Hello Michael

It was heartening to read how you see Western Engineering as a working example of a business serving the common good.

What you are achieving is a testimony to your vision and understanding of what is possible: for individuals, business, organisations – for humanity in all its guises.

Moreover, the growth and development are a tribute to your team’s development.

You asked for a piece to flesh out the concept of ‘sustainable design’ as applied to life in general, not just to business.

So, this letter sets out to define not what we have been educated to think works and matters in life – there are as many diverse opinions on that as there are people – but rather what really works and what really matters that is common to all people. And in doing so, to illustrate how sustainability can manifest in every aspect of our life.


Kindness, understanding, wisdom and common sense seem in short supply, but incredibly, they are inherent within the mind of every human being.

Who amongst us doesn’t have beliefs about what works and what matters in: relationships, health, the environment, politics, sex, religion, business, the economy, work, family, community …

Who hasn’t got ideas on what it takes to sustain and maintain quality of life?

We all can parley about our vision for what works and matters to us, to our family, friends and community … to the rest of humankind.

But where might a universal answer lie that speaks to what really works and really matters to every human being?

Does a collective reality exist before all the stories and ideas we inhabit – beyond culture, national boundaries, established wisdom, scientific fact, or religious commandments?

And if found, how might the answer provide us with the design for a sustainable relationship with all aspects of life – for all humanity?

Is there a deeper reality which, if plumbed, would ensure corporate decisions are beneficial to all, not simply advantageous to the short-term imperatives of the boardroom?

Is there a way of being that might lead to wiser, common-sense decisions in world parliaments – breakthroughs that would provide a fair go for all?

Think about what it would mean if we ended hostilities and created sustainability in economic, environmental, societal and humanitarian matters!

And think about what it would mean if we plumbed that deeper reality and discovered for ourselves the universal remedy for healing, growing and sustaining our relationships with partners, family, friends, colleagues, neighbours and the billions of us!

Consider the miraculous possibilities if, from that vantage point, each of us became part of the process of healing minds and bodies, and simultaneously became the wise custodians of the planet.

Michael, we can end the struggle over whose way is the correct way, whose values are the right ones.

Even with the complexity we’ve created, there remains a simple yet profound answer to what really works and what really matters for all humanity.

It is not a simplistic pipe dream.

It is a single, sustainable answer, a means to sustainable design that metaphorically exists within our hearts – yours and mine.

What each of us thinks works will work when given birth and put into practice from a specific state of mind. If not in that state of awareness, what we think works (which may give every short-term indication of working) will fail, sooner or later.

And what we think matters will matter if it too is given life from that same state of mind.

Without being in that state, what we design ultimately won’t work, won’t matter, and never will.


To paraphrase Robert Burns, we bear witness to the failure of the ‘best-laid plans of mice and men’, as some of our finest intellects and most powerful leaders do what they think works and matters.

An example on our doorstep is the scandalous state of tens of thousands of our Aboriginal Australians, men, women and children – mums, dads, grandmas, granddads, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews.

Why, with thousands of some of our best people, black and white, holding such good intentions around what they think works and matters, and with billions of dollars deployed annually, is the present state for so many of our first Australians arguably worse than ever and still deteriorating?

The cause is rooted in one of the five levels of participation and specifically a reflection of their individual and collective states of mind. I’m referring to those who are:

  1. initially identifying what the problems are and even who should do the identifying; how they can be fixed and who should do the fixing;
  2. given the task of creating the design and plan for the target population’s renewal and wellbeing;
  3. then given the job of executing and implementing the design and plan;
  4. responsible for the ongoing application, operation and maintenance of the plan
  5. most importantly the recipients and beneficiaries of the plan

Without a tipping-point number of those involved, at each level, being in a state of Possibility the contributions are infertile ground in which transformation can occur. Moving from the existing state to the desired state cannot occur.

And it’s not that individual contributions have not been made from that elevated state, as many have.

However, the problem is, that without a critical mass of those involved at all levels, being in such a state (whether at level 1, 2, 3. 4. or 5), the alternative state of mind – impossibility – leads, at best, to the status quo prevailing.

At worst (and this is most likely), as history shows, the initiators (level 1) have moved on, the creators (level 2) of the design give up, the implementers (level 3) look for another design or leave the field, the operators (level 4) get discouraged and the recipients (level 5), further disillusioned, sink further into the abyss.

And the rest of us, looking on, simply bury our heads in the quicksand of our own beliefs …

The efficacy of any welfare program is contingent upon the state of mind in which its need is identified (1), the plan created (2), introduced (3), operated (4) and lived (5).

No matter what our role in life is, in one state of mind, a state of Possibility, what we do really works and matters. In another, a state of impossibility – neither does.

Our state of mind – one of Possibility or impossibility – determines what we think works and matters and whether it does or doesn’t. The source of success or failure in everything is contingent upon our state of mind. I repeat: our state of mind determines every outcome.

And it is this – a state of Possibility or impossibility – that rules supreme.


Whether we realise it or not, each of us is a leader. What sort of leader depends on our state of mind – as said ad nauseam, one of Possibility or impossibility.

A further illustration, global this time, is the war in Iraq. The ‘coalition of the willing’ did what they thought worked and mattered. They weren’t in a state of mind that experiences what really works and what really matters.

They couldn’t see that their mission was doomed to be a monumental failure and human catastrophe that would eventually metastasise, costing hundreds of thousands of lives as it runs its inevitable, destructive course.

What they failed to see was grasped with crystal clarity by tens of thousands around the world.

Those same people who saw the obvious, now joined by millions more following the predictable events that have unfolded, know that the death and destruction being wreaked are at an early stage and will continue till wisdom prevails. Again it is obvious to those that can see.

The Middle East problems are an example, a colossal one, of unsustainable design!

‘Sustainable design’, in every nook and cranny of human endeavour, comes from the convergence of doing what works and matters in a certain, omniscient state of mind, the home of Possibility and the ground of being to what really works and what really matters.

That state of mind, the core nature of you and me, pointed to throughout the ages by every saint, sage and mystic, is a state of love, understanding, wisdom and common sense.

Each of these inherent qualities, the core nature of each of us, is essential for arriving at equity, practicality and thus sustainability.

What might happen if our parliamentary representatives spoke from such a state? More to the point, if they listened to each other from that same state, what legislation would be created? Would we need parties, factions or an opposition? Would we in actuality need to be led at all?

If husband and wife cherished that state of mind, what might their relationship be? What might the mutual, reciprocal impact be? How might our children grow up?

Might the relationship between employer and employee transform when unconditional goodwill (kindness), respect (understanding), insight (wisdom) and rational thinking (common sense) are the foundation for building the organisation together?

Would Muslim, Christian, Jew, Hindu, Agnostic or Atheist still have reason and energy for disagreement? Would the need for religion still exist when true friendship (love), appreciation (understanding), perceptiveness (wisdom) and soundness (common sense) had become the shared meeting ground for humanity?

Would certain corporations continue to disadvantage employees, communities, and the environment when benevolence (love), compassion (understanding), prudence (wisdom) and good judgment (common sense) guided their deliberations, decisions and actions?

Would ideologies like capitalism, socialism or any other ‘ism’ still be required? Would not all situations work out for the common good?

Would the many tribes of the world transform their relationships into reciprocal respect (love and understanding) and creative hand-in-hand solutions (wisdom and common sense) embraced by all? Would tribes continue to exist?

Would we continue to insist that people do what we think works and what we think matters, or would we cherish and foster what is inherent in each of us – clarity of mind (understanding, wisdom and common sense) and a beautiful feeling (love)?

Might we finally wake up in that deeper reality where we see that the end sought never justifies the means used, but rather the means used is always the end realised?

When experiencing for ourselves the enormity and power of love within, the answer is clear; the decision is made.

Sounds Pollyanna-ish?

From life experience, I know that, when in a state of love, understanding, wisdom and common sense – the realm of Possibility – life looks, feels, and is so different from when I’m not.

My relationships, health, and the contribution I make to others and the planet, however miniscule, ‘really work and really matter’.

My moment-to-moment challenge (and the challenge for anyone that this makes sense to) is to commit to that state of being.

Like you, as a perfectly flawed human being, I don’t maintain that state all the time. I do, however, sustain my unwavering commitment, and when I notice that feeling of love is missing from my heart, I look to return to my natural state with a sense of purpose that surpasses all others.

It’s that simple; it’s that profound. Our primary job is to live, work and play from that state of mind – Possibility.

What flows from that state is sustainable design in every aspect of human endeavour.

Warmly … John