The Paradox of Awakening and Profitability

The Paradox of Awakening and Profitability

Building a business is extremely hard.

Building a business on the foundations of Selflessness, Authenticity, Love, and Service is even harder. And one can do that only if one is deeply authentic, generous, selfless and in touch with her/his deep self.

Conscious Capitalism, Servant leadership, love leadership etc. do not happen in isolation. These are, but an outer manifestation of a leader’s inner life. One who doesn’t live by these principles can never bring this to fruition in real world.

Living a spiritual life, living a life based on true north principles, balancing the paradox of individual awakening and business pressures is tough in a corporate environment, so, my respect for those who have been able to translate these principles and bring them to life in businesses is immense.

I stumbled upon “Meaningful Work: A Quest to do great business, find your calling and feed your soul” by Shawn Askinosie last month when 800-CEO-READ featured it in their upcoming books to read. Today’s blog post by Seth Godin calls out this book. A peep into the book traces Shawn’ career trajectory from being a successful lawyer to praying hard daily for years to find a meaningful calling, ultimately resulting in entrepreneurship. I found it fascinating for the references to the Trappist Monastery.

While I know very little about the Monks and the Trappist Monastery, I had read about it earlier in a fascinating book titled “Business Secrets of the Trappist Monks” by August Turak. Turak writes about how the principles of service and selflessness can be the foundation on which a wildly successful business can be built.

Closer home, I am aware of Aravind Eye Care, Cipla (do read this post) and Hare Krishna exports from Surat whose founders have built their businesses on these principles.

While there is so much talk today in the papers about VC’s, funding, how to make profits etc. There is hardly any talk about how to build sustainable, relevant and meaningful businesses. Businesses built on true north principles. Professors who are called to talk about business, regurgitate the same old tales we have read in the business papers, hardly anyone talks about this personal journey. I have actively sought out stories like these in my readings and they fascinate me no end. Walking the path of deep spiritual values is hard and guess that’ the reason we hear very little stories like these! So when I do find them, I feel like celebrating and sharing their success!

In my view, Shri Krishna in The Gita, lays out a very clear, unambiguous path, that can be used as guiding principles and I will share it in the next few posts.

But for now, given that we are talking about Monks and Businesses, I would like to end up with this beautiful story narrated by another monk who heads an Asset Management Company. We can all start with this parable and come back to hear how Shri Krishna answer’s the question about What kind of business/product/service to build in the next post.

Update: This series may have to wait for some more time!

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The best book on Leadership & Spirituality that I have read!

It is very difficult to articulate the effect of a spiritual guru in your life. While on hand one goes through life’s up and down’s like everyone else, there is a unseen connection and bond that permeates all through. Dr APJ Kalam’s latest book “Transcendence” is a brilliant exposition on the impact that his spiritual guru – Shri Pramukh Swamiji of Swaminarayan Sanstha had on him.

Kalam writes:

“How do I summarize Pramukh Swamiji’s effort on me? He has indeed transformed me. He is the ultimate stage of the spiritual ascent in my life, which started with my father, was sustained by Dr Brahma Prakash and Prof Satish Dhawan; now finally, Pramukh Swamiji has put me in synchronous orbit. No maneuvers are required any more, as I am placed in my final position in eternity.”

Those of us who are fortunate to find a living spiritual master can instantly recognize what Kalam writes. My first visit to Swaminarayan temple was in Chicago sometime in 2004 or 5 and then I visited Akshardham in Delhi sometime in 2008 and was blown away watching the movie on “Neelakanth” (Linking to Mystic India movie on YouTube, but I guess the one I watched in Akshardham was a shorter version and more crisp)

Kalam writes about his experience of his chance encounter with the BAPS organization and Pramukh Swamiji and how the spiritual connection and the presence of Swamiji helped him take tough decisions with ease. Kalam talks about politics, his presidential term, his travels, his vision for India, all coupled with stories, anecdotes, and lessons from the lives of scientists and great leaders. But the underlying essence of the book is how the presence of Swamiji in his life helped him. Kalam quotes extensively from The Quran and Thiruvallavur and from other great philosophers and thinkers driving home the point as to how a true spiritual person embraces wisdom of all religions and makes it his own and more importantly, reflecting on the knowledge, acting on it and living can make a huge difference.

The book is divided into four parts and I loved the part where Kalam writes on Creative Leadership.

He drives home the point that Creative Leadership as the foundation of change. He writes:

“Creative Leaders are not born. They are the product of particular circumstances and conditions; they evolve to bring change for the better. I have enumerated eight facets of creative leadership, namely – fearlessness, courage, ethical living, non-violence, forgiveness, compassion, vision and cooperation….” Each of these attributes are explained through stories drawn from the lives of Nachiketa to Verghes Kurien.

I wish I could write more, but suffice to say that this book integrates Science, Spirituality and Leadership in a scintillating way and will remain as one of the best books on leadership and spirituality that I have read.

Navigating the ebook self publishing maize the APE way

A friend of mine has a reasonably well selling self published book in the market and I have been trying to get her to move it as a ebook and sell it on Amazon. I thought it would be a simple task of taking the manuscript and converting it into .mobi format and push it out to Amazon; how wrong was I. To see the madness about the formats and the support on different platforms, you just need to head to this page http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_e-book_formats; you will get an idea of what I am talking about. Innumerable formats, innumerable platforms and innumerable rules, enough to drown you.  As an author, who isn’t well versed with technology, this is overwhelmingly and daunting. How do you publish an ebook? What does one need to understand from a technology perspective? Which formats to use? How to convert your document to those innumerable formats? Will the images render properly? How does one figure out the pricing of the ebook? Should one opt for a 35% royalty or a 70% royalty on Amazon? What about Apple ecosystem? Which aggregator to use? Isn’t it enough to sell on Amazon? Do I need to create another format for Nook and Kobo? Questions, Questions and more Questions. Enough for one to walk away from this business of self publishing ebooks. And trust me finding answers on the net isn’t easy either.

So when Guy Kawasaki sent me a review copy of his to be released APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur – How to Publish a book, I was glad to find a book that can help people understand the complete ecosystem of writing a (e)book, publishing it and lastly marketing it.

If you are an author or about to author a book, I would strongly recommend that you read APE  first before embarking on your journey. APE demystifies the entire process of Authoring, Publishing and Marketing your book. It is divided into three sections – Authoring, Publishing and Marketing (Entrepreneur) and I thought depending on where one is in their current journey, one can focus on that relevant section and get the most from this book. The three sections covers the following topics:

  • Authoring a book: covers topics such as:
    • Should one write a book
    • Tools for writers
    • How to write your book and
    • How to finance it
  • Publishing a book: This section for me was the heart of the book, pretty detailed and exhaustive, this section alone is the reason why one should buy this book
    • Apart from editing, copywriting and how-to’s about turning your manuscript to a book, it covers the entire eco systems of ebooks
    • Selling your ebook through Amazon, Google, Apple, B&N, Kobo etc
    • Using Author Servicing companies
    • Using Print on Demand capabilities
    • How to price your book
    • Issues with Self publications
    • Navigating Amazon.com
  • Entrepreneurship: Last, but not the least, success of a book is judged by how many people read it and find it useful. This section deals with marketing, building an enchanting brand, using social media to get the buzz out and engaging with bloggers and reviewers.

I am delighted Guy and Shawn saw the need for this book and wrote it. I am sure this will very well turn out to be a bible for authors.

The Lazy Person’s guide to good health

You can still maintain good health as long as you:

1) Keep your bowels moving (keep your colon clean)

2) Keep your body moving (exercise regularly)

3) Keep your breath moving (always breath slow and deeply)

Source: Prakriti: Your Ayurvedic Constitution by Robert Svoboda

Spirituality and Workplace Series – About Oneness

Lance Secretan – ex-CEO of ManPower – has written a superb book on Conscious Leadership titled “One – The Art and Practice of Conscious Leadership”

This book is based on the premise that we are all one and are connected to each other in ways that are not apparent on the surface, but dig a little deeper and we find the connections. It is divided into two parts – the first talks of the oneness and how we seemed to have lost the oneness and the second part talks of 6 principles (CASTLE – Courage, Authenticity, Service, Truthfullness, Love and Effectiveness) that help us regain the oneness.

I loved this book. Lance draws superb examples from Industry and his practice which makes this book immensly readable. Plus each of the chapters relating to the CASTLE principles have a workbook that allows space for one to reflect on the principles in our own situations.

Click here for Lance’ blog. (Corrected the link!)