Author, The Happiest Man in the World: Life Lessons from a Cultural Economist
Supposin’ we were to design an economic model based on abundance rather than on scarcity, insufficiency, and lack. What if our new trilogy sounded more like: abundance, choice, and accomplishment? What if we applied our laser focus of intelligence, creativity, and energy on inventing and discovering a world of abundance? What would you imagine that new paradigm would look like?
In 1960, when I was a freshman in college, Dr. Maxwell Maltz published his book, Psycho-Cybernetics, A New Way to get more Living out of Life. He claimed that imagination sets the goal picture that activates and guides our automatic achievement mechanism. You may live your life in a world that does not seem perfect, but the doors of opportunity are not all shut and the new frontiers are not all closed. That strongly held imagination, he felt, can essentially determine what we become, because we begin to take courage to bet on our ideas, calculate the risks, and act on our visions and dreams.
When I first read Maxwell Maltz, I responded by thinking, well sure, how else would anything come about, unless someone would first have an idea, then would become convinced of its possibility, and then would risk what it took to see the idea or dream come to pass? Were that not the case, we would never have heard of pendulum clocks, steam engines, cameras, zippers, Velcro, or peanut butter.
But the scary part of the ordeal is that the person involved ultimately determines what is imagined. You can imagine good things, beautiful things, and things of discovery and abundance, or you can allow yourself to imagine bad things, sad things, and things of scarcity and shortage. Then it is natural to set into motion actions of fulfillment that are consistent with your image.
If you believe all is lack, insufficiency, and shortage, the tendency will be to hoard, covet, and redistribute what someone else has for your own advantage. That kind of focus squelches invention and positive discovery and encourages greed, entitlement, and selfish expansionism. It is a closed economy, a zero sum game, and the person must strategize to take his fair share of what presently exists.
I have come to believe that the doctrine of shortage promotes bondage. The doctrine of abundance promotes freedom. One of the weaknesses of the economic model created by Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Trotsky, was that they saw the wealth of the Czars as a thing . . . a pile of stuff. They figured that if they could get their hands on it they, as the politburo, would be able to distribute it according to their dictates and all would live happily ever after. There was nothing included of growth, investment, positive incentive, rewards, enterprise, discovery, or multiplication of production for sustainability. It never dawned on them that production was wealth and income paid the bills.
Years later, when the pile of stuff –the Czar’s wealth– was all gone there was only one option feasible for sustainability: they continued to become what they had thought about all the time. They resorted to military expansionism where they raped and pillaged their neighbors, like Central Asia, and took their stuff to continue to pay the bills.
Another idea Maxwell Maltz talked about was how our own strongly held self image and imagination will essentially determine what we become. I recall how that line of reasoning struck a note of truth with me, because our dad used to caution his three creative boys by telling us, “be alert, because you will ultimately become what you think about all day long.”
In our home as boys, we were never allowed to say “I can’t.” The shortage thing was not an option. If we used that line as an excuse for not doing what we were told, we were given the opportunity to go no farther with what we were doing until we had gone through the exercise of figuring out ten ways, instead of one way, to make it happen. I remember my brother Bill walking through the house with his shoe flapping. Our dad instructed him to tie his canvas tennis shoe so that the tongue wasn’t flapping and his shoe would stay on properly.
Bill made the mistake of saying he couldn’t because he had lost the long shoe string. Thereupon, the two of them sat down and figured out ten different ways to bind up the shoe to keep the tongue from flapping. They solved the problem by using string, wire, bailing twine, an old piece of electric extension cord, and six other ways to tie the shoe. Then our dad would always end up such a session by telling us that it would be far easier on us if we would simply find one good method to take care of the shortage in the first place, rather that needing to go through the experience of finding out how to solve the problem ten different ways after saying “I can’t.”
I became an ardent believer that our imagination will ultimately determine who we are and what we become. Insufficiency can become a self-fulfilling prophesy.
Next Week: Abundance, Choice, and Accomplishment
(Research ideas from Dr. Jackson’s new writing project on Cultural Economics)
© Dr. James W. Jackson
Permissions granted by Winston-Crown Publishing House
Dr. James W. Jackson often describes himself as "The Happiest Man in the World." A successful businessman, award-winning author and humanitarian, Jackson is also a renowned Cultural Economist and international consultant, helping organizations and governments to apply sound economic principals to the transformation of culture so that everyone is "better off."
As the founder of Project C.U.R.E., Dr. Jackson traveled to more than one hundred fifty countries assessing healthcare facilities, meeting with government leaders and "delivering health and hope" in the form of medical supplies and equipment to the world's most needy people. Literally thousands of people are alive today as a direct result of the tireless efforts of Project C.U.R.E.'s staff, volunteers and Dr. Jackson.