Life was good. Everything was rosy. Pam, our children and I were settled in to a comfortable life in Bangkok enjoying friends, culture and cosmopolitan ammenities of that dynamic city.
I had my dream job, managing venture capital with a team of good people who got on well outside the office as well as at work. As managers investing millions of dollars in private companies we were constantly analysing commercial opportunities and economic conditions. There was a responsibility to be fair to the people whose money we invested, to the entrepreneurs whose businesses we backed and to the communities affected by the money flows we influenced. I was lucky to be able to bring my love of people and business together with other people's money to nurture enterprise.
The past couple of years had not been easy. The Asian Financial Crisis had decimated economies of South East Asia. The caution and due diligence we had exercised up to the crash meant we didn't have dogs in our portfolio that wiped out our fund. In fact we had managed to raise new funds and invest in businesses whose balance sheets had been broken. By 1998 the economies had stabilised and big money from US and Europe was vying to invest in China, SE Asia and India.
But, as 1998 drew on, it seemed to me that leadership in our world had a spinning moral compass. I noticed it in my company, as I saw dishonesty and politicking at the top which didn't seem to serve anyone's interest except perhaps one or two directors. Ethics were optional in my industry, finance and banking, too, as I saw big funds do deals on the basis of crony connections and investment for profit at the expense of local communities or the natural environment. World news, then as now, was filled with salacious stories from politics. My faith was tested by immorality at the highest levels of mainstream religions.
Everything I'd been taught told me that humanity was progressing, that people are good, and that technology provides solutions. This lack of morality at the top of global institutions made me uncomfortable. Perhaps I was naive, but it seemed wrong to compromise on morality to make a living. The feeling grew that greed and fear were prevalent in my industry, especially at the top. Headlines seemed to show that every institution - religious, industrial, economic, political, commercial - turned a blind eye to corruption. What I saw was a feudal pyramid of power with most people bound in work or social situations which deprive them of dignity. And people like me, influencing the allocation of money, were cutting corners to hog wealth. We should be making the world a better place. That's what I was in it for. A mantra started to spin in my head: "do the right thing the right way". I did not want to be sucked in to the pyramid of power, I wanted to liberate opportunities for everyone and make the world a better place.
I wanted to know if it was possible to balance ethics and environment with economic demands. If people like me had the wits and morality for which we were paid, the world should be a much happier place for everyone, after all it was clearly not a question of knowhow - we had space age technology!
By the end of 1998 I had decided to change course, even though it was unclear where it would lead. We would move to our family home in Ireland and I would take time to explore possibilities. My mission was to research and share technology for positive change.
First, I looked for answers and challenged accepted wisdom. Fortunately it became clear that you can balance ethics, environment and economics. An important part of the solution is challenging your own preconceptions and adopting an inclusive perspective. This is not new. It is the essence of the Golden Rule: "Do to others as you would have others do to you." But that is not easy to do when we are trained to follow mantra and tradition which focuses on differences between US and THEM. So what people need in order to fulfil the promise of humanity is understanding, which comes with education. Clearly not the kind of education manifested by mantra and tradition, but the kind of education that comes from experience, challenging one's own assumptions and finding answers.
Yes, people's perspective was fundamental to global choices and the egotistical perspective that underpinned a world dominated by greed and fear was primitive in comparison to the enlightened perspective that we all strive for. It was a question of sharing understanding, liberating teh technology for life. So that's what I started to do by sharing our research on a website, astraea.net, and offering coaching and advice. Astræa Limited was set up in 1999 as a "technology, teaching and training" enterprise to help make the world a better place.
Today, we help people and organisations thrive by liberating individual and collective potential. We challenge assumptions, encourage you to find solutions and offer experiences that help you grow. Your health will improve, your work/life balance will improve, your relationships will improve, your happiness will improve.Using a big picture approach, linking diverse aspects of life, we help you find your mojo and excel beyond expectations to make the world a better place.
DIY! You can change yourself. The quick answer is "breathe!". That will ease your journey. The technology we've uncovered and developed is freely discussed on this website. It underpins all our work. Please browse at your leisure ...
Advice and coaching for personal development - healthy body, mental acuity, emotional equanimity. Nurturing natural personal attributes is also fundamental to business success, so are referenced in business engagements too.
Advice for starting up, developing or expanding business. Special situations are catered for, such as turn-around or succession. Our iintegrated analysis, including financial, operational and market critique, informs strategic direction and operational priorities, clarifies risks and enhances enterprise value.
We have particular experience with family enterprise issues, where family, ownership and management merge.
- Access to a private retreat in a nature sanctuary.
You can read more of our journey in our book Common Sense. The journey has not been easy but positive feedback tells us we're doing the right thing. Encouragement from changemakers is particularly motivating. I will never forget the hug Hazel Henderson gave me when we met in San Fransisco at The World Future Society back in 2003. And we are proud to have been encouraged by Charles Handy, preeminent management guru, and President Michael D. Higgins, who has spent a lifetime fighting for human rights.