Today’s culture encourages us to be star-struck by success and in awe of those making quick money. We admire those who have accumulated tremendous wealth or popularity, celebrity culture is what stimulates us and we have a morbid fascination with the mundane,
following the trivialities of these characters on television and social media. We admonish those who pursue other causes; from activists lobbying for environmental preservation to investigative film-makers creating documentaries about the ugly side of business, the humanitarians raising their voices are all overshadowed by the high ratings of programmes based on popular culture and sensationalism. We are crippled by our own contradictions. We complain about rising prices, pollution, lack of jobs and other issues we face in life and we all come up with ideas to drive change with bold opinions and views but limited follow-through.
The economic model of capitalism is designed to be binary and brutal, and the outrageous growth and accumulated wealth of tech giants like Apple, Alphabet, Facebook and Amazon is incomprehensible – too many zeroes, not enough heroes. Then you have the billions who are living on less than a few dollars a day – the gap widens, the disenfranchised are unsettled, governments are chasing tax dollars, the forces of leverage are at play to make each and every one fend for themselves. This is not a sustainable strategy and corporations need to consider newer models of profitability that also empower, engage and enrich the lives of others. Governments need to manage this efficiently without killing the spirit of entrepreneurship and creativity and ensuring enough incentives are in place for people to achieve success without being hamstrung by draconian regulations.
The private sector is all about who wins it all, about rising to the top, staying ahead of the rest. At all costs. This means they’ll comply with rules, regulations and the word of law but they’ll focus on the bottom line and driving shareholder value. This model is being questioned now, as people, whether employees or customers, are becoming more aware of how much profits a company makes, who’s being paid what and how they might be taken for a ride by companies purely chasing profits. The public sector is equally as brutal, chasing those who step out of line, and rightly so, but it’s not always in the interest of common good. It’s a cat and mouse game, all smoke and mirrors. We know how much CEOs of big companies pocket, the disproportionately low taxes paid by big companies in comparison to their income and the power they appear to have to manipulate legal loopholes in a manner that benefits them so they can continue to fatten their wallets.
According to CNBC, a business news provider, Apple had cash reserves of $256 billion in 2017,* and nearly $230 billion of that was parked in offshore subsidiaries to avoid paying tax in the United States. According to the British newspaper the Daily Telegraph, that’s more money than the combined foreign reserves of the British government and Bank of England.†
Bloomberg, the business intelligence company, also states that the top fifty companies in the S&P 500 ranking have tucked away $925 billion of their cash outside the United States purely to ensure they pay the minimum possible tax. Now the Republican party is figuring out how to reform tax policies and incentivise companies to repatriate the funds back to the country. When so few hold so much it’s obvious the influence they will have on government decisions, as they can impact the fundamental economic growth of a country.
Opensecrets.org, a centre for responsive politics, tracks the amount spent by corporate lobbyists in America, and the numbers are staggering, whether you slice them by industry category or dice them by actual corporations. Nearly $2.5 billion is spent annually by corporations to steer their agendas in the corridors of power, with pharmaceutical and health product companies spending over $200 million; insurance companies spending $117 million; hospitals and nursing homes spending $73 million; and health professionals spending $65 million in 2017 alone. Ever wondered why exactly the same products and services are always out of the reach of the common person? These are the daily woes of Joe Average and it’s evident that corporate lobbyists have conquered American democracy and turned governments into culpable partners in crony capitalistic markets.
Capitalism is big business for big businesses; that’s when this model of economics blossoms. Labour unions and smaller corporations don’t have a leg to stand on, and the friction is evident with numerous lobbying groups jostling for power and prominence
Political engagement is perfectly acceptable but political entrenchment is quite another thing. It’s important for public sector policies to support the growth of the private sector but this cannot be at the expense of the general population – these are the voiceless, those who are left holding the short end of the stick, and all they can do is react to what happens around them. It’s about balance; governments should spend tax dollars on improving the wellbeing of the general public, protecting the environment and building an infrastructure that enables prosperity for all. Consensus on what’s important should be an inclusive process, not one for the privileged few or the governing elite.
We invest in ourselves by building a foundation of a good education, acquiring skills that allow us to contribute to the economy and build a vocation that allows us to earn money and become self-sufficient. As individuals, we invest money in pension plans, real estate, stocks and shares and other mechanisms of preserving or building our personal wealth. We all manage our own portfolios of future prosperity and the return on investment on our efforts is accumulated over time. The principles of monastic materialism present a solid argument for selfcompassion and this means self-sufficiency, for the future should play a critical role in how you monetise your time and efforts, too.