Compassionate Capitalism with Blaine Bartlett [Podcast]
Dr. Nathan Regier is joined today by Blaine Bartlett, president and CEO of Avatar Resources Inc., a company whose mission is to provide resources and services that foster compassionate capitalism. Blaine’s work is founded on the thesis that business, as the most pervasive force on the planet, is charged with taking responsibility for the well-being of the whole. His life work is dedicated to ensuring that business leaders develop the skills, competency, and capacity to lead such an undertaking as it is key to thriving teams and organizations and a thriving planet. Blaine is the author of several books, including the international bestseller, Compassionate Capitalism: A Journey to the Soul of Business.
Compassionate Capitalism Highlights
- Nature is a center of distribution, not a center of accumulation. Blaine got his inspiration for compassionate capitalism from nature. Our current view of capitalistic success is predicated on endless consumption, which is unsustainable and takes us further away from what it means to be truly human on this planet. Nature operates just the opposite, generosity, thriving and interdependence.
- Without co-creation all you have is compliance. Unless leaders create movement through co-creation, it will eventually devolve into self-interest. Co-creation transfers ownership and increases the positive stewardship of our resources.
- The competitive mind is not the creative mind. Rational self-interest is based on a mindset of scarcity and competition. This doesn’t yield the kind of solutions that truly enhance thriving. Instead, the principles of compassionate capitalism guide us to seek solutions that are best for the greater good.
VOICEOVER: Are you tired of the negativity and drama? Are you trying to make a difference only to be drained by people problems? The world needs more compassion, not just more civility and empathy. We need in the trenches compassion that struggles alongside people, instead of against them. We need a radically different way to engage for breakthrough results. And now, here is your host, Dr. Nate Regier.
NATE REGIER: My guest today has pioneered the concept and practice of compassionate capitalism. Blaine Bartlett, is the president and CEO of Avatar Resources, Inc. A company whose mission is to provide resources and services that foster compassionate capitalism. His work is focused on the thesis that business as the most pervasive force on the planet is charged with taking responsibility for the wellbeing of the whole. His life’s work is dedicated to ensuring that business leaders develop the skills, the competency and capacity to lead such an undertaking as it’s key to thriving teams and organizations and a thriving planet.
Blaine, has offered, authored … Let me back up. Blaine, has authored several books including the international best seller Compassionate Capitalism: A Journey to the Soul of Business. He’s recognized as one of the world’s top leadership and executive coaches and is featured as one of the world’s greatest motivators in the nationally broadcast television series of the same name. Blaine was featured in the movie and the book Think and Grow Rich: The Legacy. Blaine, is an adjunct professor at China’s Beijing University and a member of the teaching faculty of the American Association for Physician Leadership.
He has held many other leadership positions and serves on advisory boards, which you can learn more about via the show notes and his website, which we’ll share later. As a testament to his commitment to compassionate leadership, Blaine, was formally as a Knight of the Sovereign Order of St. John of Jerusalem Knights of Malta, the world’s oldest humanitarian organization. Blaine, has done several TED Talks and is the host of the C-Suite Radio Network Podcast called The Soul of Business. Blaine, welcome to On Compassion
BLAINE BARTLETT: Nate, it is my absolute pleasure to be here. Thank you for the invitation to sit with you.
NATE REGIER: Well, I tell you what. Your bio is impressive. I’ve read your book. I’m just really devouring all of your stuff. You have done and seen some things and I would love to hear a little about your journey. What were some of the formative influences or is there maybe guideposts along the way towards your passion for this concept called compassionate capitalism?
BLAINE BARTLETT: Wow. That was a great question, thank you. Yeah. I guess where I’d start is just to go back to where I grew up. I grew up on a farm and my last TED Talk is titled Nature Is The Ultimate Business Guru. I used that growing-up time as a way to kind of illustrate how I think business can actually be conducted because I’d walk in the forests and I’d walk out in the fields. One of the things that really struck me in the forest was everything was connected. I mean, it overlapped. It intertwined.
It may look like it stands by itself but you go underground and all the roots, literally of all the trees are connected by mycorrhizal networks of fungus. These are communication networks. So I mean, just marveling at the planting of a small little seed and noticing what came out of that three, four months later was kind of like, “Oh, my God. Where did that come from? How did that actually manage to do that?” Just the awe, the wonder of life unfolding. Fast-forwarding that experience, that childhood experience into business because some of my earliest experiences in business and I think that this is probably true for a large number of people, is that businesses aren’t particularly a healthy place for the human spirit.
There’s just a lot of insistence on conforming and actually molding myself into a certain way of being, if you will, that kind of is counter to what I call my soul, that spirit that wants to live and thrive and grow and expand. It’s almost counter to being able to do that. So I started questioning pretty early on when I got into the business world, “Is there another way to do this?” So I started connecting some dots. Yeah, Adam Smith. I mean, I studied economics at university and I remember reading The Wealth of Nations. What I didn’t read at that time and this is back in the early 1970s.
What I didn’t read was a book that Adam Smith wrote right before that, actually right before that about 14 years before that was called The Theory of Moral Sentiment. It was The Theory of Moral Sentiment that actually informed his notion of the invisible hands of commerce that became part of the Wealth of Nations discourse and ultimately that codified message was what we ended up calling today, capitalism. But the invisible hands of commerce was predicated on enlightened self-interest, which he took from nature.
Nature again, kind of come back to that. Everything in nature serves a center of distribution and it gives things away not because it’s altruistic necessarily. But it knows in the giving of something, something else is going to be coming back on return. There’s this reciprocity that’s built into that market system that we call nature. It really is I think, the only truly free market economy that exists. I mean, there’s no artificial constraints. So all of that kind of conspired to me forming some of the thoughts that I’ve had about how businesses could be conducted on this planet. Then compassion, we’ll talk about that a little bit later, where did compassion come into that mix? But-
NATE REGIER: Yeah, yeah.
BLAINE BARTLETT: … it started with there’s got to be a more generative way of doing this than what we seem to be doing.
NATE REGIER: So your inspiration, you had a lot of inspiration from nature and you experienced that most businesses are not a healthy place for the human spirit. But when you watch nature. You walk in the forest and you observe that it was, you were starting to realize that maybe nature really is the only truly free market economy. That TED Talk was amazing. I listened to that. Will you say a little bit more about what are some of the principles in nature that inspire, kind of have led you to this notion of compassionate capitalism?
BLAINE BARTLETT: Yeah. I mean, when you look at nature, I mean, I’ll just start with something I think pretty simple. The purpose of nature is thriving and I’ll just kind of very simply state that. Yet, everything in nature as you observe it is organized around how can I best thrive not just survive? Surviving is a part of it but thriving is the ultimate focal point. I mean, a jungle is lush. A jungle thrives and so when we look at businesses today, most businesses are organized around the concept of, how do we survive? This is where competition comes into play.
Thriving is a mental construct, presupposes abundance. I have abundance of resource. I have abundance of access. I mean, all of those sorts of things. Competition, which is what our economic model is built on today, is organized around a consciousness. Literally, it’s a mindset and a consciousness of scarcity. This the only reason we would compete. There’s a world of difference between the experience of living in an abundant ecosphere or an ecosphere that is predicated around scarcity.
One will be uplifting. The other one is going to be contractive because it’s almost always going to be formulated around fear. Fear of loss, fear of missing out, fear of not having enough, fear of, “What if they get theirs and I don’t get mine?” I mean, all of that stuff. You don’t find that in nature, in the altruistic or in the altruistic, in the purest sense of the word. That’s not to say that the forest animals aren’t chewing on each other. I mean, they do but that’s kind of built into the nature of the process.
The one thing that I really make a distinction about in nature that I don’t see necessarily in business, nature, everything conducts itself as a center of distribution, not as a center of accumulation. It’s a center of distribution because everything is abundant. I mean, it’s organized around abundance. Businesses today are organized around accumulation. That’s the metric of success. Who’s got the most toys? Who’s got the biggest bank account? That accumulative dynamic is again, kind of predicated on a notion of scarcity, “I’ve got to hoard because what if I don’t have it?” that kind of thing, so those dynamics come into play.
NATE REGIER: Yeah. Wonderful. Wonderful kind of lessons from nature when you watch for that. This is something that I just kept being kind of shocked by, inspired by but also struggled with throughout your book is this idea of accumulation being kind of the goal of our current free market and how that’s not the point. That’s not the goal. How do we, how does an economy run when we’re not accumulating things? I want to keep talking about that because I know this is a big deal. You’ve also mentioned this idea of consciousness and so I’ve heard of conscious capitalism. I think that’s pretty popular. A lot of people have heard of it. Will you differentiate or compare compassionate capitalism to conscious capitalism?
BLAINE BARTLETT: Yeah. That’s a great question and it comes up fairly often. First of all, it’s almost an oxymoron. Compassionate capitalism, that’s not the experience that most people have about the capitalist model that we live in today. John Mackey and Raj Sisodia wrote the book Conscious Capitalism. I know both of them fairly well and we’ve had conversations, a number of different conversations about the implication of conscious capitalism, not just about being conscious. Where Raj and John were coming from was an invitation to expand awareness around what’s the stakeholder universe that the actual businesses are operating within? So that it begins to shift focus from simply shareholder value and running the business for the sake of the shareholders themselves, the investing constituent.
Larger group, yes, you’ve got larger stakeholders not the least of which is obviously your customers but you’ve also got vendors. You’ve got employee groups. You’ve got the society at large, the neighborhood in which you operate, that sort of thing. My contention and my conversation with both, John and Raj, was that awareness is one thing. What kind of behavior are you trying to facilitate coming out of that awareness? The idea of consciousness begins to open up some very interesting explorations around connection.
Again, back to nature, everything is connected in nature. It is a living ecosystem. Every single part of it matters. It’s all connected so where compassion comes into this is from a business perspective. If I don’t feel connected to these constituencies, I may be aware of their existence but if I don’t feel connected, my behavior will be less than stellar, if you will. I will be making short-term decisions predicated on what, Ayn Rand, called rational self-interest. Rational self-interest, which is fundamentally different than enlightened self-interest, which is the organizing principle around the invisible hands of commerce that Adam Smith spoke about.
That’s enlightened self-interest. You have to win if I’m going to win. If you’re not winning I’m not going to be winning long-term or even short-term. Rational self-interest kind of took that off the table and said, “It’s just about me, acting in my own best self, my own best self-interest.” That will take the hindermost if you’re running. If you’re running behind, “Sorry, you’re out of luck.” So compassion, where this comes in is for me, it’s the behavioral analog to conscious capitalism.
Compassionate capitalism becomes the metric by which I behave. It becomes the filter through which we make decisions and choices. The admonition that I would really love for business leaders to take on is a version of the Hippocratic Oath that physicians take, “First, do no harm.” So when I’m making a business decision, I’m recognizing, number one, that it’s a large ecosphere, a large fiscal environment in which I’m operating. But we’re all connected and if I’m doing harm to any part of it, I’m going to being doing harm to a whole, not the least of which will be me.
So making decisions with that filter in mind and compassion in this context has a very hard edge to it. It’s not something that’s soft and squishy and fluffy. To make a compassionate choice in service of that greater whole can be very difficult to do because you’ll sometimes find yourself making things that aren’t cost-effective choices that aren’t profit organizing and they have a longer term benefit. So one of the benefits is you start moving away from short-term thinking into a much longer timeframe thinking.
NATE REGIER: Well, there’s two big words you brought up or two phrases, this whole idea of rational versus enlightened self-interest and then your definition of compassion. I’d like to dive into both of those but let’s go back to this idea of rational self-interest compared to enlightened. Proponents of kind of traditional capitalism as we know it would say that rational self-interest takes care of all of this. It just works itself out. Sounds like you’re saying, “No. It doesn’t.” So what are the limits of what rational self-interest can do in a market?
BLAINE BARTLETT: I think the biggest limit has to do with the conflict issues that begin to arise when people are organizing everything they do about their own best interest. Adam Smith, talked about this. He talked about the virtuous man, generically speaking man, not from a gender perspective here. But the virtuous man was the person who recognized that they have obligations to a greater whole. To act with virtue, I kind of go back to Plato, Plato’s virtues. I mean, you go back to Marcus Aurelius to the Stoic philosophy.
Virtue is one of the highest ideals that one can aspire to and that virtue has to do with the obligatory nature of recognizing, “I’m part of a larger whole. I’m an integral part of a larger whole. What I do matters to the health and wellbeing of the whole.” So rational self-interest, I mean, I can understand the logic of it and it’s a logic that’s born out of duality. There’s a Cartesian and I mean this, René Descartes. The Cartesian logic, it’s a duality logic. It moves us away from a recognition in an experience of a unifying whole of which we are a part.
So that’s I think the price that we pay and we see it today, income inequality, racial inequality, gender inequality. I mean, I really believe this. Everything that we encounter today in society as what we’re calling ailments or the god-awful things that are going on can be traced back to the roots of separation that are envisioned by and enforced by and informed by rational self-interest.
NATE REGIER: So would you go so far as to say that most of the inequalities that we are trying to fix, that we say are so bad, were actually caused by rational self-interest?
BLAINE BARTLETT: Absolutely. I really would. I absolutely would.
NATE REGIER: Okay. Well, then we need to talk about compassion because I think where you and I probably really are passionate about is that compassion is a solution. It’s an answer. It’s a mindset and a framework that can bring us over the hump. Keep us from going over the cliff and bring us to another place. You’ve gone so far as to say that compassion isn’t soft. It’s a hard-edged thing but do you have a definition of compassion, a working definition kind of for this philosophy?
BLAINE BARTLETT: That’s a great question, Nate. If I just take the root of the word passion, pascho, in Greek, it means to suffer. Although, the interesting thing around suffering, this is a rough alliteration of the word. Suffer does not by definition include pain. Pain is a construct that we will add on later. There’s an old metaphor around, it’s not the first arrow that hurts, it’s the second arrow. But it’s the suffering of the Passion of Christ is an example. It doesn’t entail pain. What it speaks to is a recognition that I’m in this and there’s a value here.
There’s really something that I’m willing to put my life on the line for and I mean my life both metaphorically but also, literally. It’s for me, and this is I wish I had a very succinct simple definition of this word compassion but it means, what am I willing to suffer for? What am I willing to actually put my life on the line for? Then there’s the for the sake of what? The for the sake of what informs compassion for me. The for the sake of what is a recognition that everything is connected and that if I’m doing harm to something out there I’m by definition doing harm to myself.
That’s more than just a philosophical distinction. It truly does manifest itself. If I’m doing harm to water as an example or the atmosphere, I’m doing harm to myself. The compassionate thing to do is to take into account the wellbeing of everything in which I find myself interacting and with which I find myself interacting. Compassion has to do and this is probably the definition that I’m fumbling around to give to you. Compassion is the recognition that my wellbeing is predicated on your wellbeing and I act in alignment with that awareness.
NATE REGIER: I love this and you call it stumbling around but I think it’s really important that we talk through these things, we unpack what these words mean because you talked about this idea of suffering. There’s also the com part of the word and the word com means with. So we really are. I mean, everything is connected. Today, I was thinking about this kind of pendulum of compassion. On one end is where we just cancel each other, cancel culture.
Just if you’re different, I don’t care. We’ll just undermine you, whatever, destroy you. But on the other side is this true recognition that our fates are co-determined and we are truly in this together. Everything is in this together and so I really appreciate that distinction between pain and suffering. That the struggle that we’re going through, it’s something that we all are in.
BLAINE BARTLETT: Yeah.
NATE REGIER: I just really, really appreciate that.
BLAINE BARTLETT: I mean, it is part of the human condition in one sense. So, yeah. I was doing an interview earlier today with the gentleman and we were talking just about the hardwiring that we seem to develop as human beings, starting with I mean, something as simple as a little girl coming home from school bouncy and smiling. Mom saying to her, “What are you so happy about?” The little girl goes, “Ah, I’m just happy.” “Well, did you get an A?” “No, I didn’t get an A.” “Well, did you get a sticker for the spelling?” “We didn’t have a spelling test.” “Well, did you find a new friend?” “No, I didn’t have …”
Now, what’s going on there is mom is teaching the little girl that her state of happiness is predicated on something external happening. Mom doesn’t know she’s teaching that lesson and therein, begins the experience of separation. I can’t just be intrinsically happy. I have to have something out there, which is rational self-interest. I have to have something out there occur in order for me to feel happy. I’ve worked with I can’t tell you how many different clients over my career whose wallets are fuller than their lives and that’s a sobering realization for people to wake up to. Is your wallet fuller than your life? You’ve been really chasing the wrong thing, rational self-interest.
NATE REGIER: Wow. Thank you for that example with the moment by moment interactions. I know you’re a big believer in the power of these moments and the intentionality of our language, our consciousness, the way we are with each other. So I’d like to shift, maybe pivot a little bit towards some practical application, implementation of this because you’ve worked with clients all over the world. You teach this.
You are in the trenches helping leaders do this work and really operationalize this in their lives. Let’s start with a leader. A leader who says, “Man, I love this. I want to do this. I see this.” What are some things leaders can do to kind of overcome this natural tendency towards rational self-interest or maybe overcome what we’ve been taught?
BLAINE BARTLETT: Wow. I love that question. If we’ve got three or four days, we’ll really go into it here. I think the first thing that I would work with a leader on is understanding what they mean by leadership because how I define that word really makes a difference in terms of what I’m willing to take on developmentally, if I’m going to make something different out there happen. So there’s two pieces that come into play here. One is, understanding what a leader does and very simple, I mean, a leader causes movement. They cause change. They cause movement in any system in which they find themselves a part of.
That’s what a leader does and they can do it in a whole lot of different ways. The big stick, the big pot of money but they cause movement. What’s fascinating to me about that definition and I’ve never found anybody that can disagree with that definition because every leader you ever think of causes movement. What’s interesting about the definition is, by definition, everybody’s a leader because everybody is always causing movement when they show up someplace. When you show up at home after coming home from work, everybody has to organize themselves to accommodate your presence.
There’s movement being generated so it’s never a question, “Am I a leader or not?” The real question has to do with, “Am I effective as a leader?” The question of effective has to do with, “Am I getting the kind of movement I need to get the result I say I want?” So that opens up the question of leadership. Leadership in the way I define it, in the work that I do with my clients is, it’s the activity of co-creating coordinated movement in the system to produce the results I say, I want.
Two pieces to that, co-creation and coordinated movement. The coordinated movement area is the doing-ness part of leadership. The co-creation piece is the being piece of leadership, “How do I be as a leader?” Part of why that’s important is understanding that people will give me what they perceive I’m willing to settle for. They will never give me what I ask for. Their perception of what I’m willing to settle for is defined by my state of being. It’s defined by my energetic state of being, my mood state and all kinds of everything that kind of combines into that.
I can get people to do a lot of things and I can get them to coordinate fairly well. But if I don’t have co-creation in the mix, what I’m left with is compliance. Compliance doesn’t take me very far. Compliance will eventually devolve into self-interest and it’s almost always predicated on, “I have to do this.” When you bring co-creation into the mix, ownership is transferred.
The idea that I’m trying to make happen out there co-creating, I have to actually engage you compassionately to explore why this is important to you, “For the sake of what, is this significant?” All behavior is predicated on meaning, If people behave in manners that are consistent with what the meaning is that you’re asking from them. So you get co-created dynamics in place coupled with coordinated movement and you’re off to the races in a pretty good way here.
NATE REGIER: Wow. We have a lot of concepts coming together here. Nature, as one of the fundamental things about nature is it’s a center of distribution, not a center of accumulation. You’ve talked about the view of enlightened self-interest means we are all in this together and our view really is that all things are connected. What we do to one, we do to all. Leadership then is about not just what we do but who we are in the process. You give some amazing examples of some organizations that are doing this in your book. Are there some examples of leaders or organizations that you think are practicing some of these principles that you’re talking about that you’d be willing to lift up and just tell us briefly about?
BLAINE BARTLETT: Yeah. I mean, a couple are pretty visible. I mean, if you look at Patagonia and I use Patagonia as an example in the book. They’re entire organizing principle as a culture and as an organization is stewardship. Literally I mean, they make decisions based on the admonition of first do no harm. One of the examples I cite in the book is a famous Thanksgiving Day ad or Black Friday ad that they ran in the New York Times at one point in time. This was back about 10 years I think.
Picture of a winter jacket, “Don’t buy this jacket.” And it’s kind of like, “What do you mean, don’t by this jacket?” “Well, if you’ve got a good jacket, don’t buy another good jacket just for the sake of buying one. We don’t need to be consuming in that way. We can repair your jacket if it’s got some damage to it.” and they’ve got a whole area in their company that is designed around that. So their go-to market strategy isn’t about sell more, sell more, sell more. It’s not about consumption. It’s about what’s going to work best in this environment? What’s going to work best for you as the customer?
Yeah, Yvon Chouinard, who was the founder of the company, I mean, he was absolutely adamant about that and organized the entire company around that. I think, Bob Chapment, Bob Chapman, not Chapment. Bob Chapman. Ed Singer-Heller. It’s a manufacturing firm. They do some unbelievable stuff in terms of bringing people together. That’s a wildly successful organization. The Container Store. I mean, Unilever. I mean, I can go real big here has done some fascinating stuff and their chairman, retired now, was very focused on first, do no harm as a business ethos.
Now, did they have shareholders? Did they have PnLs that they needed to attend to? Are they an incredibly large organization? Yeah, they are but when you start getting to that size, you’re going to have little pockets where it’s not working as well. But overall, their intent was to uplift the experience of being alive on this planet. I think that actually, Nate, is the litmus test for a compassionate business, compassionately and capitalistic business is that they look to understanding.
I mentioned right at the beginning that the purpose of nature is to thrive. Everything in nature strives to thrive. The purpose of business needs to be the same thing. The purpose of business isn’t to make a profit. The purpose of business is to enhance the likelihood of thriving. That’s the purpose of business, to enhance the likelihood of thriving. Organizations that are doing that well are doing it with compassion as part of their marketing mix, if you will.
NATE REGIER: Mm-hmm. Well, I’m old-school. I’m thickheaded so I need another example of a organization that is thriving, making a living, creating wealth, making jobs but it’s not based on needing people to accumulate their stuff. I know this is just and I’m revealing my own kind of just traditional thinking that how can you run a business if you aren’t trying to get people to get more and more and more of your stuff? What would be some just break out of the box examples you could share?
BLAINE BARTLETT: Jim Sinegal, he put Costco together. I think Costco is an example of this. Now, I use Costco just specifically for the way that you’re describing it. I mean, you go to Costco and you can’t find anything that you have to buy in bulk almost, okay? But the idea there is their price point is such that it’s accessible. I feel good about who I am when I’m buying this, whatever this is. It reduces friction in the interaction. Costco’s wildly profitable. The stakeholders in which they are actually paying attention to are their customers or vendors.
You look at some traditional metrics and they are off the charts in terms of comparisons to S&P Standards and some other comparable metrics that you might use. Raj Sisodia, before he contributed to the book Conscious Capitalism, wrote another book that was called Firms of Endearment. I love that title, Firms of Endearment. He looked at organizations that had love. I don’t mean romantic love but they had love, caring for each other as part of their business ethos.
These firms outperformed in every traditional metric way. One of the things that he used as a reference point was Jim Collins’s Good to Great companies. Jim Collins’ Good to Great, largest selling business book in the last century. Every firm that, Raj, identified in Firms of Endearment outperformed every firm in the Good to Great book. Not just barely but significantly and these were firms, Costco, Starbucks, BMW and you don’t think of them necessarily as compassionately capitalistic companies but they are actually approaching the business from that perspective in a very significant way. Universally, not at all. Niched areas, absolutely because a lot of these companies have been around for a long time and so were beginning to turn the course just a little bit.
But you look at some of the firms that are starting up today particularly with young entrepreneurs. They’re starting these firms with social responsibility as a pillar of what they’re doing. How can we as an organization support something other than our business model itself? How can we use our business model to support doing good out there in the world? Not just from a marketing perspective. That’s just an integral and integrated part of what they’re doing. But my firm, we’ve got a social responsibility partner that we consistently are giving money to. I give IP to them and they do work in Sub-Saharan Africa.
I mean, it’s in some of the poorest countries in the world, some of the poorest areas in the world. It is so in alignment with who we are as a company and who I am as an individual, I can’t not do that. We don’t charge for it. We are a center of distribution in that regard. I give away probably 90% of my IP. Some of it we charge for but most of it, people have access to it. This needs to be out there.
NATE REGIER: Well, it’s and your examples like you said, nobody’s perfect and there are pockets of this working. If I know we can’t go into all the examples but if there are listeners out there wondering about, “Well, what about the environment? What about the impact of some of these companies on the environment or the end users or sustainable labor or these things?” You have examples of this in the book and so I really encourage people to buy the book and see some really innovative business models for successful businesses that are really making a difference in some of those areas of social and environmental responsibility. I’m just curious, Blaine, one of the guests on my show was, David Katz, the founder of Plastic Bank?
BLAINE BARTLETT: Yeah.
NATE REGIER: Are you familiar with his work?
BLAINE BARTLETT: Yeah, I’ve had David on my podcasts.
NATE REGIER: What an incredible business model of turning cleaning up the planet into a sustainable business where everybody wins. That’s just a great example of that.
BLAINE BARTLETT: Yeah. When you take something that’s out there already in the environment that is counter to what we would like to see and you go, “How can I make a model business out of this that is organized, that everybody thrives?” The investors thrive, the people that are doing it thrive and the environment thrives. Yeah, David, I love David. He’s a wonderful guy.
NATE REGIER: Yeah, yeah. I remember asking him. I said, “Well, you’re all focused on picking up all this trash plastic everywhere but aren’t you focused on trying to reduce fossil fuels that are making the plastic in the first place?” He said, “Well, I could be except we have more plastic that’s wasted then we need, so if use all of it, we don’t have to make more.” I thought, “Well, what a great approach. Instead of judging, figure out a capitalistic way to solve the problem.”
Your book is really all about that and, man, I could just go on. I have so many more things I’d love to talk to you about the book like I don’t want you to answer this now but those who are listening, wait till you learn about what a merchant priest is. Very interesting concept and I think we should all aspire to that. But I’m curious, as we kind of wrap this up, Blaine, what these days, what is giving you joy and purpose? What gets you up every day?
BLAINE BARTLETT: Oh, boy. That is a great question. Yeah. There’s a professional and a personal answer to that I think and they kind of coincide. Teaching. I mean, I’ll just say teaching and I’m using that phrase kind of or that word as a placeholder here. I am so excited about the possibility that we as a human race have to actually thrive on this planet. I mean and part of what I’m so excited about is the larger the problem, seeming problem, the greater the benefit on the backside when we finally find a way to do this.
Marcus Aurelius talks about the obstacle is the way. Embedded in the obstacle, if you start looking at it from the idea of creativity, all kinds of things can emerge. You talked about, David Katz, with Plastic Bank. When we start moving away from competition and I’m sitting up in my chair here because believe me. I mean, we’re going to get excited about this.
NATE REGIER: Absolutely. I can hear it in your voice.
BLAINE BARTLETT: Competition is predicated on a notion of scarcity. It is and I may have mentioned this. Yeah. That’s what I mean accumulation is about and all that stuff. The competitive mind is not the creative mind, so when you stop competing, when you stop looking at competitors out there as being the cause of the angst that you’re experiencing, what you start doing is you’re going, “Okay. I’ve got this thing in front of me. How can we work with this? How can we work with this because I’ve got this ideal that I’d love to see realized in my lifetime?”
For me, that ideal is compassionate capitalism. Yeah, there’s a lot of problems about why it can’t be. Whoa. Talk about opportunities to have conversations. Talk about opportunities to open doors. Talk about opportunities to change how we think about who we are as a species on this planet. I mean, it doesn’t get any richer than this. I mean, it really doesn’t at this point in time, so that gets me out of bed in the morning. I mean, I wake up and I’m just excited to go and that’s both personally as well as professionally. I bounce around a lot and I mean, energetically it’s just I kind of percolate.
NATE REGIER: Well, if listeners could see right now, Blaine, is bouncing around in his chair. Love that enthusiasm and that optimism and that hope that compassion is a mindset. It’s a framework. It’s a way of being that can truly transform how we approach capitalism. You’ve said, “Business is one of the greatest energy sources and it can do amazing things. When we come at it with the right mindset in the right way, it’s incredible as possible.” Blaine, thank you. Thank you, so much. How can people get ahold of you to get below the surface of what we’ve just barely scratched here?
BLAINE BARTLETT: My website is probably the easiest way to get some information about me blainebartlett, one word, blainebartlett.com. I’ve got a bunch of resources and whatnot. Also, the company website Avatar, A-V-A-T-A-R, avatarresources.com. So either one of those will actually come back to me in some way, shape or form. Yeah. Just take advantage. There’s a lot of free resources up there, all kinds of stuff to kind of explore.
NATE REGIER: Well, Blaine, is definitely a person of his word. You will get all kinds of wonderful things that he’s sharing and giving away. We will put those links in the show notes so you can get ahold of, Blaine. Blaine, thanks again, for what you’ve done and what you’re doing in the world, for your enthusiasm and for helping us open our eyes to the opportunity of compassionate capitalism.
BLAINE BARTLETT: Nate, my pleasure. Thank you, for the honor of being your guest today. I greatly appreciate it. I loved this conversation. Great questions.
NATE REGIER: Here are my three key takeaways from a really inspiring conversation with, Blaine Bartlett, about compassionate capitalism. First, nature is a center of distribution, not a center of accumulation. Blaine, got his inspiration for compassionate capitalism from nature. Our current view of capitalistic success is predicated on endless consumption, which is unsustainable and takes us further away from what it means to be truly human on this planet. Nature operates just the opposite, generosity, thriving and interdependence.
Number two, without co-creation all you have is compliance. Unless leaders create movement through co-creation, it will eventually devolve into self-interest. Co-creation transfers ownership and increases the positive stewardship of our resources. Third, the competitive mind is not the creative mind. Rational self-interest is based on a mindset of scarcity and competition. This doesn’t yield the kind of solutions that truly enhance thriving. Instead, the principles of compassionate capitalism guide us to seek solutions that are best for the greater good.