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Success 4.0

*** This article is informed and inspired by the work of Dr. Marc Gafni on this subject.

The other day I found a picture of the Dalai Lama on Facebook with a quote attributed to him. On closer research I found out that the quote was by no means from him, but in a slightly modified form by David Orr from his book Ecological Literacy: Educating Our Children for a Sustainable World:

“The plain fact is that the planet does not need more successful people. But it does desperately need more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers of every kind. It needs people who live well in their places. It needs people of moral courage willing to join the fight to make the world habitable and humane. And these qualities have little to do with success as we have defined it.“

Viewed in isolation, the first two sentences are a bit strange. Because what do we want to do with unsuccessful peacemakers and healers? If they are unsuccessful in their endeavors, what are they good for?

The last sentence then finally explains to us that it is about success, “as we have defined it.”

The Duden (a German dictionary) defines success as the “positive result of an effort; occurrence of an intended, striven for effect.” So this can in principle mean anything. It doesn't matter whether I intend to kill or heal someone. I can be successful with it.

But when many people state their goal as wanting to be successful, they probably mean something else. It's about happiness and satisfaction and sometimes also about being better than the competition.

If we look at success as the definition of a life well lived, we can see that the contents of this definition have gone through various changes. The respective definition is like a kind of program that lies beneath all of our endeavors and mostly influences them unconsciously and unrecognized.

We designate the different versions of this program with the version numbers known from software programs.

Since the actual concept of success comes from the modern age, we will start there with success 1.0. But even before that, there were already ideas of a well-lived life, which we will refer to as success 0.0.

And one thing seems abundantly clear: our definition of success has to evolve if, as a result of our endeavors, we do not want to deprive ourselves of our livelihood.

But let's first take a look at the various definitions so far.

And, to clarify this from the start: Each of these versions has its light and its dark side.


The model presented here is from Dr. Marc Gafni, who formulated success 0.0 - 3.0 for the Success 3.0 Summit (2014) that was initiated by him and our Center for Integral Wisdom. In a dialogue with John Mackey, the founder of Whole Foods, the two quickly run through these versions.

Marc later mentioned Success 4.0 in an informal private conversation with me, and I was immediately touched and enthusiastic. And so I'm already including it here, although Marc has never written about it himself.

The whole model is described in Marc's own “Second Simplicity” - another term he coined that refers to simplicity beyond complexity - even if I summarize it here in my own words. This style allows even an 8-year-old child to understand the main features of the model. At the same time, there are virtually no limits when it comes to deepening our understanding. Have fun making the model your own!

Success 0.0: The Vision of a Well-Lived Life in Premodernity


If we go back a long way in the history of mankind, it is probably first about bare survival - our own as well as that of the tribe. This soon includes not upsetting the spirits and gods, making sacrifices and sometimes sacrificing oneself for the tribe.

The next phase is about conquering expeditions, expansion, and power. The more power someone has, the more he can determine his own fate and that of his people. And power is usually synonymous with physical superiority. The ruler is God or sent by God. Everyone else tries to share in this power by putting themselves well with those in power. The mafia and various gangs are still good examples of this today.

The invention of agriculture in the so-called Axial Age was accompanied by a shift into a mythical consciousness. Belief in the One True God appears all over the world. The worldview is ethnocentric: we are the chosen people with the only true faith. The law (under different names, e.g. Torah or Dharma) given to us by our God tells us what a good life looks like. And this law is the same for everyone. Even kings and priests have to adhere to it. My position in life is determined by an eternal order. It is my job to fill this space in the order as best I can, in accordance with the law. This is a godly, well-lived life for which I will be rewarded at some point in the future (in the next life or in the afterlife).

In this phase, there is a kind of "success literature" for the first time: the holy scriptures of the various traditions, which, however, can only be read and interpreted by a few "scribes."

Success 1.0: The Modern Concept of Success

It is the industrial age that heralds the triumphant advance of the Enlightenment. Reason, science, and a beginning worldcentric consciousness bring a lot of progress. Technological progress is accompanied by humanitarian improvements (the prohibition of slavery, medical care and disease control, and general human rights). At the same time, warfare becomes more effective as well as the exploitation of people and resources.

To be successful in the modern worldview, to which a large majority still clings today, means to be more, higher, better, or further than the competition. It's about money, reputation, and a place as high as possible in the hierarchy. While in the traditional cultures of premodernity the place in the hierarchy is mostly inherited, in cultures of the modern age, this place is at least theoretically open to everyone.

There is a whole genre of success literature. The search for “success” on yields 702,076 results. Their heroes are Andrew Carnegie, John Rockefeller, and Bill Gates, but also Albert Einstein and Charles Darwin.

In its negative distortions, this worldview is often supported by an equally distorted and misinterpreted view of evolution as the survival of the fittest.

The images that are used to describe the situation also speak a clear language:

Companies are viewed as well-oiled machines that have to function as flawlessly as possible. The invention of the assembly line also belongs here, of course.

And then it goes on into the war metaphors:

“Hostile takeovers are being planned because the war chest is well-filled. The customer front has to be sharply targeted in order to sound out the thrust of the planned marketing campaign. The university youth is already ducking in front of the recruiting battle cry of the personnel department who go to 'war for the brains’."

Economy is viewed as a zero-sum game. What one wins, the other has to lose and vice versa.

It is this kind of success thinking that David Orr's quote above turns against.

And while we owe a lot of positive things to modernity, it is this one-sided, individualistic success thinking that we urgently need to develop further.

Success 2.0: How Do We Want to Live in Postmodernity?

Earth Shake Hands

In postmodernity, there are essentially two images of success:

  1. The exit from the “rat race” and the “alternative” life (whether in an ashram in India, hitchhiking around the world, or in a municipality in Germany is secondary)

  2. The activism in charitable social, ecological, or political projects or organizations

Both images break radically with the success-oriented thinking of the modern age. Earning money or trying to achieve something for yourself is downright despised.

If there is something to be achieved, it can only happen for a We. Postmodernity’s heroes are people like Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, or Martin Luther King.

The ideals of modernity and postmodernism can best be grasped through opposites that appear incompatible.

Modern versus Postmodern

  1. I versus we - autonomy versus communion

  2. Earning money versus donating money for a good cause

  3. Maximizing profit versus non-profit

  4. Exteriors versus interiors

  5. Thinking versus feeling

  6. Scientific thinking versus multi-perspectival or multicultural thinking thinking

  7. Economy versus ecology

  8. Objectivity versus relativity

  9. Hierarchies versus equality

  10. etc.

Unfortunately, this thinking in contradictions has, among other things, also led to the fact that the money that is spent on charitable projects often first has to be earned in the “bad” economy.

In addition, it often makes the advocates of postmodernism very ineffective in their actions.

When we are caught in an either/or thinking, we automatically begin to optimize our actions for one side or the other. For example, something is either “good for me” OR “good for us.” It maximizes profits OR the common good. It's good for the outside OR the inside, good for thinking OR feeling, good for the economy OR the environment ...

Let's imagine an organism in which we either optimize the situation for the individual cell OR for the whole organism, for the liver OR for the heart. Viewed from here, we notice that this makes no sense at all, because after all, the organism consists of the cells, the liver AND the heart, while at the same time it represents the environment for the cells. The cell is only healthy when the organism is healthy, and the organism is only healthy when the cell is healthy. And when the heart dies, the liver dies too, and vice versa.

And that already points us to the next shift to…

Success 3.0: Wake Up – Grow Up – Show Up

„The core crisis facing a society is often not a crisis of funds or resources. It is a crisis of imagination. And at the core of every crisis of imagination is a crisis of identity. Imagination and identity are interior structures of consciousness. We need to re-imagine ourselves.“ – Marc Gafni

In 2014, I had the privilege and pleasure of participating in the Success 3.0 Summit as a contributor. Dr. Marc Gafni and the Center for Integral Wisdom were co-initiators. In the meantime, Success 3.0 has developed into an independent organization that brought the RiseUp movement and film to life.

The aim here was to develop a new myth of success that builds on but also transcends the best wisdom of the previous ages (premodern, modern, and postmodern).

As a framework, Dr. Marc Gafni suggested "Wake Up - Grow Up - Show Up."


Wake Up: Waking up to the greatest possible context of your life and the deepest nature of your true identity.

Grow Up: Growing up to the most comprehensive (world- or cosmocentric) level of consciousness currently available.

Show Up: Showing up as a "Servant Leader" and giving your unique gifts that arise from your Unique Self and that address a unique need in your unique circle of ​​intimacy and influence.

All of this leads to waking up, growing up, and showing up as your Unique Self, playing your unique instrument in the self-organized, bottom-up Unique Self Jazz Symphony, which has the power to unleash endless innovation, creativity, and resources.

What would it mean if that was exactly what success meant? To wake up, grow up, and show up as a Unique Self, undivided from everything that is, with unique gifts to give and a unique perspective on the world?

An example of this new version of success:

John Mackey, the founder of Whole Foods in the USA, is, among other things, the co-author of the book Conscious Capitalism.

Here are a few ideas:

Successful companies make profit, which is a description, versus profit as the only goal companies should pursue, which is a prescription. Profit is necessary for a company to be viable, just as it is necessary for a person to eat. Just as no one would claim that the purpose of human life is to eat, neither is the purpose of a business to make a profit.

Do the right thing because it is right and trust that it will lead to the desired result. Correct actions lead to positive results.

People are sources of creativity and love and not human resources (resources such as coal, tools, etc.).

All stakeholders are taken into account. It's about a win-win-win-win-win or win6 approach.

Conscious Capitalism follows the following 4 principles:

  1. Orientation towards a higher purpose

  2. Consideration of all stakeholders

  3. Conscious leadership as a service

  4. Conscious culture of transparency and trust

And of course, Conscious Capitalism is only ONE model that grew out of Success 3.0.

There are other equally or even more far-reaching approaches, which are often based on a “whole system shift”.

And with that, Success 4.0 is already on the horizon.

Success 4.0: The Awakening of the Unique Self Jazz Symphony

While Success 3.0 is in the making, we can barely imagine Success 4.0.

In Success 3.0, the Unique Self becomes aware that it is not separate from anything. The first hint of a Unique Self Jazz Symphony arises from the natural attraction between the individual people who live their Unique Self - the improvised, harmonious interplay of the various unique voices.

In Success 4.0, it awakens to the realization that it is urgently needed, not only to complete the Unique Self Jazz Symphony and be held by it, but also, to develop it further. The evolutionary purpose that gives direction to the individuals as well as organizations and communities and connects them to the organism as a whole is itself subject to evolution.

This new vision of success invites the democratization of greatness, greatness or even enlightenment (another term coined by Dr. Marc Gafni, which refers to the potential that lives in each of us and not just in a select few). All of this is, in this new age, no longer limited to a few chosen people. Everyone is invited. Everyone who is ready can participate.

The new vision of success invites us to play a larger game. To wake up, grow up, and show up means to participate in the evolution of consciousness - individually as well as collectively. On the inside, this evolution of consciousness is nothing less than the evolution of love. Our understanding of love is transformed, and love itself evolves.

In our vision of Success 4.0, the Unique Self Jazz Symphony itself awakens to itself. We are evolution. It is the Planetary Awakening that Barbara Marx Hubbard speaks of. It is the next step in Conscious Evolution in Action.


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