The next time that you’re overwhelmed with the challenges of building your business, it might help to reflect on the story of one of history’s greatest spiritual leaders. Before he became known as the Buddha, the man who would change the course of history, he was known as Siddhartha, a prince from what we now know as the eastern part of India.
After spending 6 years of wandering the wilderness seeking enlightenment, Siddhartha arrived at his final destination. He stood dwarfed by a great fig tree (later to become known at the Bodhi Tree), which he vowed not to leave until he found the truth. Resolute, he assumed his place nestled under the branches of the tree. He closed his eyes and brought attention to his breath.
As day turned to night, Mara, the greatest of demons, arrived to divert him from his intended path. Mara called forth his favorite bag of tricks. He promised Siddhartha the comforts of home, tempting him with the wife and child he left 6 years ago. He promised unlimited wealth. Next came power, with Mara offering Siddhartha domain over men and all living creatures.
Throughout these temptations, Siddhartha remained unmoved. Mara resorted to threats, hurling thunderbolts and jagged lightning flashes. Before Siddhartha, however, the thunderbolts turned to sweet scented petals and the lightning flashes dissolved into soft music.
Faced with Siddhartha’s resolve, Mara resorted to his ultimate weapon.
Mara asked, “By what right do you claim enlightenment?”
It’s the ultimate question that we all face, not just as human beings but also as entrepreneurs. What makes you think that your business will be successful? What right do you have to do what you love? What makes you think you’re the one to invent something new?
Too often, Mara wins before inspiration can even cross the threshold from thought to words. For the few of us who are lucky enough to take the first step of starting a business, Mara is our constant companion.
Mara asks, “What makes you special enough to turn vision into reality?” He reminds us of our failures and weaknesses. How can someone so flawed and ineffective ever be successful? He tempts us with visions of a comfortable and prestigious job. Or perhaps the next shiny penny – another business idea or career path that offers far more promising results than our current imperfect circumstances.
The tricks, threats, and temptations of Mara are endless and varied. Self doubt. Overwhelm. Isolation. Failure. They are all the constant handmaidens of entrepreneurship. And they all boil down to the same question: “Who are you to be an entrepreneur?”
Confronted with this ultimate challenge to enlightenment, Siddhartha made the tiniest of gestures. He moved two of his fingers to touch the ground. In response, lightning flashed. The earth shook. Winds blew. Floods came. And Mara was swept away, terrified.
Siddhartha was transformed. Now he was the Buddha, the enlightened one. His search was over. His claim to enlightenment was absolute.
The example of the Buddha reminds us that there is refuge in the swirl and insanity of building a business. People often describe the experience of starting a business as a roller coaster. The Buddha reminds us that we can always step off the train. As a matter of fact, unless we’re founding an amusement park, the roller coaster was never there in the first place. It’s an illusion similar to the ones created by Mara.
What happens when we take a few minutes to sit under our own version of the Bodhi Tree and touch the ground? For me, the time offers a few moments of refuge. I plug back into my innate sense of calm, compassion, and creativity. My worries about the future and the past fade away. It’s not perfect, but I can often get grounded enough to focus on my business’s next steps.
That’s also why we begin every Netcito meeting with a minute of silence. It opens a window into our true nature, providing us an opportunity to see beyond the pull of Mara. From there, everything else becomes possible.
Founder & CEO