Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Advice From the Buddha On Setting Up a Business

At first glance, the title of this post may seem a bit bizarre.  After all, what can an Indian ascetic, who died 2500 years ago, tell us about business?  Yesterday, I would have asked that myself.

But I've been reading a book on transpersonal counselling, called "Spiritual Emergency: When Personal Transformation Becomes a Crisis".  It's a compilation of essays, one of which is by Buddhist teacher and author, Jack Kornfield.  And, in it, he describes what are known in Buddhism as the five hindrances.  The Buddha taught these in relation to meditation practice but, as I read, I realised that they apply just as well to business.

Kornfield writes: "The first is desire and wanting.  The second is its opposite, which is aversion - anger and dislike, judgement and fear . . . The next pair is sleepiness, dullness, and lethargy . . . and their opposite, which is agitation and restlessness of mind.  The fifth is doubt, the part of the mind that says, "I cannot do it. It is too hard . . . Morning is not a good time.  Maybe I should do something a little more entertaining . . ."

And I suspect that I'm not the only person who, trying to set up a business, has met all those hindrances time and time again.  We start with an idea and a desire to make something of that idea, to be successful, to make money.  We really want to get on and do it.  But, unless we're very lucky, there will be parts of the process that we don't enjoy . . . the long hours of work, perhaps, or the way it impinges on our family and social lives.  There's the anger that arises when something goes wrong - when Google bans us from adwords, or Twitter suspends our account, or we spend money on an advertising campaign that falls flat on its face.  And there's the fear of getting it wrong - of being banned, of getting suspended, of losing money.

So the enthusiasm wanes and the work becomes an effort, particularly the routine stuff that's so important (such as writing regular posts for our blogs and updating our social media accounts).  A whole day can go by and, at the end, there's the feeling of 'I haven't really done much today' which adds frustration into the mix and contributes to the dullness and the lethargy.  But at the same time, aware of the fact that we seem to be treading water, we can become agitated and restless.

And, finally, comes doubt.  Why did I ever start this in the first place?  I can't do it.  It's too hard.  I don't have the skills.  And I'm bored.

Of course, you may be wondering whether, in relation to business, desire is actually a hindrance.  When practising the Buddhist way of non-attachment, of course it is.  But in business?  And yet, I just wonder whether concentrating too much on that desire to succeed can be counterproductive.  Because if the desire is too strong, every little setback will become a major hurdle, rather than just part of the learning process.

The Buddha's answer to the hindrances when they arise during meditation practice is to recognise them for what they are and to 'let them go'.  If we get too caught up in the hindrance - be it desire or aversion, lethargy or restlessness, or doubt - it just compounds the problem.  So perhaps, here too, the answer is to recognise them as being a normal part of the process and to accept (again, as the Buddha taught) that everything changes.  I realise that it's not always the same tasks that I find boring. Because I'm frustrated today, it doesn't mean that I won't find a solution to the problem tomorrow.  And finding that solution may help me to find other solutions further down the path.

But perhaps the thing that I find most encouraging is to know that the frustration, anger, fear, restlessness, lethargy and doubt that seem to arise regularly as I plug away at building my business, are normal.  That these feelings and emotions are not mine alone but have been felt over the centuries by countless people trying to achieve their dreams.

Photo by hde2003 on

No comments:

Post a Comment