Thursday, February 19, 2009

collaboration over competition

Something that has been happening recently that's really indicative of the wave of New Change sweeping through: people are confused about whether they should work together or put up walls and work alone. On many different levels this is happening. What I am discovering is something I had always imagined was true:

Collaboration wins out over competition.

This is the case between people, families, tribes, cities, counties, regions, nations, and hemispheres. It's not just touchy-feely (though it's that as well...), it's a competitive edge. Yes, I just almost contradicted myself with the word "competitive". What I'm saying here is that although there are somewhat limited resources that in the end are being somewhat competed for (clients, energy, money), the way to "win" those resources is to collectively gather and distribute them. There is more room than you think, and more resources that can be gathered/saved if we collectivize in a targeted way.

This is not just an Obama thing, but his presidency certainly tips toward the collaboration end of the spectrum. This is a survival thing. We are not going to make it out unless we gather up, in all kinds of ways.

We are in the middle of a very strong but very slow hurricane, and we need more people to put sand in bags and fewer people looting.

This is not a "sky-is-falling" plan, this is a "we're in this together" plan.

In my business here in Seattle, there are lots of newly-minted energy auditors and consultants. I entered this field late by my own admission, but I entered it based on collaboration from the outset. I saw lots of people trying to make a living on their own in this new field of residential and commercial energy auditing, and they were struggling. They still struggle. They ask me "how do you get new clients?", and I tell them that I have to do three distinctly different things at once: collaboration, education and sales.

When I sold cars, I didn't need to do as much education; people knew they needed/wanted a car. What they didn't know was which one. They need to be collaborated with, listened to, and finally helped into buying their car.

In the conservation world, they aren't really sure they need an energy audit, or aren't even sure what one is. My own close friends and family are dragging their heels on getting an audit from me, not because they don't trust me, but because they don't know what's at stake. It's harder to collaborate when you have to educate so much, then they think they have to let it sink in over time before they get an audit. I am managing to make a modest living because I can connect with people no matter where they are. This is essential if they don't already "get it" right off the bat.

When the price of fuel rises again (and it most assuredly will), there will be yet another spike of desire for energy savings, electric cars, and energy efficient appliances. When the price of fuel dips a bit, people will slack off again on the idea. People need to realize once and for all that energy efficiency and conservation works no matter what the price of fuel/power/energy/resource is. The very life we live is at stake, and we need to act. The trick is now that we have such massively connected hubs of people, we need to act collectively.

This doesn't mean I think we should abolish the market. I just think it's a market advantage to work together. At least at the baseline. We all have particular skills and intelligence in particular fields and that will continue to be valued, but the constant clamoring to be the best at the expense of the rest is a horrible waste of energy.

That's the bottom line: it's patently inefficient to spend so much energy on competing when we need to collectively act in so many arenas. Those that grok that point are going to succeed in this new economy/world. Those that don't will likely find their success fleeting and constantly at risk...

Friday, February 13, 2009

Training Energy Auditors, Doing Energy Audits

Community connections occurring left and right for us now. Phinney Home Remodel Fair was a success, thanks in no small part to We spent the day talking with people, connecting, and learning. One thing I learned is that I have been getting more requests for information about becoming an energy auditor than for information about getting an energy audit. This is exciting for Campbell Energy, since we are positioning ourselves to provide this valuable training, but it's also strange.

Why strange? Because I can almost guarantee that the people who have been looking to become an auditor have not themselves done all they can in their own dwellings and lives to reduce their energy and resource losses.

So here's the big advice:

If you want to become an energy consultant, you must first and foremost become the master of your own energy profile and carbon footprint. You must walk before you talk.

That's a cardinal rule. And while I'm doling out the unsolicited advice, anyone else in the "sustainability" world should also do the same. It's why I spend a chunk of time during my seminars and workshops preaching directly to the choir. They need it, because they are the first line of energy defense and they are getting caught reloading their muskets. Who are we to tell people to change their incandescents to CFLs if we ourselves didn't do all we could to reduce air leakage and wattage waste in our own homes?

For new energy auditors and energy consultants, the proof is in the carbon pudding...

Monday, February 9, 2009


Today was a great turning point. We've been at this place before in the past, and not been able to see our way around it. We've had to confront the fact that money and values are not easily sitting together at the lunch table.

But today we realized that instead of choosing a side, we have to creatively figure out how they CAN sit together. Because just because they haven't been together in the past, doesn't mean they can't be together now. We just have to see it from another angle.

In talking about the "green economy" I fear that society is simply replacing blue with green, that we're simply taking the folks who made cars and thrusting them into solar panel factories, with no other change. But that's not the green economy to me. At least, it's not the sustainable green economy. The green economy I am working toward is one that diversifies our skills, capitalizes on both our innovation and our education, and supports us in putting our values before our wallets.

This is a whole new ballgame. Our friends and family are not just downsizing, they are reevaluating what matters MOST to them and focusing on that. They aren't just selling their expensive cars, but looking to see if they need a car at all, or even just thinking about sharing a car with others. They aren't just sending more forwarded emails to relatives, but getting together in person and taking care of each other. They are looking at what they eat, what they breathe, what they wear, and what they say and MAKING SURE that it is who they are, IN THEIR INTEGRITY. This is not just a lovely trend, it's a paradigm shift that will only benefit each individual who makes these fundamental personal changes and also every person that touches them.

There is a sharp curve to bringing this about. Doubt exists, as it always has. Fear exists, as it always has. But hope exists, perseverance exists, and success exists as THEY always have. We are now aware of the choices we can make and we are finally making them.

This day is different because we see who we are and where we can go (and have been going). We see that the light of the world is not far off, it is right above us.

THIS is Campbell Energy!