How the Power of Attention Changes Everything: Jeff Klein (Transcript)

So how does paying attention foster connection between people?

Let’s do a little exercise. Imagine for a moment that you’re in a conversation with someone who really loves you, right; just do that imagine, feel them, it could be your parent or your best friend or your spouse, somebody who really loves you. And you’re sharing something with them that you’re passionate about or really concerned about. And they are paying total attention to you. You can feel the love and care coming off of them. How does that feel? It feels good; doesn’t it?

And why does it feel good? Because they’re paying attention to you. You feel connected.

Now let’s change the slate and imagine another scenario. You’re at a cocktail party in a casual conversation with someone you just met. And they are looking around the room to see if there’s anyone they notice, right, checking their cell phone, not really paying attention to you. How does that feel? Not very connected; is it?

When we give our full attention and when we receive someone’s attention, we feel connected and the opposite is equally true. Paying attention deepens our experience of connection with others.

We humans are clever species. We have essentially created our own world within the natural world. Yet everything we do ripples out and affects the broader world. As John Muir said when we tug at a single thing in nature we find it connected to everything else.

As part of our quest to elevate — continually elevate and enhance the quality of our lives, we humans create 10,000 new molecules a year. That’s 10,000 molecules that show up in thousands of products, yet we rarely test these new molecules for their toxicity. We release them into the world without knowing if or how they cause harm to us or other forms of life and they often do.

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Remember Erin Brockovich, anyone? Julia Roberts played later in the movie. Well she uncovered and publicized a highly toxic chemical compound called hexavalent chromium but it continued to be used even after she publicized it.

Around 20 years ago, an entrepreneur named Bob Galanos set out to replace hex chrome in the priming of aircraft before they were painted. So they would put on a primer that had hex chrome and then they would paint the aircraft. Big application, I mean aircrafts are big and there are lots of them right.

So Bob was making great progress when he unexpectedly died. His daughter Laura who at the time was an elementary school teacher, mother of two small children with no business experience and no chemistry experience, decided to take up her father’s torch and pursue this mission.

Laura took on the daunting task of gaining acceptance for their new product from the aerospace industry. After about a decade of ongoing battles against deep-seated beliefs, long-standing relationships, archaic technical specifications, Laura and her company Pantheon Enterprises prevailed and their product PreKote is now used by almost every US commercial airliner and it’s used on US military aircraft.

And as a consequence, millions of pounds of the highly toxic hex chrome are no longer released into our air, our soil, and water. And workers aren’t exposed to its highly carcinogenic effects and they don’t take the residue home on their boots and clothes and contaminate their families. No small thing.

Two keys to Laura’s success. One, she recognized that if the users took into account increased water cost, environmental permit fees, hazardous material handling fees and other indirect but very real costs that not only was PreKote more effective than the hex chrome based product which it is proven to be and non-toxic but it also costs less to use.

The second one and perhaps more important is that Laura recognized that the true costs of hex chrome included the effects on the health and well-being of people and the planet.

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The point of this story: we can recognize that everything is connected to everything else. We can recognize the full effects of our actions and we can discover effective ways for doing things differently. And doing things differently through business is not just about the products we create, it’s also about the way we work together.

What is business? At lunch we had an awesome conversation. I love Grand Rapids. You guys are great. Yeah really let’s hear it. Really alive and thoughtful.

So what is business and business is people, right — people coming together to do something together, to create value for themselves, for others and for each other.

It’s not a coincidence that Southwest Airlines and JetBlue Airways are consistently the most successful and have the highest customer satisfaction. And it’s not a coincidence that Costco outperforms Sam’s Club and other competitors. And it’s not a coincidence that The Container Store and Whole Foods Market enjoy incredible employee loyalty and customer engagement and loyalty.

Through conscious capitalism, these companies and countless others of all sizes in every industry throughout the globe are transforming the way we think about business. They begin by treating people with trust and care and respect. And many of them, even proclaim their intent to treat people with love. If you go to Kelton, Texas where The Container Store is based, the roof of their building is painted: “we love our employees” and you go downstairs inside in the offices there’s this long wall filled with photographs 5, 10, 15, 20, 25 years that people have been with the company. They love their employees and their employees love them.

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