This column is by Charlie Ambler, Founder, Dailyzen
It’s been about one year of my being an actual “entrepreneur”. I started an online retail business (not related to Daily Zen, which I consider more a hobby than a business) in July of last year with a few grand and a lot of work. I’ve learned more in the past 9 months than I have at any other critical juncture in my life. I expect the mistakes, successes and lessons (all intimately intertwined) to continue.
Entrepreneurship has taught me more about spirituality than I thought it would. I used to put Business and Spirit in two different categories, but now I’ve come to learn that proper business is like anything else in life: it’s an extension of the spirit. Done properly, without malice or ignorance, it can provide immense value to others. Here are a few spiritual lessons I’ve learned this year from starting my first real business.
80% is showing up
This famous dictum really rings true once you start to really work at something, as I’m sure many of you know. What paralyzes us most as modern people? The answer is immediately apparent — fear. We fear approaching people we’re attracted to. We fear kindness from strangers. We fear poverty, failure, and illness. As a result, we don’t do nearly as much as we’re capable of.
It was recently discovered that the cliché that humans only use 10% of their brains was a myth. Ok, sure— but I think it can be easily said that most humans only use 10% of their guts. Risk makes being alive insanely more fun. Running a business means learning the art of risk management, whether you’re running a brokerage or a mom & pop shop.
What we’re never told is that showing up is hard sometimes. It’s a risk. You could show up and burn the place down by accident. But this risk makes life thrilling and fun. We learn from every mistake and grow stronger in the process. The only failure is in not showing up.
Everything is done incrementally
If you told me a year ago that my business would now have 100 products, 14,000 followers and more weekly revenue than I could have drooled at (as well as a larger tax burden…) all for less than 15 hours of real hard work per week, I would have laughed. I would have also been overwhelmed. “How the hell does that happen?” I would have asked.
The real lesson is this: when we think too much about end results, it doesn’thappen. If I was obsessed with the final goal of where I am now, or where I’m going, I would’ve been continually angry and dissatisfied. Instead, I learned from my meditation practice the most important skill I’ve been able to teach myself as a business autodidact: setting and executing micro-goals.
A marathon is 26.2 miles. That’s 1,660,032 inches. It’s not much fun thinking about running that many inches— in fact, it seems rather impossible. So we don’t think about 26.2. We think about 1/2 mile. And then another 1/2 mile. When I do 24 pushups, I conceive it in my head as three sets of eight, combined. I do eight, then I go back to one. The same way that when we meditate, we don’t count to 1,000,000. We count to 10. And then we return to one.
Life is done in “ones”. You do a thing, and then you do another thing. If you work hard and do lots of little things, one after the other, with full discipline and full diligence, you can accomplish incredible feats. But this is unlikely to occur if you’re obsessed with the idea of accomplishing incredible feats. The key is to focus on the baby steps. They’ll run a marathon for you if you let them.
Pride will kill you
Unfortunately, a lot of entrepreneurs have their heads in the wrong places. They want to get Rich! They want to get Famous! And by God, they’ll slit your throat if they have to! This is a terrible attitude. Those who get sucked up by pride never get far. Sometimes they do get far, but find themselves rich, famous, and miserable. Why? Life can be ugly. It can be hard. You make mistakes, you suffer, and sometimes it’s a lot of work. Who perseveres in this case— the person who’s too proud to acknowledge that failure is helpful and inevitable or the person who calmly trudges through the storm, day-in and day-out? The second person, obviously.
Zen has taught me how to navigate life with an inner calmness and an inner strength. I’m not proud of this inner strength because, like real-life muscles, it requires maintenance. One of these maintaining factors is, yes, a conscious lack of pride. This is because pride is a delusion— it convinces us that what matters is “out there”. Our accomplishments are not important if we are spiritually or mentally bankrupt. What matters is how you respect yourself, how you discipline yourself, and how mindfully you treat yourself and others. Take the energy others spend on delusional pride and spend it on making the most of reality.
Time is your most valuable asset
Since I stopped working for other people, I’ve had the remarkable experience of realizing just how badly we all get screwed by working for other people. If a company makes $1b in profit and has 1,000 employees, the average employee is technically making the company $1,000,000. You can guarantee they’re not getting paid that much. My father once saved the company he worked for $20,000,000 in 6 months. Did he see more than a tiny fraction of that money? Of course not. The problem with spending your time making money for someone else is that you don’t have any time for yourself. It’s not about wasted profit. It’s about wasted time.
Time is more valuable than any salary imaginable— its value is infinite. I’m grateful for taking the risk of failure and starting a business; it’s allowed me to see how much time I was wasting on other peoples’ goals. They weren’t my friends, nor my family– oftentimes they were people I didn’t even know. And I wasn’t building homeless shelters or administering malaria vaccines. I was trawling through Excel spreadsheets. It was as meaningless as meaningless work gets.
Don’t ever sell yourself short. Your time is priceless. Even 20 minutes of meditation a day can completely change your life— imagine what 8 hours of ideological and productive freedom could do for you.
Satisfaction comes from within
All of the aforementioned lessons come from the same core place: we find satisfaction inside. It’s not out there. There are plenty of unhappy billionaires. Making money is not what life is about. Building a business is not what life is about. Working is not what life is about. But the lessons we learn from approaching these things with the mindfulness of a spiritually-peaceful and eager-to-grow person— these lessons are worth more than all the gold in the world.
The biggest lesson I’ve learned from this first year in business, one that’s been far more financially rewarding than I thought, is that financial rewards are not that important. Trade your greed in for curiosity. Trade your competition with others in for competition with yourself. Learn from every mistake, no matter how small. Do something every day that advances you not in the direction of some far-off goal, but in the direction of your heart. It will not lead you astray.
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Image Source: Huffington Post