Part I Introduction:
A religion of mere emotion and sensationalism is the most terrible of all curses that can come upon any people. The absence of reality is sad enough, but the aggravation of pretense is a deadly sin. (Samuel Chadwick, 1860--1932)
Interruption and Innovation
Three stories. Three companies. Same results.
The Internet was relatively new. People understood shopping only as a brick-and- mortar experience. You went, you found, you bought, and you took home. Enter Amazon. You could order anything from baby wipes to books and never get out of your pajamas--a one-stop shop in the palm of your hand. Then the products showed up at your door. Retail faced disruption. The way we view purchasing products and services was changed forever.
Over many decades, the music industry made countless millionaires. People involved in this business led charmed lives. But as new technology began to take hold, free Internet file sharing started hurting the record labels. Enter Apple. You could buy the digital download of one single song and didn't have to purchase an album. No inventory. Disruption had come to a long-static industry, bringing transformation along kicking and screaming. The way we purchase and access music was changed forever.
Since the automobile became the norm in the world of transportation, the taxicab had a monopoly on pay-per-ride service in any city. For many decades, no other option was even considered. Not even carpooling or ridesharing caught on culturally. Enter Uber. Ordinary people turned their private cars into public cabs. A long-standing monopoly was challenged. Those in major cities who would never set foot in a cab now accessed the Uber app each day. The transportation industry was changed forever.
Disruptive innovation is a term coined by Clayton Christensen to describe the process by which a product or service takes root, initially in simple applications at the bottom of a market, providing less-than-ideal solutions, and then relentlessly moving up the value chain, eventually displacing established competitors.
Today, disruption in the market has become commonplace. As consumers, we now expect these shake-ups. We anticipate them and want them to take place, because we have come to believe that disruptions in the delivery of products and services ultimately make our lives better. The disruptors of commerce are the entities that forever:
- Challenge the status quo
- Change their industries
- Champion a new trail for the world to follow
Disruption displaces and replaces the old with the new, starting as insignificant change, becoming significant, and finally dominating. Whether you are a financier or a farmer, on welfare or on Wall Street, living in the First World or the Third World or in between, you are experiencing the impact of global economic disruption.
As a serial entrepreneur seeking to thrive in this environment, I continually recognize that if my businesses are not moving forward, they are slipping backward. Like a plant that is either growing or dying, a business has no safe and static position--ever. There is no possibility of hibernation in the business world. Over the past fifteen years, my business partners and I have consistently made strategic decisions that have allowed our company to grow globally amid epic changes in the world's commerce. The next decade will see a radical transformation in every area of life on a scale unmatched throughout the last century. Progress in all fields will be rapid and phenomenal. We are living in an exciting time!
But what about the pioneers who blaze the trail and drive the demand, and the people who take advantage of this innovation in commerce? A deep chasm is rapidly developing. Even as we have grown accustomed to market disruption and tremendous economic growth, we have developed a systemic personal identity problem. We know what we do and we know what we have, but we do not know who we are, because we define ourselves by what we do and what we have.
While we have been extremely successful at innovation, we have also failed by allowing our products, services, and achievements to define our personal identities. We have been amazing at producing disruption in the marketplace but have become enslaved to our own creations.
Since the first people walked the earth, human beings have demanded an answer to the question of personal identity. We all ask, "Who am I?" and typically answer philosophically in the mind and materially in terms of the body. Therefore, we live in a time when we define ourselves by:
- What we do
- What we think
- What we believe
- How we feel
- What we possess
- Where we live
- What others do
- What others think of us
Today, most people define their identities by a mix of all these factors. The number of "likes," "shares," and "followers" is progressively becoming the prime driver of personal identity.
There is nothing wrong with achievement and all of its implications because this can bring rich meaning to life. Self-expression through success can create a beautiful painting of humanity. However, we seem to have forgotten that the painting does not define the painter but merely expresses the painter. Consider these deep inner dilemmas:
- If I define myself by what I do, what if I lose that position or my ability to perform?
- If I define myself by how I feel, what if my frame of mind markedly changes?
- If I define myself by what I possess, what if I lose my resources and must give up
- what I own?
- If I define myself by where I live, what if I must relocate or a natural disaster
- displaces me?
- If I define myself by what others think of me, what if the people in my circle
- constantly disapprove of or disagree with me?
All these definitions of identification revolve around variables that too easily change and therefore constantly redefine who we are. But a dog is not a dog because it barks; instead, it barks because it is a dog. External variables do not define an internal constant, but an internal constant defines all external variables.
Our definitions of personal identity have progressively and subconsciously become so restricted by doing, feeling, possessing, and other extrinsic expressions that we have lost the intrinsic understanding of who we are. Foundational lines that separate our actions and feelings from our inner beings have been blurred.
So what does this discussion of disruption in the marketplace have to do with our twenty-first-century identity crisis? Everything!
The Cosmic Vacuum
While our world constantly changes around us, we stay the same, mired in our internal emptiness; the greater the external progression, the greater the internal regression.
What is the point of technological and economic progress if we do not know how to live at peace with ourselves and in community with one another? We have the greatest invisible technology networks in history connecting us but are visibly divided like never before. We are united through the Internet yet separated by skin color, abstract beliefs of religion, and geographical loyalties. What a paradox! Is this really the life we dreamed of and want to leave as a legacy to the next generation?
When we work and achieve all we want but are still empty inside, we think new things, relationships, and substances will make us happy, but when our expectations are not met, this creates conflict and disappointment. In extreme cases, the resulting imbalances in the brain can lead to all sorts of physical and mental abuse.
We have one group of people who have achieved possession and fame. The people who have "made it" realize their celebrity and success will not fill the inner cosmic vacuum. This is one of the most horrifying feelings--to have everything a human being could need physically and intellectually but still have an inner sense of emptiness that words cannot express. The greatest pain for an individual is not the lack of things, but the lack of inner peace in the midst of wealth and fame. Inner conflict in the midst of intellectual and physical abundance is a suffering that humanity is not wired to handle.
Then there is the group desperately trying to either mimic or reach the level of the "rich and famous," thinking it is the things and possessions of life that bring true satisfaction. Such is the paradox of life.
The cosmic vacuum in an individual is that sense of inner emptiness irrespective of wealth or poverty; the conscious awareness that "there must be more to life than this."
The many celebrities who die tragically despite wealth and fame show the depth of our society's problems. Those who bring great joy, laughter, and inspiration to millions cry out desperately on the inside--depressed, isolated, and alone. This is the life of far too many today.
We have everything we need on the outside but are bankrupt on the inside. We wear the finest clothing and have the latest devices, all the while feeling naked and empty. We eat and drink to excess but starve and thirst on the inside.
The common denominator that binds all humanity together--rich or poor, young or old--is the emptiness that haunts us when we are alone. We are the only beings on earth that can be desperately lonely in the midst of a crowd. We long for authentic relationships, so we work for more "likes" and "followers" to fill the cosmic black hole inside us.
We all chase mirages as we grow up. We start by saying, "If only I was in middle school." Then, once in middle school, the vicious cycle continues as we lament:
- If only I was in high school
- If only I was in college
- If only I had a boyfriend or girlfriend
- If only I had a great job
- If only I had a home
- If only I had a bigger home
- If only I had fame and success
- If only I had significance
We chase this illusion of "if only" our entire lives, never realizing when we finally reach our mythical goal that the mirage has moved ahead to the next spot. We might well end our lives by saying, "If only I hadn't chased the 'if onlys!"
This aspect of human behavior creates a divided life.
Picture a waffle. Imagine the grid of perfect squares--five up and four across, twenty total. You want to pour syrup onto your waffle, but you want to keep the compartments separate--nothing touching or intermingling. So you try to pour the syrup into each tiny square without any overflow. How hard would that be? How tricky would controlling the flow be? How difficult and time consuming would it be to pour syrup onto a waffle this way?
While this may sound ridiculous, many of us do the same thing with our lives, filling the compartments one at a time and working to keep them all separate.
We human beings have the unique ability to mask our internal reality with a very different external appearance, but we are still left with an emptiness and longing to bridge the gap between who we truly are and who we portray ourselves to be.
The public sees a businessman wearing Armani suits, driving a Mercedes, eating at five-star restaurants, and living in a mansion, but his personal life is bankrupt.
A beautiful fashion model, adored by millions, suffers from low self-esteem and is constantly fighting on the inside to maintain her external image. Women want to "be her," but she wants to become someone else. The public perception is not at all an accurate reflection of her true inner state.
We may think that what we possess allows for a powerful identity. However, all of our actions, possessions, and achievements put together will not satisfy our innermost desire for something more.
Our culture breeds the illusion that life's trappings are enough. No wonder this illusion influences our belief systems so strongly.
Wrestling with Religion
Our technology and gadgets are progressively creating a virtual and impersonal social media environment, while our desire for relationships goes far beyond and vastly deeper than our current digital environment. We all require meaningful human connections that will never be found in today's world. We have a hardwired need for personal intimacy and communion at a level beyond the mind and body.
In our evolutionary worldview, we think sex, regardless of the context, will solve the problem. While we can certainly feel satisfaction for a few fleeting moments, those feelings are always a temporary solution. When the act is finished, the same nagging emptiness slowly returns and, for many, the depth of loneliness only increases. We keep seeking wilder adventures, yet none of them will end the inner conflict.
Taking a materialistic approach, we decide possessions will solve the problem, but new and better products will never end our maddening pursuit of this mirage.
In our philosophical worldview, we may think achievement will solve the problem and desperately seek intellectual solutions to our relational dilemma. We could find convincing proof for the Big Bang or Darwin's theory of the origin of mankind yet still not fill our emptiness. Whether or not we believe in a creator, whether we think we came from monkeys or gods, the right understanding of the origin of life won't fulfill our deep need for a relationship that goes beyond the mind and body.
Mankind created religion as the answer to this innate relational need that humanity is hardwired to experience. A god up in the air, a god somewhere inside us, a god everywhere around us, amounts only to what Karl Marx called the "opium of the people."
Long ago, some very intelligent people realized that nothing in the body or the mind meets our relational needs, so they introduced the worst possible answer to inner human longing: we should try to find God--as if He is the One who is lost and needs to be found! For our purposes in this book, we will call this mindset "religion."
- Fools people into thinking they have their relational problem solved by doing
- a set of actions or going to certain "spiritual" locations
- Attempts to fill humanity's spiritual vacuum through gaining intellectual
- information about God
- Creates names, images, and rules by which to live
- Acknowledges supernatural reality only through the mind
In creating religion, people defined what any god looked like and what this god would want them to do and not do. These rules came from the moral do's and don'ts ingrained in us. The more people adhered to this belief system, the more religious they understood themselves to be and the more religious they appeared to be to others.
Religion in the twenty-first century has become a new business model, but one that is recession proof because, just like health and food, spiritual hunger is a constant need.
Mankind's manipulating of the conscious and subconscious mind was an attempt to answer these questions:
- Who am I?
- Where did I come from?
- Why am I here?
- Where am I going?
The spirituality of religion is affirmed by external activity; while the inner core of religion is belief, the outer shell is behavior. If you must give evidence for your religious identity, it does not matter whether you are Christian, Hindu, Muslim, or an atheist. Whatever religion you espouse, the evidence is based upon the same formula: "I believe, and I behave according to my beliefs." The expressions of all religions depend on circumstance and location. In today's Western-influenced culture, the evidence for all religions contain four elements:
- Belief (thought, the mind)
- Behavior (action, the body)
- Circumstance (reaction to the surrounding environment)
- Location (a person's specific current setting)
I spent my childhood and early adult life in India. While the Christian church has been active there for centuries, less than 3 percent of the people identify themselves as Christian. I was raised in a Christian home, as was my wife. We saw that the tenets of Hinduism and Islam had a strong influence on every facet of Indian society. When you grow up surrounded by religion, identifying the characteristics of religion becomes easy.