In order to survive, and more importantly thrive in today’s business world, modern companies are constantly in pursuit of any advantage that will give them an edge on the competition. From consolidating workforces via robotics and computer learning to reducing, and in some cases, eliminating public-facing staff, companies are increasingly taking steps once thought impossible.
But is this the only way forward? In a world that feels evermore disconnected, why are so many of today’s business solutions geared toward increasing the social divisions between us?
Connection as a Cornerstone of Culture at Rythmia
Recently, I sat down with a CEO who has an entirely different approach, Gerard Powell. He’s the founder of Rythmia Life Advancement Center, a wellness resort in Costa Rica. He’s spent the past six years building a company focused on one thing: increasing people’s connections to each other and themselves.
The keystone of his philosophy – workplace diversity.
With nearly 1,400 five-star reviews on TripAdvisor, many of which include the words ‘miracle’ and ‘life-changing’, it’s hard to argue that this Poconos-native isn’t on to something.
When we initially spoke on the phone, I believe you mentioned workplace diversity at least five times, so let’s talk about it. Why is diversity so important to you?
“I have been running companies for over 30 years, since I was in my early twenties. And I have always found that the more diverse a company is, the more successful it will be. I think it really comes down to having a variety of perspectives and experiences. Because at the end of the day, I really understand what makes a guy in their fifties tick, you know? I am that guy, so I get it. But honestly, I don’t know what it means to be a woman in her thirties, or a member of a minority community. And so, it’s really important to me that my team be as diverse as possible for the benefit of the company, and more importantly our guests.”
This may seem like a question with an obvious answer, but how did you manage to hire such a diverse workforce?
“Honestly, I hired the best people available for each position. Whom they happened to be was simply coincidence. If other companies did the same thing, they would have a very diverse workforce as well.”
So, competency is more important than diversity?
“Competency goes hand-in-hand with diversity. It’s why I’ve never understood companies that are owned and operated by men and women who think from an old paradigm. Not to say that these old paradigm-thinkers are clones, but when you’re all looking through the same window you tend to see the same things, if that makes sense. Most of the least diverse thinkers actually see themselves as progressive, that’s why it’s such a slippery slope.”
Are you saying that your employees are more competent because they’re part of a diverse workforce?
“Absolutely! I would put the employees of this company up against any company in the world. I am so proud of our workforce, and I am so happy that it is inclusive.”
I spoke to your fellow Board Member and Founder of Agape Spiritual Center, Reverend Michael Bernard Beckwith about Rythmia’s workplace diversity and he said, “I am extremely proud of the job Rythmia has done in creating an inclusive workforce. They are a model of diversity and inclusion. Other companies could learn from their example of creating diversity and producing optimal results at the same time.”
How does it make you feel when you hear that?
“I can’t think of a place that embodies diversity more than Agape, so to hear Reverend Michael say that about Rythmia – it’s very humbling.”
Do you know the diversity breakdown of your staff? Is this something that you pay attention to?
“Do you mean like the math? The percentages of who is who?”
Yeah, do you know how many women work for you, or persons of color? Do you have staff members that identify as LGBTQ+?
“Definitely. The reason I know this is that we actually investigated it with our staff’s consent. And we found that 80.2% of our staff are part of an ethnic minority and/or the LGBTQ+ community. Additionally, nearly 36.6% of our management team identify as LGBTQ+. We are really proud of this.”
Those figures sound pretty exact.
“What can I say? I’ve always been good with numbers.”
I read that you’ve been working hard to introduce Plant Medicine to the Black community, is that true?
“Yes, we are very lucky to work hand-in-hand with Michael Bernard Beckwith who has great influence in the Black spiritual community.
This relationship has given us inroads into the Black spiritual community. The retreats that are hosted by Michael Beckwith are some of the most beautiful, loving and highest rated retreats that we’ve ever conducted. We cherish our relationship with Rev. Beckwith and the whole Agape community.”
Have you yourselves experienced any problems as a result of privilege based on old-paradigm thinking from the standpoint of workforce diversity or Plant Medicine minority-inclusion initiatives?
“It’s so interesting because like I mentioned before the people who have caused the greatest issues for us believe they themselves are progressive. The whole struggle with the old paradigm of thinking is actually being written about in another article that is coming out as soon as the reporter is finished with the story.
What I can say without ruining the other story is this, if you’re going to take something on like this, that is truly inclusive – expect pushback from the least likely places. It happens all the time. And the perpetrators think they are progressive and that they’re advocating for indigenous cultures while at the same time they operate based on blind, old-paradigm thinking. You would think that in light of the movement to promote diversity and inclusion we would be getting help from everywhere, especially the media. And by and large we are, but there have been some glaring examples of struggle that we’ve experienced with organizations and people that we believe are the result of our stance on diversity and inclusion. But that’s all I can say as of this writing.”
So, what’s next for Rythmia?
“Wow, that’s a big question. Honestly, so much. We just finished an amazing renovation of the rooms onsite. We are also in the process of acquiring additional land so that we can expand the center. We have some amazing new programs coming that I can’t speak about quite yet, but I promise they are going to be announced very soon. It truly never stops here, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Well, thank you so much for your time Gerard! You’re clearly quite busy, so I appreciate you sitting down with me today. If someone wanted to learn more about Rythmia, where can they find that info?
“Thank you. Honestly, I love talking about Rythmia and this was a lot of fun. As far as getting more information on the center, you can go to our website https://rythmia.link/miracle, or you can always give us a call at (877) 331-9427.”
Felicia Tomasko has spent more of her life practicing Yoga and Ayurveda than not. She first became introduced to the teachings through the writings of the Transcendentalists, through meditation, and using asana to cross-train for her practice of cross-country running. Between beginning her commitment to Yoga and Ayurveda and today, she earned degrees in environmental biology and anthropology and nursing, and certifications in the practice and teaching of yoga, yoga therapy, and Ayurveda while working in fields including cognitive neuroscience and plant biochemistry. Her commitment to writing is at least as long as her commitment to yoga. Working on everything related to the written word from newspapers to magazines to websites to books, Felicia has been writing and editing professionally since college. In order to feel like a teenager again, Felicia has pulled out her running shoes for regular interval sessions throughout Southern California. Since the very first issue of LA YOGA, Felicia has been part of the team and the growth and development of the Bliss Network.