20 minute read.
I consider myself a fairly successful man.
But I hate business.
I hate everything to do with it. The accounting, the figuring, the adding up of numbers. Because they’re all dry and meaningless. They don’t amount to anything real unless you smell the ink and paper of a checkbook or folding money. And even then, it’s value is only represented by blind faith and false contrived symbolism.
But whether it’s on paper or in digital form, all this figuring of numbers is a completely colorless soulless occupation. I don’t like it one bit. So I hand it over to accountants and other people who seem to like it. But I don’t know whether they really like it either. It’s just another job to keep them busy so they can get paid.
The essential principle of business or any occupation in the world is to figure out some way in which to get paid for playing.
Let me say that again.
The essential principle of business or any occupation in the world is to figure out some way in which to get paid for playing.
Do you believe me?
What Did You Value in Your Childhood?
When I was very young, about 7 years old or so, I made up my mind that joy in my life would never come from accepting a job, much less a job I didn’t enjoy.
I always wanted to be my own employer, the maker of my own destiny, whatever that ended up being. Curiously, there are very few roles in life which provide this possibility with any joy or stability.
The successful artist, writer, actor, and sometimes musician can do this. Sometimes a restaurant owner, or independent consultant can occupy this role. He might even be a scientific consultant. But almost everybody seems to be compelled to take a job with a corporation.
Why? Because it’s technically “safer.”
It’s very difficult these days to run a small business where you’re your own boss, because you have to employ an enormous staff of people to keep up with the pace of growth and volume, and also to keep track of the paperwork.
I know a person for example who has a farm where he raises beef cattle. He had to fill out a thick stack of forms just be able to run his business according to legal rules of the county, state, and nation.
Do you think he really wanted to fill in all those forms just to run his business? He’s a beef cattle farmer for Christ’s sake. If it was me, I wouldn’t have the the faintest idea what to fill into these forms, and I wouldn’t even care. Because I would have a farm to run, and that’s what my main concern would be.
As far as I’m concerned, I would have an agent of the State Department fill them in for me. Because I don’t have the time. I’m raising beef cattle. That’s my business. And as for all this paperwork, to hell with it.
The same situation prevails, not only in business, but also in the University, and in the hospital. My doctor once told me that he spends only one third of his working hours practicing medicine. The rest is in recording, accounting, filling in reports, and it’s the same in every hospital.
For some reason, we all became fixated on the record of what we do, and it became more important than what we actually do. “Write it down and then it’s real” is the motto. And so for the same reason, a lot of people don’t believe they even exist until they see their activities reported in the newspaper.
A lot of juvenile delinquents commit crimes just to get attention, so they’ll get recorded. It’s like when you go to a party, maybe a picnic on the beach, and it’s great fun. Then somebody says “What a shame. Nobody has a camera. Now we can’t even record what happened.” (But that doesn’t happen so much these days anymore with smartphones.)
There’s something fundamentally wrong here, which the businessperson of all people needs to understand.
What do you really want?
I propose that there be an entirely new kind of college entrance exam, in which instead of answering a bunch of silly questions, you write about 20 pages on your idea of paradise. It can be any kind of paradise you want. It can be spiritual. It can be sensuous. But spell it out. What do you want to happen in life? Then you will hand this thesis in to an assigned tutor on the faculty, and he’ll read it over and examine you closely as to whether this is what you really want.
Do you even realize what goes with the things you say you desire? For example, you may want to marry a certain kind of beautiful woman, and you specify in your paper the characteristics she should have. Then the tutor says “But you said absolutely nothing about her mother, because every girl has a mother, unless she is an orphan.” You must also specify what kind of mother-in-law you want as well. You have to stop and think about that. It’s all part of the package.
Do you get what I mean? Everything has consequences. It’s just an illustration of what I mean about going into detail and being very careful about what you desire. Remember this saying. “Be careful of what you desire. You just might get it.” It’s a good saying.
So this is the problem of thinking out carefully where you want to go and what you want to do.
Now let’s take the war in Vietnam for example. What on earth was that all about? If we had gone with military bravado and muscle into Vietnam for the express purpose of conquering the country and possessing it, and then carrying off the women into captivity, it would have been understandable. But as it was, it was waged for some absolutely abstract means, namely the ideology called communism.
Nobody really knows what communism is, nor do we really know what capitalism is. But we can fight endlessly on the supposition that there are good guys and bad guys, and when we fight on that supposition, there is no possibility of compromise or of gentlemen’s agreement, as there is honor among thieves.
We’re all thieves. Let’s face it.
There is a doctrine in the Jewish religion that when God created Adam, he put into him a spirit which is called the “Yetzer hara.” And that means “the wayward spirit or the congenital inclination to do evil by violating the will of God.”
And that is in us all a little bit. It’s not the whole of us. It’s like just a pinch of garlic in the stew. You don’t want the whole stew to be garlic. It’s too powerful. But you have to have just a touch of garlic (or wayward spirit) to be human.
I find it difficult to get along with people who don’t know that they have it. People who come off as being all sincere, all good, and all pure, they bore me to death. And they scare me too, because they they’re unconscious of themselves. They are so unaware of themselves and of being human. And therefore, sometimes they suddenly do terrible things without warning, either to themselves or to others.
They make promises that they’re never going to fulfill because they want to talk right. So if I do business with someone who is not really aware that he has a wayward spirit, I know he is probably impossible to do business with. He’ll suddenly cheat me completely. But if I’m aware that he’s a bit of a huckster, I feel comfortable and I let him know that I am too. Then we’re human.
Then we can let our hair down. Then we can say “Look, let’s work this out. This is what I want and I know what you want. And if we can get that clear, we can work out a reasonable agreement.” We can compromise. We have a little play of give-and-take. But if you don’t have that, then you’re fucked. You might as well just forgot about doing business with people at all.
Look at it this way–you can’t operate big business these days without a whole team of lawyers. And what is the function of lawyers? To write down the rules of the game, so that we have what is called the Rule of Law.
Organizations Versus Organisms
A lot of people talk today about law and order and how it’s got to be upheld. What does that actually mean? It means that all organizations, business corporations, bureaucratic government corporations, and even churches are going by the book.
They are operating according to a manual. And in many corporations, individuals have to constantly consult some sort of manual to know what they should do, instead of using their own good common sense. Everyone is always trying to cover their ass so they don’t get bamboozled.
This doesn’t work. It means that an organization is entirely different from an organism. I am an organism. You are an organism. We are all organisms. A very very complicated organism which has a nervous system, and yet you don’t know how you do it. You couldn’t begin to describe how your nervous system works and even neurologists don’t know exactly how it works. They sort of know how it works, but not entirely.
And yet your nervous system works reasonably well, because your brain can handle an unknown number of variables. A variable is any identifiable process, such as breathing, such as the circulation of the blood, such as the secretions of the glands, such as the digestive system, and so on.
Now you operate those variables all day without knowing how you do it. There is no book of rules according to how you do this. So in the same way, if a corporation is to be a true organism, as distinct from an organization, it must be based on the principle of mutual trust and not on law.
The Elusive Quality of Trust
If you can’t trust other people, you cannot have a community. Not even a corporation. It’s very risky to trust other people, because they may let you down. But on the whole, if you do trust them, the chances are maybe 60 to 40, or maybe 75 to 25 that the system will work simply because they are trusted.
And as soon as you’ve got a system, for example in a supermarket, there are mirrors all over the place and TV cameras watching everything, and all kinds of supervision on the cashiers so they won’t sneak off with something, well then you’ve got a system that increasingly won’t work.
Nobody will want to work there because they are not trusted. One of the major reasons we have hippies and dropouts is that human beings don’t want to work under conditions like that. They are mechanical conditions, and the mechanism is quite distinct from the organism. The mechanism is arranged on linear plans–the book–whereas the organism wholly transcends the mechanism.
We don’t know what that means exactly. We can’t write down how it works, because it’s more complicated than any form of writing can express. Computers can speed up linear calculation to a staggering extent, but it still comes nowhere near the capacity of the human brain. This is something that has to be recognized as a principle.
How Creativity Operates
Let me give you another illustration. Every corporation employs a number of people in research. Let’s take IBM for example. They have a huge center in San Jose where they have a large research staff, and one of the first things they had to recognize is that you can’t put creative research people under the clock.
You’ve got to trust creative research people to fool around, to sit around drinking coffee or maybe even beer or whiskey, scratch their heads, look at blackboards, and play, and then suddenly come up with some interesting result.
But if you make them punch clocks and say “These are the things that you’ve got to discover,” it won’t work. You sometimes see this happen in “hack-a-thons.” The lines between work and play, day and night, office and street, are blurred in order to foster highly creative thought.
The corporation has to make a leap of faith in its research personnel. It has to say “We recognize that you have an amazing gift called a brain. We don’t really know what these are or how you use them, but it seems that in the past you’ve been fruitful, so we’re going to employ you to do your thing, whatever that happens to be. We’ll put our faith in you and trust that you’ll come up with a creative solution to our problems.”
Invariably if they make that act of faith, it will work. Some fantastic idea will come out. Maybe not the idea you were expecting, and it may in fact not even apply to your particular business. But you could always sell it to somebody else.
This is a fundamental principle here. There cannot be Community. There cannot be Corporation. And therefore, there cannot be something called Commerce, which if you break it down, really means being merciful to each other. There cannot be commerce without mutual trust. They are even insurance companies called “mutual trust.” But it just can’t happen.
Society at the moment is based on “mutual mistrust.”
And therefore, it becomes increasingly difficult to do anything. Business is inhibited by the lack of free enterprise. That may sound very right-wing, but actually fascist states, corporate states, totalitarian states are utterly against free enterprise.
So let’s push this a little further.
What Are You Really Worth?
In biblical times, St. Paul said “The laborer is worthy of his hire. And I as a mere philosopher, dealing in higher things, always insist that I be paid for my work, and I get the highest fee I can get.” If you said this today, people might say “Well you’re just out for money.” I say that’s none of your business, because what if I give most of it away. My own needs are extremely simple. I enjoy good food, but I don’t own a lot of modern conveniences. I live a very simple life. But I’ve got enough, and that’s good enough for me. Why shouldn’t I get paid for what I am worth then?
A lot of people don’t feel happy unless they have another thing beyond money which is called “status.” Socio-economic status to be precise, and it comes at a very hefty price. Status to a very large extent in our economy means conspicuous consumption–having this, that, and the other thing, like a swimming pool, or a Ferrari, or a fancy boat, or certain kind of clothes, and certain kind of house at a certain location with an enormous perfectly manicured yard.
We think we need all that because we’ve been persuaded by a certain kind of propaganda. We think that’s how we ought to live, because we haven’t asked ourselves whether it’s what we really want or what we really need. In other words, we’ve been propagandized into thinking what we want.
The Trap of Cultural Influence
I remember my daughter when she was in high school (who has now become very sensible today), insisted that she had to have a certain type of jeans, and a certain type of shoes when she was in high school. I couldn’t afford them at the time, so I asked her, “Do you really want these or is it just that you’ve been reading ads in the magazine, or listening to the other kids at school telling you how cool they are?”
By the way, schools are places where you send your child to be brought up by other children. You probably think the teachers bring them up. But the amount of influence other kids have on your kid far outweighs any influence you think teachers have.
Therefore they get a kind of lowest common denominator of culture. They think they’ve got to have this and that, and they don’t really care to sit back back and consider “Do I really need this? Is this trip really necessary?” If they really were truthful to themselves, they would come to the conclusion that it wasn’t really necessary. But peer pressure and always comparing yourself to other people can do awful things to a developing mind with hormones.
What is my point with this whole essay?
We need to have the same attitude towards spending all this energy in the world, particularly in our industrial societies, and take a step back to look at what we are doing.
Is commerce as we know it today really worth it? Is it so important to rush around here and there every day, spending so much energy to the point where we have a global energy crisis? There won’t be enough physical energy in the future to keep pace with what we are currently doing today.
It can’t last forever. You know it, and I know it.
We need to take a more relaxed attitude about commerce, and think about what the Law of Attraction really means.
And I think it means “the ability to attract and focus on things that truly matter in our lives.” What does that mean to you?
As always, keep leaping forward my friends!