When my son was a teenager he once said to me, “Dad, I just don’t get it. Why do people spend so much time doing what they don’t really enjoy, just to get ahead or to make money? Don’t they get it? Don’t they see that we are all going to die?”
I thought this was a great observation and a great question.
A core aspect of mindfulness practice involves asking the most fundamental questions from the perspective of birth and death, so that we may take stock of what really matters and is most important.
These are generally basic, simple, and radical questions (the definition of the word radical is: arising from or going to the root or source; fundamental; basic). They’re so basic and simple, in fact, that it’s easy to overlook them.
A Radical View of Life
Practicing mindfulness means taking a radical view of life, choosing to return to the root, the most basic level of human existence, focusing on your inner life, on living simply, on fostering self-knowledge and compassion for others as a way to change the world.
Integrating mindfulness practice with business practice could be seen as a radical choice in the sense of returning to the values and way of life that are most basic and fundamental to the human beings that make up the company or organization.
Living and working with birth and death in mind loosens our ordinary assumptions about success, failure, and what really matters.
Mindfulness is expressed through our choices, making a statement to ourselves and to the world about the importance of focusing on what is most fundamental to our satisfactory existence as a species.
Mindful work and life can mean, at times, operating outside society’s definitions of success and failure, while at the same time understanding and working within these definitions.
A social entrepreneur or any mindful businessperson can take a radical view of the business by choosing to return to the root, the most basic form of commerce, and by focusing on meeting the needs of people and responding to them in a way that is direct and unadorned. An entrepreneur often defines success and failure for herself.
Being joyful, honest, open, and vulnerable in business is a radical idea. There are many similarities between the values of mindfulness practice and the values of business practice. Here are a few:
- They are both challenging, and with each challenge comes the possibility of achievement and satisfaction.
- They are both filled with possibilities, unknowns, and adventure. Anything could happen.
- They both draw on inner and outer practices. How we experience and perceive the world is vitally important. Both provide the chance to work on our inner lives, to expose patterns, and to develop character.
- They are both outward practices, aimed at making a difference in the world. Each type of practice makes a political, social, and economic statement.
- With mindfulness practice and business practice, there are no clear paths or maps.
- They both provide an opportunity to affect people on a local, community, and global level.
Mindfulness isn’t something you take down from the shelf and then put on, like clothing. Your life is the practice. Similarly, I believe that the definition of an entrepreneur is much broader than “someone who starts a business.” It is a radical way of thinking and living in the world, of learning directly from each experience, each problem, each person that we meet.
Questions for your Daily Practice:
- What defines you as radical?
- When you consider your mortality, what is most important for your work, and your life?
- In what ways are your work and life aligned with what matters most?
- Where are there gaps?