That's also the title of the first chapter of Z.B.A.: Zen of Business Administration, by Marc Lesser (haven't perused it...yet). Zen is the Japanese word for meditation - being mindful, being wholehearted.
There was a time - January 2001 - that was as close as I ever got to seriously leaving business altogether. I was contemplating either creating a new start-up with a couple of friends that were just as shell-shocked, bitter, and resentful about the deceit of businesspeople and most of all the way we've deceived ourselves, or escaping on a pilgrimmage all around the world for the next year. I did neither - exactly. But I certainly went on a journey for the next three years.
I've learned that if I could not be authentic and in integrity (more in the sense of being whole, and reclaiming the disowned fragments of your soul) in business, then that says more about me than it does about the big bad Corporate World.
Personal authenticity is not situational.
Here is one of my tests that applies in business settings: If I would say or do anything differently whether I have $14 or $140,000 (liquid, not 401K or real estate holdings) or $1.4M in the bank account - then it's not authentic. Broadly speaking, this could include: take a client you'd have turned down, bend a few accounting rules, become dictatorial on a project when you used to sing the praises of teams, "tone down" the substance and style of your communication to be more palatable, or otherwise "smooth the edges" (Seth Godin terminology) that make you YOU. This not a one-time test. It comes up again and again. I'm flunking less and less ;-) This is still my test. (I am seeing a new test emerging for me, but it is on my path not necessarily yours.)
Having flunked this test (it gets much trickier at the $14 level) I was able to begin to forgive the business world...and myself. Almost all of us deep down have the capacity to be paralyzed by fear - and it notably shows up when the shit is frantically hitting the fan - fear of failure, rejection, alienation or of simply being a destitute and lonely bag lady.
Mother Theresa was once asked by a journalist why she does what she does, that is, how she is able to take the dying poor from the streets of Calcutta, nurse and love them. Her response reflected her deep self-knowledge: "I realized a long time ago that I had a Hitler within me." - The Mystic Heart, by Wayne Teasdale
So when I speak about authentic voice, I'm not speaking about a brand. I mean the intensely personal innate voice within us. What Hugh calls the wee voice. The outer expressions are conveyed in a spectrum that may be called intimate voice or credible voice or...whatever. But authentic voice is wordless.
Where does one reclaim (I think of reclaimed land in Holland that was once drowned under the sea) one's authentic voice? A reader writes about their contemplation of a new entrepreneurial venture. And this is someone that does not currently work nor need to but still the journey will echo for many, I believe:
It really clicked when I read your post on Parsifal. I have been fascinated with the Parsifal myth since I first read it in Joseph Campbell. Like a lot of people, I was on a bit of a spiritual quest in college and after. I started with metaphysics and worked my way east and back west again. There is no question that Joseph Campbell's writing meant the most to me.
Maybe Joseph Campbell settled my wanderlust or more likely getting married, having kids, and starting a career led me down a more pragmatic road for the past decade. But in the past couple of days I have gotten introspective again. I forced myself to think of why I really want to start a business. After all, my life is pretty good. [Candid description of a pretty good life follows...] Honestly, I don't want for much. Why do I have the urge to put it all on the line... I know that the urge to do it is real. I know that I have enjoyed working on this idea as much as I have enjoyed any work that I have done before...
Ah, perhaps that is it: "my life is pretty good." From what you've said, you realize you don't need to devote your life to an ashram or monastery or meditate in silence in a cave or to travel around the world seeking adventure to embark on the hero's journey or spiritual quest. The journey is inward.
It's too easy in an ashram anyway. The real tests on the quest come via relationships. Only in relationship can you see mirrors of yourself all around you. I can think of two arenas right away that will bring up every piece of baggage, every edge of your Ego, trigger every button and expose each blind spot and more: Marriage and Business. (You've already got the marriage relationship covered.) Yep, business. It's easy to be "calm", "centered", "authentic" and in living in "integrity" safely esconed in a hermitage. But you only test your mettle in relationships where it's NOT as easy to stay true to yourself (or even explore what "true" to your "self" means).
Anyway, perhaps you are drawn to the business as a way of stretching yourself to your full potential. Perhaps business is the context of your Kurukshetra (battlefield of Bhagavad Gita) or your Forest (Grail legend)?
My sense is that if you read this blog that perhaps business is your Kuru, your Forest as well (but the main thread that ties readers together is this sense of adventuring and questing, rather than retreating from the hero(ine)'s journey). I sense that this holds true for Tom Peters as well. Certainly you can be a hobopoet (a great new blog I've recently discovered) and be in business - if that's your call. Why not!? We're in business on our own (authentic) terms.
Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not. - Ralph Waldo Emerson