Startup Buddhism: Straighten Your Shadow

What 14-Years As A Buddhist Has Taught Me About Life And Business.

There is a phrase to which we Nichiren Shoshu Buddhists often refer (paraphrased): “When the body is crooked, so too is the shadow.”

A few months ago during an massage therapy session, my left leg went numb. Off like a light. Done and done. Which, understandably, did not provide the relief I had hoped for.

But, it was the best thing that could have happened.

An MRI revealed I had a herniated L5-S1, which is the last vertebrae in your spine right before you hit the sacrum — the result of nearly twenty years working in music and entertainment hunched over computers under harsh fluorescence, weight gain, beds with questionable mattresses (Casper — call me!), bad lifestyle habits, a motorcycle accident in college and that one time bending over to pick up my dog Sassy’s poo.

With the source of my physically crooked shadow revealed and the age of 43 fast approaching, I took a look in the mirror and swallowed the bitter pill of reality and decided to make some permanent changes. Buddhists refer to this as turning “poison into medicine.”

Long story short: I lost 35 lbs, started practicing Yoga 5–6x/week, addressed the laziness that I allowed to creep into my daily Buddhist practice and reminded myself to be grateful…for basically everything.

Seriously, if you’re reading this, your existence is as charmed as mine.

So, what does any of this have to do with startups?

I’ve read article after article, blog post after blog post, about the “5,7,18,25 Most Common Mistakes Startups Make.” These articles provide some great insights, but it’s armchair quarterbacking.

Buddhism In 10 Words: Buddhism Is Based On The Law Of Cause And Effect.

What the majority of these articles fail to address are the root causes for these effects as they manifest themselves in ways such as, but not limited to:

  1. A derailed business plan.
  2. Frightened potential investors.
  3. Disenfranchised employees.
  4. Lack of sufficient operating capital.
  5. Pissed off users.

The explanations of the causes are infinite: the timing isn’t right, investors just don’t get the concept, we need a celebrity to use our app and then all of our problems will be solved, blah blah blah.

Guess what, Einstein(s). You founded the company. If your company’s shadow limps around like Quasimoto, it’s time to take a look in the mirror.

If you are the captain of the ship, YOU are the reason your ship is sinking.

Buddhists believe that everything about our lives is simply a mirror reflection of ourselves — the people around us, our relationships (personal, business and otherwise), our chosen vocations, where we live…everything.

So, it is incumbent upon you — the founder(s) — to remove your rose-colored glasses and polish your mirror so that you can see your reflection with a clear perspective. The question is whether or not you are brave enough to do so.

Referring to my above examples:

  1. If you feel your business plan has been derailed, give it an MRI and locate the source of the herniated disc. Lose 35 lbs.
  2. If you feel your idea or concept is frightening investors off, do a deep dive to determine the true nature of their objections and whether or not you can address them in a satisfactory manner. If you can’t, maybe it’s time to reconsider the awesomeness of your idea.
  3. If you feel your employees are disenfranchised, acknowledge their questions, comments, gripes and complaints and make it your mission to make it right. You hired them for a reason. Don’t ignore the issues and hope they go away. It makes people resent you.
  4. If you lack sufficient operating capital to get the job done, and get it done right the first time, it’s time to step back and see the forest for the trees and decide to either do what it takes to provide sufficient operating capital or call it a day.
  5. If you feel your users are pissed off, they probably are. If you consistently fail to address their concerns or deliver upon your stated value proposition, you’re smart enough to figure out what’s going to happen next.

These are just some hypothetical situations — the number of which are boundless. But the application to our daily lives — personally and professionally — are just as infinite.

At the end of the day, there is a simple, beautiful truth to the universe. That it is impossible for Cause and Effect to exist independent of each other. That is what fourteen years practicing Buddhism has taught me, and still teaches me. It starts with me and ends with me.

It’s up to you to determine whether or not your shadow is crooked, and if it is, it’s time to accept the fact that your body is crooked and do what it takes to bring you and your company back into alignment.

And if none of that works, shoot me an email. We’ll have a deeper discussion.

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