Understanding how will bring you clarity and peace this year.
How will you suffer in 2020? This is not a question that I will answer here. It is one that you will need to answer.
In my article “Are your employees suffering”, I wrote about how it is our nature to focus on pursuit and avoidance, and per Buddhist teachings, it is this pursuit and avoidance that leads to suffering. In case you did not read the article or are not familiar with the concept, below is a graphic from it that illustrates this and here is a link to the full article in Medium: https://medium.com/swlh/are-you-your-employees-suffering-d10ec9d9bfe?source=friends_link&sk=2b5fab1dd8608cd99e5212e00c117de0
This principle is very applicable in business and is probably the main source of dysfunction in companies because this pursuit and avoidance is part of human nature, and until Skynet takes over, companies will continue to be run by humans. That does not mean that the Middle Path philosophy cannot be cultivated in business, it just takes a lot of time, and attention, and needs to be an integral part of the overall culture.
However, once you learn to cultivate it yourself, it will change your life. To demonstrate how you can apply this to your life on a very specific basis, I will walk you through how I applied it to mine for 2020.
Starting point: In the fall of 2019 after losing my job I decided that I was going to pursue a vocation based solely on my gifts and developed around what I like to do, while eliminating things I don’t like to deal with. I came to this after reading the book, Let Your Life Speak, by Parker Palmer. I bought the book six months before reading it but never read it because I didn’t want to question that which I already knew.
My gifts: helping & mentoring people, being a leader and fixing things.
Things I don’t like: Managing people (there is a difference between leadership and management), holding people accountable, politics & drama. These alone, pretty much make it impossible for me to work in a leadership position at a company.
With these things in mind, I began to write about things I am passionate about in business based on my experiences: How and why businesses and people fail, why great cultures are elusive, and what we can do about each of these.
I then decided to build a business based around these things and set off to make it happen. The chart below illustrates where I am as of yesterday and where I intend to be by the end of 2020.
As we entered 2020, I started, with the help of my coach, to lay out specific objectives and tactics that I would need to implement in order to make this into a business. Easy-peasy, we are all familiar with doing this and have done it our entire careers.
Then I decided to apply the suffering model that I have written about to my goal. I have two choices. Number one, go for my goal while pursuing and avoiding the things below which will cause me suffering or number two, I can choose to encounter these things as they arise then continue on the path to my goal.
Well, I hate to suffer, have done enough of that and can always get a part-time job to pay the rent so its choice number two for me.
A great way to think about this concept of the Middle Path is to think of it in terms of its other name: The Path of the Warrior. The idea here is simple. Before we had drones, combat was hand-to-hand with swords, knives and knuckles. On the field of battle, the warrior did not spend time ruminating on the pursuit of success so that he could get a promotion, and he did not ruminate on failing or getting killed. Ruminating on the field of battle would only get him killed. He lived in the moment, dealing with things as they arose while traveling the path to victory.
By reflecting on the things that I would pursue and avoid in 2020 on the way to my goal, I am better equipped to recognize them, pick them up, examine them, then put them down and move on. Otherwise, I will spend all of my time hacking away at the bamboo below instead of staying on track.
I could probably stop writing here because I am sure the concept is clear and am sure that if you apply this to your 2020 goals and beyond, you will not suffer. You will sleep better, have more confidence and make better decisions while on your way accomplishing your goals. However, understanding what you will pursue and avoid is an uncomfortable exercise because it requires an honest introspection of what makes you suffer. You must put yourself out there for your biggest critic: you.
To help you get beyond this, I am going to take you thru my own introspection…making it public to my friends and the entire internet. If I can do it here, you can do it in private.
I will suffer as a result of pursuing the things below as I pursue my goal:
Quick success. I am impatient, hate long sales cycles and have always made immediate gratification a central focus in my life. Good luck to me, trying to go from making $1.09 writing last year to an annual run-rate of $100,000 in twelve months if I focus on quick success. Bring on the suffering.
High income. This has always been important to me as a measuring stick, and because I have always liked the things that made me look successful. If I make this a central focus, I may make decisions on my way to my goal that lead me selling out my mission of creating a vocation based on my gifts and one that does not include the things I hate to deal with. With my network, I could get back into the turnaround consulting business by the end of the day today, have 3-5 employees by the end of the year and be on my way to making a lot of money. No thanks.
Acceptance of my concepts by my peers. Let’s face it: Buddha and business? I don’t think I need to expand on this one. If you know me, you know that I don’t mince words, swear a lot and love a good pissing contest. I like tangible things and am not comfortable with putting concepts like this out there, except for the fact that I have found that they work.
Looking successful to my peers. This has always been important to me and is impossible to attain because no matter what I “achieve” someone will always achieve more. Please pass the suffering, I want more.
My peers talking with one another about how well I am doing. I want my friends to talk to each other about how well I am doing. For this to happen, I need all the above to happen as well. I am good, but not that good.
I am not going to go thru the avoidance side because they are the opposites of what I will pursue. Just by reading the list above, you can see how all-out pursuit of these things and avoidance of their opposites will only cause me to suffer while trying to attain my goal. Attaining it will be hard enough as it is, I don’t need to suffer for reasons that are ultimately meaningless in life and to my goal. I will deal with them as they arise by taking the Path of the Warrior.
So, how will you cause yourself to suffer this year?