Redefining What We Can and Cannot Afford

Lynn Serafinn explains how when money is our only measuring stick for value, we are likely to believe we cannot afford things vital to the future of our world.

The other day, our local Transition Town group had a screening of the film Food Inc. If you’ve never seen it, it’s extremely informative, if not also very upsetting. The film, made in 2008, is about the state of modern food production, and shows shocking coverage of factory farming, genetic engineering and the pitiful pressure from big business under which farmers find themselves.

The film gives us one glimmer of hope at the end when the director says something to the effect of “You can change the world three times a day”, meaning that the ultimate control is in the hands of the consumer who can demonstrate their refusal to encourage such practices by not buying from companies who are unethical in the treatment of humans, animals, plants, soil or water. But in spite of this final message, the intensity of the film seemed to leave the audience in a state of overwhelm. I admit I felt this way when the film ended.

I used to wonder how such corruption in big industry could persist with so much negative media coverage about them. But that night, it occurred to me that this is the reason why unethical businesses continue to grow despite public outcry. When we see the magnitude of the problem, we can feel minuscule next to it. It can look so big, that our meagre attempts to change the system can seem hopeless. And maybe that’s exactly what unethical businesses want us to feel–overwhelmed. If we are overwhelmed, we will lose hope and we won’t bother to try to change the status quo.

So, when I came to my senses, and the impact of the film started to wane, I realised this experience had reaffirmed everything I believed about the importance and feasibility of changing the paradigm NOW.

About 5 years ago, I read the book The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. To this day it remains one of my favourite books of all time because it convinced me unequivocally that if you want to change the world, it only requires a small amount of key influencers to congregate, align to a common vision and take action. Gladwell gives so many excellent examples from history to back up this idea. I believe in the power of a Tipping Point with every cell in my body.

This is the reason why I decided to create the 7 Graces Global Conference back in 2012. Its purpose was to create a Tipping Point that could shake up the status quo, not through rebellion or government mandates, but from the inside out through awareness raising and lifestyle changes.

After the film, I mentioned the conference to some of the attendees. I was disappointed to hear at least three of them say:

“I can’t afford this.”

I had already been hearing these same words from several other people in the environmental, artistic and holistic community. After several said they couldn’t afford it, I lowered the price of the conference to less that my own cost. That’s how much importance I place on it.

But then, many of them still said they couldn’t afford it. So I offered discount coupons. I even made the live stream available “a la carte” so they could sign up for only one or two sessions. But still, many of these people have not yet registering for the event.

So is it really a matter of money,
or is it a matter of perception of value?

Many people in the world express their distaste for money and materialism, yet they still find themselves slaving to attain (very little of) it. Many of those who say “I can’t afford it” do not see the irony of the fact that they own cars, TVs, have (often crippling) credit card debt and buy their groceries from supermarkets. They know there’s something out of balance in the world, but they stay stuck in a hamster wheel, not understanding that the only way out of their dire situation is to step off that wheel.

As someone reminded me the other day, ‘we cannot solve problems using the same logic that created them’ (Einstein?). If that is true, then how can we possibly solve the problem of unethical business and marketing by continually staying in the mentality that money is the only measurement of value? A shift in thinking is required. We must begin to assess the value of things differently.

If we look at something like the 7 Graces Global Conference from the perspective of the “single bottom line” (i.e., monetary profits only), then it might look like a complete waste of money. After all, it’s not going to teach us how to flip a property or make money on the stock market.

But if we look at the ‘triple bottom line’ of profit, people and planet (and the sometimes ‘quadruple’ element of ‘principles’ thrown in), will such a conference make us more PROSPEROUS?


A movement for social change can bring together the genius and innovation of many to create prosperous, harmonious and sustainable alternatives to our current economic system, business paradigms and marketing practices. It can provide us with a community of supportive, value-driven people who share our vision for a better world, and who keep us going when we might feel overwhelmed by the world around us.

In my books, that’s invaluable.

Evaluating whether or not we can afford something cannot simply be a matter of how much money it puts into or takes out of our pocket. Even the film Food Inc. demonstrated how “cheap” food comes at a much higher cost when you look at the whole picture.

The past decade was a decade of personal transformation. This decade is a decade of social transformation. We are a consumer culture. We are led not by governments, but by our economies. Therefore, it makes sense that the only way to generate social transformation is by addressing our economic model–business, marketing and the entire economic infrastructure.

So now I ask, “What is it we actually cannot afford?”

We cannot afford to become ever-more dependent upon big business at the expense of our communities.

We cannot afford to lose the wisdom of millennia upon millennia of craftsmen and agriculturalists.

We cannot afford to allow billions of people around the world to become trapped by debt from which they will never escape.

We cannot afford to consume and dispose of goods at a rate so fast it is putting our entire eco-system–of which we are an integral part–at risk.

We cannot afford to go back into our little boxes and think, “The problem is too big. There’s no way to change it.”

We cannot afford to procrastinate, become cynical or lose hope.

We cannot afford to do nothing.

It’s time for action…If not the 7 Graces conference, then something.

…because neither humanity nor the planet can afford to lose the battle against ourselves.

~Lynn Serafinn
24 May 2012

Postscript: The 7 Graces Global Conference mentioned above took place in June 2012. You can watch the video replays from that conference by CLICKING HERE . There are 10 videos (18 hours), the first and last of which cost nothing at all to view. Just click and play.

Since the conference, we have formed the 7 Graces Global Community (on Facebook and MeetUp) as well as the 7 Graces Project CIC, a non-profit social enterprise created to train, support and inspire independent business owners to marketing themselves effectively and ethically. Come hang out with us on Facebook, and you can come to our monthly community meetings.

Be sure to subscribe to this blog for the latest posts from our community on marketing ethics, social media, new business paradigms and social change.

LYNN SERAFINN, MAED, CPCC is a certified, award-winning coach, teacher, marketer, social media expert, radio host, speaker and author of the number one bestseller The 7 Graces of Marketing — How to Heal Humanity and the Planet by Changing the Way We Sell and Tweep-e-licious! 158 Twitter Tips & Strategies for Writers, Social Entrepreneurs & Changemakers Who Want to Market their Business Ethically. She is listed in the Top 20 of the Top Marketing Authors on Twitter by Social Media Magazine and was a finalist for the prestigious Brit Writers Awards. She also received the eLit Book Awards Silver Medal in Humanitarian and Ecological Social Affairs, as well as the Bronze Medal in Business and Sales.

Lynn’s eclectic approach to marketing incorporates her vast professional experience in the music industry and the educational sector along with more than two decades of study and practice of the spirituality of India. Her innovative marketing campaigns have produced a long list of bestselling non-fiction authors through her company Spirit Authors. Lynn is also the Founder of the 7 Graces Project CIC, a not-for-profit social enterprise created to train, support, mentor and inspire independent business owners to market their business ethically, serve society and planet, and restore all that is best about humanity.

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