Mission impossible - curing the Western condition

Quest reflections

Marc Winn

23 July 2014

Being at the Leaders’ Quest Pow-Wow in Rajasthan last year had a huge impact on me. My four main takeaways from my time in India are that:

  • I understood far less about problems in the developing world than I thought I did.
  • Some of the solutions and mechanisms operating in the developing world could be used to transform the developed world.
  • Much of the developing world is looking to recreate the flawed consumerist model of the developed world.
  • Bureaucracy is the biggest barrier to progress. Decentralised technologies such as the mobile phone and the internet are doing more than governments to empower people to solve their own problems.

The Pow-Wow was one of a handful of experiences I had during a transformational year in 2013. That journey took me to the very edge of technological possibility at Singularity University, societal possibility at Burning Man, and life possibility with The Good Life Project – all combined with a host of other experiences that have influenced me in what I am doing now.

Last year was a kind of accelerated gap year that helped me learn what I needed for a journey from success to global significance. I have had a successful life so far, as an entrepreneur and subsequently as an entrepreneur coach and mentor. However, my desire has always been to shift my life from creating wealth to making impact.

What I learnt from my experiences in 2013 is that we are now living in a time where anything and everything is possible – and therefore any problem can be solved. All we need to do is choose a problem that we are sufficiently passionate about – enough to dedicate our lives to solving

I also learnt that we are only going to start changing the world if we work to live with meaning now, rather than live to work for a life of meaning at some point in the future. Earning money to give to charity in future is much less effective than working to have an impact today. Taking a more integrated approach to life enriches both the outer world and your inner world.

All this learning took me right back to the community I am from. I live in the Channel Island of Guernsey: a 25 square-mile self-governing country in the English Channel, with a population of 65,000. It’s a microcosm of the West, and outwardly, we think of it as the very definition of national success.

And yet, we have the same sort of unresolved issues as are faced by every other Western nation:

  • We have an education system that educates us to get exam results, rather than to be happy.
  • We have an ‘illness system,’ rather than a health system.
  • We are doing jobs we don’t love, to pay for things we don’t need.
  • We have to work harder, because the more we work, the more we earn, the more house prices and living costs rise – and the harder we need to work to pay for them.
  • We have a staggeringly high proportion of the population with mental health problems.
  • We have up to 10,000 people (out of 65,000) who live in relative poverty.
  • We import the overwhelming majority of what we eat, although we used to be a food exporter.
  • We have an oil-fired power station and import nuclear energy, while we have an abundance of natural resources all around us.
  • We have a political system designed in antiquity, that doesn’t get the best out of those who work in it.
  • We are engulfed by news media that focuses on negativity, against the best interests of the community.
  • We worship heroes from foreign lands on screen and in magazines – and yet the real heroes within our community remain largely unsupported.

And here lies the wonder of being a small island nation. We live in one of the few places in the world where we can actually solve these problems. Guernsey is the size of a town, yet is also a fully-operational country. It just happens that you can have a coffee with everyone who works in the system, because they only live within a few miles of you. And that means change can happen.

There are many beautiful places to live in the world, but Guernsey has something that few places have. We have one of the smallest national bureaucracies in existence and in this we have the opportunity to lead the world in reinventing society. We can contribute to improving the world by using our small size to act quickly and to effectively reimagine how we do things. Much as the world now benefits from the investment of those few very wealthy people who paid for the early development of the phone, it is a national imperative for a wealthy country to invest its resources in solving a big problem on behalf of everyone else.

And this is why my focus now is taking on mission impossible at home, rather than abroad: to address the Western condition, in a small, wealthy nation that believes itself successful, yet is still suffering in major ways.

So, to that end, in March 2014 a handful of us launched one of the most ambitious social movements of all time, armed with nothing more than coffee, spare time and a small amount of personal funds. The Dandelion Project has a mission to make Guernsey the best place to live on earth by 2020. It aims to answer several questions:

  • Can a population be inspired to let go of its past and build a better place to live?
  • Can the focus of society be shifted from wealth to life?
  • Can the negative cycle of politics, government bureaucracy and media be disrupted by a community organising itself?

Our objective is to get our local population – and the world – to buy into this project and commit its time, effort and resources to help solve the overarching problems that impact every one of us. If we can laser-focus our global effort in one place, then we can create a rising tide that positively impacts the entire planet. In this context of continuously improving technological possibilities, empowering communities to rebuild their own societies from a blank page is the key to creating the world we all want.

We want everyone to be part of this project, including you. We can’t do this alone. If this project resonates with you in any way, we would like your help. More information about what we need right now can be found on a recent blog post of mine.

Here’s to building a better world.

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