Economic Resilience

8. Redefine “Success”

In the past, “success” has been defined by things we can count: our bank accounts, accumulated possessions, number of offspring, the square footage of our houses. It has been defined by fame, power, busy-ness and packed calendars.

Our conventional economic system is broken because it defined “success” so narrowly, in terms of dollars, profit and growth. “The economy” is the sum total of transactions between people. And people’s lives and experiences are about much more than just dollars, profit and growth.

Entire books have been written about redefining “success” – beautiful, poetic, and heart-touching books. As this is not my strong point and this job has already been so well done, I defer to those whose work I have admired:

  • Dave Wann, Simple Prosperity
  • Cecile Andrews, Less is More. (See my review)

What if we substituted the word “success” for Andrews’ word “simplicity” in this excerpt:

“[Success] is about much more than … money. Ultimately, [success] is asking yourself: “How do I really want to live? What truly makes me happy? What are my actions doing to the planet? How does my lifestyle contribute to the greater good?” Ultimately [success] is about knowing who you are, being clear about your values, understanding what brings true well-being. It’s cutting through the commercial static of manipulation and deceit that says that the consumer society is the good life. Ultimately, it’s about discernment and deliberation.”

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A successful new economy would include:


  • NEF concept of The Great Revaluing (Part II)
  • Tim Jackson’s concept of “Changing social logic,” pages143, 147 of Prosperity Without Growth
  • Asset redistribution – Holmgren asset ownership

Giving people a voice

  • NEF concept of The Great Redistribution, giving people a voice (Part II)
  • “People skills” like Open Space, World Café, Fishbowl, etc. – see Transition ingredient “Community Brainstorming Tools

Honoring Empathy

  • The “connecting” part of our psyche
  • Tim Jackson’s TED talk. His 4 quadrants concept, including “other-regarding behavior”
  • Jeremy Rifkin, “The Empathic Civilization,” YouTube We are actually softwired not for aggression, violence, self-interest, utilitarianism, but for sociability, attachment, affection, companionship. The drive to belong. Thinking of the human race as fellow sojourners, other creatures, the biosphere.

Lifestyle pace

  • Rethink your concept of Time:

“There is an appropriate velocity for water set by geology, soils, vegetation and ecological relationships in a given landscape. There is an appropriate velocity for money that corresponds to long-term needs of communities rooted in particular places and to the necessity of preserving ecological capital. There is an appropriate velocity for information, set by the assimilative capacity of the mind and by the collective learning rate of communities and entire societies. Having exceeded the speed limits, we are vulnerable to ecological degradation, economic arrangements that are unjust and unsustainable, and, in the face of great and complex problems, to befuddlement that comes with information overload.” — David Orr


  • Slow movement, “Tempo Giusto”
  • Rather than leisure, reskill. Find your bliss within the skills of self-sufficiency, of a powerdown future
  • Study – learn about what is happening to our world, and more importantly, What We Can Do about it.
  • Volunteer. Get in action, helping to build local resilience. …
  • Carl Honore, “Finding the Tempo Giusto” chapter from In Praise of Slowness: Challenging the Cult of Speed
  • Slow Money –

Local eco-literacy

  • Norbert-Hodges: rethinking education (Part II)
  • Jeanette Armstrong, “Sharing One Skin,” as printed in The Case Against the Global Economy and For a Turn Toward the Local, Jerry Mander, ed. (1996). Portions of this essay are online: portion of part I, edited selections from part II – locate the physical book for the full beauty of this piece.

Other tools

  • Helena Norberg-Hodge, “The Economics of Happiness”
  • Nine Tools for a Happier Society
  • Barbara Sher, Live the Life You Love

The plain fact is that the planet does not need more successful people. But it does desperately need more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers of every kind. It needs people who live well in their places. It needs people of moral courage willing to join the fight to make the world habitable and humane. And these qualities have little to do with success as we have defined it.
– David Orr, as quoted by David Wann

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