Want to live your potential? Physics' unexpected secrets

I spent the early part of my career in the heart of the capitalist machine: as a McKinsey consultant advising Fortune 500 CEOs, as a MBA student at Harvard, and then at tech startups in Silicon Valley.

I don’t say these things to try to impress you. But more to drive home the point that scale was always the thing that I was taught to worship. In business school, I dreamed up a number of entrepreneurial / social impact ventures — almost all with some kind of person-to-person interaction (P2P as the lingo used to go). And my professors always gave me the feedback that these ideas were unscalable, and thus unworthy of getting VC funding.

In retrospect, I realize that what I cared about most was building new relationships between people.

But in American culture — shaped by Newton’s worldview that the world operates like a machine — messy things like relationships don’t make sense. In a machine, every piece is separate and knows its place. And if everything is so rational, there’s little reason to invest in things that already interact in predictable ways.

The cost of living and working in a system that’s been so driven by this “efficient machine” worldview is that I — and everyone I know — feel like we live in an increasingly anti-human world. We feel like cogs in a massive machine that we’re unable to influence. (Have you noticed American politics lately?)

We’re seeing this worldview play out in what Former US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy calls an Epidemic of Loneliness. In raising individualism to a virtue — each of us protecting our boundaries, pursuing our individual rights — we’ve unintentionally created what Pulitzer Prize nominated sociologist Robert Bellah calls “a glorious state of terrifying isolation”.

Intuitively, I always felt in my gut that this way of living made no sense. If our culture is a living system, when individual cells get cut off from our natural repair systems, that’s when we’re at risk for those cells going rogue and turning into cancer. (And I’d argue the opioid epidemic is the equivalent of a cultural cancer — addiction driven by a desire to numb the pain of feeling so isolated).

I knew there had to be another way.

About 5 years ago, a dear friend introduced me to the work of quantum physicist David Bohm. And what his work helped click into place for me was the realization that at the subatomic scale of life, things don’t make sense except as relationships.

At the quantum level, no particle can be analyzed independently — only in relationship to other particles. Particles are bundles of potential that can only be unlocked in interactions with others. So to quantum physicists, relationships aren’t just interesting, relationships are the foundation of reality.

That is, when we change the context in which particles (or people) interact, it changes what potentials become real. Thinking back to high school physics, anything can be a wave or particle; but once we choose how to observe or interact with it, it becomes either a wave or a particle. All of the infinite potential in the particle disappears once someone chooses how to interact with it. So whether and what potential gets expressed in us is a function of our relationships!

In our culture, the default is to assume that we’re like individual particles. But in choosing this worldview, we lose all of the potential that could be expressed if we chose different relationships.

By intentionally choosing a different kind of community, we open up a completely different set of possibilities for ourselves and those we interact with. Living up to our potential is a function of the communities we invest our time in.

So by investing in community, we upend the idea that we live in a “machine”, and that we are fundamentally separate. We create new, revolutionary possibilities.

At Hestia, this is why we’ve committed so much time, attention and care in building a community of authentic relationships and experiences. We’ve seen that by choosing to connect with others who are also committed to learning to live in alignment with our highest Selves, it unlocks unknown potentials in us. And collectively, it creates new patterns in our culture that open up radically different possibilities for how we live and work together.

When enough of us connect in these ways that buck the norm, we hope it just might spark a revolution.

Are you in?

If so, we’d love for you to join us at an upcoming event to not only discover the potential in you, but for you to help us discover what’s possible in us!

Melissa Lau