A bright young man is on the edge of adulthood. At home, he has been encouraged to do the right things. Study hard and get a good profession and high status in the community. Instead of going to study medicine or engineering he has chosen to become a musician. He is faced by his grandmother:
Grandma: What is the benefit of that way of life?
The man: Grandma, what is benefit?
That is a really simple and extremely relevant question but good answers to it are difficult to find. Perhaps it would be easier to argue what benefit isn’t.
The word benefit has its origin in latin, good (bene) and help/service (facio). In our current society the word benefit has been almost exclusively reserved for money. And as we know, money is almost exclusively used in the service of good.
Money is never good only by itself. And although it is said that money doesn’t bring happiness, we could argue that money is good when it actually does bring happiness. That gets us to my favorite definition of benefit: “Whatever promotes personal happiness”.
Under the last four months I’ve been preaching about doing only the stuff that makes sense to yourself. Now, I have to admit I haven’t been entirely accurate about this.
There are two positive exceptions to doing stuff you hate.
Duty. Sometimes things just don’t make sense to you and still you have to do them. I spent several hours yesterday and today trying to compensate for a school work I failed earlier this spring. I don’t usually fail at school so the humiliation doubled the torture of having to do it again. Good stuff for building your character, when you think your character needs some building.
Love. Doing things out of love is probably the best way to do them. The best part here is that you can never go wrong with doing something just for others. I wouldn’t have managed my school work if it wasn’t for my wife who helped me to do it. She didn’t like it either but still did it just out of love. Small things can have a big impact.
So when duty calls, get it over with. When love calls, answer it.
In the recent months I’ve detected a growing interest for downshifting in the Finnish media. Simply put, an increasing number of people are being fed up with what they do and want an easy way out.
People think shifting down is a solution.
I will argue that downshifting is actually a symptom, not a solution. Here are five reasons commonly heard against downshifting:
Having to give up on the small pleasures of life.
Ending up bankrupt.
Losing one’s market value as an employee.
Being a bad role model.
Becoming an outcast of society.
All of these are possible scenarios but utter rubbish if you ask me. These objections are relevant only if you analyze your life top-down. Instead, you should start looking at things from the very fundamentals with a bottom-up method.
Assume for a second that you’d own absolutely nothing.
Pretty difficult to start downshifting from there. If you start from the bottom, you can only start upshifting.
Instead of giving up something, you can enjoy anything.
Instead of risks, all you see is possibilities.
Suddenly the small things in life make a difference.
Instead of downshifting, start from zero and upshift a bit to the level you’re comfortable with.
In a recent research conducted by Taloustutkimus for TWBA North it was found that 53 % of Finns are unaware of the purpose of the work they are doing. This means that 1.6 million people in our country wake up every day and do their daily chores without even knowing why. How many people would keep doing what they do even if they were explicitly told their work has no purpose whatsoever?
What on earth is wrong with people?
No one can be truly happy without a clear purpose in what they do. It is no wonder that 400,000 Finns are taking antidepressants to fill the lack of purpose they’re suffering from. But the lack of purpose does not end there. Most people are teaching their children that they should study hard so they can get a job. Shouldn’t someone tell the kids that there is a 50 % chance that they will end up in some corporate job doing stuff without even knowing why.
In the end it all comes down to money.
People are willing to suffer for money. Money is then used to supposedly alleviate the pain created by a crappy job. Everyone should ask themselves whether this really works for them? Can someone really say the money is enough to fill the void caused by a purposeless job? If you are that person, I’d really like to meet you. I’d love to share your ideas with these 1.6 million Finns that are struggling with the same issues.
What could we do better?
It’s up to every individual to make a personal choice. Personally, I try to limit my effort to doing things that have a purpose. And more importantly, I want people who I’m working with to feel the same way.
Speaker and author Richard St. John presented his eight secrets of success at the 2005 TED conference. This three-minute presentation is fascinating in its simplicity. I really recommend you to watch it.
Although I learned about Richard’s list only recently, these eight secrets have been the foundation of my project for the last 39 days.
Passion. I’m thrilled about the things that we do. But what is even more important are the people who can share this passion.
Work. Making a million in 139 days requires a great deal of work. I’m willing to push myself to the limit. But work doesn’t feel like work when you’re working with people and things that you really like.
Good. I’m not good at everything. That is why I work with people who are good in what they do. Passionate hard work for anything makes you good at it. I going to be good at turning ideas into reality.
Focus. The goal of this project has been clear from the start. The means to get there are a work-in-progress but we’re not far from founding a company that does one single thing, and does it well.
Push. Working hard requires pushing yourself. Not everything is 100 % fun all the time. Writing one blog post per day needs some pushing.
Serve. Serving other’s is the single most important factor of what I do. Firstly, I want to serve my team in giving them tasks that they love. Secondly, I want our team to be honestly willing to help others through what we’re going to accomplish.
Ideas. I have a lot more ideas than is even required to make a million. One good idea is enough. But people keep sharing me their own ideas which is fantastic. We can change the world one good idea at a time.
Persist. Richard put it well. Persist through CRAP. Criticism, Rejection, Assholes and Pressure. I get all of that and I’ve learned to like it.
The last thing that I would like to add to the list is Openness. Openly sharing your motives and intentions will help the team dynamics. At the point when we’re addressing our future customers, we will show how openness can be a critical success factor even in business life.
I have been the CEO of a company called Selki Fabrik for over a year now. I still consider this position to be my day job although I’ve never gotten paid for doing it.
The contrast between this project and my day job is enormous. In my project, things seem to proceed like magic and in my day job I have a list of miscellaneous tasks that feel unapproachable. Ihmeparantaja Iiro saw my concern for this and offered to help.
Our biggest concern in the company has been getting the products sold. Iiro suggested that he could go and sell everything we had in stock. This sounded like a good idea, so we went along. However, the stuff needed to be finished. While finishing the products, we ended up discussing the true meaning of our actions. Why does the company do what it does?
Within minutes Ihmeparantaja Iiro had identified the strategic flaws we weren’t brave enough to say out loud ourselves.
Although Iiro does not use the professional terminology, he was able to point out that:
We are lacking strategic vision
We are fiddling with details that are not important to our business
We are too emotional about sunk costs
We are product-oriented not people-oriented
Selling the few products to make some money is definitely not the strategy we should pursue even though someone would do it for us for free. So we decided not to. What we did decide is that we will have an answer to all the painful questions by the end of the week.
Suddenly I’m confident that Selki Fabrik has a bright future in front of it.
You have to be a bit of an idealist to become an entrepreneur
Most people tend to think realistically or want to reason why they aren’t capable of starting a business. Others take the risk. But do people become entrepreneurs for the wrong reasons? When thinking about starting a business people get stuck to obvious barriers.
What if I can’t get any customers?
If you can focus your resources on the things you like, the only possible outcome is that you become good at what you do. This can’t be ignored by the customers. People prefer services from professionals. But more importantly, people want to buy services from people who love what they do.
I need steady money to pay for my expenses
The steady money is not a real need. People think they need money to maintain a quality of living. You have to understand that quality of living isn’t about money. It is about your happiness and the happiness of people around you. And that can’t be bought.
I don’t like the extra paperwork
None of this matters if you set your target high enough. Think of the energy you have for your job if you can concentrate on the things you like. There really are people who love accounting. If you outsource your accounting you’re helping two people to be happy.
I don’t love my job but I still want to do it well
If that sounds like you, then this post is especially for you. One of my readers pointed me to an e-book Työn hyväksikäyttö (utilization of work) by Sampsa Kiianmaa. This book is about the purpose of life. How to find your own purpose and achieve happiness.
Most people consider work to be the most important part of their life. Seeking employment is seen as the ultimate challenge. People optimize their life and studies to make themselves best suited for getting a “great” job.
Now, think about what really counts in your life
Kiianmaa has realized the importance of happiness. What really makes you happy? How would you like to be remembered when you grow old? Who would really answer that they want to be remembered by their material possessions? Still that seems to be the one and only form of achievement in this rat race we call life.
How can I find my happiness?
You are happy when you can utilize your strengths in whatever you do. Kiianmaa links to a test you can take to determine the strengths that are behind your happiness. The test is called VIA Survey of Character Strengths. But a word of caution to all you busy people: taking the test takes over 30 minutes and you will need to register to the website to take it. After registration you will see plenty of tests but take the one I named here that has 240 questions.
And now what?
You will receive a result of your top #5 strengths. Think about them. Do you live your life for the things that make you happy?
And finally, I dare you to post your result here as a comment. I have to say that this test worked for me.