Archive for the ‘success’ Tag

Serious business

‘Round these parts, Christian churches of every stripe still sport roadside signs with changeable lettering, offering challenges to passers-by that are often corny but now and then actually inspiring.  The one I spied yesterday gave me a handle on thinking about doing business in these questionable times.

“The serious business of heaven,” it said, “is joy.”

This remarkable statement points to several things.  For one thing, grounded as we are in material greed, we seldom think of serious business and joy as having any relation at all.  These human experiences exist poles apart in our accustomed perspective.  For another, the statement suggests that heaven is involved in a continuing purpose, and not simply out there gloating.  And most importantly, the idea opens up to us the possibility that, like heaven, we can make joy our own serious business.

Possibly, this is the change we are beginning to realize.  Maybe the economic deflation can help us to reorient our purposes.  What if, as you go through your work day, you take the creation and realization of joy as your sole inspiration?  What if we learn to measure success by the quality of our emotions?  What if the richest person is the one who spreads the most joy?

Of course, changing to a new standard is a complex thing.  We’ve been so oppressed by the almighty dollar that most of us seldom experience natural joy.  We may be hard pressed to define it.  We may mistakenly think that material abundance equals joy, because we’ve never ventured beyond our lust and cravings.  To move to a standard of joy is to undertake a vision quest, to commit to nothing less than perfection.

So the question becomes, how can I find my joy?  Where do I look, and how do I recognize it?  How do I pay the bills if my focus is on joy and not on money?  These are certainly practical considerations, and I intend to study them here over the next few weeks.  My writings are often heavily philosophical, and it’s likely that readers seek more specificity.  I know I do.  The bigger picture always comes clear to me far before the details emerge; but plans mean nothing unless they’re implemented.  So I invite you to tag along with me as we ferret out the means by which we can re-invent the meaning of commerce in our turbulent world.

Focus on others

I’m a member of a real-life (i.e., not online) networking group of business people.  While the group allows only one member per industry, and thus is competitive in that way, it is dedicated to the cooperative support of members in offering warm sales leads to one another.  Making these referrals and introductions is required of each member on a regular basis. 

It’s an old fashioned idea, still in full force.  And it reminds me of a fundamental rule in performance improvisation: Be responsible for your partner.

The way this works on stage is thusly:  one may think that one’s cleverness and charisma are called upon to stand out when in front of an audience.  But the secret to successful improvisations (as well as to any enactment) is to make the other guy look good.  Rather than asserting his own prowess, the actor  who is solely focused on cooperation with his partner has the most power on stage.

Success through focus on others.  This is contrary to common practice.  But consider the online emphasis on social networking and blogs; consider the fast-growing clout of Open Source; consider the increasing reality that before you can make sales (at least online) it is becoming necessary first to give something away.

Try making this significant switch in your thinking.  What if, rather than worrying about your sales, you deeply concentrate on making your customer look good, or on making your neighboring business look good, or on making your community look good.  Your own success will naturally follow along.


One more post about listening before we let this topic lie for awhile.  We’ve looked at the importance and efficacy of listening.  We’ve talked about ways to incorporate regular listening in your daily life and business.  We’ve pointed out that listening can make the difference between success and failure in business.  (Can’t resist suggesting here that y’all watch a new YouTube video – “There’s no control, no leadership, only influence.”)

Before we let it go, this is a little meditation on how to listen.  Most of us are so out of practice that we really have no idea.  Our own internal monologue roars on and we’re oblivious to the fact that it blocks out much that we could benefit from.  We’re repositories of our life experiences and mainly spend our time being pushed around by those echos in the consciousness.  Listening requires hushing up this internal monologue, so that openness may be achieved.

You know the famous anecdote of the zen master whose student asked, How can I learn the truth?  And the master poured a cup of tea for the student, but did not stop pouring when the cup was full, so it overflowed all over the place.  Why did you do that, master?  In the same way, said the master, you are so full of your own thoughts that I can not fill you will the truth.  Go empty yourself, and then the truth will have room to enter.

It’s that simple, and that terrifyingly complex.  To be a listener, you must be willing to empty yourself, you must be willing to set your ego aside.  So learning how to listen is a lifelong endeavor.   For those who have never tried this, take some time this weekend to do something either completely relaxing or completely fascinating.  Notice how when you forget about yourself, in those rare moments when self-consciousness disappears, you are truly listening; and that is the kind of attention profound listening requires.