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Kathleen Paylor: The Ripples of Invisible Value

--Bela Shah, on Oct 18, 2012

"Not everything that counts can be measured. Not everything that can be measured counts."
~Albert Einstein

We live in a world where measurements and quantifications are used to determine the success of an outcome. Even in the world of nonprofits and social enterprises, where people are inspired to create a better world, impact is measured in numbers and percentages based on what can be externally manifested.

But what about the impact of the stuff that can’t be measured, such as our human experiences and the immeasurable, yet very tangible, ripples that flow from that?

“Let’s look for the value in what we can’t see,” urges our guest from last Saturday’s Forest Call, Kathleen Paylor. Great thinkers and creators always relied on things that they couldn't see along side of things that they could see and measure.”

A highly respected leader in the field of impact investment, one would be surprised to learn who Kathleen’s greatest business teachers are.

Mahatma Gandhi. Mary Oliver. Rumi.

These are individuals that changed hearts and minds, not through their financial wealth or even their social capital, but through their spiritual capital and their ability to connect with human beings at the core.


After working with nonprofits and social enterprises for almost twenty years, Kathleen realized something.

“I see people that are drawn to nonprofit development work and impact investment because they want to have meaning in their lives by giving to others. But when they arrive, they are met with metrics. It’s a linear field that is mostly focused on measuring the external results of the work we're doing. So even in this space of giving and doing good, we focus on the outer. We are not paying attention to what is happening inside and how that inner state affects what we manifest in the world as we try to create good on the outside.”

Kathleen commented, “You can't be at an impact investment conference for 5 minutes without hearing the word “scale”. While in some ways this makes sense when you're talking about issues like clean water (increased access to clean water is a good thing), she explains that it's more nuanced than that. Imagine if beyond scale, you could bring yourself, your heart, into the space? Then how would that energy impact the relationships you are building and the ultimate outcomes?

“I say to people, Gandhi didn't say measure the change, he said be it...that's what creates impact.”

To illustrate her point, Kathleen shared an interesting story of a famous writer at a cocktail party. Someone asked the writer what she does and the writer responded, “About what? I don’t want to know what someone does. I want do know what they love. Or the last time they were afraid or excited.”

“In the world today, we meet each other with just a fraction of who we are. We say things like, “I’m Kathleen Paylor, CEO of Conscious Capitol.” And in these types of exchanges, we miss the best parts of ourselves. I think there is this deep and fundamental way in which we all want these amazing lives we have to matter and manifest. We're all composed of so much and it's so rare that we can bring that depth to a shared space like on this Forest Call.”


(Drawing by Leah Pearlman,  Dharma Comics)

Can Money be Sacred?
When we bring our full self into a space, something magical happens. Our intention comes shining forth to lead the way. As the Chief Spiritual Officer for her company, Conscious Capital, Kathleen uses a formula with her clients that she calls “IPO”. You start with intention, move to process, and then to outcome. Typically investors think in terms of what their returns will be. Even when thinking about social impact, investors ask, “How many toilets am I building in Ghana and what will be the external impact of that?” But if investors began by thinking about their intention, then the process of how that money is invested as the project takes shape might completely change the outcome, perhaps even strengthen it.

“The challenge is to look at how to use money as a sacred exchange. Our energy has the power to infuse money; in other words money has the ability to be an expression of our energy.”

For example, if you pay someone $5 there are multiple ways you can give someone that money. You can throw it to them, you can throw it at them and then spit at them, you can mail it to them, or you can walk it over to their doorstep and sit down with them and ask how their day is going. You can give that $5 to them in any manner and with any intention and in the end they have the money no matter what process you use. But how has the intention and process impacted the relationship and the final outcome?

So the challenge is to look at the how, and not just the what. The way that we give or invest our money can create a sacred space, not just in that moment but in our relationship going forward. We have to think, “What are we enabling, not only in the person receiving the money, but also in the giver?” It's a circular relationship, not just a one way transaction.

“When you hand someone money, it's actually an expression of you in the world. Think of your own image on that dollar bill instead of a dead, white man. That money is a reflection of you and your energy. I have a stamp that says "this money is love" that I stamp my money with. When I hand that to the person at Starbucks, that money is actually an expression of me in the world.”

Kathleen explains that when it comes to sacred, there is no one way. What feels sacred to you might not feel sacred to me. We all have to ask ourselves, “What actions make me feel that I am engaging in a sacred way around money?”

This energy that we can infuse into money is what moves it from a place of scarcity to abundance. Sometimes, many of us get caught in this idea that there is never enough money when we are confronted with our mortgage or our college loans or medical bills. But it’s beautiful to realize that there could be just enough for the right purpose.

“It's incumbent upon us to shape the way we feel about money. Many of us have this idea that it can't coexist with good, but money is part of the equation. We have to think about how we can use it mindfully and joyfully. We can't meditate our way out of it.”

Looking to Nature for Answers

One way we can learn to use money mindfully (and joyfully) is by using nature as our teacher. Biomimicry asks, “What would nature do in this situation?” As John Fullerton elaborated in a recent Forest Call, we live in a finite world with limited resources and we can study nature to determine how money can be invested mindfully.

"From nature, we can learn not to hang on to something and try to hoard it. If we hoarded apples, they would just rot. We do the same thing with money and it does rot. We just don’t see money rotting in the way apples do.”