The Real Supply Chain Issues

You cannot catch hold of it,
nor can you get rid of it.
In not being able to get it,
you get it.
When you speak, it is silent.
When you are silent, it speaks.

Zen poem

We seem to be chasing something. Hoping for something. Looking to the horizon to find some proof that we matter that what we do matters. Waiting for our ship to come in.

There are always many ships carrying precious and mysterious cargo waiting to dock. To unload their containers at our ports. They only wait for us to open our harbors, our hearts, for them to bring us a wealth of enlightenment, wisdom, and wonder. But our desire and focus on material goods distracts us from the treasures that were never ordered or purchased. What we want interferes with what we need. And our ships and containers of a deeper understanding of ourselves wait or pass us by. That many so-called supply chain issues are distracting us from our own unique and important journeys.

It’s fascinating how supply chain management, heretofore esoteric business concept, is now part of our lexicon. Great attention being placed on understanding why we are not getting our stuff in a timely way. Everything seems to be buried in a mysterious container on an unknown freighter waiting in an infinite queue of ships holding valuable cargo that makes the 405 seem like the Indy 500. Cargo-mageddon! Sorry. We have all heard somebody say, “You know the Supply Chain thing.” Everything from home-remodels to rental cars to golf clubs are backlogged and backordered. 

We are experiencing the real consequences of globalization. And these delays and the ensuing inflationary spiral are hurting real people who literally cannot afford to be hurt anymore. But that’s not the focus of our conversation. It’s about inconvenience. The supply chain of inconvenience.

We must pause to think about the complexity of the web of interdependencies and that every consumer good has a supply chain, not just the items that are vacationing in some container. 

A supply chain is the production flow of a product through a network of suppliers from the factory to the store to the consumer. Each supplier maximizing profits. Products are made of ingredients like— oil, wood, cotton, metal and sand etc. And those ingredients are connected to the food chain of nature—a complex interdependent web/network of organisms, predators, insects and microscopic life who feed on one another to sustain and evolve life.

It is said that the honeybee makes 2000 trips to create the wax for a small candle. There are 6 million grains of pollen to seed one Peony flower. The salmon needs hundreds of eggs to spawn one fish. One almond nut requires a gallon of water! 10800 square miles of rain forest (5x the size of the state of Delaware) are destroyed each year for disposable chopsticks. One lithium battery for a small EV car requires 300,000 gallons of water.

What it takes to make, create, grow, manufacture the things we covet or even take for granted is irrelevant to most of us. While more of us think about the source, the way, the conditions, and the consequences of our consumption –it is a soft guilty tone that may run in the background of our material mindsets. Our wanting of even the most frivolous things overwhelms our consciousness of what is good and fair. Most of us can’t be bothered by the unintended consequences of this demand for a more streamlined supply chain system of zero-time lag and zero shipping costs. –All of the child-labor, sweat shops, environmental degradation and human suffering that is necessary to keep the supply chain humming with on-time deliveries. Not to mention our hoarding, the storage units and food waste, just to name a few… If we are honest, we know how complicit each of us is in our own demise. But I digress. 

Get stuff faster and cheaper! The supply chain of expectations. 

Our expectations know few boundaries. As Comedian Ronnie Chieng, says “Same day delivery is a joke. It is un-American. 2 hour delivery?  We need more Prime. We need Prime faster, harder, stronger—We need Prime NOW! In America there should be no lag between when I press the button and the item is gently placed in my hand. Prime Now!”

We laugh, but it is a knowing laugh of the total lack of patience we have for consumption. For instantaneous satisfaction. Waiting, any type of waiting, is annoying and exasperating. 

Most of us have seen the marshmallow research study. Bottomline: 4 year old kids who learned to defer gratification had better grades, graduate from college, higher incomes and healthier lives. We know these lessons but can’t apply them.

Our sense of entitlement, privilege and greed make us impatient for everything, including success. The rewards of a lifetime cannot come soon enough. We forget how much work it takes to do anything. The labor, the effort, the blood, sweat, and tears. The sheer energy, focus, to make things, to make things whole, to make things well to make things that last.
Our impatience is only exceeded by our willful ignorance. The supply chain of impatience and ignorance.

The supply chain that meets our wants, of instant gratification of material needs of distractions from reality. All the stuff we really don’t need propelled by the consumer industrial complex. How we are duped by planned obsolescence. Needing the iPhone 17 is really about the supply chain of fleeting happiness in the supply chain of status in the supply chain of the ego.

All of this obscures the greatest supply chain issue. There are large containers of precious things in mysterious ships waiting to dock. Waiting for you to open the port to your true self. To receive the great gifts of what you have to offer the world. Why are you holding up this supply chain?

Our sealed orders are contained in those freighters.

Let’s all examine our part in the supply chains of love, mutual respect, compassion, and humility that keep our world intact. These are endangered and broken systems too.

Don’t be distracted by these external supply chains that we cannot change. These inconveniences. Start to pay attention to the supply chain we control, the supply chain to our souls. 

Thanks for reading. John


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