Back in 2009 I did some training with the Transition Network during which I had the chance to participate in an exercise written by Joanna Macy called ‘Meet the Ancestors’. There were two roles we had to play within the exercise: the ancestor and the descendant. These ancestors and descendants were separated by a 200 year gap. When we played the role of the descendants, we were to ask three questions of our ancestors. When we played the role of the ancestor, we answered these questions by tapping deeply into our innermost wisdom. These three questions were the same for everyone. Being a Transition Network training event, the natural focus of the exercise was on the state of society and the environment.
I’m not always a fan of role playing, as I feel it can sometimes be a bit disingenuous, but I found this particular exercise to be a profound experience, especially when I played the role of ancestor, and my ‘descendant’ happened to be a 19-year-old young man—the youngest in our group of 25 participants. Being a 50-something grandmother, when I looked into his face, I strongly felt I was truly looking into the future. It moved me and unlocked something inside of me that I know I had never felt before: the Wisdom of the Elders. This Wisdom wasn’t ‘mine’ so much as it was ‘ours’. It came from Humanity, not my own brain. I have no memory of what I actually SAID to the young man, but I do remember how he reacted. His eyes welled up with tears, and he took my hand and kissed it. Then, our eyes locked and we spent several moments in silence together. It felt as though a warm, glowing cloak was enveloping us, connecting us and keeping us safe. Something had been communicated between us that extended far beyond the limited meanings of our words. Whatever that ‘something’ was, we were both filled with it.
The Transcendent Power of Inspiration
This story is one of the best examples I can give of the Grace of Inspiration. In the 7 Graces Project, we define the Grace of Inspiration as ‘to give value, express generosity and share wisdom freely’. The word ‘inspiration’ literally means ‘to breathe life into’ or simply ‘to breathe into’. True Inspiration—the Grace of Inspiration—must fill us in some way, much as the young man and I felt ‘filled’ that day during the Joanna Macy exercise. True Inspiration is not just pretty words. It is something that transcends any words that may have been spoken. True Inspiration empowers, uplifts, enables and supports. True Inspiration breathes life into both speaker and those being spoken to.
But true Inspiration is even more than that, for it extends into the entire world. We can understand this metaphorically through the nature of a tree. When we breathe out carbon dioxide, a tree breathes it in. It then breathes out oxygen, which we breathe in. This natural cycle enlivens and brings health to both tree and human, who can then pass this life force on to the next generation. But, the healthy tree is able to support other life forms as well, providing shelter and food for birds, insects and animals. The shedding of leaves provides fertilisation for other plants.
The lesson we learn from this is that Inspiration is part of the natural cycle and system of life. Whatever we breathe in does not start with us; nor does what we breathe out end with us. This is the basic principle of how Inspiration works. When we truly understand this, we become mindful and responsible for what we say and do as we know it will always create an impact, no matter how small.
What Are We Breathing through Our Marketing?
As long as we are alive, we are always breathing. However what we breathe in and out is not just air—or even food and water—but sensory data, mental images and belief systems. Whenever we breathe in these messages, from whatever source, it creates feelings in us. If these messages are breathing life into us, we feel ‘filled’, as I did during the ‘Meet the Ancestors’ exercise. But if these messages suck the life out of us, we feel drained by feelings of lack, fear, shame, loss or regret.
Old-school marketing is responsible for many of these draining feelings. And the impact is devastating. When the public are incited to feel fear, lack or shame, they will spend money on things to fill the emptiness this incurs. When this becomes an ongoing cycle, it results in profound social, economic and environmental imbalances. Inflation, debt and economic failure are inevitable, as are over-extraction, over-production and over-waste. But so long as these manipulative marketing messages keep reinforcing the belief system that we ‘must’ have certain things—from mobile phones to insurance policies—in order to feel safe, whole or happy, these imbalances will persist.
As consumers, it is important to understand how old-school persuasive marketing is impacting us on a subtle level, by creating these life-draining feelings within us. If we learn how to recognise these influences, we will no longer allow them to enter our ‘lungs’. We will cease giving our custom to businesses that manipulate our feelings rather than breathe life into us. We will no longer overspend or go into debt due to feelings of shame and lack. We will no longer make impulse buys due to panic and fear. We will no longer suffer loss and regret after being disappointed by what we have purchased.
But as marketers, it is our responsibility to understand the power of our impact and ensure that what we do breathes life into society. Ethical and responsible marketing is still a new idea for the majority of marketers. We have been taught for so long how to manipulate, but the bigger picture of what we are breathing out into the world is rarely addressed. We’ve been taught that the goal of our marketing is to ensure sales conversion. But while profits and cash flow are essential to a healthy business, the marketing methods we use to obtain these things do not necessarily contribute to wide-spread ‘health’ in the world. How different would the world be if we marketers learned to ask ourselves, ‘Is my marketing breathing life into the world or sucking the life from it?’ The 7 Graces Project is all about helping marketers explore this question so they can devise ways to embrace the Grace of Inspiration (and all the other Graces) in their marketing practice.
Breathing Life into the World through Our Marketing
It might be a radical concept to think that marketing can ‘breathe life into’ our audience and you might well wonder how in the world we can do that. But it’s not so very mysterious if you take a moment to define the elements that constitute the ‘breath of life’ in your business:
- Your core values. Whether in business or personal life, our values are imbued with rich, life-giving properties. When we genuinely market from our core values, we move from the role of someone trying to ‘sell’ something and into the role of someone who is simply communicating that we have something of value to share. Speaking your values through your marketing expresses the Grace of Inspiration because it effortlessly breathes life into the world.
- Your practical expertise. You may not realise just how many people out there want to know how to do the things at which you are expert. One of the most inspiring ways to market ourselves is to share our practical expertise through articles, videos, interviews, etc. Even a comment on someone’s blog or Facebook post can be a way of sharing your practical expertise. Whether it’s how to grow tomatoes, how to sew on a button or how to make a website, when you share your practical expertise with others, you are educating and empowering them. Without any effort, they will feel more confident and will grow to trust and respect you. Sharing your practical expertise expresses the Grace of Inspiration because it breathes life into society and into your relationship with your audience.
- Your deepest Wisdom. In the past, the Wisdom of the Elders was always an intrinsic part of our culture. Over the past century, our connection to that Wisdom has been challenged, as we developed a social belief that emphasised the value of youth and the need for ‘retirement’ as we get older. But each of us has access to a deep Wisdom that comes from the planet and through our very genes. It is a huge tragedy for everyone—and for the planet in general—when we lose touch with it, and neglect to share it. Sharing our deepest Wisdom is one of the most enriching foods we can offer anyone. Imagine how our marketing would be if it communicated our Wisdom rather than our calculated words.
- Your generosity. Nothing breathes life into another being than unconditional generosity. Sharing your expertise and your Wisdom are types of generosity. Sharing nuggets of your goods and services are also expressions of generosity. As a marketer, when you create things that you intend to give away, you show your unconditional generosity, and bring your audience closer to you without the need for the Deadly Sin of Persuasion.
- Your selfless service. When we operate our business from a true sense of service, we are breathing life into the entire social system. The purpose of business is to ensure society has what it needs to survive and thrive. I’m not saying that we do not operate for profit; without cash flow, our business will collapse and we cannot offer our service to anyone. When we market with an attitude of service—and not merely give lip-service to it—the whole world is nourished. Service is the cornerstone of the Grace of Inspiration.
I believe the Grace of Inspiration is one of the keys that will transform the entire landscape of marketing, if we all learn how to practise it. To inspire you to step into Inspiration today, I invite you to spend some time with these personal reflections:
- What are my core values, and how can I better express them through my marketing?
- What practical expertise do I have that I can share with my audience? How will this educate and empower them?
- What Wisdom do I have that could benefit the world? How does this Wisdom align with my business? How can I best express it?
- What can I create or give away that would help others as well as benefit my business?
- What is the ultimate service I wish to provide the world? How can I better express this through my marketing?
If you’re interested in knowing more about the Grace of Inspiration, do check out The 7 Graces of Marketing. I’m also publishing a book on blogging later this year that will dive deeply into this subject. If you’d like to hear about it when it comes out, simply subscribe to this blog.
I hope this article has inspired you to take action today. I’d love to hear your thoughts and reflections in the comments below.
6th August 2013
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The 7 Graces of Marketing: how to heal humanity and the planet by changing the way we sell, by Lynn Serafinn, where you can learn how the 7 Deadly Sins and the 7 Graces impact the world through media and marketing.
Brit Writers Awards Finalist
eLit Book Awards Silver Medal in Humanitarian & Ecological Social Issues
Tweep-e-licious: 158 Twitter Tips & Strategies for Writers, Social Entrepreneurs & Changemakers Who Want to Market Their Business Ethically, by Lynn Serafinn, which can help you learn how to create meaningful collaborations through Twitter and other social media.
eLit Book Awards Bronze Medal in Business and Sales
Get instant access to a free 90-minute Twitter marketing class at http://tweepelicious.com
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.
(not just for Londoners, as we meet also on Skype)