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The Ten Percent Solution
Simple Steps to Improve Our Lives & Our World
By Marc Allen
New World LibraryCopyright © 2002 Marc Allen
All rights reserved.
A WALK IN THE WOODS
"We should get out and walk more —
be more like Carl Sandburg.
He said he needed to take long walks,
so he could stop and sit on a rock
and ask himself,
Who am I? Where am I going?"
It was late in the fall. The pyracantha bush overgrowing everything outside my window had exploded into masses of bright red berries, and a screaming flock of birds attacked it wildly and joyfully, getting drunk on fermented berry juice.
The sun was bright and warm; it felt wonderful on my face. But I didn't have much time to enjoy the pleasures of a sunny day — I had to get to work and confront the problem.
It was with me the moment I woke; for months it had been a deep, aching presence in the pit of my stomach. It had been with me ever since I started my own business, and had been steadily growing and growing, until now I had to face it. I had to do something.
I went into my funky little office and went through the mail and — my God! — some bank had been reckless enough to send me yet another pre-approved credit card. I called the toll-free number and activated the card immediately, then jumped in my car and headed for the nearest bank to get the cash advance I needed to cover the rent, utilities, and — worst of all — all the other credit-card payments that were overdue.
That old familiar anxiety was even worse when I got back to the office. Now I was another $5,000 in debt. How was I going to make the payments?
I had no idea. I was tired. My work was slow and clumsy. It all felt like such a struggle.
Then Bernie called, in the early afternoon, as I was staring into space doing triage — trying to figure out who absolutely needed to be paid in order for my little business to survive for a week or two. Bernie quickly talked me into taking a walk with him behind his home. It had been quite a while since I'd seen him. The work could wait.
I drove out into the country. It had rained hard the night before, and leaves dazzled in the sun. I should do this more often, I thought. Just drive alone somewhere, anywhere, as long as it's out of the city. It helps quiet my restless mind in some way, and eases anxiety.
When I reached the driveway, an old man in a sweat suit ambled across the lawn to meet me. His white running shoes perfectly matched his slicked-back white hair.
"Bernie, you look pretty spiffy," I said. I'd usually seen him wearing a conservative brown old-man's suit — though with a tie-tack made of the biggest gold nugget I'd ever seen.
He chuckled and said, "Got some good walking shoes?"
He led me into his home. We had a glass of cold water, went out his back door, and crossed his big backyard. It led to a trail that wound into the hills through a grove of sweet-scented pines and lush ferns.
"We should get out and walk more," Bernie said to me over his shoulder. "Be more like Carl Sandburg. He said he needed to take long walks, so he could stop and sit on a rock and ask himself, Who am I? Where am I going?"
We walked on, out of the woods now and onto dry, golden grassy meadows that dipped down into cool areas shaded with oaks, madrone, and bay trees. We didn't talk for a long time. It was almost hot in the sun, that last autumn warmth you savor so much. It was cool in the shade, and I could feel winter coming on.CHAPTER 2
A UTOPIAN NOVEL
It was a great,
glorious vision of a world
with a steadily increasing standard
of living for everyone,
by the powerful principle of tithing.
My thoughts wandered over many things as we walked along in silence. I thought of the meetings we'd had over the past year or so since I met Bernie. He was a remarkable old man, given to long periods of silence interspersed with little talks that were always worth thinking about.
I thought of the time he had told me about a Utopian novel he was writing, or at least thinking about writing, I wasn't sure which. I often thought about what he said that day, because his novel presented a blueprint for an entirely possible future.
He imagined that, in the not-too-distant future, some hugely successful corporation would set up and fund a nonprofit organization that becomes far more successful than the parent company, creating vast amounts of income from both donations and the great number of successful enterprises it launches. Its mission is to get more and more people and corporations worldwide to donate at least five to ten percent of their income to help people on every level of society — to feed, shelter, educate, and support anyone and everyone who needs assistance in creating better lives for themselves, and even in fulfilling their dreams.
Millions would be trained to teach people how to better their lives; millions would be trained and employed to do valuable service work for people and the environment.
The work of these people, combined with what governments and religious organizations and corporations and other groups can and should do, would be enough to change the world, and make poverty and hunger and even war a distant memory from a dark age.
It was a great, glorious vision of a world with a steadily increasing standard of living for everyone, propelled forward not by governments — though they were certainly part of the solution — but by the powerful principle of tithing applied by a large number of individuals and corporations worldwide.
Bernie said that one person's vision could show us it was possible to improve the world, even transform the world, and the key to it all was simply getting more and more people and corporations to regularly give away a small portion of their income and energy to some cause that appeals to them. It was a remarkable vision, definitely worth pursuing.
When Bernie finally spoke, his words coincided with my thoughts. They were important enough to write down, and I went straight home after and recorded every word I could recall:
"Remember that Utopian novel I was thinking of writing? I've changed my mind about it. I've found an easier, simpler way. I don't have to write a novel — I just have to get you to put this conversation in a book, and get the book noticed.
"And maybe we don't need to start another nonprofit corporation ourselves — maybe we do, I don't know yet. But it may not be necessary, because the dream — and even the infrastructure — is already in place. There are thousands and thousands of nonprofits out there, and government offices, and churches, and schools, and businesses, and people on their own who are already doing the work. All they need is more support: more donations, more volunteers.
"Thousands of kitchens are already feeding millions of people, and there are thousands of housing programs for the homeless. They just need far more support — with time and energy as well as with money — and more and more of them need to be created. There are millions of recovery centers and therapists out there; they just need more support, so everyone who needs them has access to them.
"There are already a vast number of schools at every educational level — they just need more money, lots of money, so there is a great system of free public education again, from preschool to graduate school, and so we can pay our teachers much better salaries, and make teaching what it should be — an important, respected, well-paid profession.
"There are already all kinds of organizations that support artists and entrepreneurial ideas — they just need a lot more funding, and more support from more people.
"All kinds of organizations are already protecting children and animals, the environment and indigenous peoples. The infrastructure is already in place — all we need to do is encourage more people to support it.
"All you and I need to do is make the concept clear to the world. Publish a book about it and get it noticed. Give away thousands of copies, or whatever it takes. Give the essence of it away free on the Internet, so practically anyone who wants this information can have free access to it.
"Get it out to nonprofit organizations, schools, churches, government offices, corporations, media, bookstores, individuals — wherever we can spread the word.
"Get corporations involved. Get schools involved. Get children saving and tithing, in schools around the world. If we could get even just five or ten percent of the world's population involved, that would be enough to create a whole new world — where poverty and hunger no longer exist.
"If universal charity prevailed,
earth would be a heaven and hell a fable.
"Charles Colton said that. And it's undeniably true.
"I can already hear some people saying, 'That's a liberal solution. Just throwing more money at things is not the answer.' But that's limited thinking, because money is essential. Money is power — power to get the results you want.
"So many people object to all the wasted money, and all the money spent differently than they would like it to be spent. But we've got to accept that some money will be wasted; some people will always abuse the generosity of others. Yet we can't throw the baby out with the bath water — because some people take advantage of my generosity doesn't mean I shouldn't be generous! Not all the money is wasted — some of it ends up having a good effect, even a great effect.
"This isn't really about generosity, anyway — it's about empowering people, educating them, and helping them find meaningful work.
"Besides, it's time to get over these divisions we've created, these labels of left and right and conservative and liberal, and even our rigid judgments of right and wrong, when we apply them to other people. It's time to realize we're stuck with each other, just like we're stuck with our biological families, and we've got to accept each other and work out our problems together. It's time to quit fighting and form workable partnerships with each other.
"There isn't just one way, or one solution. There are many different ways of being, and many different solutions. Each of us just needs to find what works for us."
We walked on in silence for a while. I hoped I would remember his words. Bernie kept up a good steady pace, and we covered quite a bit of ground.
He chuckled to himself, then got back into it. "I was listening to talk radio the other night — the largest station in northern California — and the subject was the homeless problem. They had two authorities on the air, and people calling in, discussing what to do with all the people living on the cities' streets.
"And no one had any answers! I listened for nearly an hour — and it was just endless talk about the problems, and no solutions!
"So I called in, and got on the air right away. I said I had several solutions — in fact, I have solutions for liberals and solutions for conservatives. That got their attention."
SOLUTIONS FOR LIBERALS AND CONSERVATIVES
"I told them a good solution for liberals is to get more of them tithing — supporting some cause financially — and get more of them involved in some other way too, working with the homeless or with organizations that help them.
"It's for our own good, after all. Give and you shall receive. That's not just a good, honorable motto: it's literally true. I am generous for selfish reasons, because I always receive far more than I give. Always.
"I said a good solution for everyone — whether we're labeled liberal or conservative or anything else — is to find more ways to work in partnership with others. Those that have need to work more effectively with those who don't. That's certainly obvious, at least to most people.
"And I gave them a solution that can appeal to the conservatives, too, in language they understand:
"America is of course a great empire — quite possibly the greatest the world has ever seen. We know from history that all the great empires — Rome, France, Russia — crumbled from within, because each one evolved into a country with a fabulously rich upper class and a huge underclass of disempowered people who had no hope of improving their lives within the current system. Their only hope was in revolution, in destroying the system entirely and attempting to replace it with something radically different.
"Every great empire in history has been built through domination — and domination leads to endless conflict, which eventually destroys the great civilization built by the empire. As Riane Eisler shows us so brilliantly in her book The Power of Partnership, the only long-term solutions for the endless problems created by domination is to shift into partnership, through finding new ways of doing things that take into consideration the needs of all of the people involved. Domination leads to endless conflict; only partnership leads to peace and harmony. Only through partnership will we ever find what we all want: lasting peace.
"Our chief adversary, the 'Evil Empire' — a phrase right out of the dominator culture that always made me gag — has crumbled. Now, our greatest threat is not from another nation, and not from conflicts between other countries, and not even from organized terrorist attacks — because those attacks can do no real damage to the infrastructure of this great country unless a large percentage of people within this country support these terrorists, or support the overthrow of the government in some other way.
"The parallel with Rome is fascinating. Rome fell not from the scattered attacks on its borders, but because it had a huge number of slaves and poor and other disenfranchised people within the empire who supported its destruction.
"Our greatest threat, just as in Rome, is from within, from the disenfranchised people in our own cities.
"A very smart use of part of our defense budget is to fight the enemy within — or, to put it in a better perspective, to use our defense funds to rebuild our own infrastructure, helping out our own people, making partnerships with our people to help them overcome poverty and desperation.
"Here's one specific solution: The Navy is warehousing hundreds of ships, all across the country. We're paying millions of dollars a year to maintain these ships, and they sit there empty. We could have at least one ship in every major city in the country that has a port — as most of our major cities do.
"Every one of these ships has housing for thousands of people, kitchens that can feed them all, and a hospital to take care of them. It would be a great use of our tax dollars to house, feed, and heal these people. We could have ongoing classes on the ships for addiction recovery, and even for education and career counseling.
"The Navy could maintain the ships, perhaps working with the Coast Guard on our coasts; the Army could set up shelters and recovery centers and classes in the inner cities; and the Marines, who always ask for the toughest jobs, could do it in our jails, our so-called 'correctional institutions,' helping prisoners make better career choices!
"The possibilities are endless. Think what an impact those great organizations could have on the health, safety, and protection of our people!"
Bernie was speaking and walking quickly. I was breathing heavily, my shirt damp with sweat.CHAPTER 3
Pay yourself first.
Tithe to yourself, to your future,
to your family's future.
A BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE TEN PERCENT SOLUTION
I felt the curious, odd sensation of being stimulated and tired at the same time. My head felt light — I didn't know if it was from Bernie's expansive ideas or from the pace he kept up — but the rest of my body was exhausted. I knew it was because of all the problems I was carrying around. I had felt chronically drained of energy for weeks.
Bernie, however, was filled with energy, gesturing broadly as he talked.
"One way to improve things dramatically — to take a quantum leap in our minds, and in our lives — is what I call the ten percent solution. It's a simple program that's filled with solutions to both personal and global problems. It has three parts to it — saving, giving, and working in partnership.
"The first part is the solution to a great number of your personal financial problems:
"Save at least ten percent of your income
until you have achieved financial independence.
"Eventually, you can live off the interest your savings generate, and you're free to do whatever you want. This is not nearly as difficult as most people think, as we'll see.
"The second part is the solution to a huge number of global problems:
"Give at least ten percent of your income
to worthy organizations and people
who are working to help solve
the world's problems in some way.
And get involved with at least one program
so you're giving your time and energy as well.
"And encourage more and more people and corporations globally to do the same.
"The third part is a solution for both personal and global problems:
"Learn to live and work
in partnership with others.
"That's it. That's the whole program. It's a simple solution, as many of the best are.
"Do any of these three things,
and you're part of the solution.
Do two or three, and you're a
creative force for positive change.
"It's something we can all do. It's something a lot of people are doing already — and the impact is already being felt, globally."
Excerpted from The Ten Percent Solution by Marc Allen. Copyright © 2002 Marc Allen. Excerpted by permission of New World Library.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
1 A Walk in the Woods,
2 A Utopian Novel,
4 A Bit of Therapy,
5 A Bit of Generosity,
6 Working in Partnership,
7 Keys to Fulfillment,
About the Author,