Business and Spirituality

in #life6 years ago (edited)

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Recently, during the relatively rare periods of quiet in my frantic schedule raising a family, running a school in Japan and honing my online marketing skills I find myself reflecting on the deeper implications of what we do in this life. That is, when I’m not running around like a headless chicken just to get through the day, I find myself pondering just what all of this is about. Two things that stand out to me most are:

We have a body.
We have a mind.

Business, it would seem, while involving a large amount of study, concentration, effort and so on seems largely to focus on providing a comfortable environment for our bodies; although there is often considerable benefit to the mind as well. After all, money, as they say, cannot buy happiness and the rabid pursuit of money for the sake of money often generates the opposite of happiness. But money can buy options and choices in life that may lead to happiness or, at the very least, the creation of conditions with a higher potential to support happiness.. So it is often the case that business pursuits can lead us to be more materialistic; especially if we are not the type to really pay attention to things.

Spirituality, on the other hand, seems largely focused on the mind and one’s inner-state. There is of course an extremely vast variance in the particulars of the many spiritual schools and belief systems out there. One could spend an entire lifetime just cataloging at all without ever getting started practicing. However, it's fairly safe to say that the general term "spirituality" tends to carry the meaning of improving or somehow putting one in touch with a better inner state. Of course it doesn’t ignore the physical body or physical things entirely but it places far less importance on them. Very little, actually. And so, spiritual pursuits often tend to lead us away from material things or at least to the degree that we can without causing ourselves or others undue suffering.

So while business i.e. the pursuit of stable external conditions begins from the outside and spirituality i.e. the pursuit of stable internal conditions begins from the inside there must necessarily be a mutual zone of inclusion. They are, after all, some of the two most pertinent and unavoidable elements of our lives; although some of us may not notice this or ever categorize our strife and conflict in such a way.

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A way to make and manage money is necessary. Further, although somewhat less emphasized here in our modern world, a way to manage and understand our own minds is also necessary. Happiness, for the majority, necessitates that both internal and external conditions are met, understood and shaped in a way that makes them mutually beneficial. For to do otherwise is to eventually create a state of massive sabotage. Many are the fabulously rich who have died lonely suicides. And many are the incredibly talented, passionate and kind who were blindsided by great suffering for failure to secure a base in this material and sometimes very uncaring world.

Generally speaking, happy people seem to have found a balance between these two extremes.
So where do these two factors, business and spirituality, meet? And what is the relationship? Perhaps a good starting point is the notion of ethical business. That is, the notion of what it is to be ethical in our business dealings and why this is important.

Ethics:

  1. moral principles that govern a person's behaviour or the conducting of an activity.
    "medical ethics also enter into the question"
    synonyms: moral code, morals, morality, moral stand, moral principles, moral values, rights and wrongs, principles, ideals, creed, credo, ethos, rules of conduct, standards (of behaviour), virtues, dictates of conscience
    "the ethics of journalism"

  2. the branch of knowledge that deals with moral principles.
    "neither metaphysics nor ethics is the home of religion"

In the more secular traditions, ethics may be seen as simply an objective code to maintain peace in society. In spiritual traditions, ethics may be seen as a principles to help maintain one’s orientation when moving through the world. We all know it can be a very confusing place. Either way, the realm of ethics could be considered the interface of body and mind in the sense of our minds controlling what we do with our bodies.

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View ethics as you will, the reasons for having them in business are not too terribly different from the reasons for having them in life/spirituality (for spirituality is really the art of life). Although we may be able to come up with a long list of reasons why it’s good to be ethical in our business dealings and generally not good to be otherwise, such a list could probably be reduced to this one tenet:

The preservation of prosperous relationships.

In business, this means greater client retention, higher ROI, better reputation, more referrals, better work environment the list goes on. This notion of relationships is not just limited to that between the business and their customers either. It extends to all relationships within and without the business. We might even say to the earth itself.

In life and spirituality (they are inseperable), the preservation of prosperous relationships means happier, more fulfilling relationships with the people in your life, more support and opportunity to better yourself, more love and care around you, easier progress in what you love and more of it and a generally happier run in this life.

Conversely, this same tenet of preserving prosperous relationships may be phrased from a different angle as something like “the avoidance of the causing suffering”. To cause suffering whether in business or in life is basically to cut yourself off from the good things listed above.

A lot of the buzz words and terms surrounding marketing and the business models of successful entrepeneurs such as “service” and “value” etc. tend to conjure up images of taking extra lengths to ensure the quality of the customer experience; of ensuring well-being. And that is because the nature of all interactions with a client, no matter how small, fundamentally constitute the nature of your relationship with them. And, regardless of what you are selling be it a product, service or simply your advice the quality of your relationship with your client will largely determine whether or not they are going to buy from you.

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For anyone who has ever started or run a business (and I have) the potential ROI on the time and energy spent building a trust-based relationship with a client, YES just one client, cannot be overestimated. And neither can the potential loss in losing a trust-based relationship. You never know who you’re going to meet and you never know who one of your clients might know. There is no shortage of stories of how putting relationships first and continuing to burn through the stress and grind of getting a project going paid off in the end. And often times it is simply because a client could see the level of care put into the relationship on the front end in combination with the level of effort and sincerity going in to the back end. To put it another way, why in the heck would anyone want to do business with someone that didn’t care about them? Exceptions do, of course, exist but they often involve parties negotiating in less than ideal circumstances; nothing approaching the open market the average citizen in the world finds themselves a part of.

In Japan, which has been my home for nearly 11 years, there is a saying which states “Okyaku sama wa kami sama desu” (お客様は神様です). This translates roughly as “The customer is a god”. Removing this statement from the typical Judeo-Christian scaffolding that generally encapsulates a lot of Western conceptions concerning this word “god” (small g intentional and you’ll see why) let us look at what this statement really means.

In Japanese, “Kami” means something akin to a higher level spirit being comparable more to an angel in the Catholic tradition than to the creator of the entire universe. That is, a being with tremendous power to help you if you have the right relationship with them. So while the notion of the Japanese calling customers “god” at first may sound a bit much there is a very logical even useful reason why they do so.

In today’s ultra-connected world it has never been easier to make contacts, network, build an audience and make of oneself an entrepreneur. But, with the ease of this brought on largely by the internet and its many facets for the sharing and dissemination of information, there has been a default lowering of the bar as it were in regard to the qualifications that were once so necessary in conducting business affairs.

The point I’m trying to make here is that while the internet has made it far easier to take on business oriented ventures it has also reduced the standard of presentation that the “old school” offline business models needed simply to keep the lights on. Effectively, just about anybody anywhere can be a business owner. Or rather they can appear to be a business owner.

And, with this ease of appearing one way and sometimes being another, there has followed a subtle but quite pervasive change in the way potential clientele are perceived; even if we don’t notice it. The added elements of mass reach combined with relative anonymity that the internet has given us create a tendency to neglect relationships and focus on the money instead. To put the cart before the horse, as it were. And this, dear reader, is materialism par excellence. And very dangerous, too.

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So we must remember money is a result brought about by very specific causes. That is, money is a secondary result to the primary cause of relationship and trust.

Let us get back to the main focus of this post: spirituality in business.

According to Google (good ol’ Google) the meaning of spirituality is this:

the quality of being concerned with the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things.

The word “spirituality” is often a nebulous one in meaning and terribly prone to a whole variety of reactions from the listener spanning a pretty impressive spectrum. So, let’s keep it as secular as we can and stick with the definition above as it’s frankly one of the best I’ve ever come across and I’m the guy writing this article so there :-)

So, in dropping material things to Tier 2 and raising “the quality of being concerned with the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things” to Tier 1, what are we left with? Ah, there’s an interesting question!

This same question is asked by most of us right before we die (assuming we have the time to ask it) and dying is when things really get spiritual. So let’s answer it now in a less err… pressing atmosphere.

What we are left with when putting the quality of our human spirit or soul over concern for material or physical things is essentially a concern for our inner state and, by default, that of others.

What does our inner state have to do with others’ inner state you may ask? Let me explain. In order to do that we need to present two forces widely acclaimed by a huge percentage of the world’s spiritual traditions. They are:

  1. Interdependence: the dependence of two or more people or things on each other.

and

  1. Compassion: sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others

Interdependence actually refers to two factors: 1) the interdependent nature of relationships between bodies and 2) the interdependent nature of the causes and effects that brought those bodies into existence. Both factors can often be exceedingly complex to the point where it may almost approach something like chaos theory. But it is not chaotic.
In business, factor 1 is going to consist of the business and the client(s). Factor 2 is going to consist of the inconceivable number of causes and effects that A) brought the business into existence and B) brought the customer in touch with the business. The nature of this relationship is that the business needs the clients and the clients (ideally) need the business insofar as much as the business provides enough value and quality service to the relationship for the clients not to go elsewhere.

The relationship is essentially a symbiotic one in which value is exchanged in a mutually beneficial way. If the exchange ceases to be mutual the relationship will change from a symbiotic one to a parasitic one and value will change from being exchanged to being extracted. Whatever the reasons and specifics may be, this kind of change is the death knell of the relationship and will end in either bankruptcy for the business, the customers losing interest or both.
Luckily, the parameters of the relationship can and should be enforced and protected with the proper ethics/spiritual motivation to maintain integrity and balance. This is as much a service to yourself as it is to others.

The principle here is exchange of value over the extraction of it. Exchange of value constitutes the foundation of a prosperous, interdependent relationship. Extraction of value constitutes the foundation of a scam. To be a parasite is to be forever hungry. To participate in exchange is to be forever together.

Compassion while also somewhat nebulous in meaning when it comes to real, concrete verbalization, could be thought of as the mental and emotional energy forever on hand to help relieve another’s suffering. In a business relationship, it could be thought of as the mental and emotional energy to put the quality of the customer experience over the quality of your profit margin; that is to protect the customer from suffering, if I may be so bold. By “protect from suffering” I mean, more specifically, to make the process as smooth as possible and to give as much benefit as possible via the interaction. Just as the smallest spark can ignite the largest inferno so can the smallest good deed ignite the greatest positive result.

This kind of thinking may seem somewhat incongruent in the context of business. You may feel it out of place to somehow link spirituality with business. Or maybe you don’t. And I hope you don’t. The truth is, however, that business is really just an extension of fulfilling one’s needs for relative well-being. It is a way to (somewhat indirectly) provide an environment optimized to support a sound inner state of mind.

And spirituality is really just a way to maintain your own well-being and that of others without causing suffering. As tall of an order as it may be there is no shortage of data supporting what works. So it could be said that there is a degree of interdependence between spirituality and business.

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The only real distinction between business and the general understanding of what it is to be “spiritual” is perhaps that business tends to focus more on the “material or physical things” that spirituality doesn’t even if only by default. But this is not necessarily always the case. Nor does it somehow make business mutually exclusive from spirituality or spirituality mutually exclusive from business. In fact, I would say that the two interfuse just about all aspects of our daily life. Spirituality certainly does and business, whether we like it or not, can only be ignored or set aside for so long before our physical well-being begins to suffer for it. To separate business from spirituality, would make of business something far more primal than we might like. While some may say that "it's a dog eat dog world out there" etc. I feel the pervasive presence of compassion and interdependence (even if only subtely at times) would argue differently.

Further, both business and spirituality share the need for these common points:

-Discipline

-Strength

-Beneficial relationships with people

-Perspective

-Patience

-Focus

-Forgiveness

-Resilience

-Intelligent, cultivated faith

So, I think if we can keep these similarities in mind, and perhaps the siginficant mutual benefits of doing so, we can actually blend our approach to life in general by focusing on our business interactions more as a way to create something beneficial in the world than simply to make money. We can see them as a way to expand well-being AS SUCH. That is not particularly your well being or my well being but well being for all involved. This perspective can serve as a powerful antidote to the temptation to sacrifice the big for the small or the beautiful for the sickness of a closet ego trip.

When I get to a point like this, trying to show the link. I am reminded of people like Jay Shetty, Jim Rohn and Bob Proctor. People who are very forward about what works for them and their understanding of the relationship between things. People who while being explicitly focused on the less material side of things were tremendously successful in it anyways. That is, they understood the forces at work behind the manifestations. They understood the causes that lead to the desired effect. They understood the law of attraction and the fact that it is always at work manifesting exactly what we “want” exactly as we ask for it. Because, like it or not, regardless of our emotional state and our ratio of ignorance to understanding we are forever creating something with our minds and our energy.

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And, you know what? A lot of it boils down not to what we think about being nice or aggressive. Not what we think about being spiritual or not. Not what we think about this or that. What we think, more often than not, is actually the cause of all the trouble. “Success” however you may define it comes down to laws. That is what you are propogating with your energy. What you are attracting with your habitual thoughts and how you are processing reality with your perceptions. Even in my short time on this planet I have been able to come to realize the following point: there is a very strong correspondence between the quality of our inner state and the quality of our outer state.

You see the universe and the subconscious mind (our connection to the universe) doesn’t particularly care what we are up to. In fact, it will go right along with it and give you exactly what you are asking for in the most skillfully insane way you can imagine. The trouble seems to be that many of us don’t know what we are asking for, are asking for what we don’t want or don’t even realize that we are asking in the first place.

Both spiritual teachers and successful entrepreneurs alike infer this in the pervasive “law of attraction”: the notion of what we are focused on internally bringing an external manifestation of it. And it is amazing how true this really is.
So, with these thoughts (which touch on way more than I could ever hope to do justice in this post alone) let me ask this: Why not protect ourselves and others with principles guaranteed to protect us just as much as they empower us? Why not see the money not as a goal but as kind of the shadow of the real goal? Wouldn't this make it better for everybody and just more fun? Why not put a sense of sport and play into it all as well?

Personally, I have been trying this out in small ways and it just makes things easier. I feel less stress, more happiness and a greater sense of lightness.

I hope you enjoyed what I’ve shared here. And I hope we can start some discussions in the comments below. All images were sourced from unsplash.com. Feel free to upvote, DM, follow and comment if so inclined. Happy Steeming.

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@technoguy,

An impressive and essential piece. I have enjoyed reading every word and could not agree more with the thoughts expressed in your post.

I especially liked the sentence "Further, although somewhat less emphasized here in our modern world, a way to manage and understand our own minds is also necessary. "
I believe it is quite an important point.

Also, the points you make about Interdependence and compassion are beautifully communicated.

Your writing is a league of its own demonstrating passion, clarity, structure and deep insight.

This is the kind of work I look forward to reading when I log onto Steemit!

Regards,
@shenobie

Wow. Thank you @shenobie. Those are very kind words. Steemit is an amazing platform. I really appreciate your insight and support. In my younger years I tended to focus way too much on the purely spiritual side of things. So much so that I eventually I had to admit that it wasn't really "spirituality" I was chasing but more a subtle kind of escapism/narcissism via the pleasant sensations and altered states brought about by meditation, chi gong and certain types of martial arts.

I think, underneath it all, there was a good core intention but I lacked the experience and perspective to integrate it with the world. I call this "Peter Pan Syndrome". It's a term I use to mean an obsession basically with one's hobbies and the pleasure resulting from them to the exclusion of the very real and impermanent conditions of our world always just a hair's breadth from ruining us. Becoming a parent and then a business owner has really changed my perspective. I have also lost both my parents. It is not that the world is such a dark and evil place, it's more that many of us don't make a connection with a way to navigate it skillfully enough in time before conditions change.

It turns out that truly spiritual people are amazingly hard working and the benefits of the various techniques developed over the millenia feed back into this work ethic to allow them to do more with their time and energy. I saw some parallels to certain entrepeneurs in this. Although some of them may lack some of the interpersonal skills their employees would desire, bits and pieces of their perspective toward their relationship with the customer and their place in it all were to striking not to write about.

There are also a lot of speakers out there who touch on this. The notion of working with your own mind in order to more efficiently (and less destructively) manifest what you want in your life. It sounds kind of whacky at first but the more you get into it the more sense it starts to make.

Something that has really peaked my interest recently is gratitude journaling. This seems really helpful in generating the right kind of mental current and flow to focus your energies on doing positive things instead of stagnating in memories of failure and regret. Doing that just takes you right back into manifesting similar results, no?

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