Saturday, April 04, 2009

Following your bliss, rice farming, and showing up.

Anyone who works with me or reads these posts knows I insist you really love the work you're doing in your startup or small business.

As this awful economy grinds on many people are moving toward entrepreneurship as a viable option. I applaud that and welcome you to the practice.

What's getting me a bit nuts is the preponderance of media shouting out that you need to follow your bliss into entrepreneurship.

Yes, I agree. But then what? Do you follow your bliss over a cliff? At least you'd enjoy the plunge for a few short moments.

If you are going to endure and celebrate what makes small business, you have to have all the parts of your mind and body engaged.

I love the quote from Dr. Howard Thurman, the great religious leader and pioneering civil rights activist who mentored Dr. Martin Luther King: "Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive."

Did that mean Dr. Thurman spent his days navel gazing? Just the opposite. He wrote more than 20 books. He met Ghandi and, at Ghandi's request, brought back his message of non-violence to African Americans, then served as spiritual advisor and mentor to Dr. Martin Luther King's family. He gave up a safe, honored, tenured faculty position to change the world.

He worked relentlessly, as though tomorrow really needed him. It did.

However, it's the DOING of the work that matters, not the thinking about it.

I'm reading Malcom Gladwell's great new book, "Outliers". He talks about needing proficiency to claim mastery. His thesis is that you need about 10,00 hours of practice to become a master of any trade, from musical composer to hockey star. Four hours per day. Seven days per week. That's about 10 years of practice.

Gladwell also talks about the potential efficiencies of applying that time and mastery to everyday life.

Until very recently as techniques and genetics have improved, the average wet rice farmer in China may have spent as many as 3,000 hours per year working, as opposed to European farmers that spent 1,000 hours per year working.

What was different?

"What redeemed the life of a rice farmer was the nature of the work. It was a lot like the garment work done by the Jewish immigrants to New York. It was meaningful."

Chinese rice farming is NOT the North American agricultural economy of the 21st century. It is however a startlingly apt metaphor for the rest of commerce in the global 21st century economy.

Yes, you REALLY do need to love what you do. Not because you'll be following your bliss. You need to love what you do because you'll be living with your work through times of miserable cash flow, angry customers, crushing time constraints, and working more time than you can imagine.

That doesn't sound like following your bliss. It's not. What really matters is working toward your bliss.

You mean it's hard? More than I could tell you. You mean it's going to take longer than you think? Yep.

Does that mean you shouldn't do it?

Just the opposite. You need to enter commerce; as have thousands of generations before us, and work hard and solve problems. Keep excellent notes and records, and then work harder to make it all happen again and again and again.

Among the most dog eared books in our house are our copies of "The War of Art" by Steven Pressfieild.

Mr. Pressfield's book focuses on resistance. How resistance will rise up at every turn and offer you easier ways to lead your life than what your quest demands.

Mr. Pressfield's gift is to remind us that our struggles are ages old and that we have the constitution and the guts to work our way to a better life. Success is based in large measure by how willing we are to show up and push through the daily grind of planting the rice and cultivating what you love through hard work and perseverance.

Here's a good example from "The War of Art":

"Someone once asked Somerset Maugham if he wrote on a schedule or only when struck by inspiration. 'I write only when inspiration strikes,' he replied. 'Fortunately it strikes every morning at nine o'clock sharp.'

That's a pro.

In terms of resistance Maugham was saying 'I despise Resistance; I will not let it faze me; I will sit down and do my work.'

Maugham reckoned another deeper truth: that by performing the mundane physical act of sitting down and starting to work, he set in motion a mysterious but infallible sequence of events that would produce inspiration…."

Doing what you love is critical. The key word is 'doing'. Not talking about it but acting in an efficient way, creating sustainable (reproducible) business models around what you love. Trying, failing, trying again, and above all else, showing up every day.

Then, and only then, will you be able to turn your bliss into a business.

I wish you the best.

Wikipedia Dr. Howard Thrumon

Malcom Gladwell's book "Outliers"

Steven Pressfield's wonderful book "The War of Art"

No comments: