how to lead a more conscious life with what you own

a more conscious life

Don’t let what you own, own you.

It would be easy to fall into the trap of thinking that “conscious consumerism” is some sort of new phenomenon, brought into the public eye in recent years by organizations blending business and purpose. That would be the first lie. The second lie in this notion of living a more conscious life with your possessions is that it starts with what you purchase today. The consumer culture we’ve been brought up in has trained us to buy our way into the lifestyle we want, even if that is a purposeful one.

At the root of it all everyone knows that this line of thinking is false. As a result, I wanted to share with you all a few simple ways (as well as some resources) to help you think about how you can be more mindful with what you own.

1) The most conscious / ethical / environmentally-friendly thing you can do today is to cherish the possessions you already own and love.

As tempting as it is to toss everything to the curb and start from scratch with a thoughtful curation of clothes, accessories and home goods, what you would be doing in that process is creating more waste. Cherishing items that we love and doing what we can to repair and maintain their longevity is vitally important, and honestly counter-cultural in a society that says “just get a new one”.

Have you heard of “repair cafes”? The New York Times recently wrote an article sharing about the rise in pop-up gatherings where people are bringing their broken or worn possessions to be fixed and repaired by hobbyists and peers. It’s such a beautiful community expression and as the article states “there is a lot of gratification on both sides of the table”, for those who are helping repair and those who are leaving with a fixed item.

2) If you must buy something, try to purchase it second hand.

I recently posted this photo on Instagram and I was impressed by the dialogue and appetite for the conversation. I have been a thrift shopper for years, and aside from the environmental benefits of purchasing what has already been made and used, as well as the economic value, I love the fact that you can find unique pieces.

I will say, however, that it’s all the more important to ask yourself whether it is an item (even from a thrift store) that you truly need. I’m the first to admit I have made thrift store purchases that are never worn or used, that get returned to Goodwill. I’m glad to have supported a local thrift store in the process, but it served as wasted energy on my end.

If you are needing to remove clutter from your home our closet, Amazon and Goodwill have teamed up to make it as easy as possible to donate your gently worn/used items to Goodwill. You don’t even have to leave your home with the Give Back Box.

**Side Note: Did you know the song “Thrift Shop” by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis from 2012 has been viewed over a BILLION times?

3) If you do purchase new items, do your best to make sure they are ethically produced.

We live in exciting times. Thanks to the internet and a growing number of businesses working to blend better ethics and positive impact into their business models, many of the items we need for our wardrobe or homes can be purchased in good conscious. It’s not as fast as purchasing “with 1-Click” on Amazon, however, there is an abundance of resources that can get you caught up to speed. One of my personal favorites is The Good Trade.

One last note on ethical purchasing… be aware of brands touting “social good”, as there has also been a lot of people who have jumped on the band wagon to capitalize on the rise in cause marketing (which is a phrase I detest). My simple litmus test to gauge whether I would consider purchasing from a brand is this: do they lead with their impact or is does their “social good” begin after a purchase is made? Or said another way, are they prioritizing their impact regardless of whether a sale takes place? Clothing brands that are sourcing environmentally materials, or employing underserved communities in the process are a positive example of what it means to lead with impact.

To lead a more conscious life, is to be aware of the impact your personal footprint has on this earth and you do what you can to minimize that. And in my opinion, this isn’t a responsibility that we all share, it’s actually a lot more fun. You will cherish the items that you own, you will seek out unique pieces when you purchase something new, and you will support great causes in the process.

Thanks for reading along, feel free to comment with any questions or reach out to me on twitter or instagram — @kohlgreyson.

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infinite hope from mlk jr.

martin luther king infinite hope

Hope Rooted in Action

The older I get the more appreciation and reverence I have for our national holidays. It can be hard to move past the social media onslaught of quotes from people like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the cynical thinking of that being the extent to our engagement with the issues. Regardless, I appreciate the pause placed into our society’s calendar to slow down and reflect.

Today, like every year, I find myself reading up on MLK Jr. and being inspired by the movement he lead, the oppression he faced, and the ongoing conversation around equality today. One soundbite that stood out to me this morning was the following…

“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”

I don’t read this as a passive admittance, or a “come what may” kind of mentality. My belief is that infinite hope cannot be separated from action. If we are to hope infinitely in the possibility of a better tomorrow, or of a more just world, that hope has no choice but to inform and influence our actions.

It is that kind of hope that leads us to act courageously and contrarily to the status quo, in the same way that Mr. King’s like was marked by organizing, convening, and speaking truthfully. We act because we believe that things can be changed, otherwise we wouldn’t have the gumption to step out in faith at all.

My hope is that we can all find ways to live with an infinite hope and to actively pursue the causes that are close to our hearts. For this is the only way we’ll see and experience justice. Or as MLK Jr. said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

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2017 word of the year: empathy

Empathy

We Get What We Give

If 2016 did anything exceedingly well it was showing us that though we have made so much beautiful progress as humanity, we still have a long way to go. Globally, we saw individuals, communities, and governments wrestling with polarizing issues and grave divisions with imminent consequences. How are we to respond to global immigration issues? How does that change with the refugee crisis our world is experiencing? Can anyone truly feel safe amongst the outpouring of shootings occurring immediately around us? How do I love and/or attempt to understand someone with drastically different political views than my own?

If you’re anything like me, you seek answers and new learning in a variety of ways, but most of all you like listening to podcasts. 🙂 It seemed to me that nearly every podcast I listened to over the last part of 2016 addressed the palpable division felt by all and explored what we are to do about it. One consistent theme I heard, and that which resonated with me the most (or perhaps the one I simply want to believe in)… EMPATHY.

No example represented this concept more clearly than a segment on the TED Radio Hour show titled “Reconciliation” (listen to the whole thing, but you can fast forward to 45 min. if you want to hear this specific part). It hit me so hard, that I found myself crying while I was commuting to work on my bicycle. I will pose the same question the interviewee — Elizabeth Lesser — asked during the show, “Have you ever heard of Antoinette Tuff?”

Antoinette worked the front desk at an elementary where a 20 year old man came toting a AK-47 and vocal ambitions to cause harm. She immediately called 9-1-1, but what happened next was extraordinary. While on the phone with emergency response she entered the room where the man was holding students hostage, and she began talking with him. She shared how she was recently struggling and had considered taking her own life. She reminded him that he wasn’t alone in the struggle. She met him with love and she empathized with all that he must have been going through. He eventually gave up his gun when the authorities came.

Though this story took place in 2013, the message it shares couldn’t be more relevant. We’re not called to fix the situation or change someone’s mind, but we need to hear them out and do what we can to understand their position or their perspective. That is what breaks down walls and allows for a dialogue. However, it’s incredibly important to note that it does require one person to take the first step, to hold out the olive branch and offer their sincere interest.

This is my hope for 2017. That we can start to lead with empathy, so that our perspective as a society can expand and so that when (read “if”) we do have the opportunity to speak our words will be heard.

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{Note: You can read more about Antoinette Tuff’s story HERE.}

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22 photos that defined my 2016

Below is a mostly complete list of the moments and lessons that defined this past year for me. 2016 has proven to be quite an interesting year, to use the euphemism of the decade. It’s odd how the unanimity of challenging circumstances for everyone on some level, can provide a feeling of comfort to us all.

I’m not trying to celebrate or glorify the fact that it was a tough year for many people. I’m not masochistic. I’m merely leaning on the fact that our shared experiences allow for an understanding and togetherness that is significant to me. I know for me it has been one of the more difficult years of my adult life and I am looking forward to a new year as much as anyone. However, the goal isn’t to wipe the slate clean and to start fresh like a whiteboard, but to file away the lessons learned within well worn pages and to carry them forward with nuanced perspective.


1) I take a lot of pictures. A lot. Photography has become more of a passion and it’s for moments like this when I randomly saw my friend digging for clams while I was walking the pier. A photo is something to keep and to share.


2) Our beloved house by the sea. We found out the day Clive was born that our landlords were selling the house we were renting. A few months later we had to move out, but we wouldn’t have traded our time here for ANYTHING.


3) This photo was taken on Clive’s first trip to the ER. He had croup and it sounded like he couldn’t breathe at times and it was scary. We got to visit the hospital where my wife works and saw some familiar faces which was great. He was a champ.


4) These colors. This pier. Our little part of the ocean that we are fortunate enough to call home.


5) There are three essential items I walk out of the door with every morning: coffee, lunch, and keys. There was a period of the year where I could only seem to remember 2 of the 3, and I usually forgot the keys. Thus, I’d sit outside our office on this picnic table until someone else showed up.


6) NYC. I get to this city as often as I can. I love the pace. I love the energy. I love seeing friends and my step sister who lives there. See you soon!


7) On a work level, 2016 proved to be the most challenging year I’ve ever faced and I was stretched in a every way as a leader. As a young founder of an organization much of your learning is trial by fire and it feels as though you are learning by Braille. It’s exposed my strengths and weaknesses in ways that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise and for that I’m grateful.


8) An overwhelming highlight of the year was getting to participate in a graduation ceremony at our Krochet Kids intl. program in Uganda. Nearly 30 women took the step to move toward self-reliance as they left our programs and are now leading businesses and careers of their own. It was awe-inspiring.


9) Neighbors. We were lucky to move right behind some good friends. This meant constant scheming of ways to utilize our shared spaces. Movie night on the garage was one such escapade, and the movie Bat Kid is incredible BTW.


10) Nostalgia for me is rooted in fresh water, boats, and searching for turtles. Our family lake cabin allows for all of the above, and we are lucky to escape their at least once during the summer.


11) I love the people I get to work with. We have a tradition (creatively) dubbed “Last Friday”. On the last Friday of every month we do an activity together. Our staff and intern ping pong tournament is pictured above.


12) Remember how the Olympics happened? This was Clive’s outfit for the opening ceremonies and for the family Olympics competition we had with my in-laws.


13) My wife is a former gymnast and all around badass (both shown here). She impresses me daily and I ask her to show off her skills whenever I can because it’s one of the things that made me fall in love with her.


14) We traded the beach for this incredible nature preserve near our new home. Can you spot Amy and Clive?


15) Our family bikes. It was a huge milestone to get a bike seat for the little monster. It meant we could be mobile on bikes again as a family. Life is complete.


16) What an incredible joy it is to get to experience travel through the eyes of a child. We’ve had fun bringing Clive along for the ride. Pictured here was his first cross country trip to NYC at 6 months old.


17) I especially love this photo because of the journey I took to capture it. I left the previous night watching the sunset in Florida and then I awoke before sunrise on a camping trip the next morning in the central coast of California. The two coasts couldn’t be more different and the direct contrast was fascinating to me.


18) I have always been a morning person and Clive got that same gene. Many weekend mornings find us exploring around Newport pier like you see here.


19) Community. The Haacks put on an incredible “friendsgiving” gathering every year, but this year was especially memorable because we all sat and ate in the rain. It was magical.


20) We had board meeting/retreat in the San Juan Islands in Washington this Fall. Growing up in the Northwest I had somehow missed ever visiting this amazing part of the country. It did not disappoint.


21) This photo sums up our little guy. All smiles, one sock, and bringing joy wherever he goes. Though I didn’t know what to expect, parenting has been more difficult than I thought it would be. Higher highs and lower lows have marked our experience thus far and we’re just getting started.


22) It wasn’t until the latter part of the year that Amy and I started to attempt some date nights. I have been thankful for encouraging voices in our lives reminding us of the importance to prioritize our marriage amidst children. Here’s to more of this in 2017!

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living your own story

Create your own path.

More and more, I fear the increasingly dangerous ways we escape to living a life through someone else’s experiences. All of us are guilty of flipping through an endless stream of photos on social media, only to pick our heads up and realize that hours have passed. Our pursuit of inspiration quickly turned into a game of comparison and a feeling that we aren’t doing enough with our lives. Ironically, the response is to keep mindlessly scrolling.

I once heard Scott Belsky give a talk based on his book “Making Ideas Happen”. He mentioned a term during his presentation that has stuck with me to this day and continues to serve as a jolt to my own productivity — like a flick to the back of the ear.

From a business sense, he spoke to the incessant desire many of us have to check analytics, sales figures, or growth metrics for our work. To these minute (and often untimely) activities, he dubbed the term insecurity work, plainly stating the underlying reason for why we want to see the results rolling in, our own insecurity. The point he argued was to say that if we spent all of the energy we typically exerted in constantly checking analytics to the actual accomplishment of the goals we seek, that our results would be far better.

I think of social media in this same way. We all are at risk of sitting back and watching a handful of great photographers on Instagram lead (what seems to be) an exciting and adventurous life, while our own opportunities subtly slip beyond our grasp.

As with nearly everything I write, I put this here as much as a reminder to myself as I do to any of you who may resonate with this point. I welcome your thoughts, ideas and tips to avoid such pitfalls as well.

Start living your own story.

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