Business Activist Entrepreneur

envisioning a better world through personal finance and entrepreneurship


041: The Overflow Principle


Listen Here and Now for the Overflow Principle

Join us as we share the Overflow Principle and how it has driven and continues to drive our lives and businesses.



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Quotable of the Week

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.



Highlights from the Episode

This is where you’ll be able to tell that I’m an optimist.  Brandon is a pessimist though so I’ve learned how to share my optimistic perspective with pessimists.  Tell me if the following makes sense to you, especially if you’re a pessimist asking this question, “Can we really change anything?”


Martin Luther King, Jr. is often quoted as saying, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” All the pessimists say, “Yes.  Indeed.” “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

“Positive things happening anywhere can result in positive things happening everywhere.”

My optimistic side likes to say the inverse, “Positive things happening anywhere can result in positive things happening everywhere.” “Positive things happening anywhere can result in positive things happening everywhere.”  I call this the Overflow Principle. It’s where Overflow Coffee Bar, our first business, got its name.


The Overflow Principle is represented by a fountain.

We’re all self-interested so at the top of the fountain is you and your close friends and family.  Positive things happening with you and your close friends and family overflows into positive things happening right around you – in your neighborhood and at your workplace.  Which in turn, overflows into positive things happening in your larger area – the city. Positive things happening in our city can result in positive things for our state, for our nation, and the overflow continues to the entire world.

 Then we get to my favorite part of fountains: their feedback loop. Positive things happening all over the world feed back to you and your close friends and family. It’s a virtuous cycle of sustainable community.


The Role of Economics

Ethical economics plays a huge role in this because we live in a world that’s increasingly economically integrated and interdependent.  If you looked at your day by the countries you touch – where you food comes from, where the raw materials in your clothes starts, who assembles your clothes, where the fuel to power you car or the bus or your home comes from, where you coffee in the morning is grown to where your late night snack was grown. – most likely we all touch every continent every day with the exception of Antarctica.  I don’t think even my ice cream can be manufactured there.


In his day, MLK Jr could say that, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” The world is even more interconnected now than it was then.  His words would be even truer today.


And I believe mine are as well, “Positive things happening anywhere can result in positive things happening everywhere.”


Like Chinese Checkers

A friend of mine likes to say that making a difference is like playing Chinese checkers.  Chinese checkers isn’t like your typical checkers where you go from one side of the board to the other.  In Chinese checkers the players advance from all sides. Doing something that changes the world – like eliminating extreme poverty –  needs all kinds of positive things happening for all different sides.

Positive change needs to happen in each stream of the River we talked about in last week’s podcast.  Positive change needs to fight poverty of all types in all different ways (see episode 039). More positive things need to happen in as many places as possible and the result will be positive things happening everywhere.


Here’s an action step:

Journal your responses to the following questions.

We all experience poverty in some way, shape, or form at some point in our lives.  It might not be monetary poverty. It could be emotional, mental, spiritual, or relational.  Think for a moment and list any ways that you feel poor right at this very moment. When you’re ready, answer the following questions:  

  1. Which polluted stream of the River relates to this area of your life?  (See episode 040.)
  2. What kind of alleviation do you need – relief, rehabilitation, or development?  (See episode 039.)
  3. How could a positive change in this area for you be shared with people around you?   


Here are 2 stories of how the Overflow Principle has worked for us.


Overflow Story 1

We love coffee.  In fact, most of our dates when we were dating were at coffee shops.  When we learned about the injustice in the coffee industry and how 23 million small coffee farmers live in poverty, we switched our coffee habit.  We started drinking only direct trade coffee grown in sustainable ways and purchased at above fair trade prices.

We discovered a few personal benefits: (a) the coffee tasted really good because of the care put into it, (b) we felt really good about the difference we were making for the farmers and the planet, and (c) we got to know some really cool people with similar passions.  

Guess what happened next? We started sharing those benefits with others. It wasn’t a pushy or judgmental thing – or at least we tried not to make it one… sometimes it’s hard not to judge the protester drinking Starschmucks. We’d share what we learned and how we were benefitting. It became such a thing for us that we made it our job. We started our own coffee shop promoting direct trade coffee.


Overflow Story 2

Fast forward a few years and we had a transformative experience with our money habits.  We thought we had it all figured out. I (Amanda) am a budgeting nerd and had a Suze Orman book that I used more like a Bible… but then we watched a documentary.  This documentary shared just how much the banks and Wall Street control the world but there was a solution for increasing personal wealth outside the traditional banking and Wall Street system.  We saw a way to build wealth in a safer, more guaranteed way while making sure we weren’t supporting companies we didn’t agree with or the systemic oppression of banks. So we changed our plan and immediately saw benefits.  

Some of those benefits included: (a) more control and predictability with our money now and for the rest of our lives, (b) more ability to live the lives we desire – lives of entrepreneurship and generosity, and (c) knowing we were doing more good than harm with how we grew our money for buying a home or retiring one day or whatever life throws at us.  

Guess what happened next? We started telling people about it. In fact, we’ve benefitted so much and told so many people about this money strategy that, when we decided to sell our first business, we decided to make this our life’s work.


Those are just 2 of the stories of how the Overflow Principle has worked in our lives.  How about you? Have you seen positive things happen for you that then spread to other people?  It could be from receiving an act of kindness that leads you to do something kind for someone else.  I bet you can think of at least 1 time in your life that you’ve seen the Overflow Principle at work. Maybe even within the next 24 hours, you’ll see it.  All you have to do is keep your eyes and your heart open and allow the positivity to flow through you and toward others.


Comment and Share Your Story

Be sure to share your experience with the Overflow Principle in the comments below. We recently updated our website too so be sure to take a look around while you’re here.

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