The Importance of Compassionate Entrepreneurship.
The under-considered key to fulfillment in business.
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I’ve come to believe there are two distinct motivations that drive almost all entrepreneurs:
1- Fulfillment. Entrepreneurs are willing to work 80 hours a week so that they don’t have to work 40. Willing to work our ass off vs a complacent 9 to 5 and not having it another way. We’re usually looking for a deep & personal satisfaction with the kind of work we do, so that we can live day to day fulfilled with our place in humanity.
2 - Love. At the end of the day most entrepreneurs really just want to be loved… Loved for who they are, loved their work, loved for the value they create as an individual.
So how can we make sure, as entrepreneurs, that we’re moving towards an outcome that will produce the fulfillment and love we’re looking for?
Unfortunately, much business of the world today is run with poor incentives and as a result, inhumane impact. Exploitation, unnecessary competition, and greed all fuel the bad image business can tend to have.
The irony is that we’ve become so lost in what we “want want want” when creating business that we’re not moving towards the love and fulfillment we hope to gain from getting what we want.
Business with bottom-line-first incentives may give a lot of short term boosts of pleasure, but they will always be short-lived. A business run through greed will never create sustained fulfillment for anybody involved.
Of course, a business needs to survive and grow financially to be a business, if you’re not growing you’re dying. I’m not saying to abandon what needs to happen in order to create a sustainable businesses for a hippy frenzy of “compassion”. I propose though, that at a fundamental level, anyone trying to build a high-growth venture (or ANY venture) should keep in-mind a genuine desire to increase the quality of our collective lives as a collective people if we want to get the most out of efforts in terms of our own fulfillment & well-being.
Tons of poorly conducted business comes from (I think) an illusion taught and preached from the time we grow up all through our time at school, that your success necessarily must come at the expense of somebody else’s failure. There can only be so many accepted to a prestigious university, right? Only so many can work for that hot company, right? The world is scarce, right?
We’ll, it’s all relative. Only 1% of individuals can be the 1% most successful, but 100% of us can find fulfillment and love from what we do. It’s not hard for entrepreneurs get lost in a vanity game, a game of numbers and metrics of those around them, and never find that true fulfillment that they set out to obtain from the get-go.
So how can we ensure, again, that their business is used as a means of actually achieving the true individual fulfillment and love that entrepreneurs seek everyday?
I’m going try and convince you it’s through compassion. Look, you don’t have to be a saint to be a compassionate entrepreneur… Dr. Jamil Zaki, a professor of psychology at Stanford Medicine showed that being kind towards others actually registers in the brain as more like eating your favorite food than fulfilling some moral duty:
There is plenty of research to show that compassion for others, compassionate acts, and even JUST compassionate thinking increases overall levels of happiness, productivity, and an ability to regulate our emotions. (Find cited below)
Compassion is arguably one of the most economically-positive things you can cultivate in yourself as an entrepreneur, because it saves us a lot of time we would otherwise waste on suspicion, fear, anger, or resentment.
Being a compassionate entrepreneur is not just a moral or ethical decision alone, it is a net-positive engine for your business. Compassion is also something you can work on improving just like the ability to play an instrument or working out a muscle. (Find cited below)
Charles Raison and his associates at Emory University ended up finding lower stress hormones in the blood and saliva of people who spent the most time doing “loving kindness” compassion exercises, i.e literally taking focused time to project loving & kind thoughts towards others.
It’s funny right? Work motivated by genuine compassion for others, i.e work where you’re constantly thinking about how what your building will positively impact others, will increase your own well being far greater than anything you might try and create just to help yourself.
From small neighborhood business to large conglomerates that may naturally take on some political nature, you can still be a compassionate entrepreneur at any scale.
Compassionate entrepreneurship should frankly be the future of all entrepreneurship.
Here’s what I really mean: Entrepreneurship as in the willingness to traverse into the unknown, to fail, to preserver, take deliberate action towards the uncomfortable, embrace the contrarian, follow through with a vision and discipline oneself to take on the necessarily difficult work of building something like a company — all in the name of alleviating the suffering of others and improving the quality of our lives as a collective people. When you’re an entrepreneur in it to alleviate suffering and increase joy for yourself and others around you without exception, you will create an entrepreneurial lifestyle that brings on-going fulfillment, love, and sustained happiness.
Taking the great risk to follow through with your a vision under conditions of extreme uncertainty, in order to help others, in order to help yourself.
Ventures being vehicles for truly helping others at-scale should be top-of-mind as the next great companies of the 21st century are built.
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Material on Compassion Research adapted from:
Simon-Thomas, Emiliana R. “Three Insights from the Cutting Edge of Compassion Research.” Http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/. N.p., 7 Sept. 2012. Web. 01 June 2015. <http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/three_insights_from_the_cutting_edge_of_compassion_research>.
Baker, Eric. “How to Be Compassionate: 3 Research-Backed Steps to a Happier Life.” Time. Time, 20 Jan. 2015. Web. 02 June 2015. <http://time.com/3674619/compassion-happier-life/>.
Ricard, Matthieu, Antoine Lutz, and Richard J. Davidson. “Mind of the Meditator.” Scientific American Archive Online [EBSCO]. N.p., Nov. 2014. Web. 2 June 2015.
Ferrucci, Piero. The Power of Kindness: The Unexpected Benefits of Leading a Compassionate Life. New York: J.P. Tarcher/Penguin, 2006. Print.
Staaf, Danna. “Can Cultivating Compassion Lead to Happiness?” Science KQED Public Media. N.p., 4 Mar. 2014. Web. 03 June 2015. <http://blogs.kqed.org/science/2014/03/04/compassion-happiness-internet/>.