The Sacred Enterprise: Morality in Business and Lessons from Tim Ferris
After reflecting on previous newsletters over the last year — from AI to “sustainable” communities — I realized how important it is to consider the ethical implications of our work, and how it aligns with our values. As we navigate our entrepreneurial journeys, it's essential to keep our moral compass intact.
As a now proud solopreneur, I've grappled with numerous dilemmas that required me to balance my pursuit of success with upholding my values. From working in and on startups, to scaling communities for enterprises, this journey of mine has led me across various experiences. It’s also led me back to the teachings of Tim Ferris, author of the infamous 4-Hour Work Week, whose insights reminded me of a few vital things after finding him on Twitter.
Sacred Enterprise & Morality
Sacred enterprise is not just about making money, but also about making a difference. In a sacred enterprise, we are mindful of our actions, striving for a balance between profit and purpose.
Morality, on the other hand, is the internal compass that guides us on what's right or wrong. It plays a critical role in every decision we make in our businesses. We may sometimes be tempted to compromise our values in the name of profit, but a true entrepreneur understands the importance of maintaining integrity. This was one of the reasons why I attempted my startup Honā back in late 2020.
Interestingly enough, the founder of capitalism — Adam Smith — authored a book known as The Theory of Moral Sentiments in 1759, which proposed that the way humans relate socially is a better guide than reason to understanding how morals develop.
Yet, when it comes to how capitalism is perceived today, morality seems to be all but devoid.
Lessons from Tim Ferris
Tim Ferris, an entrepreneur, author, and public speaker, has been vocal about morality and ethical business practices. From his teachings, we can glean three critical lessons:
Lesson #1: Defining Success
Success, as per Ferris, is not merely about wealth accumulation. It's about living a life in alignment with your values and finding contentment in what you do. This alignment brings not just prosperity but also peace of mind.
This is also why, after experimenting with all stages of business (from freelance to startups to enterprise), I’ve decided to come back to solopreneurship. With new AI tools entering the market, it’s entirely possible to earn anywhere from $1-$10m as a solo operator. For me, this is more desirable than the same amount but with large operational expenses and excess staff.
This doesn’t mean not working with other people. On the contrary, if you want to make solopreneurship work, you’ll most likely need to form support groups, have informal team members (aka sub-contractors), and get help from others every now and then. The “solo” aspect here may only refer to the number of employees that exist in your company structure. And new structures are indeed forming for digital nomads, remote workers, and the like.
Lesson #2: The Importance of Giving
Ferris emphasizes the significance of giving back. He believes that businesses should not only be profit-driven but should also contribute to society. This belief ties back to the concept of sacred enterprise, where businesses are a force for good.
In fact, if you look back at the stories of businessmen around the Industrial Revolution (1800’s - 1900’s) — from John D. Rockefeller to George Westinghouse — many of them were involved in contributing their wealth to public works, institutes, and more.
George Westinghouse (above) was probably my favorite underdog because compared to Thomas Edison, he treated his staff incredibly well. JP Morgan apparently commented that Westinghouse could have made a lot more money if he hadn’t treated his employees so well. But that was something George was willing to sacrifice in order to keep his staff happy, productive, and loyal.
Lesson #3: Work-Life Balance
Despite his success, Ferris is a staunch advocate for work-life balance. He promotes the idea of the 4-hour workweek, arguing that efficiency and effectiveness in business should not necessitate sacrificing personal time and well-being.
I remember in the early days, Tim was incredibly active. He was finding ways to optimize every single minute of every single moment. As he’s grown, he’s shared how and why that’s not always the most optimal path. That sometimes, the simplest (and even most boring) tasks could provide you the most return. The key is having the emotional discipline to stick with the right things, over long periods of time, without burning out. You might see how this applies to investing too.
These days, more than any other question, I’m asking “What would this look like if it were easy?” If I feel stressed, stretched thin, or overwhelmed, it’s usually because I’m overcomplicating something or failing to take the simple/easy path because I feel I should be trying… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…
— Tim Ferriss (@tferriss)
Jul 3, 2023
I personally like the idea of “work-life integration,” but I get why work-life balance is used in the above context.
Applying the Lessons
How do we apply these lessons in our journey as solopreneurs? Here's how:
Define Your Success: Start by defining what success means to you. Remember, it's not always about financial gain. It could be about making a difference, achieving personal growth, or creating something valuable.
Give Back: As entrepreneurs, we are in a unique position to effect change. Look for ways to contribute to your community or causes that resonate with you.
Balance Your Life: Lastly, ensure you're not sacrificing your personal time or well-being for your work. Remember, a burnt-out entrepreneur is not an effective one.
Navigating the entrepreneurial path is no easy feat. I’ve been through my fair share of ups and downs over the last 10+ years building businesses and managing communities. Also, balancing business with morality can sometimes feel like walking a tightrope.
However, as Tim Ferris teaches us, it is indeed possible to run a successful business without compromising our values. It's about defining our success, giving back, and maintaining a “work-life” balance.
It’s also about paying attention to who you want to become in the process.
As we continue to navigate this journey, let's remember to keep our moral compass intact and strive to run our businesses as a sacred enterprise. Because at the end of the day, it’s not just about being successful entrepreneurs, but also about being ethical human beings.
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Until next week, remember: through patience & persistence, it will come.
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