|Cutting Edge Ideas from 2500 Years Ago|
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:
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:
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:
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:
Till you've traveled down love's road."
See you On Broadway, babies — or Under the Boardwalk!