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Corona Capitalism:

Sell at Cost

By Shlomo Maital


My friend Tran Luong Son, an MIT graduate and entrepreneur/software expert, calls me and asks about how to saving businesses, rapidly going bankrupt.

Here is a small simple suggestion. Amend capitalism. Shift from “produce for profit” (Pharma – take note!) to “produce and sell at cost”. And for governments? For those businesses valiantly applying the new capitalist compassion, producing at cost, to save businesses and keep the economy at float – lend at cost – i.e. zero. (Some countries, including my own, are initiating credit for small businesses, at 0.1% interest, with long repayment paeriods).

Produce and sell at cost. Why at cost? If at less than cost, you need subsidies, and government budgets are strapped.   At cost – you can do this forever. Not quite forever – profits generate investment. So in the short run investment will dry up (it will anyway). But in the long run, Keynes said, we are all dead… (figuratively…).  

So, let’s build an emergence strategy, based on asking every business to produce a business plan, for producing X units, employing Y people, paying lower but livable wages, producing at prices that reflect accurately costs…, variable costs, because fixed costs are ‘sunk costs’….

Can capitalism reinvent itself as compassionate capitalism? Coronavirus capitalism.

   It can. Let’s hope it happens. And big companies? You get on board too…

How to be Passionate..and Compassionate

By Shlomo Maital


I once surveyed a group of 50 Israeli chip designers, gave them a list of key qualities that were important for innovators – and asked them to rank them.   To my surprise, “resilience” came up first, by far. Resilience is the ability to bounce back from failure, adversity, disasters, and continue on to your goal. It requires a great deal of mental toughness.

   Today’s New York Times column by David Brooks (Aug. 30) has many useful insights into this subject. “Making Modern Toughness” begins by quoting a common perception: “Today’s students are more accomplished than past generations, but they are also more emotionally fragile.”   Kids in earlier days were tougher, many of us in the older generation say.

     Brooks has second thoughts. “….let’s not be too nostalgic for the past. A lot of what we take to be the toughness of the past was really just callousness. There was a greater tendency in years gone by to wall off emotions, to put on a thick skin — for some men to be stone-like and uncommunicative and for some women to be brittle, brassy and untouchable.” The result, Brooks claims, was in some cases alcoholism or depression.

     So, if we rethink toughness, for the modern age, for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, what do we get? What does Brooks suggest?

     “The people we admire for being resilient are not hard; they are ardent. They have a fervent commitment to some cause, some ideal or some relationship. That higher yearning enables them to withstand setbacks, pain and betrayal.   Such people are, as they say in the martial arts world, strong like water. A blow might sink into them, and when it does they are profoundly affected by it. But they can absorb the blow because it’s short term while their natural shape is long term.   There are moments when they feel swallowed up by fear. They feel and live in the pain. But they work through it and their ardent yearning is still there, and they return to an altered wholeness.”

   In short: “True mental toughness that entrepreneurs and innovators need desperately come from the passion of believing fervently in a goal or mission. That that passion, too, is driven by compassion, by caring for others, and by the desire to change the world for them. In this way of thinking, grit, resilience and toughness are not traits that people possess intrinsically. They are not tools you can possess independently for the sake of themselves. They are means inspired by an end.   …. We are all fragile when we don’t know what our purpose is, when we haven’t thrown ourselves with abandon into a social role, when we haven’t committed ourselves to certain people, when we feel like a swimmer in an ocean with no edge.”

   I begin all my classes by asking students what their true passion in life is. Many do not know. They have not been asked that question, nor have they tried many different things to find out experientially. But often parents push their kids to ‘get on with it’, rather than try things.

        When are people really tough?   Brooks writes, “People are really tough only after they have taken a leap of faith for some truth or mission or love. Once they’ve done that they can withstand a lot.”

         Have you taken that leap of faith?   Changed your job, your profession, your destiny?

       “We live in an age when it’s considered sophisticated to be disenchanted,” Brooks notes.   “But people who are enchanted are the real tough cookies.”

           Innovator! Be enchanted. Find your enchantment. If you do you will be able to undergo an almost unlimited amount of adversity. That’s toughness, of the right kind.

Kids’ Scores Rise When They Care About Other Kids & Teachers

By Shlomo Maital  

  school caring

     It’s summer vacation time for school kids.  A good time to reflect on what they will return to, in September.

     In an Israeli weekly, psychiatrist Ron Berger, who specializes in helping children all over the world who suffer from post-trauma stress disorder, recounts an experiment tried at a small school in northern Israel.  The school did poorly in national performance tests.  Then Berger and colleagues introduced a program, “A call to giving”,  which focused on two key elements: 

  • Mindfulness —       “intentional, accepting and non-judgmental focus of one’s attention on the emotions, thoughts and sensations occurring in the present moment”. Simply being aware of one’s own feelings and thoughts in the present.
  • Compassion — sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others.


The idea?  Create strong bonds among the schoolchildren, first by making each of them aware of their own feelings and identity, then developing a caring attitude toward others, include the teacher. 

   So – what in the world has this to do with test scores?

  Well, apparently a lot.   The school now scores among the highest, in Israeli schools, in national tests.

   Why?   The simple answer could be —   kids study best when they like the place in which they go to school, like other kids,   like the teachers, and find that the teachers like them.  Apparently, children do not thrive in an environment where there is intense pressure to achieve high grades,  and where each individual essentially is out for themselves, sink or swim,  instead of being part of a tight-knit social community that helps one another.

    Is this naïve?  Innocent?  Simple-minded?  Perhaps.  But at least at once school, it works.   It’s worth a try.


Why Not Take One Day…To Change the World?

By Shlomo Maital


 The young ladies in the picture are from a school in India.  I’ve written about it before.   Dr. Balish Jindal, an Indian family physician, took Prof. Scott Plous’ Social Psychology course on Coursera (MOOC – massive open online course, free),  and as part of it, was asked to spend one day doing something ‘compassionate’ – a Day of Compassion. Dr. Jindal used the day to speak to girls in an Indian school about sexual abuse.  The result changed their lives – and Dr. Jindal’s.  She won the prize, from among the entire registered class of 260,000 (the largest course in all of Coursera), for the most impactful “Day”.  

    According to the BBC:   One day last year a doctor walked into a school near her clinic in a rural area near New Delhi in India and taught 2,000 girls how to protect themselves against sexual abuse.   Dr Balesh Jindal’s talks evolved into being constantly on call at her surgery for girls and their mothers and to teaching boys from impoverished backgrounds how to respect women.  She is paving a new way for women to protect themselves in India, where there has been anger at a number of high-profile rape cases and concern about the availability of sex education.

    I’ve had the privilege of exchanging emails with Dr. Jindal.  She is indeed remarkable, but of course she doesn’t think so. She regarded her “Day” as routine – and it probably was.

    As for Prof. Plous:  He says, “It doesn’t matter who you are, or what you do….You don’t have to be a physician or in education. Anyone can look at what they can do and if they are dedicated enough they can make a difference in just 24 hours,” he adds.   Prof Plous says he asks students to think about the person they were during the 24-hour period and if they preferred that person, to “break down the barriers” between the compassionate and every day version of themselves.

So —  Why don’t all of us, each of us,  take one day, a Day of Compassion, to change the world?  Imagine — what if only one per cent of the world, 70 million people, did this?  The world would never be the same.

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Blog entries written by Prof. Shlomo Maital

Shlomo Maital