Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Life and work aren't as bitter as you think

The Tao of Pooh is an awesome introduction to Taoism. Taoism in a nutshell: your life, your job, the roller coaster of starting a business, etc. isn't as bitter as sometimes we think.

The book starts with the parable of The Vinegar Tasters.

The 3 men in the picture from left to right are Confucius, Buddha and Lao Tzu (the recognized father of Taoism). Confucius and Buddha have sour and bitter looks on their faces after tasting the vinegar, while Lao Tzu remains smiling. It's a bit of a dig on Confucianism and Buddhism.

According to the parable: Confucianism typically views man as something that needs lots of rituals and training in order to become perfect. Buddhism also views life as pretty imperfect, and to improve on that we have to meditate to achieve Nirvana or enlightenment by stepping outside of our imperfect selves.

Lao Tzu remains happy though because life with all its complications is still pretty damn awesome.

Taoism isn't a philosophy about being lazy. But it does try and find the balance in what feels like a paradox to most of us. Working hard shouldn't equal unhappiness with what you already have.

As we sat around in January talking about what we want for ourselves in 2010, we started thinking about the number of readers we REALLY WANT to get to read this blog. The users we REALLY WANT to get to use our new collaboration tool. The conversion rate that we REALLY WANT to improve. And so I glue myself to our metrics and just keep working and working to get something that doesn't even exist yet.

That behavior makes me forget just how much I want what I already have. I forget how awesome just the act of blogging or working on a feature is. I forget that even if no one read or used whatever I'm working on, I actually love writing and building this stuff for it's own sake.

I believe I'm happiest (and most successful) not when we follow some insane need to accomplish goals we've laid out. But when we just enjoy the act of trying this, trying that. Learning something new. Keeping our ears open. Having fun making something somebody mentioned they needed. It feels a lot more like enjoying a series David Chang's accidents than stressing about the next thing we want to achieve.


I'll be exploring this topic more in a discussion I'm leading called "Achieving Less" at the Creative Entrepreneurship Conference coming up on Saturday April 17.

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