Anyone who follows this blog knows my love for words. Here’s one: Eudaimonia. It roughly means happiness or wellness, but the more accurate meaning is “human flourishing,” according to Wikipedia. It describes a state of centering and contentment when your life matters because it is lived meaningfully well.
One of the great unacknowledged rewards of establishing your own company is the chance to create a personal eudaimonia. In other words, a spiritual space that combines the earning of filthy lucre and accumulating worldly goods with the ineffable, elusive coinage of meaning.
I have personally found this is emphatically not an either/or proposition. In fact the reality is that most of the great small businessmen and women I know intuitively combine the two. They are not immiscible. Really selfish entrepreneurs (like me) do not live by Michael Douglas famous mantra in Wall Street, “Greed is good.” No. Quite the opposite. Being good is simply the selfish thing to do. In fact, “Good is greed.” By your works ye will be known—and be hired and succeed. For me, eudaimonia is partly just a matter of overcoming the inner asshole.
The evincement of business goodness is usually made clear in the simplest and smallest interactions with clients. People like to think they are good and they want vendors that reflect this truth, this decency. Certainly the best business folk I know see themselves as citizens of the universe and it shows most effectively in their smallest, most subtle and unthinking acts within their own business, not in big, self-aggrandizing shows of public grandiosity. Whether they formally profess religion or not, good businessmen are people of lived faith in more than the transient and venal.
My belief, that money is as much a bi-product of goodness as it is of technical business prowess, is obviously highly subjective. But there are many and compelling new scientific studies that increasingly support this practical philosophy. I will not go all academic and boring by listing and quoting them encyclopedically, but there was an excellent summation of this research by Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic posted recently in the Harvard Business Review online (9:50 AM, April 10, 2013) in an article titled, “Does Money Really Affect Motivation? A Review of Research.” And I can never not acknowledge the profound and philosophically seminal work of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi at Claremont Graduate University on flow and happiness.
While we are all imperfect, sinful beings, we are also viscerally creatures of our own social interconnections. We unspokenly swim in the knowledge that we are not only our brother’s keeper but we are our brother. (Note July 23rd’s post to the African concept of Ubuntu.)
Let me close with a study noted in the NY Times on June 19, 2013 (p. C-5). The Times reports when economists asked the citizens of a Swiss village if they would accept being designated a nuclear waste storage site, 51% said yes. When the question was posed again, this time with the promise of a cash reward for living with the waste, the Times reports the yea votes plummeted to 25%. The money they said, made them feel that they were being bribed to perform a civic duty. Isn’t that encouraging?
Bishop Desmond Tutu says, “Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.” Amen, Brother Desmond.