Recently I was teaching a webinar for our Radical Brilliance One Year Program. These are a group of professional coaches who have been working together for close to a year to fully embody and master the four quadrants of the brilliance cycle. So they have gone into every aspect of it in great depth.
In this webinar, somebody asked me “Arjuna, if you had to sum up Radical Brilliance in just a couple of sentences, what would you say? What is your elevator pitch?”
I did not have to ponder this very long. It is very simple. As I see it, humanity suffers from one core misconception. It is at the basis of almost everything else. We lead our lives based on the assumption that we will be happier through acquisition: getting more for me. If I could just get more money, get more love from other people, get more power, get more cool stuff, get better health…on and one it goes…then I would be happy. This is the core misunderstanding. The habit of acquisition essentially makes you a beggar. Desire is always based on the underlying assumption that ‘I do not have enough already’. This is why you can accumulate as much money as you want, but it will never feel like enough because the underlying assumption of lack is driving your life.
The opposite of acquisition is contribution. Instead of a black hole endlessly needing something from the outside, you know yourself to be an endless source of giving. It rests in the knowledge that ‘I have enough, I am enough, so I can contribute’. Then your relationships are about giving love, not getting love. Your work becomes about making the world a better place, not just about making money. Your leadership becomes about lifting people up rather than having dominance over them. This is the essence of what Radical Brilliance is about: learning to rest is the source of everything and to allow things to emanate from there.
This is not just a finger snap decision made overnight, it requires recognizing and transforming all of the habits we have accumulated based on craving and the feeling of not enough. When your life shifts from acquisition to contribution at home, things become more loving and playful. When it shifts in your community, you have richer friendships and more sense of connection. It can keep on growing. When the sense of contribution becomes global, then you discover the real potential of being human. We have been very fortunate to work with global leaders in their field applying the principles and practices of Radical Brilliance.
I went to a British boarding school as a boy. It is pretty close to going to prison and is nothing I would want to inflict on anyone else. Every morning the entire school would assemble and the headmaster would give a little speech. One day, I remember he offered us his vision of hell. People were sitting on long benches and about six feet away from them was another long table full of all kinds of delicious food. Each person had in their hands a pair of chopsticks six feet long. They could use the chopsticks to reach the food, but they could not feed themselves. So they stayed eternally hungry. Then he offered us his vision of heaven: the same thing, but now they feed each other.
I have carried that image with me all my life, but honestly, it has taken me most of my years to fill in the blanks. The habit of more for me goes so deep it takes nearly an endless process of retraining to recognize that it is in what we contribute on the largest scale as possible that defines the quality of our lives.
What do you think about this? Have you also discovered the limits of a life of desire and the blessing of a life of contribution?