Coffee with Alex

Alex is visiting, on an annual trek from Canada. Our conversations are hours long.  My real close friends are defined by their interest in the world, everything, not just the issues that impinge on their lives.  None of my close friends were on the Railroad to Retirement (salaried jobs they were doing to earn a pension.)  They were all learning every day, rethinking all that they knew and recasting their experiences in novel ways.

SimpleAlex said there were two unique and important things he has learned from me over the years. Simple Living and the Culture of Commerce.

My view of simple living is not the traditional religious one. My view is that having few objects in one's life means freedom, fundamental freedom.  It means not having to earn a reliable or substantial living.  I haven’t had a real job with health insurance, pensions or office hours since my 20’s.  Owning objects means that their existence clutters up the mind. I regularly had house sales to rid myself of possessions; and I tried to lead a life with 200 possessions. I had three children which was possible despite my possession austerity.  I gave out annual Simple Living Awards to the people around me who understood and lived the freedom of simple living. I wrote a book Simple Living Investments subtitled  For a Truly Secure and Adventurous Old Age.

Concomitant with my views on simple living, I see commerce as the source of daily vitality, excitement in life, meaningful life values, community and significant social contributions.

MtnI have worked with over a thousand businesses of all sizes in eight countries. Commerce is often considered competitive, which it is in a positive, healthy way (lowering prices and improving quality) but the daily operation of commerce is 99% cooperation with suppliers, landlords, customers, employees and the whole community.

The hippies saw commerce as a vehicle for making society better.  We have much to be grateful to the hippies for.  If you love mountain biking, windsurfing, ski boarding or skateboarding, you have hippie entrepreneurs to thank. If you use the modern desktop computer and any of its common programs, thank the hippies. Most of the organic food business and agriculture was pioneered by hippies and their organic retail ideas.  The same goes for the clothing world from running shoes, jeans to work and outdoor gear.  All these were businesses I worked with in their inception and early growth.

Commerce is the backbone of modern society, it is where radically different kinds of people work together to produce new and important improvements in our lives.  It is the door to opportunity for every kind of person and personality. Commerce is the invisible hand of health and opportunity for all.

Commerce is not bad when it is big.  Three women clients of mine developed an innovative  personal body care business in the Bay Area. Their entire business, in every detail, was copied by a British woman who took their business model worldwide. It is the Body Shop. It is still fun and original.

To reiterate: for a life of freedom, choose simple living. For a life of vitality and meaning chose a deep commitment to commerce.

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