Episode 14: "It's Not About the Money" - Brent Kessel

Listen Now
RSS: Subscribe
RSS: iTunes

Brent Kessel, author of "It's Not About the Money, offers advise, exercises and new viewpoints for the eco-savy entrepreneur ready to merge spirit and sustainability. In the Part Two Segment, you'll learn how to measure your financial wellness levels, get a dose of inspiration and hear about Troy Lush's, "Now is the Time" - a new inspirational song which may just be the next "We are the World."


"It's Not About the Money" - Brent Kessel

Announcer:  This program is brought to you by personallifemedia.com


Announcer: This is part two of a two-part podcast.  If you would like part one, you will find it at personallifemedia.com.

Meredith Medland:  My name is Meredith Medland and you have tuned in to “Living Green”.  You are listening to part two of the two-part series featuring Brent Kessel.  Brent Kessel is the author of “It's Not About the Money”.

In part one we learned about eight financial archetypes.  Today, in part two, we are going to learn what it means to be living green.  Brent is going to address two particular examples of eco-entrepreneurs, and as you will see, there is a PDF file attached to this podcast that has three exercises that I think will help both you and me in our financial stability.

So here we go.  We are going right into part two.  Thanks so much for listening to “Living Green”.

Brent Kessel:  I'd really like to see Congress override President Bush's most recent veto, the stem cell, federal funding for stem cell research.  I have a personal relationship to this because my elder son has type 1 diabetes and we have been delayed in finding a cure by probably seven years with what this administration's policy has been.  It's just a personal thing and it doesn't make any sense to me given that there are 400,000 embryos sitting in IVF clinics and anyone who is infertile can go and create embryos all day long.  Everyone knows they're not going to become human life but you can use them to save all the lives that are being lost today to Alzheimer's and Parkinson's and diabetes and other diseases.  So, you know it's just infuriating that there is such a philosophical inconsistency that is actually creating suffering.

Brent Kessel:  If it's what we really think serves us the best, what we think we have to do in order to survive, we are not going to just stop doing it.  And so it's the same with eating meat.  I mean you know there are many people that feel they really do need the meat and need the protein in order to feel healthy.  Whether that is true or not or whether we just love the taste of it, there is going to be a strong resistance to any sort of move we make in another direction.  And so what I would say is just expect that.


Meredith Medland:  Welcome back.  My name is Meredith Medland.  We are here with Brent Kessel and Brent agreed to create three outcomes within the next three months.  Brent, what would they be?

Brent Kessel:  Just to clarify for me - I came up with sort of three outcomes I would like to see in the world.  OK.

The first one is I would really like to see Congress override President Bush's most recent veto, the stem cell, federal funding for stem cell research.  I have a personal relationship to this because my elder son has type 1 diabetes and we have been delayed in finding a cure by probably seven years with what this administration's policy has been.  It's just a personal thing and it doesn't make any sense to me given that there are 400,000 embryos sitting in IVF clinics and anyone who is infertile can go and create embryos all day long.  Everyone knows they're not going to become human life but you can use them to save all the lives that are being lost today to Alzheimer's and Parkinson's and diabetes and other diseases.  So, you know it's just infuriating that there is such a philosophical inconsistency that is actually creating suffering.

So I'd love to see that occur in many of the diseases get cured.  Not in 90 days but you know probably within a few years.

The second one is I think we are so close to ending poverty on this planet.  What you did with KIVA, with your small loan is happening in bigger and bigger ways.  We were just the largest investment advisor to ever invest in micro-finance on a global basis and putting quite a few million dollars into it.
And it's happening.  There are Silicon Valley venture capitalists that are doing it.  There are huge investment bankers that are starting to do it.  There is literally hundreds of millions of dollars flowing into that space, specifically to create self-sufficiency for the world's poor.

If I were to predict, I think there won't be poverty on this planet after 2015.  And I tend to be fairly idealistic and optimistic but that's my prediction.  So in 90 days I would just love to see a billion new dollars flow into microcredit.  I think that that's really the wave of the future as opposed to philanthropy.  And these to be combined with philanthropy because there is a lot that microcredit can't do.  But microcredit is a tremendous engine to help people.  People will help themselves 99% of the time if we give them the tools.

And then the last one is I would love to see the majority of the Western world become vegetarian.  I just think there is almost nothing that people can do to have a bigger impact on the environment I believe, than that one choice.  It's a personal choice.  It doesn't require anyone else to do anything.  You don't need a different president.  You don't need a different Congress.  You don't need the oil companies to do something different but when you look at the carbon production and all that from factory farming it’s just phenomenal - the waste runoff into the water system, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.  Not to mention the transport of the animals and the transport of the meat and the refrigeration of it - the environmental cost of it is just staggering.  I don't know the numbers off the top of my head.

And I think it's a wonderful choice.  I mean I have been veggie for a long time and I don't think I enjoy food any less than anyone else I know.  So those would be my three outcomes.

Meredith Medland:  Thank you for that.  So I like this idea of the vegetarianism.  And what I would like you to highlight for us is what are the beliefs and attitudes that you're holding to make those choices?  Does that make sense?

Brent Kessel:  Yeah.  I mean, I think the main belief and attitude really behind all three of my outcomes is that we are all interconnected; you know that all life is really one thing.  And animals are no different.  I believe that the consciousness that is aware in a cow or a chicken or a pig as it is heading to slaughter is almost no different than the consciousness that would be in you or me as we were heading to slaughter.  The fear, the physiology is almost identical.  I mean they have proven that with science.

But it's really for me, it's random in my mind that I ended up in Brent Kessel's body, that I, this consciousness happened to be this 6’1 white American, you know with whatever else is in my life.  I could just as easily have been you.  I could just as easily have been a cow.  I could just as easily have been a starving kid in Zimbabwe.

So how do I want to treat the rest of the life form given that, you know if you look at it just on a physical plane, I could have been it.  You know, this awareness that’s in me could have been in those bodies and if you look at it in a more spiritual way that I am it.  It's not about the physical residence we have taken up for this life.  It's about the actual energy that's inside us and that I really have experienced the real oneness with other life in that.

So, stem cell, poverty and vegetarianism all just really, in my mind take a step towards affirming that truth.

Meredith Medland:  When we talked about what your eco-requests would be for our listeners, you mentioned that one of the things you would really love is to have them take on eating vegetarian at least six days a week.

So as you go back into viewing both your own transition around going into vegetarianism or your friends or other people that you have helped through that process, what are some of the things that you can highlight for our listeners if they would like to take that on?

Brent Kessel:  Mine was very young.  So it's hard to talk about mine because it was just one choice and I never really looked back.  But for friends and family members that have made the choice later, I think to know that there will be a strong resistance.  And this is true of any change.  If you are an idealist in the archetype system we just talked about and you want to balance yourself out by having a little more saver in you or a little more caretaker in you, your idealist is not going to just give up and roll over because we have created these archetypes unconsciously because it's the most intelligent response to life.  It's what serves us the best.

If it's what we really think serves us the best, what we think we have to do in order to survive, we are not going to just stop doing it.  And so it's the same with eating meat.  I mean you know there are many people that feel they really do need the meat and need the protein in order to feel healthy.  Whether that is true or not or whether we just love the taste of it, there is going to be a strong resistance to any sort of move we make in another direction.  And so what I would say is just expect that and engage that in a conversation that is not confrontational.

When people try and change financial archetypes, I really encourage a conversation between the inner four-year-old, the unconscious young, young place inside us that has latched onto these sets of beliefs and strategies to feel safe with money or feel happy and the adult wisdom that says, “God, I don't need to do that anymore.  It's just silly.  I don't need a fifth coat in my closet or I don't need a nice car.  My car is just fine.”

So that's the adult wisdom.  But until we engage the sort of very young, unconscious place - and by engage I mean open arms, I want to hear what you have to say, really. So to the meat eating part  - you wanted that example - tell me what you have to say.  Tell me what you really feel is helpful or better about me continuing to eat meat.  And I will listen.  I want to let you in.

So they come to some kind of agreement where you really are holding both perspectives at one time, not rejecting one.

Meredith Medland:  Thank you.  Thank you so much for that.  And I would say, of course being the founder of three outcomes that if you can create three outcomes around your relationship to food and stick them up around you and create them up with a positive tone that you can focus on anything for three months.  It will become true if you are realistic about it.

So I definitely agree with you.  We are coming up to the end of our show.  And if you could leave a legacy, what would that legacy be?

Brent Kessel:  I have a very strong emotional relationship to hunger.  I don't know what it's from.  I have never been hungry in my life other than my mother tells me the first few weeks of my life I seemed to have trouble latching on or keeping food down. 

But I don't know.  I grew up in South Africa the first 10 years of my life.  And I think just seeing the inequity of that culture under apartheid created some of this.  The legacy I would want to leave is that no one is hungry on the planet.  Yet I am very much a part of the business world and of the capitalist world and many of your listeners would probably feel like, well those are at odds.  You can't have both.  It's people like you who want to invest in these companies who are for-profit and creating inequities of wealth that keep the hungry people starving.

I don't believe that as a general rule.  There certainly are examples of it, very painful examples of it where people with money have taken terrible advantage of those without.  But my belief is that if we use the financial system both philanthropically and through microcredit and through investing in this very widespread interconnected way to use our capital to actually create self-sufficiency for people, they will end their own hunger.  I would love to be - it won't be my legacy but I would love to be a part of that legacy in my lifetime.

Meredith Medland:  Well, I think that you already are.  Before we close up our show, I am going to give you two specific examples of some friends of mine I know in the green space that are looking at their relationship to money and making big projects.

Actually next week in our next episode one of them is going to be on the show.  So the first example is that there is a new song out called “Now Is The Time”.  You can go to www.pollennation.org and learn about it.  It was written by a man named Troy Lush who is going to be on our show next week.  And his dream is to have “Now Is The Time” be the next “We Are The World” for this new green movement.  And in fact, Ralph Symons who is associated with Al Gore's Live Earth Conference on July 7 is actually looking for a song that is going to be the next “We Are The World”.

So Troy's hope is that that happens.  He was at Digital Hollywood about two weeks ago here in LA and played the song and has had lots of people hear it.  I believe the Dalai Lama he played it for.  So it's definitely in action and they have a whole choir around it.  Troy is an amazing man.  He lives in Solstice Grove up in western Marin, which is a beautiful community center that is really, really green.  We're not talking just organic fabrics here and there, but they've got the compost pile and the houses and a truly sustainable community.

So one of the things that I would love you to incorporate in your kind of closing comments is how the investment that Troy needs to make in moving that song forward, how his relationship to money can be assisted in that process.  It's not like he has millions of dollars to go and invest in the song.  It's got to be sort of a grassroots movement.  So that is situation A.

And situation B is another friend of mine who I know a little bit better, is in the process of starting a Costa Rica eco-Academy.  His vision is to take Socrates and Plato along with all the actual doing of organic farming and the back to the basics kind of on the ground activities and combine that in a retreat form for adults and for their children and incorporate martial arts and yoga so that executives come there for a retreat and get of all that.  He is anticipating that in five to 10 years, the amount of connectivity that we'll be accustomed to because of the growing digital environment, we'll need to actually unplug and go to Costa Rica to do that in a retreat form.  That's his vision.

It's a little bit different than Troy's but what similar between the two of them is specifically in the second example, this man had an incident with money where he loaned $30,000 to his parents.  It didn't get repaid on time and it was kind of messy.  Tech guy kind of went into spiritual life.

So a lot of the messaging that he has is, “I don't have the money” or “I don't have any money” or “How am I going to get ahead” or “I'm doing a tech gig making 60 grand a year and I've got options and all I want is this dream.  If somebody would just give me 10 grand, everything would change.  My whole world would be different and my vision would manifest”.

My sense is, although I haven't spoken to Troy about it directly, that what is true for both of them is if they just had a certain amount of money, everything would be OK.  And I would love for you to wrap up our show today, and take as much time as you wish, inspiring and giving both actions and activities for gentlemen like this or our listeners who are really making progress in the movement but are stuck because of their relationship to money.

Brent Kessel:  Those are great, great, great examples.  So, wow, there is a lot to say.  I think first, I just want to come back to your – “If I only had this” - whether it's money or if we only had no more cars on the roads or “if only . . .” Just that whole line of thinking is the mantra of the mind.  That is what the mind does. 

Anyone who has sat still for even half an hour in silence and paid attention to what the content of the thoughts is, that's every single thought that ever comes up is one level “I want to change this, I want to change that and then I'll be something.  I'll suffer less.  I'll be happier.  This person will be nicer to me.”  But if you dig down deep enough at the bottom it is always “I'll survive and be happy”. 

And so to really inquire into that, to really inquire into the truth of it first of all and to know, in the case of these guys and in my case and in everyone's case that we can't know for sure.  All we can know is that what is happening in this moment is happening and that what has happened, has happened.  We can't know that if this song “Now Is The Time” becomes the next “We Are The World” that that will be a good thing.  It might.  But it might not.

So there is a certain amount of surrender or that I have found tremendously helps in getting big visions to manifest.  I think the more we are tightfisted, white knuckled, gripped on the steering wheel about “I know how it is supposed to be.  I'm going to make it happen with effort, will and manipulation if I have to” the less likely it is to happen.  Because first of all, most other human beings are not very attracted to that energy.  It's kind of a repulsive energy. 

So if you just want to look at it very practically, these guys need to attract investors or partners and you want to have an energy that is attractive to other human beings.  So that's just getting out of the spiritual and into just sort of the psychodynamic of it or the interpersonal of it.  But again, in my experience with building two businesses and with the philanthropy I have been involved in and just in seeing clients and the different ways different kinds of clients manifest things, I believe that it's that sort of underlying assumption of, you know God's will for lack of a better term. 

I mean that's sort of an overly religious term but just use the Byron Katie sort of languaging and questions of “can I absolutely know for certain that it is supposed to be the way my mind tells me it is supposed to be?”  And anyone who is honest in that inquiry will come to the place, “No, I can't know it because I'm just a thought.  I'm just a stream of thoughts.  There's nothing really special about it.”

And then I think there is a let go.  And that let go allows a lot of creativity to happen.  As I have said before it allows other people to be more attracted to your vision.

So now I will step more into my financial planning shoes, which is where my profession is in and may be the only thing I am actually qualified to speak about, which is businesses do much, much better if they rely on other people's money.  Even if one of your listeners has a $5 million trust fund and they want to open an eco-retreat in some other country, I would advise them not to use their own money to fund the entire thing.

The reason is when you rely on using other people's money, you have to get communal and you have to make sure that the business concept is well thought through because other investors will ask you questions that you have neglected to ask yourself.  And they will make you look at competition in a different light.  They will make you look at barriers to entry for future competition.  They will, just on an environmental scale, ask you questions about “Why are you going to construct this with straw baleage?  It should really be constructed with blah, blah because that's less of an impact.”

So again, the theme of this whole show has been that I am into interconnectedness.  And when you're trying to raise money for your project or your dream, be interconnected about it.  And invite other people's capital to help make the dream a reality for you.

So with the gentlemen Troy who wants the song to do very well, again, you know I wouldn't go and cut a demo of the song with my own money or my parent’s money or whoever, I would do what you have to do at a bare minimum to have something to get other people attracted.  But as soon as you can, start testing it out on people and don't know how it is supposed to turn out.  I haven't heard the song.  I mean if he plays a song for a bunch of people and it just doesn't really light things up in people then it's not going to serve the planet for it to be the next “We Are The World”.  You know, there might be a better song.  So just have that spirit and allow life to unfold as it unfolds not as you think it should unfold.

Meredith Medland:  What about the second example with the Costa Rica Academy - any homework assignments?

Brand Kessel:  On a practical level look at other business plans.  Go to a spa industry conference or a hotel industry conference and learn what the metrics really are in that business.  What are average daily room rates?  What are construction costs?  How often do you have to remodel?  I mean the hotel industry is unbelievable.  They remodel the interior rooms every five years or something.  It's just really, really frequent and really capital intensive.

So what is it going to look like in an eco-resort?  Does that mean you just let yours become sort of antiquated and then competition will spring up and be more attractive?  Or is there a form of refreshing and rejuvenating that one can do in an eco-sensitive way?

So answering all those questions, knowing how to do the actual financial projections - it's all well and good to say we are going to have to unplug in order to be ecologically plugged in in a few years, but will people actually do it and how much will they pay to do it?  Are you flying them down on jets and does that defeat the whole purpose of whatever you are doing in the resort or not? 

You know, again I'm not just trying to play devil's advocate.  I'm saying answer these questions ahead of time so that when you go to your best possible investor, they can tell you have thought through a lot of things.  Any way you will get these questions even posed is by inviting other people into the process sooner than later.

Meredith Medland:  Thank you.  I think that's really valuable information.  Most of the circles that I have been in when I have been doing interviews that are lohos or green related, people have come together just like you said to create projects together.  But there hasn't necessarily - there has been an investment of energy but not necessarily an investment of lots of money.

And that interconnectedness and circular feeling and love and “Yay!” and all that, I can understand now how getting a whole board of investors would be even more beneficial for the movement.  So I love that from you.

We are about to wrap up our show.  For text and transcripts of this show and other shows on the www.personallifemedia.com network, you are welcome to look at the episode page.  You can go to www.personallifemedia.com.

Next week, as I said, Troy Lush, who wrote this great song “Now Is The Time” is going to be speaking with us and we will also probably get a chance to talk to his partner.  I just want to give a real call out to all our listeners and say thank you.  We were voted in the top 100 podcasts in iTunes during the second week of June 2007.  And that is in the top hundred out of 85,000. 

So I appreciate your listening and you can also check out my blog on “Living Green”, which is really just short descriptions of my predictions, one paragraph at a time, just giving you links to things that people send to me or that I find of interest or snippets from interviews I have had with Al Gore or Jack Johnson, all sorts of stuff.  So check that out.

So Brent, before I let you go, first of all thank you so much for all your time today.  Can you give us a few of the exercises that are going to be coming out in your book in January 2008 before we go?  Would you give us a few samples?

Brent Kessel:  Sure.  I wasn't prepared for the question so I'll have to just think on my feet for a minute.  Many of the questions are specific to the archetypes.  But one that I would say is really quite universal is what is your version of ‘if only. . .”?  What is your personal utopian vision with money?  It might be that there is no financial system in the world, that everything is barter and trade.  Or it might be that you have got $1 million.  Or it might be that - what's your kind of, “If only this would happen.  If only these changes would occur.  If only my relationship to money looked like this then I would be happy, then I would be fulfilled, then life would be good.”

Journal about that for little while and really let that voice out.  Because my guess is that it's got a lot to do with - how to say this - with why you are not there.  It's that craving, that sort of wanting mind, grasping for something that is not already present that is the very thing in the way of experiencing abundance and experiencing the flow that we actually yearn to experience right now in the present moment.  So that's one.

For most people there is a wanting impulse that occurs.  So for many people in America it's about buying something.  It's a pleasure-seeking sort of spending impulse.  And often people are saying, “Well how do I - I can't change it.  We've got to buy things living in this culture.”  So it's gray.  You can't just say, all right, moratorium on buying.

But what I would say is in the next 24 hours see if you can resist just one wanting impulse and then write about it.  What does it feel like to walk past the store after you have seen the thing that you really want to buy or a contribution that you want to make to a charity or helping a friend in need?  Just some wanting impulse - buying a latté - it could be anything trivial or profound.

But the more important thing is what part of you, what is the inner experience of avoiding the wanting impulse?  I interviewed about 24 spiritual and financial teachers and leaders for this book.  One of them said there will actually be a wall of grief of which you will be aware inside you.  It may be very suppressed.  But if you pay close attention, not following any wanting impulse brings up grief and fear and sort of a ‘I might be annihilated’ kind of tremble because that's all that wanting it is.  The mind exists to want to supposedly make us safe and secure and happy.

If you want to be free of that, you have got to inquire into whether it is actually working or not.

Meredith Medland:  Thank you so much branch.  It was great to have you on the show today.  Just a reminder that “Living Green” is all about effortless ecology for everyday people.  And the reason we put that together is because when you get a sample into the attitudes and beliefs and behaviors of people who are living green, what I believe is that you naturally evolve just by listening and hearing and getting a deeper sense of intimacy.

So Brent, thank you for sharing that intimacy with you and I will definitely send our listeners to your episode page so that they can learn more about you and what you do.  Thanks so much for joining us.

Brent Kessel:  Thank you so much for having me.  It has been a lot of fun.  I have enjoyed your questions.  They are different and I can tell your listeners are different too.  I think this group can make a huge, huge difference in the world and I'm just trying to help folks have more fun along the way.


Meredith Medland:  Sounds good.  Thanks so much.  Stay tuned next week.  We put out episodes once every seven days.  And you will be listing to Troy Lush, learning about eco-sustainable communities, green MBAs and you will get a quick listen to “Now Is The Time” and you can see what your thoughts are on that.

Thanks again.  My name is Meredith Medland and you are listening to “Living Green”.


Announcer:  Find more great shows like this on PersonalLifeMedia.com


Announcer:  And now please enjoy this entertaining clip “Recyclable Comedy” from our sponsor Plenty Magazine – www.plentymag.com.
Man:  Welcome to the audio history of the 21st century.  Chapter 7 - bottled water.  In the late 20th and early 21st century, that is to say 200 years ago, the industrialized world developed a mysterious penchant for purchasing their drinking water in tiny plastic bottles instead of just drinking out of the tap.  It's not that tap water was necessarily foul.  In most places in the United States, it was very clean indeed, sometimes held to higher standards than some bottled fluids.

Nonetheless people began buying cases of the stuff at their local Sam's Club and Costco and swearing that they could taste some sort of difference.  Professor Averill Michelson explains.

Professor, why did people in the 20th and 21st centuries start buying their water in middle bottles?

Professor Averill Michelson:  I do not know.  I am a professor of Spanish.  Por que esta usted en la officina mia? That means, “What are you doing in my office?”  Repeta.  Por que esta usted en la officina mia?

Man:  The craze eventually depleted source streams for the water, which is why Poland no longer has a spring.  It also cost more energy to bottle the water and transport it on a truck than it did to shoot it into your home in a pipe.  But most important of all, it resulted in many, many empty plastic bottles, which were eventually melted together to form “Ocica”, the world's only man-made continent and the only landmass that does not erode.

Man:  Welcome to our island paradise.  Please partake of our native cuisine, imported processed cheese.

Man:  And then, in the year 2042, the bottled water craze vanished as mysteriously as it first appeared.  Now we no longer purchase water in little plastic bottles, though we do buy sunlight in large paper straws.

Announcer:  For more recyclable comedy go to www.plentymag.com.