Four Sustainable, Personal Resources

by Sep 1, 2017Cornerstone content, Resources

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You have four potentially sustainable resources at your disposal:
money, skills, physical assets and connections.
Advances in technology and changing attitudes make it easier than ever
to develop and use your resources in a sustainable way
to achieve a fulfilled and meaningful life.

You can accomplish little in this world without calling on someone or something else to assist you. Fortunately, you have many personal resources available to you. These need to be looked after and husbanded to support your fulfilled and meaningful life. As importantly, they have to be sustainable and support your sustainable life. However, you probably spend surprisingly little time on managing and developing your resources.

And yet advances in technology mean it has never been easier to look after your resources so they are used effectively and in a sustainable way. Digitisation and the rise of the app economy provide tools to enable you to regulate and control your resources. Online banking and digital money transfer apps make it much simpler to manage your money on a day to day basis.

Sustainability is now becoming paramount in the management of our resources. Al Gore and David Blood, Chairman and Senior Partner of Generation Investment Management (GIM) have identified the Sustainability Revolution. This is an emerging global response to calls to protect our environment. The Revolution is at an early stage and there is still plenty to do, as Gore and Blood point out in the first GIM Sustainability Report. They identify the rising trend of companies to commit resources to sustainability. However, they also note that change in our attitude to sustainability requires business leadership and the involvement of all parts of society.

They highlight in particular the trend among the Millennial Generation to use, not own, a trend described by Rachel Botsman as discussed below. This has been helped by advances in technology and the ongoing Industrial revolutions that we describe in our keystone article on work.

Share and collaborate for a sustainable life

Sharing and collaboration have also seen a re-birth thanks to the internet.  They to can help you to achieve a more sustainable life. As Rachel Botsman explains her book ‘What’s Mine is Yours`’, airbnb has revived the concept of the ‘public house’. Before the wars, travellers would impose on the hospitality of farms and households when they journeyed away from home. Hotels replaced this way of travel after the war. Airbnb resurrected it through the internet.

Have the children left home and empty rooms in your house? Would you prefer to stay in a friendly house as a guest rather than an impersonal hotel? Do you want to meet new people and build connections? Is trust an important value that you want to utilise and share? Airbnb answers these questions for you and enables you to utilise your idle assets easily and with a bit of fun.

Later in this post we will look at how sharing and collaboration in transport are helping the sector and its users to live a more sustainable life 

Your four key sustainable resources

You probably relay on four types of resources in your day to day life: money, skills, physical assets and connections. Your ability to sleep and night and live a fulfilled life during the day will depend to a large extent on how you look after and develop these resources.

Investment managers will tell you that a sustainable business is a profitable business. At Living Money we have adapted this maxim for your personal arena and argue that a sustainable household is a happy household. A sustainable household maintains at an adequate level of achievement, meaning, comfort and security. It also suggests one that conserves an ecological balance by avoiding depletion of natural resources. This in turn should have financial advantages. All of these should lead to a happy household.

We also introduce the concept of ‘Household Social Responsibility’ in this post, a topic we will expand on in later posts.

Financial resources

Money is so much a part of your everyday life. It comes in and goes out all the time. You probably put some aside for short term cash flow peaks and to tide you over in an emergency.

You probably invest some of it in the hopes it will grow and provide you with the means to do things you want to in the future.

However, can you truly say, with hand on heart, that you are fully in control of your money? Is it working for you as hard as you are working to earn it? Most importantly, do you know how long it will last? Is it going to last for your lifetime, or will it run out before you do?

These are important questions here at Living Money. We aim to answer them with a little bit of work and some useful technology.

Personal skills

Laurence J Peter famously argued that ‘managers rise to their level of incompetence’. At Living Money we do not subscribe to the Peter Principle, as it is known. We believe that anyone can achieve great things and make the world a better place. To assume incompetence and inability in an individual is a betrayal of that person’s humanity. However, we also believe you must develop your skills and competencies through training and coaching to achieve your aspirations.

In similar vein, the Dunning-Kruger effect is where people of low competence mistakenly assume their cognitive abilities to be higher than they are. Without self-awareness they are unable to judge their actual level of competence (or incompetence).

Conversely, the phenomenon of ‘imposter syndrome’ is where individuals doubt their actual accomplishments and hold a constant fear of being exposed as a fraud.

One thing is certain. You will achieve fulfilment by setting yourself fulfilling tasks and aspirations and developing your skills to achieve them. Therefore, its important accurately to assess the skills you have. You need clear self-awareness without cognitive bias to do this. This will provide a clear understanding of your skills gap. You can then make a plan to develop your competence through training and personal development.

Personal wellbeing

Your mind, body and spirit are your greatest resources. It may be harder to achieve your life-changing or world-changing aspirations without a healthy mind, body and spirit. However, many people who have achieved great things in spite of being disadvantaged in some way. They will tell you its important to recognise your disadvantage and adapt and develop other resources to compensate.

Mind, body, spirit is not actually a New Age phenomenon. St Bernard, the founder of the Cistercian order and Abbot of Clairvaux devised the concept in 1115. Bernard saw humans as made up of the mind, the body and the spirit, which needed rest, healing and growth. To this end he zoned Clairvaux into three parts. The library was for the mind, the kitchens and the dormitories for the body and the chapel for the spirit. 

You will achieve more if you follow a similar example, and if you do so with purpose. A visit to the gym, for instance, will be more effective if you use it to further your aspirations.  In contrast, a vast to the gym just to ‘keep fit’ will be less effective.

Physical assets

Your house, car, computer and other physical possessions will usually have a role in achieving your aspirations and fulfilment. It goes without saying that they need to be looked after to do their job. Cars need servicing and computers need upgrading or else they fail.

Some assets, however, are a burden and a drain. Its usually a good idea to think about how to deal with these objects. You usually have four options. You can sell them, give then away, recycle them or throw them away.

There is, however, a new alternative for those assets you want to retain and use more effectively. The rise of the sharing, collaborative economy can provide you with many options. We have already mentioned how a spare room can bring in additional income and new connections through airbnb. The internet provides many other opportunities to share, collaborate and live more sustainably.

Friends and networks

John Donne wrote that ‘No man is an island…’ in 1624. His meditation is even more valid today in the age of social media and easy communications.

Donne’s Meditation XVII still reaches to the heart of connectivity, ending as it does with his observation that ‘…any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.’ 

The lesson is as relevant today as it was then. Your friends and connections are as much a part of you as is your own body. To loose a friend or connection by accident or through negligence diminishes you personally. Therefore actively manage your connections to be as effective as possible.

It is worth repeating the results of Stanley Milgram’s famous 1968 chain letter experiment. Milgram asked 160 people in Omaha, Nebraska to get a package to a stockbroker in Boston, Massachusetts by sending it to the friend or acquaintance they thought would get the letter delivered in the shortest possible time. The letter requested recipients to do likewise.

Six degrees of separation and the importance of connection

Milgram discovered that most letters found their way to the stockbroker in just five or six steps (hence the phrase ‘six degrees of separation’). Further, most of the letters reached their destination via just three people.

Further research has found that people associate as a result of shared activities rather than shared attributes. Your chance of strengthening a friendship (or building a new friendship) will be significantly enhanced by ‘occupying the same, small physical space as you do’, as Malcolm Gladwell argues in The Tipping Point (p35).

Here is a final thought on the importance of our network resources. Motivational speaker Jim Rohn asserts ‘you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.’ Its a bit tough and you may not agree with it. However, there is no doubt your attitude, behaviour, motivation and ability to get things done is influenced by the company you keep. So, to achieve meaningfulness in your life consider surrounding yourself with people who already lead meaningful lives.

Sharing and collaboration for greater sustainability

Sharing and collaboration is changing the way we use our resources and the way we live. Buying and possession is no longer de rigueur for the younger generations in particular. ‘Use, don’t own’ is the watchword. Peer-to-peer exchanges and ‘collaborative consumption’ are the mechanisms.

The key is trust, that all important ingredient oiling the wheels of collaboration. You see it when you guest or host through airbnb or when you drive or ride through Uber. You use, don’t buy through Spotify and trust reviewers on Amazon before you buy through its peer-to-peer marketplace.

Transport is a noteworthy example of rapid change. Owning your own transport resource (aka a car) is expensive. Your car is an under-utilised asset because it spends much of its life in your drive or car park. It is inefficient because it is built for four and normally carries one.

Joining Uber is one way to utilise this spare capacity. However, the trend to shared mobility is probably more effective. You no longer own your own means of transportation. Instead, you use any appropriate form of transportation on a short-term, as-needed basis. This could be public transport such as the train or bus. Alternatively, it could be through a car sharing network such as Zipcar.

And of course the principle applies to the transportation of goods as well as people.

Household Social Responsibility

The Resources theme of the Living Money blog will cover a wide range of subjects from financial management, networking, health and personal development. A key element of the theme will be sustainability and the concept of ‘Household Social Responsibility’ (HSR). HSR is based on the concept of Personal Social Responsibility (PSR) and extended to the household. Developments in sharing and collaboration, as well as technological advances, are important routes to HSR and a sustainable household and will be covered in depth through this blog.

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