De-stress without leaving your desk

Sometimes it’s easier to think about being relaxed than to actually relax – especially when you have work you need to get done.

Being in nature really helps me to center and ground myself. But it’s pretty hard to be out there all the time. There are times when I need my nature fix but just can’t leave my desk.

It used to really stress me out, but one day I discovered that just listening to the sounds of nature while I work is an instant de-stresser.

There’s a guy on YouTube named Johnny Lawson who posts a bunch of nature sounds videos. They really help me chillax into my day! Try it sometime when you have a lot to get done – perhaps they’ll help you, too.

Here’s one of my favorites:

What’s your favorite stress relief strategy for busy days?

Want to change your business? Start here.

“Loving myself heals my life. Treating myself firmly but gently nourishes my mind, body and soul!”

 If you want to fix your business or heal your life, start first with loving yourself. Your own loving attitude is like the warm rays of the sun that allow your soul to grow.

Sometimes it’s hard to feel loving towards ourselves, especially when we let ourselves down. It can help to think of yourself as a very small child, just learning how the world works.

If a very young child falls on her face, do you beat up on her for her mistake?

Of course not! You comfort her and set her back on the ground to try again. And you trust that she will learn to walk and then to run. Sometimes the act of falling is just what she needs to help her learn!

Stop beating up on yourself. If you fall down, brush yourself off, give yourself a hug, and set yourself down again in the right direction to take the next step towards the Light.

You’ll be amazed at the changes that can happen in your life and business just from making this one simple shift!

What’s Love Got to Do With Doing Business?

Most of us don’t think of love as being an important aspect of business. Sustainable change agent Giles Hutchins explains why it is, and how to help your company tap into the power of love.

Giles Hutchins, author, The Nature of BusinessA while back I stumbled across a video on YouTube that struck me as very provocative and very, very important. The video was entitled The Future of Business, and in it the man on the screen mentioned the importance in business of – of all things – love.

When most of us think about business, love is just about the last thing that comes to mind. However, this man was talking about love as something very primary in the shift to a sustainable future, which includes the way we do business.

“This man” was Giles Hutchins, a business change agent who has worked in business for nearly 20 years, formally as management consultant for KPMG and then as global director of sustainability for Atos International. Giles specializes in taking inspiration from nature and applying it to sustainable business transformation. By that he means not just trading conventional technologies for ones that are less destructive, but a true transformation to a new paradigm, one that is inspired by and in harmony with nature.

Giles is also the author of The Nature of Business: Redesign for Resilience, an excellent book which explores how the increasingly unpredictable, interconnected and uncertain nature of business in modern society calls for a more emergent, dynamic approach to organizations and leadership.

Giles was kind enough to agree to speak with me via Skype earlier this month to further explain the importance of love in business.

(You can listen to the full interview here: Interview with Giles Hutchins on love in business)

Giles maintains that the biggest problems we face as a society today cannot be solved through technology alone, because they are not a product of technology.  Rather, he attributes the root cause of our environmental crisis to an “inherent anti-life approach,” which, he says, stems from an illusion of separation.

“We tend to see ourselves as separate from each other and from the world around us. And the way in which we manage our businesses today… is very much rooted in this sense of separation of self from nature.

Snakes and Vultures watercolor painting in progress

“(But) if we look at how reality really works, how nature operates, how organisms live, how each of us thrive and survive in the world, we actually realize that nothing, absolutely nothing is completely separate from anything else.

“And so it’s important, I think, to come with that (more natural kind of) thinking if we’re then going to start dealing with some of these profound challenges that we face today, otherwise we add to the illusion of separation which causes further downstream ramifications… We need to get to the root cause of the challenges that are now facing us…

“Love as deep attunement of our ego self, with our true self; of our conscious mind, with our unconscious imaginable presence; of our soul with the World Soul; of our rational mind with intuitive heart. Love is awakening to the divine presence flowing through every action, every moment, every relationship, every interaction that we undertake.

“So it’s a foundation, an all-pervasive presence flowing through everything, which is fundamental for us to tune into. We’ve lost that deeper sense of Love; re-embodying and re-member that Love helps us see beyond the illusion of separation.”

Illustration: Hands with glowing heart

While love is an abstract concept, its effect is real and very tangible. However, it’s not something that can be mandated into a company’s DNA. Rather, it flows out from individuals within an organization.

“There are many organizations that perhaps people wouldn’t think of (being based on love), which have people in them that are inspired by love, and perhaps those people may only be inspired by love for just 10 or 15 minutes of their day…

“…there are examples of organizations that have a purpose-driven, value-based organization…but I think it’s important to realize that we all are individuals working in organizations and perhaps through our lives we sometimes have moments when we are “in love,” when we’re flowing, we’re deeply attuned, focused on the activity, loving the activity that we’re doing, and therefore what we’re doing is laced with love. (That is what I mean by being) in love, that we are deeply resonating with what we’re doing.

“For instance I could talk to people in a call center and you know, many of them may be disenchanted with what they’re doing, just doing it purely to meet the bills and to pay off debts, yet you can come across someone who clearly is motivated and enjoying what they’re doing, and have a conversation which is quite different – a love-based sharing – and in that moment inspired by love.

“Everything has interrelationships, and our environment clearly has a massive impact of how we are and how we feel.

“And so if you have a culture that’s very much ‘anti-life’ (highly competitive and carcinogenic) that rubs off on us, it’s very difficult for us to then be inspired by love.

“Yet we create an environment through our own interactions which then contributes to a wider environment which might then inspire team members, which may then go on to inspire other teams in the organization, which then either helps that business unit or the wider culture. That’s a bottom-up approach.

“Vice versa you can have a top-down approach where you have purpose-driven leaders creating space for an environment based on love, recognizing that people are more motivated and more creative if they’re actually coming from love; recognizing the importance of that for organizations in these challenging times.

“And of course it’s a mixture of both. It’s neither top-down nor bottom. Both of those are kind of old ways of looking at things.  We affect the change through the actions and interactions that we do. There are catalysts like leadership and creating a culture that help foster a loving environment.

“Having worked at different levels in organizations and consulted for a variety of different people from people on the shop floor right through to global CEOs, (I’d say that) it often seems everybody has the same challenges and barriers to love.

“Take someone on the shop floor who’s saying, ‘Well yes, but what can I do to change the organization? Well it’s not first-and-foremost about ‘changing the organization’ or ‘the world’, but rather changing what you are doing and how you are being. That person has similar challenges, barriers and fears as a global CEO would have in that regard. And of course both of them have just the same amount of opportunity if they choose. So part of it is an attitude. It’s a way of attending our attention, and our quality of awareness is all part of that.”

As it turns out, some of the world’s largest corporations – including Apple, Yahoo, General Mills, and IBM – are catching on to the benefits of Incorporating mindfulness and other love-centered practices into the workplace.

For example, Google’s “Search Inside Yourself” employee training was described by one participant as “organizational WD-40, a necessary lubricant between driven, ambitious employees and Google’s demanding corporate culture,” who added that “helping employees handle stress and defuse emotion helps everyone work more effectively.”

This and similar voluntary programs have been widely reported to improve focus and productivity, increase employee satisfaction, improve communication, and reduce stress in the workplace.

I asked Giles what he would recommend to enable the switch to a more love-centered business or even to enable one’s employees or coworkers. He replied:

(A lot of organizations are trying) to bring in a greater clarity of awareness and sense of purpose into their organization, which helps people slow down and…sense with how they’re acting and interacting.

And so it’s a sense of presence, whether that is having 10 minutes of silence at the beginning and end of every day, or encouraging people in work-breaks to engage in contemplative practices such as meditation or having meetings walking in the park, or doing some stretches or yoga. Things like that, which help align the mind, body and soul in the workplace which is essentially healthy for the business.

Some of that is at a personal level, encouraging people to be aware of certain things. And by the way this isn’t in any way a kind of propaganda or mainstream sort of education put on people. It’s very much there as an invitation and general awareness for people to take or leave as they wish. Everybody is on their own journey and a part of this is recognizing that.

And at perhaps a more systemic level in the organization is recognizing what kind of leaders that you want in your business. How do you emulate success in the organization? What type of people do you want leading other people? And I think this is about walking your talk. And so leaders who are actually leading from the heart, who are leading with love, are the ones that are going to help emulate a culture like that in the organization.

Listen to the full interview with Giles Hutchins here.

To explore Giles Hutchins’ work further, visit

How have you experienced the effect of love in business? How has it made a difference in your organization or in your life?

A Little Bit of Love

I wasn’t thrilled that she was the one to wait on me. But as she was processing my transaction, I had the sudden impulse to send her love.

Illustration: Hands with glowing heart
“Love Offering,” digital illustration ©2013 by Anne Michelsen

The other day I had to do some banking. I love my bank. Everyone there is so friendly – except for one teller. It’s not that she’s mean or overtly unpleasant. It’s just that she always looks vaguely unhappy. And I’ve always somehow come away with the impression that she doesn’t like me.

So I wasn’t thrilled that she was the one to wait on me. But as she was processing my transaction, I had the sudden impulse to send her love.

Her back was turned to me. I just stared at her and imagined I was her mother, and sent warm waves of love across the room to her.

It sounds hokey, I know. But as she handed me my receipt something unusual happened. A warm, wide smile crossed her usually pinched face. And rather than turning away, she took a moment to chat.

A small miracle? Coincidence? You decide.

Buying as a Spiritual Act

My blogging friend Souldipper blessed me with a particularly relevant post today. She calls it Making Spiritual Down Payments, and it’s worth perusing, especially if your clientele leans even a little bit towards the spiritually progressive.

The first part of her post recalls her introduction to the world of finance when, as a teenager, she bought herself a graduation gown on layaway.

The thread of thought becomes more esoteric in the second half, however.

“Today, I wanted to make another down-payment,” she writes.  “I decided to make a contribution towards the evolutionary Transformation of our planet – a tad bigger goal than buying a house.”

Hmm. Interesting concept. Was she planning to sit for four hours on her back porch and meditate on world peace? Teach yoga to fourth graders? Start a progressive nonprofit?

As it turns out, no. Her contribution was in fact much more mundane – but with perhaps far more ground-shaking consequences. Especially to the business world.

“I decided to deal with a situation that did not sit well in my soul,” she continues.  “I wrote to a business that has not lived up to the sales pitch that motivated my doing business with them.   I explained my point of view with no inflammatory words, just facts from the heart.”

Dealing with a situation that did not sit well in her soul. A beautifully phrased statement, and one that I believe we should all take to heart.

“I closed by explaining that they will lose my business if they respond condescendingly, with quotes from their policy manuals or philosophies from their mission statements.   I invited them to be creative because clients are not longer willing to live without authenticity and service.”

Souldipper, you have that one right. And you’re not the only one. From individuals like you to the protesters on Wall Street, a new wave of consumer consciousness is surfacing in this country and elsewhere. People want more than just low prices and pretty images. They want to know that the businesses they buy from have integrity, values and purpose.

In other words, the act of buying is no longer just a business decision or a matter of convenience. It’s a conscious undertaking with spiritual consequences.

“They may not care, but I know they will remember my email,” concludes Souldipper.

I’m sure they will. And if they’re smart, they’ll pay attention.


How to Use Your Business Credit Card to Help Save the Planet

Part of living sustainably is the wise and creative use of the resources we already have at our disposal. Today’s guest article by small business cash flow expert Liz Cutten reveals how you can use a resource you probably already carry in your pocket to do just a little more for the planet.

There’s a good chance that you have a credit card in your wallet right now, and if you’re a consumer in today’s market, I can show you how you can make your credit card not only work hard for your wallet, but for the planet as well.

If you don’t have a credit card, or maybe you have five already, let me first recommend the following cards that not only give you rewards, but help the planet as well:

  • Wachovia Platinum: For every point you get, you’re going to be able to exchange them for eco-friendly items such as cotton bags, solar powered lights and more.
  • Bank of America Sierra Club Card: For every purchase that is made, BofA will make a contribution to the Sierra Club, one of the largest environmental organizations.
  • Bank of America Nature Conservancy: For every dollar that you spend, they will donate a contribution to the Nature Conservancy.
  • Wells Fargo Rewards Card: For every dollar that you spend, you’re going to get points.  You can turn those points in for eco-friendly items, or you can donate points to support green power, and more.
  • American Express Business Gold Rewards Card: Purchases made with this charge card earn rewards points which can be redeemed for Terrapass travel carbon offsets and other eco-friendly items, or donated to your choice of over one million charities.

Now, what you’re going to find with the cards above is that some of them won’t require that you donate to a chartable cause, but as I mentioned, you will be able to purchase eco-friendly items such as a garden composter, etc.

How you can also help the planet with your credit card:

Go paperless: If you have a credit card already, or you’re thinking about applying for one, be sure to go paperless.  That way, the credit card company doesn’t have to mail out the bill to you, nor do they have to use paper.  Not only that, some companies will give you an incentive to sign up for paperless billing.

Use your rewards wisely: Again, if you get a card that helps groups, you will probably want to put your rewards toward it.  When you use your rewards towards groups, you will find that you won’t have anything shipped to your home.

Most of those cards up there are great cards to consider, when you’re looking to not only use a credit card, but get rewards as well.  Most of them have no fees, and shouldn’t cost you a dime, as long as you pay in full.  While credit cards sometimes get a bad reputation, it doesn’t mean you can’t use yours to make things better!

Liz Cutten is an expert on business credit cards and other small business cash flow options.  She offers tons of practical tips and helpful information for business owners on, a business credit card blog.

Green Business: Where to share your eco-educational messages

There are as many avenues to educating your customers as there are ways to market to them. And the good news is, all your education attempts add up to effective marketing, too! Here are some good places to start.

There are as many avenues to educating your customers as there are ways to market to them.  And the good news is, all your education attempts add up to effective marketing, too!  Here are some good places to start:

·        Write articles about green issues and (depending upon your target market) submit them to local, national/international or trade publications.

·        Hold workshops and invite your customers and prospects.

·        Exhibit at trade fairs and business expos – and make sure you have plenty of good information to engage people and get them thinking about you as the expert.

·        Get speaking engagements. This will educate people about sustainability as well as making them aware of your business and what you offer and building trust in you as an authority.  If your business is local, try contacting churches in your area.  A lot of them are really starting to get interested in sustainability as a spiritual act.  They are hungry to know more and will thank you for the favor of coming out to speak!  (Don’t try to do a hard sell when you’re speaking to church groups, but it’s usually fine to give them informational pieces with your logo and contact info.)  Business groups are also good ones to speak to.  Try your local Chamber of Commerce.

·        Offer information kits, free reports and case studies to your clientele.  When you give people helpful, in-depth information on topics that interest them they develop a sense of gratitude and relationship to you, and are more likely to turn to you as an authority.

·        Keep educating your existing customers. Send a newsletter or e-zine out at least quarterly; once a month is even better.  Including environmental education messaging on packaging is another great idea.  Make it fun for your customers by holding contests and other events they can participate in and invite their friends.

·        Blog regularly (once or twice a week is fine).  When you blog on a topic of interest to your social media friends, post it and tweet it out.  (But only if it truly is good information and not just a thinly disguised sales pitch.)

·        Make videos about the same topics you speak or write about.  Your videos don’t have to be high tech as long as you present good ideas.  Even on a limited budget you can buy a little flip video camera for under $50 that will do the trick.

Get in the habit of videotaping any speeches you make, or even just capturing your thoughts on camera in your office, or documenting the positive changes your company is making. Put your videos to work for you by posting them on your blog, putting them on a CD or thumb drive and giving them to prospects or customers, using them as premiums for lead generation, or distributing them to the same kinds of groups you speak to.

·        Don’t forget your website. Add articles, case studies, videos and the like as extra pages.  Doing so can help with your search engine rankings, increase the amount of time people spend on your site,  and increase the chances of people linking to your site and/or coming back for multiple visits.

The important thing to remember is that consumer education is an ongoing process.  Do it consistently, one idea at a time, and always tie your statements back to positive personal benefits.  Over time, your efforts will make a difference!

How to Overcome Green Business’s Biggest Marketing Challenge

One of the most difficult challenges we face when selling sustainable products and services is the complexity of sustainability itself. People frequently don’t comprehend the true value of our products without a lot of deep thought and intricate systemic understanding. And as any veteran salesperson can tell you, convoluted thought processes often pose a barrier to sales.

One of the most difficult challenges we face when selling sustainable products and services is the complexity of sustainability itself.  People frequently don’t comprehend the true value of our products without a lot of deep thought and intricate systemic understanding.  And as any veteran salesperson can tell you, convoluted thought processes often pose a barrier to sales.

That’s why it’s a good idea to come up with simple reasons to buy our products. Statements like “it saves you money,”  “it tastes better,” and “it’s the healthy choice for your kids” give people clear reasons to buy that benefit them personally in ways that are easy to understand.

So should we steer clear of environmental messaging for fear of confusing our prospects?

In most cases, emphatically NO! The environment is becoming an increasingly important concern, especially for certain segments of the population.  We certainly do want to talk about environmental benefits.  For one thing, concern for the environment can often tip a consumer’s decision in favor of your product.  But more importantly, keeping the environment top-of-mind benefits the planet and society as a whole by shifting society’s preferences towards more sustainable options.

That’s why consumer education is such a crucial part of Green marketing.  Take every chance you get to engage people and gently help them understand the complex issues our world is facing, as well as the role your product or service plays in protecting it.

But don’t be pedantic or overbearing.  The trick is to break it down into digestible chunks.  Over the next few days I’ll share some  guidelines for creating environmental messages that will both inform and engage your customers.  Stay tuned!