Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Joy of Contribution

Why do you go to work in the morning? Why do you do what you do?

Most everyone has heard of the story of the three bricklayers. There are a lot of different versions, but the essence is this.

A man is walking through a town and comes across three bricklayers working at a construction site. He asks each of them what they are doing.

The first one says, "I am laying bricks." He even seems a bit miffed at the absurdity of the question.

The second one says, "I am building a wall."

The third one looks up with a smile on his face and says "I am building a cathedral."

I've often seen this story used to support the importance of understanding the big picture. But I think something more profound is going on here. As Dan Pink and others point out, one of the things that really fuels us is a sense of contributing to something bigger than ourselves. A mission. A purpose.

We all want to do good in the world. And yet our day-to-day work lives can sometimes feel like they beat the very life from us.

But so much of that is just our own thoughts about what is happening. About who is doing what to whom and why we think things should be different.

There's a couple of things to notice about thoughts. First, they are always changing, and sometimes you don't have them at all. Practices like meditation and yoga are to some extent about noticing when you have no thoughts, and creating more of those spacious, healing moments.

The second thing is that some thoughts serve you better than others.

It can be tempting to think about all the bad things that are going on at work and focus on all the ways that you would change things if only someone would give you permission. But think back to the excitement you felt when you started your job. I bet there was some greater good in the world that was part of the attraction.

Maybe you're like me and you want to make better health care available to more people. Maybe you want to share knowledge or beauty. Maybe you want to show people how they can lead from within.

Take a few moments each day and remind yourself why the bad stuff is worth it. And notice how your attitude and effectiveness change when you do.


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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Bodhisattva Ideal at Work

This is my first post in what I suspect will be a much less regular schedule of writing on The Corporate Zendo.

I'll talk about my new thinking for the blog and Facebook page in upcoming posts, but I want first to talk about something that is very important to me.

For the last hundred years or so, we in America have been operating under some assumptions that I think are just wrong--

That more is better, especially when it comes to money and possessions.

That success is about material things.

That there is a set of external circumstances and possessions that can produce lasting happiness.

That work, as currently constructed, is a vehicle for personal fulfillment.

If, as the Dalai Lama says, the purpose of life is happiness, we're doing a pretty shabby job. We may have more stuff, but it feels like we have given our time and health and happiness in return.

I think there's a better way. And I'd like your help.

In Buddhism, the bodhisattva is one who is dedicated to freedom and happiness for all beings. The bodhisattva even delays his own enlightenment so that others may be enlightened first. I think we need to think of ourselves as bodhisattvas at work, dedicated to freedom not only for our coworkers, but also for our employers.

Instead of spending hours of face time with nothing to show for it, we need to show how less time at work can make us more effective.

Instead of operating out of fear, we need to spread love.

Instead of defending and protecting, we need to be open and vulnerable.

Instead of dedicating ourselves and our companies to the pursuit of the mighty dollar, we need to find and work at companies that have a mission to do good, or create beauty, or provide knowledge in the world. And be confident that in doing those things, we will have more than enough.

If this is a mission that you believe in as much as I do, please spread the word. I want to build a movement. I want to change the world of work, and I passionately believe we can and must.

In building this movement, we can show more and more employees that it is possible to be happy and fulfilled at work, and more and more companies that some of the best employees want nothing less than an employer who will challenge them, and enable them, to do their very best.


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Friday, July 1, 2011

Resting and Recharging

This is going to be my last post for awhile. I'm taking a two week vacation with my family--no posts, no links to past posts, no Facebook, no Twitter. I'm also in a process of evaluating what's next for me, for this work, and for the blog. I suspect that means that I will be blogging less and exploring how to expand this community and this message in other ways.

I'd love to hear your ideas. I passionately believe not only that we can be happy at work, but that we are also more productive, creative, and connected when we are happy. To me, we can't keep working more and think that we're going to get more done in our sleep-deprived, fear-driven, caffeinated haze. At least not much of value. And while our employers are starting to figure that out, most are still stuck in thinking in the old ways, with the misguided perception that more is always better.

So if you think as I do, that our way of working needs a major makeover, and that everyone will benefit if it does, please pass this along, and send me any ideas that you have for growing this movement.

Thanks as always for reading the blog, and I'll see you in a few weeks.


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