Last Monday evening I made my way to Broadside Bookshop in Northampton, MA to hear Daniel Goleman talk about his new book, A Force for Good. I was very much looking forward to an impassioned reading from the celebrated author of Emotional Intelligence.
What I got instead was a surprising peak into who the Dalai Lama is, and his vision for the world.
Rather than promote his book, Daniel Goleman shared stories about Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama – Buddhist monk, spiritual and political leader of Tibet, refugee, Nobel Peace Prize winner, BBC fanatic. A humble man who has traveled the world sharing wisdom seasoned with impish humor.
But the anecdote that really stuck with me was one that spoke of unbound optimism.
No matter how much trauma the media heaps upon us every day, the Dalai Lama notes, such misery in the world is far outweighed by acts of kindness. If one could place both on an old-style scale, compassion would triumph over cruelty and callousness.
That observation forms the foundation of his optimism. Compassion resides within each and every one of us. The challenge is how to harness it, turn it outward, and take action. It is not enough to feel empathy for those less fortunate, he says. We must each become a force for good.
I love that phrase. A force for good. It’s so powerful and forward-moving, applicable to every aspect of your life. The opposite of complacency and self-interest. It speaks of a brighter future for everyone, everywhere.
Halfway through the book you encounter a chapter called “Economics as if People Mattered” that talks about the B Corp movement and using business as a force for good – a particular passion of mine. Solving the world’s social and environmental problems is a daunting task, yet solutions are entirely within our reach. But only if businesses jump in with both feet, led by or leading consumers.
And I don’t mean dipping a toe in the socially responsible pond. That respectable but entirely inadequate time has passed. The world needs individuals, communities, businesses, investors and institutions to hear the Dalai Lama’s clarion call, recognize the need and opportunity, and turn compassion into action.
That is the vision he shares with us, told through stories of people taking bold steps in the right direction. Prosperity Candle is one of the businesses mentioned, alongside Patagonia, Greystone Bakery, Warby Parker and Ben & Jerry’s… which is very cool.
But what really matters is whether this vision will take root and grow. Change will not happen because of decisions made by governments, the Dalai Lama says. Real change can only take place when we allow our compassion and values to guide our decisions and choices.
“As human beings, equipped with marvelous intelligence and the potential for developing a warm heart, each and every one of us can become a force for good.” – Dalai Lama, February 8, 2015.