10 lessons from the Desiderata

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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

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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.

https://www.linkedin.com/in/janetaskew/

 

 

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64 comments
  • The world of technology and its daily advancements have allowed us as business owners so much access that entrepreneurs before us did not have and it is about tapping into these resources that will give you and your business competitive edge
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  • Networks - so how do you network and get access to 'communities' ?
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  • Totally! It doesn't have to be people in the same industry. At the end of the day we all face similar challenges and the opportunity to share and learn is invaluable.
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  • Hi Sylvester. I happen to be an upcoming designer myself I admire your work and more especially the latest garment that i saw on Khanyisa's Book Launch that she was wearing. Just one look at a Sylvester Falata dress one can pick up the love and grace in the details of your dress and sense just how much the designer loves what he does. I want to know how long it took you to perfect such detail in stitchesand how you balance and deal with clients that give you a headache...?
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  • indeed. Patience does pay off.
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  • I think being able to navigate the digital world is becoming a key competency for the business world but you have highlighted the underlying imperative which is to change our mindsets - especially those of us with grey hair!
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  • Networking requires effort but boy does it pay off. Whether it's attending formal business functions and seminars or joining online industry platforms or becoming an active part of your community - there is an opportunity to meet new people. I think the key is be open to finding out about people. I met a major supplier of ours while standing at the side of the school hockey field. South Africans can learn from Americans - they seem to network instinctively whereas we are often more reticent. A tip I developed in the days when people still exchanged business cards (and dinosaurs still roamed the earth) was to write the crux of the conversation on the back of the card & then load onto a database. The same principle applies today. Noting the context and reason for the contact allows for personal follow up later. Newsletters and social media can be tweaked accordingly to make them resonate with that person. It is important to distinguish between polite and meaningful follow up on a conversation vs spam. e.g. A quick acknowledgement of the person and the conversation with a link to a relevant article or an introduction will generally be well received and may stimulate a business relationship.
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  • Developing a sense of humour and a sense of 'calmness' in the face of a storm is definitely a skill I had to learn and use on a regular basis
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  • I have to schedule it otherwise it never happens. i realised that im more productive when i've taken tie to do so. but i have to be honest sometimes there's so much to be done that i dont follow the schedule but i can always feel the difference and even in the resultsof what im doing. im more on top of my game when i have taken the time to 'Recharge'.
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  • It was created over a period of a month. with fittings and editing in between. The quality of the product is something we dont compromise on. so its always being improved on. luckily there isnt much of a headache from our clients so its a breeze.
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  • I think that the benefit of social media is that business conversations can be held with people across the globe without needing that face to face interaction. In our online business we have found that the key is to be direct and personal and to speak frankly to that person... whatever the medium. Any face to face time is a precious opportunity to make the contact positive and memorable.
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  • That is why surrounding yourself with positive people who build others is so important. There is never a shortage of the ït's impossible mindset. Those who are optimistic and solution orientated are rare and should be valued.
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  • Yavi you are so right! Nothing beats a good sense of humour when the proverbial hits the fan being a stressed Eric doesn't help anyone and often magnifyies the current problem...Deep breath and a good laugh definately helps me through touch situations!
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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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  • I am hard pressed to say what lesson strikes me the most. The more I read Desiderata the more I feel that it is the central theme of strength and the need to feed that with strong beliefs positive people and a healthy attitude to mind body and soul. We may be small business owners but we are part of the world our communities and our families.
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  • Too true! Challenges and rewards of being a business owner I suppose.
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  • Strength of spirit is essential for any small business owner to withstand the toll of constant pressure self-doubt and long hours
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  • Listen to others. Employees and customers are providing valuable snippets of information all the time - if we would just pay attention. If more than one customer gripes about the same thing then you can bet it has affected and irritated many more. Do something and quickly!
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  • Funnily enough I find I do my best work under pressure or on a really tight deadline. I often find myself procrastinating when I have plenty of time to get things done and end up working under pressure anyway towards the end of the time. So this has lead me to simply give myself shorter time to complete tasks carving out more time for other things like relaxing or spending time with family. Shorter but more focused work is the solution to my productivity.
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  • Very interesting
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  • I will never forget what one of my mentors said to me in the first year of culinary school 15 years ago. He told us the most important thing we needed to cultivate now before even going into the industrywas balance. Get a hobby make sure you don't do work on your day off have fun often... Although I remember it clearly I only recenly learnt to put it into practice and it has made such a difference in my capabilities in business...I can't stress the importance of this enough to new business owners!
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  • Managing clients suppliers staff projects and potential clients potential projects pipeline business etc etc can be quite daunting for any business owner so equipping ourselves with the right skills is terribly important in the bigger scheme of things. I have found that 2 things have assisted me in growing myself and my business : collaboration and trade exchanges (both for work and skills gaps - share work projects share knowledge and cross functional services). You will never look back
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  • Be yourself. We have found that in our social media posts the more we just talk to our customers as opposed to at them the more they respond. I really believe that the human touch is priceless.
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  • Make an effort every few weeks or months to connect with other small business owners (create a network yourself if there is not one you can join) to talk about your challenges and successes. We can learn a lot from each other and help each other. Allow yourself to be helped and don't forget to pass on to others your learnings
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  • Another line I constantly use for myself in the face of adversity is : this too shall pass !
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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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  • There have been so many times that I wanted to throw in the towel but its some of the lessons above in the article that have kept me going month to month year to year !
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  • I so agree - my first lesson in this was also in the corportate world. I thought I had to wear a mask and play the game. All that happened was that I became ill and increasingly disnechanted with my job. Once I had the courage to be me my stress levels reduced and re-found my enjoyment in my career. I think it's important as an entrepreneur to remember why they started the business in the first place. What was exciting? What was important? What was the Áha'moment? Essentially Natural was started as a family business as a direct response to my husband dying of cancer. My journey with him led me to believe that we are literally killing the planet and ourselves with our reliance on harmful chemicals. It is this belief and those scars that shaped the business ethos and the products we offer.
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  • A great comment Janet. In apartnership like-minded does not necessarily mean like-temperament. The characterbalance is essential.
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  • Beyond a wholesome discipline - I find that most small business owners battle with this one. It is very easy to fall into the trap of working late all day and every day. There is always so much to do but if we are not careful we can literally lose ourselves in the business. Being an online business there is literally no off button but we advertise our contact availablity hours and where practical we try to stick to those for customer and supplier contact. Back end and admin work does take place after hours but we do need to protect our private time and space. Diarising time to do sport or have a coffee or attend a seminar is vital to stay sane and functioning. I also firmly believe in switching off the laptop and social media in the evening to avoid temptation.
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