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“How to be more successful? Using better questions!” An interview with Pedro Tarak, cofounder of Sistema B

Living Well

Pedro Tarak is the co-founder and former president of Sistema B International, part of the extended international Symbeeosis network

Pedro Tarak has an impressive background as an international impact entrepreneur, a global changemaker, strategist and innovator. He is, without doubt, one of the strongest international voices in the regenerative and sustainable business approach. 

“What is the purpose of a company? No baby is born to make money, so… what happens next that we get confused?” asks Pedro Tarak, co-founder and former president of Sistema B, in the beginning of this conversation, and his point of view is very clear: “A purpose”, he continues, “at least in the Western World, it is not an option nowadays. In a context where individualism has been exacerbated, every person and every company has to ask different questions to find, in a holistic manner, the answers to many different and important questions, among which is the key one “For what?”.    

S: How do you recharge your energy?

P.T: I have three dimensions: the first one is connecting with people. I am very curious, and I love meeting people. We get energy from others. That is a huge source of inspiration. I would say that the second main source is just being in pristine Nature; unfortunately there are few places in the world nowadays where you can be surrounded by pristine Nature, but you can always find a powerful source of energy in natural environments. It requires silence and awareness of your body and suddenly you connect with something: another dimension, our earthly dimension. Then, a third dimension is completely spiritual and can be experienced wherever, in the bus, in traffic, in Nature… it happens when you connect with the cosmos, with your spiritual dimension, it requires concentration… For me, the key is the combination of these three dimensions. I exercise this kind of visualisation of myself in a context, including my location, the people around me and Nature, it is something I do since my childhood.

S: How do you think one can truly connect with others?

P.T: As you are always exposed to people, as I am exposed to many, that is one huge source of energy if you really connect. Listening to the purpose of others and making it your own helps a lot. How could I help? How can something good for all of us be possible? [he explains an anecdote in Central China]. The notion of individualism is very limited.

S: Is that idea connected to mental health in our society?

P.T: In fact, I come from a city that has the second highest rate of psychotherapists in the world, and the second highest in the world in psychologists. Once you start understanding that you don’t end in the borders of your body, that your energy reaches out as far as you allow yourself. As soon as you start understanding the me-we, you start understanding also the me-we-earth, you are part of others and part of Nature, and finally you get to the me-cosmos, wherever you want to reach. Then you start living a beautiful experience of bonding but also belonging to different dimensions and that enables the full experience of life for individuals in a context where the me-me-me and I-I-I has been exacerbated as a system.

S. How do you believe in the power of questioning?

P.T: I love Socrates. I think he was the expert in questions, in teaching, rather than saying how things are or in mental patterns. Also, he asked questions in the Market. He could have gone to the Acropolis, but he preferred the space in the market where the most numerous interactions were possible for building connections. The most practical effects in the evolution of microeconomics, because at least in the Western World, every company needs a purpose. What is the purpose of a company? No baby is born to make money, so… what happens next that we get confused?, I ask myself. It is the same question with companies, finance is only a part of a lasting project. 

S: How can the concept of purpose be inspiring for people?

P.T: There is no-one on the surface of Earth who has been repeated. There must be a reason for which one is born, a meaning! How to figure that out requires a lot of exercise, but basically it requires to formulate all the time a crucial question: What for? What for you were born? It is not only Why?, in Spanish we say “¿Para qué?” y “¿Por qué?”. These two different questions that can be formulated once and again. I have asked myself since I was a child ‘What for?’. We are very good at justifications, “Why?” is a very simple question: as humans, we are very good at describing “what?”, “how, when and where?” But the skill we must develop is how to answer “What for?”.

S: And for companies in these complex times?

P.T: We have to figure out a raison d’ être, the reason for which one is born. As a person I know my own uniqueness and singularity, so I will  certainly develop any strength that would be necessary for a differential in the market. Sadly, we have to accept that it has become risky to be unique in this world, because you go beyond standards. We have classified almost everything, because we need to handle the complexity through simplification. But simplification is not the response to complexity, it is the response to complication. So, the big challenge is to accept the complexity: if people get the risk to know who they are, they accept that (“What for”) and develop the skill to do that, then life becomes sometimes challenging but very fruitful, always responding to the deepest raison d’ être. More and more people that want to be more successful, have to understand that we are redesigning success, that has to do with individuals and companies and society as what is your unique goodness for you and for the planet.

S. So you connect personal development and purpose?

P.T: People who develop themselves, not in one manner but in a holistic way, are people connected with their emotions. Once you connect with your emotions, you can move hearts, and of course naturally your “me” expands into the “me-we” and you naturally develop community with others and start connecting with your context and Earth. Belonging to the Earth and learning of the principles of it and acting as if we are part of complexity (found in the Earth), diversity (found in the Earth), singularity (as a singular planet we live in, the Earth) and a long-term framework, not only short-term. This is a kind of cosmology and evolution of what we learnt from different stories, that is how we started Sistema B. Every person and every company has a chance to be successful by raising better questions, and using a new and more powerful definition of what success is!