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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64 comments
  • 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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  • 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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  • Being able to laugh at ourselves is also important. Tasty Chef - I'm sure you've had some amusing experiences in your industry! I remember my partner and I collapsing in giggles when we realised that we had completely stuffed up two orders with two clients. We decided that humour and humility would be the only way out of explaining why the gent received products for menopause and the lady received beard oil! Fortunately they also had a sense of humour!
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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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  • 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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  • Never ever underestimate the power of positivity. What is on the inside reflects on the outside. We have to work on ourselves as much as we work on the business and its growth. Investing in our own EQ development is key and that results in a strong and positive mindset which ultimately positions our businesses positively in the minds of customers and potential customers
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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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  • 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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  • I like that idea beacuse I am also a procrastinator. I also try to use the odd carrot to get a task finished. If I do this by X then I can have that cappucino!
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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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  • Business lessons can be learnt from all places - your clients will tell you how you need to improve your business your suppliers can help you with innovation and your collaborators can help you look at growth potential of your business and the direction you need to take it in but its important to hear what they are saying and translate it into actionable items
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  • 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. Once you learn to stop worrying about things out of your control and focus rather on what you can control you will be much happier in life and in business. If you have done all you can to ensure your plans are on track you need to have faith...in yourself in your ideas and in the universe.
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  • Yavi your point about passing on learning is really important. Networks are a two way street and as with anything in life the more you put in...
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  • I have to give all credit to still being in business to my business partner. I was dismayed and overwhelmed at the leaking sieve and I was ready to throw in the towel. Her steadiness and determination to constantly tweak what we were doing in line with feedback from customers and suppliers carried us through. Listen - think - act - evaluate is the way to keep moving forward.
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  • Trump may be building walls Britain brextiting and Parliament brawling but all that we can control is what we do in and for our business every day.
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  • Like the Desdirata poem we all need to understand that everything in life has so many meanings and that we can find opportunities in the smallest interactions or the biggest engagements ... its all about how we look at things for both ourselves as business owners and as people
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  • Patience is a virtue or so I'm told... it is so easy to chase a quick gain or to divert one's focus because something else seems shinier. Learning to see the little wins and the inch by inch progress is essential if we are to stay the course. Strive tobe happy.
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  • There's a time and a season for everything..for business owners and their businesses too
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  • Costistency is key when one in building anything sustainable and long term.
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  • indeed. Patience does pay off.
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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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  • 8. You cannot pour from an empty cup. We are of little service to our businesses and customers if we do not take care of ourselves. This took me a while to learn and get. im still figuring it out. and i find that we so often overlook our wellbeing. Mind body and Soul. and if one is lacking we dont fully show up to be of service.
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  • Hi Sylvester do you make a conscious effort to take care of yourself as an entrepreneur (e.g. diarise a time of the day/week) or is it onlywhen you have extra time to spare?
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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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  • I Like that. One of the first lessons i learned from a mentor was that my business is an extention of who i am. It reinfirced the importance of building a business that stood for Values and morals that i stood for. and i set an intention to build a business that will serve my customers.
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  • Sylvester you are so right. I don't think there is such a thing as the perfect work/life balance but the bottom line is that time spent on one is time taken from the other. While long hours and hard work are part of the job description we have to still live and live fully otherwise what is it all for?
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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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  • 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 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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  • 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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