10 lessons from the Desiderata



Ten Lessons from the Desiderata for Business Owners

Poetry isn’t the usual stuff of business articles but sometimes we all need a little soul food. The Desiderata is a poem written in 1927 by American writer Max Ehrmann. It is as relevant today as it was then. Modern day life is pressured, add to this the pressures of running a business and it is enough to put most people in the danger zone. Adopting and practicing these simple life rules will help to stay motivated and manage stress overload.

1. “Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.”

Day-to-day worries and irritations combined with city traffic and stories of gloom and doom – what a toxic brew!  Stop, breathe and take some time out from the hustle. Instead of using breaks to catch up on social media, rather find a quiet spot in a park or if that’s not possible, simply go for a walk, minus the phone.

2. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.

We have two ears and one mouth for a reason; strong business leaders are usually good listeners who are in tune with the feelings of employees and customers. True listening allows you to learn and to respond intelligently.

3. Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexatious to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Develop a business network of positive people with similar values; other successful business owners have the wisdom to share. Be wary of comparing yourself and your business to the “Facebook” image that is portrayed by others… it is just an image.

4. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Having a business plan in place and regularly evaluating progress against that plan, allows us to think strategically and to take corrective action. It also provides an opportunity to reflect on how far we’ve come; every little milestone achieved is a reason to celebrate.

5. Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism.

It is prudent to take reasonable precautions to protect against theft but focus on the loyalty and honesty that is the norm. Be the moral and responsible person you would like to employ, especially in your dealings with customers.

6. Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass. Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.

In our digitally connected world, the social media posts that go viral are those to do with real emotions. Authenticity is the “X Factor” that customers and employees recognize instinctively. Being true to yourself is good for business and good for you.

7. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Setbacks are inevitable and often beyond our control, but we can decide how we respond to bad times. A strong, positive network is a vital tool in tackling self-doubt, as is the humility to seek help and advice. Don’t overthink a problem. Assess it rationally, decide on a course of action and monitor progress. You may be wrong, but at least be actively wrong than inert.

8. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.

Airlines instruct passengers to first put the oxygen mask on themselves before aiding other passengers in the event of a crisis. In a small business, everybody depends on you, if you do not care for your own needs, your tank will hit empty. Identify what makes you feel good and do more of it. He who works latest and longest does not necessarily win.

9. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be.

If you have a solid business plan; good financial controls; good products; good people and a strong service ethic, then you have done what you can

10. And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

Keep learning and encouraging creativity in the workplace. Develop a sense of humor and smile more often. If nothing else, you look better!

Take care of yourself, your business and your employees and remember while this may be your life’s work, it is not your life.


Author: Janet Askew


Janet Askew

Janet is a trainer, coach, speaker and writer who is passionate about promoting women in business and SMME development. In addition to her consulting work, she is a director of Essentially Natural and serves on the board of the Wot-If? Trust.




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  • Im Totally with you. I always thought to myself 'I dont have time to' or 'i cant afford to'. Its changed to 'i cant afford not to.' the value it adds is absolutely incredible. im totally we are part of a whole. we have so much more to give when we remeber that. in service( business) and in our personal lives. and the shift in perpective results in one being more innovative in problem solving. and being open to opportunities.
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  • Sylvester that's such an important point you make about when we invest in ourselves the ROI in our health and well being is reflected in the business.
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  • I also appreciate the mention that other successsful besiness ownershave wisdom too. so oftenwe isolate ourselves and arent open to engaging with other business people assuming they will not have time or that they arent interested. but im finding that a lot of succesful business peole are more that happy to share their wisdom. and are interested in seeing other business people grow and succeed.
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  • Very interesting
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