Hey y’all, I was interviewed not too long ago, and the interview makes a nice “Share my Ryde” report. -Neal
Question: You have an impressive bio, and you mention that you’re “perhaps an unlikely voice for sharing.” What inspired you to leave the corporate world behind?
Answer: Well, the short story is that I was not enjoying myself! I was not doing the work I was meant to do. And I noticed that the corporate lifestyle undermined my relationship to myself, to the people I loved most, and to a sense of place. I saw this happening to others as well.
After a year of travel, long hours and a lot of pointless work, I had a spiritual breakdown and breakthrough that reminded me how important relationships are to a good life.
My breakthrough happened in the most mundane of places: a parking lot.
I realized that this was not the life I wanted, and also — and this made me really bawl — that millions of people are probably not digging it either. I had grokked the global economy, really felt it in my bones actually, and just felt a big NO. No bad relationships, overwork, purposelessness, and destruction of nature and community.
What was weird to me — the corporate strategist — was that this was not an intellectual decision. In the back of my mind, I knew these things already. I just hadn’t felt them in my bones until then. I had connected to something bigger than myself. And it became crystal clear what I had to do.
Q: OK, you said no to the corporate life. What did you say yes to?
A: I made a vow — right then and there in that parking lot — to do whatever I could to create a life of purpose, great relationships and real community. And to help others do the same.
Immediately after this, I went to my office, submitted my resignation and re-booked my reservations for the next flight home. I started working on sharing projects within days of touching down. I had no plan. I had something much more powerful: total commitment. I just dove in. I had absolutely no reservations about this decision at the time or to this day. It’s the best decision I’ve ever made.
Q: What does sharing have to do with relationships?
A: Everything! It’s impossible to have good relationships unless you have an economic system that supports them. The economy, in fact, shapes the types of relationships we have with one another.
And sharing creates great relationships. When you share, you simultaneously affirm a bond with another person, the larger community and with the earth. I say “with the earth” because sharing is good stewardship of resources.
In contrast, a wasteful, stress-filled, work-and-spend McLifestyle works against good relationships. And you can’t thrive without good relationships. Good relationships are a key ingredient to happiness. We should put them first in our lives, but also create public policy that supports healthy relationships.
Q: What’s the connection between simplicity, sharing and social change?
A: Through simpler living, you can cut your costs, work less and spend your time on those things that give you the most satisfaction. Simpler living makes a better life possible.
But there’s only so far you can go by yourself. If you want to take simpler living to the next level, you have to work with others.
A: There’s two related paths. First, you can simplify your life even more by sharing. For instance, you can dramatically reduce the number of things you need to own by sharing. Shared housing, transportation, workspace, meals and food production can dramatically lower your costs while building community — the ultimate form of social security.
And it’s possible to create a whole lifestyle based on sharing without joining a commune. Car sharing, co-housing, co-working, yard sharing, bike sharing, tool sharing and other innovations are growing in popularity. And they do not require you to give up your privacy, individuality or even ownership of your stuff. New websites like NeighborGoods can help you and your neighbors share in a way that protects your privacy and stuff.
And second, the time you free up by sharing and living more simply can be used to get engaged in issues that affect your lifestyle. For instance, going car-free is a lot easier if there’s plenty of bike lanes and good public transportation. These are community issues that you can’t work toward alone. You have to get involved in your community to make sure your tax dollars are spent in ways that make simpler living possible.
Neal Gorenflo is the publisher of Shareable, an online magazine that promotes sharing as an empowering lifestyle choice and offers how-to tips. Thanks, Neal, for a fantastic interview.