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 Helping Managers and Salespeople Thrive in Turbulent Times Vol. 3, #2, July 2005 
in this issue
  • We've Got More Soul
  • About Jim Schaffer


  • Greetings!

    This month we discuss how to get right down to the Real Nitty Gritty.
    As always, just click "reply" to send along your comments at any time.

    Best regards,

    Jim Schaffer



    We've Got More Soul

    One of my favorite soul music groups of the sixties was Dyke and the Blazers, who had hit tunes like Funky Broadway, So Sharp, Funky Walk and We've Got More Soul. Each of their hits had two things in common:
    A. The lyrics were really dumb
    B. Just listening to two or three bars made you want to leap out of your chair and dance.

    It wasn't a cerebral thing, just music that put a smile on your face and made you glad to be alive.

    I've been meaning to write a series of newsletters on tactical issues, applying Buddhist thought to very small things we all face each day in our work. Every time I've begun this exercise, I haven't made it much beyond the title and, until recently, I wasn't sure why.

    Speaking to some of you and many others in business over the past several months, I have gotten a picture that is in some ways more disturbing than the one I derived a few years ago when business was just plain lousy. A majority of people at every level in Corporate America seem to feel there is no soul left to the workplace. Business is definitely fine, at least in some quarters, but in the process we are grinding each other into the pavement in our attempts to deliver results. There is no longer any larger purpose.

    I recently visited a client in New Jersey who had gotten promoted and he looked five years older than when I saw him last Fall. And that's from being promoted!

    Hence it doesn't matter what tactics we use when faced with a given situation if the very soul of our work lives is missing.

    As Ian Percy writes in his book, Going Deep:

    "The sooner organizations realize that their real problems are spiritual problems, the sooner they will experience true transformation and not have to muck around in what are largely destructive strategies of re-engineering, right-sizing, rationalizing and so on."


    To be painfully honest, I've had some challenges myself this year in this whole arena, and nearly twenty years of meditation practice and dharma study weren't enough, by themselves, to guide me back to any semblance of finding a spirit in business, which is why you haven't heard from me in awhile. So I did what any good Jewish-Buddhist-from-old-hippie-days would do in that situation — I spent months listening to as many old soul records as I could find!

    It was great therapy. Eventually, I was able to reconnect with why I show up at work in the first place (other than paying the bills, which is a strong motivator but for most of us not the "soul" of work.)

    Besides horrifying my kids with my dance moves around the house, here is some ancient wisdom I picked up from my sessions:


    1. It's a Family Affair. The lyrics to Sly & the Family Stone's hit were practically incoherent, but the title resonates. Any separation between you, your colleagues, your customers, your competitors — even your enemies — is purely illusory. We exist in one whole system of humanity, and anything we say or do has an effect on the whole system (contrary to how we feel much of the time). Work is a wonderful way to have a positive effect on other people and feel the positive effect they have on us.
    2. Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get. The Dramatics were actually singing about personal authenticity, but the title of their hit song is also quite literally true. How you view your situation as well as the stories you tell yourself about what happens in your daily world are likely to have an impact on whether you find yourself on Cloud Nine or walking that Thin Line Between Love and Hate.
    3. Tell It Like It Is. Aaron Neville's career was given an early boost by this soul ballad and it became a catch-phrase for speaking the truth out loud in turbulent times. Well — these, too, are turbulent times. It's much more soulful to speak directly to one another, heart to heart, than to rely on the kind of jargon we hear with all too much frequency these days. And though I've been part of the digital media community since before the advent of the web, I have to say this at least once: if you find that your last three communications with someone have been by email, pick up the phone!
    4. It Ain't the Meat, It's the Motion (That Makes Your Mama Wanna Rock). More old R&B than soul, I like Maria Muldaur's version from the 70's, and it contains one of the most important lessons for those of us in business today. It is not our great reservoir of knowledge and expertise that will ultimately carry our messages effectively into the world. In this attention- deficit age, people will not listen to you long enough for that to happen. Instead, they will take you in whole, and that includes your look, your spirit, your tone of voice, the rhythm of what an encounter with you feels like. In short — your soul.


    Though soul music lyrics are often about the ups and downs of romantic love, the essence of soul is the celebration of the life we are all living together. And that is the crux of what I re-learned during my marathon funk sessions. Accomplishments, content, money — even whole companies — come and go. Relationships are what put, as Lou Rawls used to say "The soul in your bowl." Our work means nothing if it fails to celebrate — along with others — our shared journey at each individual moment we occupy this planet.

    So I'll be back with tactical advice in the months to come. But it's not going to mean much unless each of us finds the courage to set the tone and the style — yes, the very soul — of our work days. As we head into deep summer and board our flights wielding electronic devices we keep using until we are forbidden to do so, I leave you with the words of America's greatest living poet, Smokey Robinson, who said a long time ago:

    "Worldwide travelers, you ain't been nowhere,
    Till you've traveled down love's road."


    See you On Broadway, babies — or Under the Boardwalk!

    Click here to experience soul at work

    About Jim Schaffer

    Jim Schaffer spent 25 years selling and managing people in both the software and advertising media businesses. Since 1990, he has shown people how to employ principles of Eastern philosophy to stay focused, keep high morale and get better results at work — regardless of what may be going on around them.




    Copyright 2005 by Jim Schaffer. All rights reserved.

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