Last year, aspiring artist Jonathan Harris visited Bhutan to learn about why this country is so imbued with happiness. Bhutan is noted for measuring its Gross Happiness Product, rather than what we do in western cultures, which is to measure our Gross National Product. This model cares more about social and spiritual well-being than financial well-being. Jonathan's project, Balloons for Bhutan, documents his effort to capture “a portrait of happiness in the last Himalayan kingdom.”
As part of this project, Jonathan asked 117 people of all different shapes, ages and occupations five simple questions related to happiness: What makes them happy; what is their happiest memory; what is their favorite joke; what is their happiness level on a scale of 1 to 10; and if they could make one wish, what would it be. He then gave each person a certain quantity of balloons that related to their level of happiness. On one balloon, he wrote each person’s wish and then strung it up on a sacred mountain pass.
What strikes me about this particular story is the artist’s ingenuity. He combines artistry with humanity in a way that teaches us something meaningful and helps to connect us all. He also shares his lessons freely on YouTube and in his Ted talk.
Even more striking is his underlying message. This particular project, and countless others like it popping up all over the world, are showing us all how the world has changed in a meaningful way over the last 10 years. Through the ingenuity and courage of people like Jonathan, we can now source stories that demonstrate how we are all connected. The stories that Jonathan heard and shares with us could have been told in any country in the world and when we hear them we are reminded of our shared humanity. They help cultivate a global consciousness — the awareness that we are all one and must contribute positively to our commonly shared planet.
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Leaders within business with a global consciousness tend to do a number of things:
- Reach out to others with kindness
- Search for common ground in conflict
- Assume the positive intentions of others and therefore rarely react — instead they respond thoughtfully
Seed win-win solutions
- Focus on the needs of the whole system
This is the wave of future leadership and it's growing as we speak. I teach at Hult International School of Business. In any given year, we have over 2,000 Masters level students spread over five different campuses across the globe. Our student body represents 100 different countries. The students come to our particular school, among other things, to learn how to become business leaders in a growing international climate. They are truly excited to work with people from different nationalities and discover during the course of their work that, while on the surface we all appear different, deep down we all share so much in common.
They discover that they all have a desire to make the world a better place, want to do right by their families, hunger for challenges that will help them grow and want to strive for excellence. These qualities bind them together in a tapestry of brilliant color and texture. They reach out across boundaries and find delight in discovering themselves, others and the world.
The efforts at our school, and similar institutions across the world, give me hope that eventually we will heal the dissonance on our planet. It may not happen in my lifetime, but I’m hopeful it will happen in my grandchildren’s lifetime, or perhaps seven generations down the road.