A Stream of Meaningfulness – Guest Post by Yu Du and Orlando Fernando

A Dialogue between Yu Du and Orlando Fernando

Yu and Orlando are the co-leaders of the Meaningfulness Movement. This dialogue was one of their many discussions that led to start of the movement.

The Essence

Orlando: Our search for meaning is not a luxury but a duty. For me, meaning is the substance of our joy and the expression of our power. We experience our humanity through meaning. We are the creator and inventor of our meaning; it’s a free choice, not an accident.

Yu: You are spot on about the essence of meaningfulness. We are the creator of our inner and outer worlds. Meaningfulness starts from the moment that we truly recognise the power within us and commit to take full responsibility for our life.

I’m struck by the fact that so many people are disengaged at work and feel unfulfilled in their lives. The crisis of meaning is spreading fast in our modern western society when we seem to have more freedom to define meanings than our ancestors. But why? I think one of the reasons is because we— as a society—have lost the ability to tap into the power of practical wisdom, which was one of the main functions of ancient philosophy.

Philosophy

O: Until the middle of the nineteenth century, philosophy was meant to help us. But then it deserted us. Philosophy no longer integrates knowledge and wisdom, and it’s become the servant of science and logic. Contemporary philosophers are busy writing articles aimed solely at academia. That exercise, however, lacks the power to offer any help toward the crisis.

Y: The failure of contemporary philosophy has prompted individuals to take more responsibilities for themselves: to think deeply and critically about their lives. We acquire wisdom through self-inquiry, through vigorous practice, through expansion of our awareness, through our intentions. That’s the ultimate source of meaningfulness. Earlier on we talked about the importance of recognition of our true power to create meanings. How do we start?

The first step: how not why

O: That depends on who we are and where we are at. One possibility is to find something that has meaning now, or that used to have meaning, and then ask the question of how it has or had meaning.

Not why, but how! Meaning is not a thing or object; it’s a process and a flow. The important thing is not to ask typical questions to “analyse” it, but to try to catch our mind in the process of creating. That’s the first step.

Y: The question of “how” is often overlooked. Some people assume that meaning is somehow hidden, and if we are lucky, it might show up and talk to us. However, if we look very carefully, and trace back to where the meaning was started, clearly it’s not from anywhere else: we are the creator of that meaning. So “how” is the first step to understand the way in which we make meaning, and to realise from our first-hand experience that we as individuals create meaning, no one else. With just this simple realisation, I believe we can create a big shift in many aspects of our lives.

O: Agree. I want to stress the point that meaning is a process. We need to “catch” the mind at the beginning of its creation, and be fully conscious of its dynamism and flow. Meaning is also about taking responsibility and learning how to do it better with greater sense of deliberation. It’s not just being mindful, much more than that.

Meaningfulness and Mindfulness

Y: Interesting that you mention about mindfulness! Mindfulness is about the expansion of our awareness. There is this misperception that “being aware” is enough. Well, I disagree. “Being aware” is just the starting point, and it doesn’t lead to change automatically; only when reflective awareness also takes place and we consciously make the choice to take action, then we see the real shift occurring. I think that’s the power of meaningfulness: it’s a complete process to truly express our creativity.

O: Yes! That’s a crucial point: meaningfulness is about creativity. It is not just observation, but also doing, changing, improving with enthusiasm and joy.

Meditation

Y: By no means is this an easy process. It requires tremendous patience, enthusiasm and consistent practise. I remember we talked in length about developing practical tools to help people in this process. I know you have been working on creating a meditation practise lately.

O: Meditation has become such a buzzword; it’s everywhere, but lots of people only understand it on a superficial level. Meditation is a state of consciousness. There is no better or worse form of meditation. In fact, every moment of our existence is an opportunity to become aware of the fact that we are in a meditative state. The skill of meditation is to direct the power of the mind in a chosen direction, or an object, or a condition.

“Meaningfulness Meditation” is a guided meditation with seven steps. It is designed to help people to enter into a meditative state by concentrating on meaning through the process of thought construction. By tapping into the power of the mind while in a state of concentration, insights and wisdom emerge, and it’s a very empowering experience.

 

Yu Du futureproofYu Du and Orlando Fernando started the Meaningfulness Movement to create a community with a mission: to create and live meaningful lives. They plan to grow the community through discussions, workshops, events, retreats, tears, laughter, silence and much more.

How would you qualify the disruption of Meaningfulness? Why? Guest post by Doug Hewett

Post financial crisis, a new set of global expectations have emerged – that brands and business are not just responsible, but meaningful too. What does that mean? That a new generation are holding organisations to account for their authenticity, transparency, and their purpose.

For consumers this means voting with their ever decreasing disposable income – every pound, dollar, ruble or yen spent says something about the world they want to see, the companies they want to succeed and win. It’s no longer enough that your product is high quality, or that your store staff provide a great service…if you don’t pay your taxes and operate ethically as a business, they will destroy your brand and reputation in realtime with 140 characters.

Starbucks, Google, Uber and others are just some of the many of the high profile brands that have been attacked for their approach to tax. In the case of Starbucks, a leak exposing their tax avoidance led to a downturn in sales – something that opened the door for smaller independent coffee shops to capitalise on (with handmade window signs proudly proclaiming ‘we pay our tax’ – which were very publicly shared on Twitter and Instagram).

A greater transparency through social media and digital has brought company cultures into even sharper focus too. Where before decisions about supply chains and third party partners was something hidden from view, today’s socially conscious super-consumer bases their purchase decisions on factors such as ethically sourced materials, fair working policies in third world countries, and the philosophy of the CEO.

All this means that authentic brands win, and those without meaning and purpose fall further behind. Companies can’t fake it anymore.

If generational insight is anything to go by, we are looking at a tidal wave in terms of mindset – with consumers and employees increasingly placing meaning and purpose above financial gain. This shift will mean that social currency and personal reputation becoming even more significant drivers behind decision making, especially at an individual level.

Never before have the choices we make been so visible to all – which is why people are taking their decisions so seriously. Not just because it helps others, but because it says so much about ourselves.

From a brand or company’s perspective, what needs to be done to take advantage of it? 

The path to becoming a meaningful brand involves three key areas of consideration:

  1. Create a brand proposition that’s built on a clear purpose – align your business strategy with your brand strategy, driving profit and success through purpose and meaning. It will differentiate your company from the competition, and also build value and equity that sits on your balance sheet as an intangible asset. Use brand as a filter and guide for everything you do – shape all business decision-making around it and build a set of principles that guide global consistency, but allow for hyper-local flexibility.
  2. Embed that across your internal culture and ways of working– clarify and revisit your brand values, ensuring that they are more than words on a page. To truly make an impact your values need to be lived behaviours that are embedded into your performance framework and ways of working. Define your culture, how you work, and the unique mindset of the people you want to attract and retain. Analyse every part of your supply chain and partnerships – they are an extension of your business and by that token you are endorsing their working practices, so ensure they are brand friends that you value and trust with upholding the same high level of purpose.
  3. Activate that across your service experience – revisit and redraw your approach to service experience, considering how best to add meaning and purpose across every single touchpoint with customers or clients. Once the internal culture and ways of working are ‘lived’ then this approach will allow all that good work to surface – showcasing a genuine and authentic brand that lives by what it says. Become the keeper of promises and build a stronger brand through opening up to your customers and employees as a transparent leader with nothing to hide.

What are some of the risks and opportunities? 

The landscape of every industry is being turned upside-down by disruptive new challengers, and factors such as the rise of AI (artificial intelligence) will only magnify this impact in the near future. The real risk is not doing anything at all – so if you’re standing still you’re falling behind fast.

Being a meaningful brand drives success – it connects customers and employees to a clear purpose they can connect with, drives ethical behaviours that gain respect and trust, and ultimately keeps its promises to drive loyalty and growth.

The era of illusion is over, the most successful brands of tomorrow will be those with meaning and authenticity. It’s a race against time for businesses to respond quickly enough to consumer and employee expectations. The quicker you move, the bigger your advantage will be.

Doug Hewett futureroof MeaningfulnessDoug Hewett, Founder, People-Made

You can find Doug @doughewett on Twitter