Posts tagged Spirituality & Business
It's the process that matters

My grandparents had a dog. He was the cutest, happiest puppy I’d ever met. I was a child, he was a puppy and together we got along well. I remember one sunny afternoon. I was sitting in the shade and the puppy was resting on the ground near my feet. Then, he got up and started chasing his tail in circles, and circles and circles, until he got tired and, with a satisfied look on his face, settled down for a nap. He accomplished his goal.

We all have goals.

More sales, more customers. Better customers. A better business. A sunnier office. More freedom. More fulfillment. There will always be another goal. We will always want more or different, because that’s what life is all about. Wanting and fulfilling.

Goals are beautiful, and goals do lead the way. We want our goals to happen, so we think about them a lot.

But it’s the process to get our goals accomplished that truly matters. It’s the process that changes us and has the most profound impact on us, not the achievement of the goals. It’s the process that occupies most of our living time.

If the process is what truly matters, shouldn’t we enjoy it a little bit more?

My grandparents’ puppy wasn’t just chasing his tail. He was chasing the fun of running around and around and around. He wanted to experience the process of running after his tail, and he did so with playfulness, exhilaration and surrender. Because it was the process that mattered to him, not the tail.

We’re programmed to think that the excitement will come only when we get to the destination. I’ll stop fretting when I get this done. I’ll be happy when I finish my product. I’ll be happy when I get my first 5000 customers. I’ll be happy when I finish my book.

But why not make the process as exciting as attaining the goals? Why wait until it’s all done? Why did I worry so much along the way, most of us think when we reach a milestone. Why didn’t I enjoy it a little more, we wonder with regret.

Like a puppy running after his tail, we too can revel in the experience of chasing our goals.

That book you want to write? It’s the process that matters. Enjoy it all, from allowing the idea to visit with you, to editing it, to sharing your book with the world.

That business you want more customers for? It’s the process that matters. Enjoy it all, from creating something meaningful to sell for money, to putting it in front of people, to saying thank you to the customers who buy it.

I invite you to fall in love with the process. Whatever you’re working on right now, whatever you want, whatever you want to change or whatever you want to become - it’s a process and it wants to dance with you. A jazzy, fluid and beautiful process.

Tao’s three business lessons: simplicity, patience, compassion

I’ve turned to Tao Te Ching, by Lao-tzu, many times over the years. This little book always seemed to carry all the wisdom I ever needed. No matter which verses I re-read, there’s always unforeseen knowledge and love, as if it’s not just me who has grown since the last time I opened the book, but as if the book itself has grown wiser and more loving through time, just like a living organism would.

So, naturally, every time I’m faced with making a big business decision, I elegantly seek to avoid the responsibility of actually making the decision and instead, I turn to this little book to look for an answer. Just like any responsible adult would. And just like any responsible adult, I’m annoyed when I don’t find Lao-tzu writing anywhere in the book: “Sister, I’ve got your back! Do this and everything will work out well.” Because really Lao-tzu, I need an answer, not something to meditate on.

But here’s what I do find in Lao-tzu’s words: a compass that I can use to make my own decision. A compass that helps me cope with difficult situations. A compass that I hope will help you too, my dear friend.

Here’s my go-to compass:

“Some say that my teaching is nonsense.
Others call it lofty but impractical.
But to those who have looked inside themselves,
this nonsense makes perfect sense.
And to those who put it into practice,
this loftiness has roots that go deep.
I have just three things to teach:
simplicity, patience, compassion.
These three are your greatest treasures.
Simple in actions and in thoughts,
you return to the source of being.
Patient with both friends and enemies,
you accord with the way things are.
Compassionate toward yourself,
you reconcile all beings in the world.”

(verse 67, S. Mitchell translation)

These three loving teachers are my go-to compass, simplicity, patience, compassion. They’re eager to guide us in business, and in all of life’s experiences.

But they’re also tricky little teachers. Sometimes even cheeky.

Take simplicity for instance, most likely the cheekiest of all. What does simplicity mean to you? When I think about it, I can’t pinpoint a true definition. I don’t even know what it means, and I’m supposed to let it teach me something? The dictionary says “plain, natural.” Ok, we can start there. But to me, simplicity is more than that.

It’s about a state of being.

Because you see, simplicity requires clarity. You can’t strive towards simplicity without first knowing exactly what you want and what you don’t want. To keep things simple, you must keep them simple in accordance with something. That something is deep in, at the core of our work and soul.

So simplicity is about a state of being aligned, authentic and core centered.

My hairdresser knows a thing or two about it. She’s so amazing at what she does, so I keep asking her, why not expand your business? Why not add these services, or offer to make home visits or this and that. And she always tell me quickly “Noo, noo, Mihaela, what I love to do is this. This is the only thing I want to keep doing.” This is her craft. She doesn’t want a big business, she wants to simply focus on her craft. That’s all. She knows what she wants and it’s easy for her to say “no” to outside opportunities that wouldn’t fit in her soul’s journey.

Patience and compassion are cheeky teachers too.

When you’re “patient with both friends and enemies, you accord with the way things are,” says Tao, which I take to mean that you don’t waste your precious energy on things you can’t control and that you surrender to the wise workings of the universe.

You trust the process, you focus on your work and on your unique and much needed contribution to the world. That’s truly the only thing you can control. Sit still. Understand that others have their own path and journey to take, and it’s not your job to get involved or to waste your thoughts on their choices. Your only job is to make sure that you nurture your own strengths, that you continue to grow and that you show up with love in the world.

It’s a funny thing, but we’re supposed to make our own decisions in this life on earth. We’re meant to learn from them and grow and love more as a result of weaving our own journey. That’s how this world was built. And because our choices are meant to make us grow, we can’t interfere in other people’s choices.

Tao then tells us that when you’re “compassionate toward yourself, you reconcile all beings in the world.” If you want to bring peace and light to all beings in the world, if you want all beings in the world to show up in front of you in peace, you have to bring peace and love to your own soul first.

Tao wants us to accept with compassion every step we take, even the steps we take in the wrong direction. Think about what you say to your child when she crawls under the table and then bumps her head when she tries to stand up. You don’t yell at her. You hug her and you thank her for being brave and for trying a new crawling path. You know she learns by trying, just like you do. As my grandmother used to say, “treat yourself the way you would treat your child”. Compassion for her, compassion for you. If you applaud her bravery, applaud yours as well.

So, thank you dear Tao for your great three lessons.

photo credit: Yoann Boyer

Google's curriculum for success, happiness and world peace

This year, with the holidays right around the corner, I’m grateful for the fact that we’re all endowed with an unlimited capacity to constantly expand our desires, potential and contribution. Your business is proof of this. You created it out of nothing (thank you for that!), and you were able to do so because of that vast, yet ever increasing wealth of aptitude that's inside of you.

Sometimes I feel like pinching myself when I think about how lucky we all are to have this grand arsenal of capacity right in our front pocket.

The challenge many of us face is not lacking this infinite arsenal of possibilities, but learning how to access it.

It’s as if our wealth of potential was a beautiful diamond. When we pick it up from the earth, it’s covered in dirt. If we don’t know to remove that dirt, we’ll think that’s all there is to the diamond: it will shine just a little bit from here and there. But when we remove the dirt, it will shine brilliantly from every single facet and will astound everyone. The cleaner our diamond, the more we can contribute to our businesses.

Meditation, awareness and staying grounded are a metaphor for removing this dirt. 

Luckily, there are tools to help us. This fall I came across a book by Chade-Meng Tan, a former Google award-winning engineer. The book is called “Search inside yourself” and I believe it can help just about anyone polish her or his diamond.

It consists of a step-by-step curriculum, which was tested and perfected at Google, for achieving mindfulness based emotional intelligence. It’s highly practical, scientifically grounded and with plenty of research that backs up all the ideas discussed.

The ideas are written in a way that resonates with everyone, regardless of people’s spiritual beliefs (or lack of). I knew that was true when my husband, a former electrical engineer who doesn’t believe in anything you can’t see or touch with your fingers, started meditating after reading “Search inside yourself”.

Knowing yourself, meditating and being mindful will help you increase your self-confidence, be more resilient and ultimately achieve more in life and in your business. For example, in the book, Meng refers to a study that shows how teaching emotional awareness skills to financial advisors at American Express Financial Advisors resulted in more revenue per advisor.

Loving Kindness meditation

I had the honor of hearing Meng speak about his work recently, and during his talk, he asked us to close our eyes and send love to a person we know. When we opened our eyes, he said something that was wonderful and surprising.

He pointed out that we all smiled while our eyes were closed.

It’s true, I thought. I must have smiled because I could still feel the smile on my face, but I would have never realized it if he didn’t mention it.

I found this to be the simplest and most tangible explanation of why giving means receiving. When you engage in a loving kindness meditation like this, in which you send love to others, you get joy in return. You get to have a better day, simply because you chose to give something that’s accessible to all of us and doesn’t cost any money: a loving thought.

Now, imagine going into every business meeting and passing love thoughts like this to everyone in the room. Or, passing love thoughts like this to your customers, even if you’ve never seen them face-to-face. This is what Marianne Williamson refers to when she urges people to greet every person with the silent thought of “the love in me salutes the love in you.”

It’s my belief that we’d accomplish much more with our businesses this way, and that we’d have less of a mess to clean up afterwards.

Just Like Me and Loving Kindness meditation ("Search inside Yourself", page 169):

Sit in a comfortable position that allows you to be alert and relaxed at the same time. Start with two minutes to rest the mind on the breath.
Bring to mind somebody you care about. Visualize him or her. If you wish, you may use a photograph or video of that person.
Just like me
Now, read the script below slowly to yourself, pausing at the end of each sentence for reflection:
This person has a body and mind, just like me.
This person has feelings, emotions, and thoughts, just like me.
This person has, at some point in his or her life, been sad, disappointed, angry, hurt, or confused, just like me.
This person has, in his or her life, experienced physical and emotional pain and suffering, just like me.
This person wishes to be free from pain and suffering, just like me.
This person wishes to be healthy and loved, and to have fulfilling relationships, just like me.
This person wishes to be happy, just like me.
Loving kindness
Now, let’s allow some wishes to arise.
I wish for this person to have the strength, the resources and the emotional and social support to navigate the difficulties in life.
I wish for this person to be free from pain and suffering.
I wish for this person to be happy.
Because this person is a fellow human being, just like me.
Now, I wish for everybody I know to be happy.
(Long pause)
End with one minute of resting the mind."

You are not your emotions

We all feel up and down and everything else along the way. Not reacting to anger, frustration, impatience and any other emotion that doesn’t serve us and those around us, is a skill that can be learned through self-awareness, and a skill that will make us better business leaders.

“As we deepen our self-awareness, we eventually arrive at a very important key insight: we are not our emotions.
We usually think of our emotions as being us. This is reflected in the language we use to describe them. For example, we say “I am angry” or “I am happy” or “I am sad”, as if anger, happiness or sadness are us, or become who we are. To the mind, our emotions become our very existence.
With enough mindfulness practice, you may eventually notice a subtle but important shift- you may begin to feel that emotions are simply what you feel, not who you are. Emotions go from being existential (“I am”) to experiential (“I feel”). With even more mindfulness practice, there may be another subtle but important shift- you may begin to see emotions simply as physiological phenomena. Emotions become what we experience in the body, so we go from “I am angry” to “I experience anger in my body.”
This subtle shift is extremely important because it suggests the possibility of mastery over our emotions. If my emotions are who I am, then there is very little I can do about it. However, if emotions are simply what I experience in my body, then feeling angry becomes a lot like feeling pain in my shoulders after an extreme workout; both are just physiological experiences over which I have influence. I can soothe them. (…)
In meditative traditions, we have a beautiful metaphor for this insight. Thoughts and emotions are like clouds- some beautiful, some dark- while our core being is like the sky. Clouds are not the sky. They are phenomena in the sky that come and go. Similarly, Thoughts and emotions are not who we are; they are simply phenomena in mind and body that come and go.
Possessing this insight, one creates the possibility of change within oneself.” ("Search inside Yourself", page 100)

About Chade-Meng Tan

Chade-Meng Tan & Mihaela

Chade-Meng Tan & Mihaela

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention a couple of words about Chade-Meng Tan. When he entered the room, I felt like smiling. He made everyone laugh (he is very funny, by the way!), but it wasn’t the humor that made me feel that way. It was almost as if he had a trail of compassion, love and kindness around him, and you could feel the warmth just by being in the room with him.

His dream is world peace. We can all contribute. All we have to do is search inside ourselves, meditate and be more self-aware about who we are and what matters to us and our businesses.

If you can see Meng talk or pick up his book, I highly recommend it.

More resources:

Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute

Chade-Meng Tan

Book on Amazon