CASE STUDY: Reconciling greed with self-love and purpose
Sitting in front of me is an incredible man, who has taken the path of the heroes journey. From top London City investment banker to pioneer impact investment advisor on a mission to bring back ethics in finance, Alessandro Mele has searched and redefined his values and expanded his horizons to touch the lives of others. He has kindly shared his intimate journey of growth through his inner family life, which allowed him to align his moral and spiritual path with his financial path.
Hi Alessandro, thanks for agreeing to share openly about your life experiences. Shall we start at the beginning? What was your family like growing up?
First of all, I’m very lucky that I remember seeing my parents almost as institutions. They were not people, they were mom and dad. I could see how my fathers integrity and work ethics were very strong as he was the head of our County in Italy. He was an odd one out, as a public servant with a very high level of motivation and using the tools that were allowed by law to improve the community. He was using every law that was passed to promote investments, hiring, promotions within, and he never took advantage of that power for himself. I see that integrity as a strong imprint, but at the same time he was a conservative low-risk person.
Are you also a conversative, low risk person?
I feel that one of the biggest fears that I’ve had was my fear of failure. The fear of disappointing my parents and not making them proud of me. My father’s impulse to advise me to stay me in a stable employment environment sometimes held me back. I can see this fear was holding me back in terms of not taking too many risks. I’d been wasting a lot of energy in my father’s expectation that I should do a high level public servant job or working in a large organisation. He saw success as having seniority, like a central banker at the bank of Italy, but that’s the kind of expectation he had. I was educated in opus dei, with philosophers and I had a different dream.
Did you rebel against his expectations of you?
The first thing I realized when I went to study in Milan was how my parents had influenced me. I could see how powerful an education is in terms of the behavior transmitting values as opposed to words. As I grew up, I saw myself being at times in disagreement with what my parents told me to do. I could see how my mother, always so loving and generous with everyone, would tell me to do things to protect myself from others. Or my father worrying and telling me to be careful as an entrepreneur. I know it was their way of showing their love, but also their own weaknesses. So with introspection, I see a paradox: we all live the values and principles that were transmitted to us. We are part of a society that we’re trying to change, but we’re trying to protect our kids from risk, from disappointment, from failure so in fact we just reinforce the world that we are living in.
So what path are you now taking?
It’s become clearer and clearer because a lot of my meaning was about helping others as my mom has always done. Or being a high integrity person like my father, in being generous and helping others. In a way, I was a little confused on how I could achieve this in all my different roles. I wanted to be a good person as father, son, husband. And when it came to business I was a little confused as to what it meant, or how I could put in into practice while also making money, and I was searching for answers. When my mom died, I had a very profound spiritual experience. I felt a huge surge of energy come from her. I could see so clearly a lot of things that I couldn’t really understand in my catholic education.
What I saw was the power of love through my mom’s work. At her funeral, I saw hundreds of people coming to us to explain how much my mom had helped them in many different ways. I could see like the flashbacks of her life, and how many people she had touched profoundly with her regular phone calls or meetings. In a way I could see how love mixes across people, how God is there in every one of us, and in the hands and the senses of each one of us, when we act in accordance with love.
What an amazing revelation! How did that inspire your life today?
The biggest challenge that came up for me was how to incorporate my family and catholic values into the business life. In a way it was always there, but in different places. I couldn’t put the pieces of the puzzle together because they were separate; my values, my personal calling, my business which, in my mind were for me different and far away worlds, but they’re all inside myself. My wife was tremendously supportive of me through these learning times. Now at different points of time and from different mentor perspectives, I saw what it means to be a holistic person. I am looking at myself as a whole being and look at the quality of relationships with others, regardless of the hat I’m wearing.
The most powerful event for me has been spending a weekend with my friend and mentor Tim Malnick. A good mentor needs to see inside someone’s soul and gain total trust and then they need to love you so much and with very kind hands give loving attention, guiding you in the inner journey to discover your own subconscious. I am also very open, so I’m not afraid of showing myself. That vulnerability can be hurtful at times and very powerful as well, people see the beauty in you and you can create truly deep and trusting relationships which enrich both people.
Thanks to the inner work, I saw in a striking way, the paradox that I lived in my life. How I was so judgemental of myself, trying to be a very generous person, but also fearing my pride and my greed and my ego. I was trying to repress them as opposed to accepting them, and playing and joking with them. I was used to judging myself and judging others along the lines of greed and generosity. I came to the realization that it’s totally fake, just a creation of the mind. The reality is that as souls, we are holistic. We are one and all therefore it’s not a matter of me being generous or greedy, I’m both! It’s how I play with all the elements of my nature and use the energy that I have to make the most of the two aspects of my whole.
It sounds like you took your family and religious values but completed the circle into wholeness
Exactly! Because of what I understood from working with Tim, I can retrospectively understand what elements in myself are actually coming from my upbringing, my parents. For example, I see the integrity and generosity of my parents, as values that I have going forward. But in terms of my purpose, I now have more awareness and clarity of myself. I can consciously use my energy to achieve my purpose in life, regardless of the role that I’m playing; me as a father, or husband or CEO.
I keep reading and listening to authoritative people that say there is a huge shift in consciousness on a global scale. And I can feel it. Because of what I’m trying to do with my company EthicalFin and personally, I’m sure that the change is happening. Each one of us are in the ocean of society and we all play a role. I also see a very powerful combination of factors, almost like an alignment of planets.
What Jesus did 2000 years ago I think it can be done on a global basis in a very short time today. Just imagine what is possible today in terms of the speed of communication with social media and new technologies. His most important message was “love thy neighbor”. So I try to love my brother, who is actually anyone I meet, which is difficult. I struggle with that and it’s amazing how difficult it can be to even love yourself. It’s so simple and powerful at the same time. We humans tend to complicate things.
Now what is your purpose or greater vision?
When I was a kid I used to say that I wanted to become an inventor and solve the biggest problems, like the Bermuda Triangle! During a recent coaching session, I have seen the life purpose that I have been called to do as “helping others”. I still want to be part of the current society and I don’t want to turn into an ascetic monk, I still want to play my role within the business world. So what I’m doing is bringing a different approach within finance.
I see myself as a member of this powerful network of like minded people. And I play my role by building an impact investment advisory firm, helping visionary change makers build sustainable businesses, and introducing them to the right investors who share their vision and purpose. My vision is to do my part in accelerating a systemic shift towards a sustainable society, returning into a balance with nature. I would love to connect with people who are motivated to do the best we can with our combined talents and capital to reconnect each of us and heal the planet we live on. It’s amazing how many similarities we have with people from different worlds. The divine in all of us.