Until Now!

I have been maintaining an outdated view about what “businesspeople” are like. (Although as astrologer Caroline Casey says “Until Now!” is the appropriate exclamation to make when saying such things). Granted, over the past two decades, I have met a few exceptional business leaders (I could count them on one hand), people who are genuinely led by their hearts (not their egos) and by a sense of serving a greater purpose. However, even in the face of these meetings, I have held tight to the perspective that such people are very rare. I have held on to this view because that has been my experience. Until now!


Recently, I attended a four-day conference on “Catalyzing Conscious Capitalism” convened by the CEO and co-founder of Whole Foods, John Mackey. In attendance at the conference were CEOs from Patagonia, Men’s Warehouse, Joi De Vivre Hotels, The Container Store, Jamba Juice, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Life is Good, and The Motley Fool, among others. I learned many things at the C3 event, but the most important thing I learned is that “I am not alone” (far from it, actually) when it comes to seeing business as a vehicle for fulfilling our heart’s highest ideals.  In fact, in an interview that I recorded with John Mackey that is published by Sounds True along with a lecture by John on his theory of Conscious Capitalism, I asked John if he felt it was fair to call “Whole Foods” his “ministry” in a certain sense. To my great delight, he agreed that the word “ministry” does, in some important ways, describe the animating force underlying his business.


I spent much of the four days of the C3 Conference crying. In the midst of discussions about the theory of conscious capitalism (more on that in a moment) what moved me the most was the sense of having “arrived.” I had arrived by coming into contact with a philosophical framework and a group of highly successful people who mirrored my own deepest convictions about the power of entrepreneurship to simultaneously create benefit for individuals and for society as a whole, in what John Mackey calls “a virtuous circle.” I felt like I had been a young girl crawling in a dark forest for two plus decades, really on my own, and I had somehow emerged into relatedness with a group of strong older brothers (and a sister or two…I am still looking to meet more such women business leaders), and that I could now walk in allegiance with this strong larger group.


One of the presenters at the conference was Roy Spence, co-author of the book It’s Not What You Sell, It’s What You Stand For: Why Every Extraordinary Business Is Driven by Purpose. As part of his presentation on how purpose is the nuclear force at the center of everything we do (my words, not Roy’s), he offered the following slogan “The road may be long, but we are ready for the walk.” This sentence touched me at my core. Of course, no matter what our purpose is, we need to be ready for a long walk, especially if our purpose is “disruptive” (and according to Roy, when our purpose moves society forward in a significant way it will of necessity be disruptive). This slogan, “The road may be long but we are ready for the walk” hit me in the chest because I realized that catalyzing conscious capitalism had become a “walk” that many people were now walking together, a walk in which I had lots of strong allies at my side.


So what is “conscious capitalism”? It is a term coined by John Mackey to describe how businesses can bring consciousness to what they do and how they do it so that they become a force for collective good (to learn more in John’s own words, I suggest visiting his blog at www.wholefoodsmarket.com/blogs/jmackey or check out the Sounds True audio with John on “Passion and Purpose.”). At the conference, I learned that a business that is catalyzing conscious capitalism (what we could call a C3 business) has three pillars or anchoring principles:


•    A C3 business has a clear purpose, which is its reason for being. This purpose forms the core identity of the business and is its offering to others.
•    A C3 business honors all of the stakeholders of the company, which includes its customers, its employees, its investors, its suppliers, the community, and the greater environment. This is what John calls “the interdependent stakeholder model,” and it requires a view to making decisions that harmonize and balance the needs and interests of all parties that contribute to a company’s success.
•    A C3 business is managed by conscious leadership, by leaders that focus on stewardship and facilitation not “command and control.”


John further makes the point that C3 businesses over the long-term are more profitable than comparison companies who do not employ these principles (and he offers statistics to back up this claim). The reason for this is quite simple – if you don’t honor all of the stakeholders in your business, at some point this will catch up to you and backfire in some way (your reputation with customers will suffer, it will be harder to attract star employees, the community will boycott your business, etc). In a nutshell, the case was clearly made at the conference that C3 businesses are the businesses of the future because they will be the companies that customers love to love, and as a result these businesses will thrive.


It was also exciting to see the investment community represented at the conference. Investors are also recognizing that this is not just a “feel good” approach to business. It is an approach that will generate the most long-term financial success.


I returned from the C3 conference about three weeks ago, and I have been letting the lessons of the conference sink in. Perhaps the most important lesson for me is that I am not alone in the business part of my life, not as “freaky” as I thought. And more importantly, I am probably not alone in any part of my life. That I need to “update my file”—as a friend who is a therapist once said—regarding beliefs I held as a child about other people and the world.


Over the past six weeks, I have been hosting the Mother Night online event with Clarissa Pinkola Estés (or CPE, as I call her). One of the most interesting things I have noted is how many Sounds True listeners have written in questions for CPE that say in essence, “I feel so alone. Where is my tribe?” We have literally received dozens of such questions. CPE’s response to listeners has been that the tribe you are seeking is right here in our shared experience, that the potential exists for us to find belonging when people connect with each other who hold dear similar ideas.


And over these past few weeks what I have been reflecting on is how each one of us is probably nowhere near as alone as we imagine ourselves to be. We may be pioneers. We may be being disruptive in our way and in our own spheres. But there is probably a huge yet-to-be-discovered network of people who are nursing similar ideas and ideals, working in their own way, waiting to be found. We may feel like we are crawling head down alone, but I am beginning to warm up to the notion that if we open our eyes and look up and out, we may very well find more brilliant and capable allies than we ever could have imagined.

25 Responses to “Until Now!”

  1. Raj Sisodia Says:

    Hi Tami,

    Wonderful post! I was also at the event and second every thing you wrote. This was our third conference, and each has been a tremedously moving and inspirational event. For a lovely little video capsule of the event, your readers should check out http://www.consciouscapitalism.com, and PLEASE, spread the link and the word. We have a conference coming up in Mumbai, India on January 12 and another in Boston in May 2010. If you want to get involved in the knowledge creation and dissemination side of this, please viist the web site of our “think tank” – the Conscious Capitalism Institute at http://www.cc-institute.com.

  2. Dave Gerlits Says:


    Thanks for the practical, hopeful message for us pioneers out here!

    Dave Gerlits

  3. anna maria Says:

    Your writing, as your interviews, are always very interesting and thought provoking.
    In fact, thanks to your interview with Jack Kornfield, I will be going to my first ever event at Spirit Rock at the end of this month!

  4. Michael Strong Says:

    Superb summary, Tami! Sorry we didn’t have more time to talk,


  5. Raven Says:

    Great post! One can only hope that “New Age” centers will also expand and re-align with a similar ideal, rather than holding onto outdated ways of marketing themselves.

  6. Kathy Says:

    Hmmmm… On the one hand, I love the idea of building on your values through the systems at hand, including capitalism. The original Smith & Hawken story was an early prototype that mega-chains like Whole Foods have built on. On the other hand (and I apply this criticism to myself as well), I have yet to see a capitalist who is fully integrated — who is genuinely conscious (let alone conscientious) in how they engage the systems at hand.
    To take John Mackey as an example: he created a firestorm in his very revealing Wall Street Journal opinion piece on health care reform, which many (including myself) took as a repudiation of compassion or the will to share, and his opinion is backed up by the minimalist benefits he offers his employees compared to many (but not all) enterprises of similar size. Too, Mackey has admitted that Whole Foods cheerfully sells chemically adulterated junk without taking pains to distinguish it from organic and locally sourced food. All of this is not to say that Conscious Capitalism is not a worthy goal, or that Mackey and his ilk don’t have something valuable to say on the topic of making money. It’s only to urge you to keep your eyes open, to look beyond the words, to not let yourself be so dazzled by the message that you forget that the messenger may not be the role model you take them for. There is a boat load of self-congratulation and reality-denial in the CC movement as well as an admirable philosophy. To build on the latter, you can’t turn a blind eye to the former.

  7. Duff Says:

    You’ve forgotten one of the most crucial tenets of Mackey’s “conscious capitalism”–that of opposing universal health care:


    Not only are you not alone “when it comes to seeing business as a vehicle for fulfilling our heart’s highest ideals,” the world’s largest weapons manufacturer Lockeed Martin also agrees:

    “Lockheed Martin people dream the biggest dreams & are bounded only by their imagination on projects of profound significance to our world.”

    So does Coca-Cola:

    “We offer you not only the chance to build a successful career – we offer you an opportunity to make a difference in the world.” – Coca Cola

    And IBM:

    “I can’t believe I’m getting paid to do something I enjoy so much!”

    …and Microsoft:

    Microsoft: “Come as you are. Do what you love. Just imagine the excitement and satisfaction of what you can do…” http://bit.ly/kiM3V

    And ExxonMobil:

    “ExxonMobil is a dynamic, exciting place to work. We hire exceptional people, and every one of them is empowered to think independently…”

    Is “conscious capitalism” any different from plain-old capitalism?

  8. Bill Says:

    Since Marilyn Ferguson wrote the Aquarian Conspiracy I have been on a path of work that attempts to integrate all of society: business, non-profit, NGOs and yes, governments as a mean toward the fulfillment of a sustainable life where all sentient beings can live in peace. So I’m hearten to find that you, Terri, see how business as an institution and capitalism as a system can be a means by which we can meet this outcome. I do get concerned though with Mackey’s assertion that governments are not included in providing solutions toward these goals. This Libertarian viewpoint, although very self-empowering, limits and simplifies our issues as a species. He believes (and I would assert that his claim is a belief and not a conclusion based on evidence) that governments are a impediment and should stay out of the way of providing solutions to sustainability and the elevation of suffering; i.e., the rejection of a government health care system. This belief that government gums things up, are slow, bureaucratic, and uncreative is true. I would purport though that businesses and capitalism have similar effects on our society. Do I need to say anymore than point out our current economic situation. This view of governments doesn’t hold up to historical events that have taken place in the last century. Many examples like Roosevelt’s jobs programs, interstate highway system, the internet, and the largest organization, the military, demonstrates that the federal government can function well and plays a significant role in shaping the commerce and standard of living in the US. I like that Mackey speaks out about company’s needing to embrace their core purpose and that these purposes need to address something beyond profits and return to shareholder, and that by focusing on the right societal needs as your purpose, you can gain great returns, as well as, play a role in sustaining our livelihoods and relieve suffering; but it is not enough. Their are many forces within the system of capitalism that can not address our earthily needs, that threaten the survival of our species and can not reach out to the multitude who are suffering.

  9. Tami Simon Says:

    Hi Duff,

    Thanks for your comment.

    I do not share some of John Mackey’s political views, however that has not kept me from appreciating the elegance and power of his articulation of the three pillars of conscious capitalism and how those ideas can be applied to a business like ST.

    Regarding the difference between companies that are “conscous capitalists” and those that are just plain “capitalists” (as you point to in your post), I think the key differential lies in whether or not a company is honoring the interdependent stakeholder model (the second pillar of a C3 business). My understanding is that a conscious capitalist business is committed to the health and sustainability of ALL of its stakeholders, which includes the long-terms health of its customers (which in my book would eliminate companies that produce products that contain ingredients that have proven to have a negative influence on our health and the health of our children, such as some of the companies you cite). Another important stakeholder is the environment because without the envrionment, well, we wouldn’t be here! I understand this to mean that any business that does not honor its use of natural resources and carefully consider the impact of its activities and products on the earth for generations to come would not qualify as a “conscious” capitalist business, simply as a capitalist enterprise.

  10. Evonne Heyning Says:

    Tami, thank you for articulating something many of us have felt….the deep need to integrate our purpose-driven work and our strong desire for community in that workspace. The catalysts drawn to deep work often spend copious time leading others, adding to the exhaustion of sustaining conscious action. Conscious communities can seem weak and ineffective (especially in LA) so I dig deep through networks to connect with the thrivable #socent trailblazers across the world who inspire each other through productive events and virtual connections. There are many earthshakers and mountain movers out there who really GET IT and thankfully that tide swells….while we may feel alone at times we have movements growing around us.

    I was grateful to meet you yesterday and recognize another woman who has seen much and has learned to gracefully weave through all of these forces without being pulled away from your own center. Thank you for exploring, articulating and sharing from your heart and soul; I hope many others follow in your footsteps.

  11. Brian Johnson Says:

    Love it, Tami!!!

    Well said and thx for your inspiration. Your chat with Ken Wilber on conscious biz + John Mackey’s debate with Friedman were two hugely inspirational and transformative pieces in my development.

    Look forward to seeing you soon,


  12. Seth Braun Says:

    Thanks Jason Digges for sending me this link.
    I was glad to read this.
    And the next post on being a freak.
    I don’t fit the mold.
    My peers are mostly cultural creatives, politically liberal and interested in spirituality and egalitarian-green-local food-no TV living.
    Me on the other hand, have swung into a kind of a bardo where I say things like, “capitalism is great” and friends think I am cracking a joke.
    I agree with conservative Christians a lot more than my peers can imagine and yet those same conservative Christians would denounce many aspects of my life.
    While capitalist doesn’t necessarily = conservative, and by no means Christian, many of my cultural creative peers tend to lump it all together. So I relate that here.
    Mark Twain said, “When I was 14 my father did not know a thing, but he had learned a lot by the time I was 21.” Maybe it is just the experience of fatherhood acting on me.
    In terms of conscious capitalism, I have learned a great deal from reading about Benjamin Franklin. Innovation drove development in his time and has to drive it now.
    I recently saw Dr. Stephen Covey speak to this. His assertion that we are about to experience 50 times the productivity was provocative to say the least. Yet here is a guy hanging out with the military, government leaders globally, The Dalai Lama and recently received the Maharishi award.
    Whatever the correct assessment is, we all need to step up to the plate and answer the call for more love, more capital, more innovation and more of the human spirit, which is, after all, the source of all growth and development.

  13. Jo-Ann Triner Says:

    Business is either “integrative” or exists for its own self-serving purposes. If it’s integrative, its primary mission is to serve the needs of people individually and collectively so all benefit societally. All grow in social awareness. All do better because such role models teach them to know better.

    To engage is business is to assume a first-class role in leadership. One aspect of that is academic or intellectual. Another aspect of that is at the level of emotion and affect. To exist for the betterment of society as a first order of business is to stand on terra firma. Some might say that the business is then built upon rock. Its foundation is firm enough to withstand the onslaught of constant storms.

    in building a successful business, consciousness counts more than it ever has. Either it serves a societal need as a first order of business or it serves itself first. This critical difference is known intuitively by clients and customers. Before a word is uttered, we get the picture. The chi, energy or momentum of that organization speaks so loudly, nothing else we say matters very much.

    Success is a factor of the disposition of leaders on the issue of serving in earnest.

  14. Anonymous Says:

    On this note of missing tribes and aloneness I wanted to blatantly throw one of my poems in here, it is called Shaman No Tribe.

    The village is empty
    he has looked through the longhouse
    and seen no one

    In every tipi
    the food is still on the plate
    missing a hungry mouth

    The coals in the fire
    for no one
    except the night sky
    that bears the wisp of smoke
    yet carries no scent of man

    Yes the village is empty
    but he dreams of their voices
    and feels the heat of their hearts
    and imagines them standing before him
    earnestly seeking the return of both

    The village is empty
    and the shaman has returned
    to meet no one
    because everyone
    is busy being someone
    somewhere else

    The shaman is empty
    yet finds tears from somewhere
    to express his sadness
    he can’t go where they are
    because his emptiness is a
    that somebody’s don’t know

    The village is empty
    The shaman is empty
    He waits for nobody to return
    and smiles in trusting anticipation

    Tami, I have MANY poems like this and more with some samples at http://www.skymeetingtheground.wordpress.com I am also aching to share the poetry with the world…

  15. Anonymous Says:

    Hi Tami;

    Thank you for such an uplifting & powerful post which strikes a chord within me today so very deeply! Many it seems, who also walk the true spiritual path, could have written your exact statements as posted here straight from the heart.

    I myself have walked into and then backed out of, several professed “spiritual groups” and organizations over the past several decades.

    I backed out when I found situations & organizations that do not in fact honor the unique individual who is open, creative, intelligent and is simply seeking genuine fellowship with mutual support and well being for inner growth and actual development.

    Actually am encouraged and do feel that we are finally now coming to a time where we will finally be able to find & connect with our “tribe” for a healthy connection with others heart, mind and spirit.

    Thank you again for such a heartfelt post that I know will help many others as well.

    Blessings to you also for your wonderful work and also for a very *Happy New Year*!

    peace & namaste,
    Email: roselotus@sbcglobal.net

  16. sarah Says:

    thank you for your wonderful blog, tami. i hope you’ll be able to interview caroline casey for insights at the edge! (or insights in the spiral, as the case may be)

  17. Melissa Johnson Says:

    Dear Tami~

    I feel your frustration turned inspiration.

    A lawyer by trade, I began my career at 24 and immediately found myself frustrated by the antagonistic nature of the legal profession and the spiritually / socially unconscious way that so many people do business. Ironic or naive? The jury is still out on that one. And while I was fortunate (and divinely guided) to land in a safe place where I was mentored by strong, inspiring lawyers and businessmen (as one of two women in a firm of more than 40 men), all around me were examples of how not to do business and practice law. Some days I needed two showers to remove the ick.

    I had no delusions of being able to transform an entire profession, but I knew something had to shift for me so that I could balance my sensitive heart with the hard lines of a very left-brained world. And I hoped that by staying grounded in my personal truth and firmly committing to a higher, more conscious way of living and doing business that it would help transform the world around me (or at least my view of it!), like ripples in a pond.

    When I taught university classes in business law and ethics, I would began the first class of each semester with this question: True / False–Business ethics is a moral code for operating in the business world that is separate and distinct from our personal ethics. On average, half of the students (undergrad and MBA alike) would say “True.” Trick question? Or perhaps early evidence of the way that so many people compartmentalize mind-body-spirit-business when, I believe, to be most effective they should be a fully-integrated, functioning whole–a slippery slope for those who aren’t awake. Yet when we come from this place, we can’t help but extend our integrated whole to our families, business models, communities, nations and the world at large.

    So here we are, some 14 years later, and I have to say that in my efforts to align with people, places, ideas and resources that resonate with the greater good, I find more and more of “us” out there; I am continually amazed by the goodness of others and the growing collective desire to bring a more conscious, socially-driven purpose to all that we do. We must never give up! And we must never underestimate the power of one to make a difference. . .

    . . . like you have done with Sounds True. What a beautiful business to be in. Stay the course.

    Sending my best wishes for a consciously abundant new year!


  18. Ariel Ky Says:

    Dear Tami,

    Thank you for sharing about your participation in the conscious capitalism conference and how you felt you had found others like yourself. I have also come to the conclusion that our collective spirituality needs to be anchored in the business world in bringing more consciousness into how we live with each other.

    I read other reader’s thoughtful comments with great interest also. Multiple bottom lines is a new concept for me, but I have an even better one: a business model that doesn’t make profit the bottom line; instead it’s quality of life. Now that’s a quantum shift!

  19. Victoria Says:

    Tami, did you read the philosophy of John Mackey? He is an elitist that has made a ton of money off of his naive shoppers many of whom actually are compassionate. Here is the whole article http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204251404574342170072865070.html. You must read the full article then explain how you can possibly reconcile what you are saying in your post? You are saying his politics don’t matter??? You think he is honoring the community, the environment, his employees??? Your post makes no sense to me.

  20. Julie R Says:

    “Nothing can exist by itself alone.” – I can’t remember if Thich Nhat Hanh says this or Pema Chodron.

  21. JC Says:

    Hi Tami,

    As to selling junk food at Whole Foods Market.

    I am currently a Team Member at Whole Foods Market that would like to honor each one of my customers at the level of consciousness that they are presently functioning at.

    The same customer that is buying those organic sugar cookies for little Kenny is also stopping by my area where I will also introduce them to all of The Sounds True audio’s. In a traditional grocery store they would never have the opportunity to make a wonderful purchase of Sounds True Materials on their path to awakening and self empowerment.

    Yes, those customers are filling those carts with processed white flour and sugar but so what. They are also moving through the stages and states as everyone must

    Lets honor and be supportive to all of those on their journey as Tami has graciously done all of these years. Not everyone is operating in the 2nd tier in the turquoise/teal.

    And to all I wish you this moment always.


  22. Egonz Says:

    This is the same John Mackey who went under an assumed name on the net and badmouthed Wild Oats so that he could buy it for a lower price. Actions always speak louder than words.

  23. Lisa Says:

    I want to thank Egonz for the comment regarding John Mackey’s actions regarding Wild Oats. Apparently he didn’t consider the following C3 philosophy regarding Wild Oats community of employees:
    “A C3 business honors all of the stakeholders of the company, which includes its customers, its employees, its investors, its suppliers, the community, and the greater environment. This is what John calls “the interdependent stakeholder model,” and it requires a view to making decisions that harmonize and balance the needs and interests of all parties that contribute to a company’s success.” I guess it’s only HIS company’s success,

    Doesn’t sound like conscious capitalism at all, just business as usual.

    On the other hand, some of the other companies mentioned truly have been living the model, like my favorite, Patagonia. And, it certainly sounds like you Tami, are not only living the model, but taking it where we all need to go.
    Thank you for your wonderful mission, vision and values.

  24. Lisa Says:

    Thanks for your post. I appreciate reading about entrepreneurs and their ideas, regardless of their political or social views. It takes something to walk out on that ledge of starting your own business and it’s inspiring to me to hear all kinds of stories so I can blend them into what works for myself and my values. Thanks for the words of inspiration.

  25. MK Says:

    Having read this blog a few years ago, it came to mind while reading a current article that I would like to share with Tami and her readers.


    At minimum, both the blog are inspiring and encouraging. Both have potential to spark further action as well.

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