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

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    Morning Johannesburg traffic and the Go placidly amid the noise and the haste really resonated with me today. It is so hard to put aside all the 'stuff'' that is irritating and external and to focus on the task at hand. Take a deep breath and concentrate on the business.
    Strength of spirit is essential for any small business owner to withstand the toll of constant pressure self-doubt and long hours
    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.
    Those dark moments when there is no money to show for 25 hour days and stomach ulcers. It is important to step back and believe in the Plan.
    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
    While there is a lot to be said about face to face and personal interaction we must not forget that we need to utilise all that that the internet can allow us to do to connect with potential clients suppliers collaborators and mentors As a business owner I look for clients all over the world and especially in R.o.A (Rest Of Africa) through my laptop using the world of social digital and online media. I have a mentor in New York andmentees from thePhillipines and Brazil. My suppliers and collaborators are sometimes freelancers from India and Silicone Valley in the U.S so it is critical for us as business owners and entrepreneurs to know how to navigate and optimise the digital world.
    This has happened too many times to mention and you are spot-on. Every single time the calmness and resolution has come from stepping back and 'taking another look'.
    I loved this the most of all the 10 points - AUTHENTICITY !!! This is the loudest noise I will make when giving entrepreneurs advice on lessons learnt thus far. My journey as an entrepreneur is far from over or even what I would deem successful but I have found that too many times when people are not themselves especially when marketing or selling their business services people are 'turned off' or ' get a bad vibe' from them. These are comments I hear from clients all the time about other people that have come to sell them something. But it was my no 1 lesson way back from a mentor early in my career. I saw the benefits of that lesson throughout my corporate career and even more so now as I hustle everyday being an entrepreneur in SA.
    It is so so hard to see through the fog of a zero balance bank account and sleepless nights when you are in the middle of it do you have any techniqes or ideas in seeing through this fog and moving forward?
    The world of business is not for the faint-hearted that is for sure and the 10 points above resonate deeply in terms of our daily challenges and our successes. For a business owner our business is on our minds 24-7. There is no 'knock-off' time or going on leave or even sick leave for that matter. It is the choice we make every single day for better or worse.
    I absolutely agree and I find this the most satisfying part of my work second tothe actual creative releaseof my work. I love connecting on a personal level with my clients getting to know them and finding out what drives them andmoves them. This naturally lead to you being better equipped to serve them as you have a deeper understanding of their needs.
    I agree Yavi... it's a bit like being the parent of a young child. There is no off button and it's exhausting but the reward is in watching the 'baby'grow
    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
    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.
    Too true! Challenges and rewards of being a business owner I suppose.
    Exactly so many times we think its important to meet with a person when actually the beginning of a professional working relationship can be started online. Even the search for possible new markets and clients can be done from the comfort of your home or office even your PJ's at 11pm at night if you allow yourself to think differently about your potential clients and target markets. As a business we have registered on databases of the United Nations the World Bank etc a few years ago and the projects have been across the world and Africa. Because most of our work is digital we have very rarely had to leave SA.
    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.
    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 !
    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
    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!
    Discipline and procrastination - the 2 most hated words in my artillery of being a business owner simply because it is the 2 words that I have to constantly deal with in my life as a business owner. I have too much to do on a daily basis so I'm always tempted to procrastinate and I haveto be disciplined about 'not working' all the time
    Another line I constantly use for myself in the face of adversity is : this too shall pass !
    Being gentle on yourself is a very hard lesson to learn to all of us. as we spend so much time building resilience in this thing called entrepreneurship that it is almost something we have to remember.
    Yes it is about that personal connection. I find nothing more irritating than receiving a reply to a request or question that is standard -form & company- speak. Because our business promotes a natural and healthy lifestyle we receive many personal questions. Customers share their stories and we try to respond genuinely and personally to each one.
    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!
    One of my favourite things to say about business is that we are not a B2B which stands for Building to Building to me because thats how we sometimes think we need to behave (cold and heartless) we are H2H human to human because even the most senior most powerful people in business are still just people and remembering to appeal to both hearts and minds are very important in business
    For sure! Even a one man business cannot do it alone. I once joined hands with two other consultants to land a large project with a multi-national corporation. Individually we could not do the work but pooling skills and resources we could pull it off. I learned so much during that project and I was able to share my own knowledge and skill. We all came away richer and I don't just mean financially.
    I find it so important to have a network of other business owners to lean on chat to vent and bounce ideas off of. Sometimes just the act of talking about how you feel with someone inthe sameor who has been in the same situation provides clarity and motivation to carry on.
    Networks - so how do you network and get access to 'communities' ?
    I love that! Can I use it :)!