In his fascinating Ted talk, mythologist Devdutt Pattanaik deep dives into the western and eastern mythologies to find the root cause of the clash of the civilizations and its impact on how we run our businesses. The west which is grounded in a linear belief follows a straightforward business model: vision, mission, values, processes. The east however is grounded in a cyclical world view making room for chaos and ambiguity leading to a model that is based on conversations and faith.
This article is an attempt to merge the mythologies by finding parallels between yoga and entrepreneurship – two very different paths when you skim the surface but similar in practice, belief and the end goals. Over the years, I have trodden both paths – the art of yoga as well as the journey of an entrepreneur with failures, successes and realizations that have a common thread.
The essence of yoga lies in you being present. Being present in the moment requires letting go of the past, not expecting anything from the future and staying prepared for everything as it comes to you. Yoga teaches you to observe everything that is happening to you with equal emotions, with a sense of detachment so that you can make the most optimal decision.
Our startups become such huge parts of our lives that we find it impossible to detach ourselves from this entity that we have created. Intelligent and optimal decision making needs you to be flexible, to adapt to changing scenarios and detach yourself from your startup to think with clarity. This is perhaps the most important lesson and the defining factor in being a great entrepreneur vs a good one.
The practice of yoga enables you to find the equilibrium within. It helps you make decisions not from a place of fear but that of stability. Yoga is a combination of postures (asanas) as well as breathing and meditation. Mediation and breathing create the mindfulness that is required while performing asanas that allow you to extend yourself outside your comfort zone but know when to stop.
An entrepreneur requires the same mindfulness when it comes to setting up and running a company. The ultimate entrepreneurial test takes place in your every own mental battlefield. Awareness of your passion and drive, your vision, ambiguous variables that will require you to pivot are essential drivers of the success of your venture.
Yoga requires a balancing of the body-mind-soul triad and takes years of work. It isn’t a path for those looking for shortcuts in life. The best results in yoga come for those who are consistent with their practice (sadhana), remain patient and persistent.
Starting a business is no easy task either. Often, the path of setting up an enterprise is not only lonely but strewn with obstacles for years on end. Every time you fail, you have to start all over again. If you choose to be an entrepreneur, you have to be able to push through and stay resilient.
Without the right guru (teacher), yoga can do more harm, than good to your body. Without the grace of a teacher, yoga is not only hard to practice but the essence of yoga is often lost. The aim of yoga is finding a holistic balance that requires insights, training and a reprimand every now and then to shake of the laziness, stay motivated and continue on the chosen path.
It’s no different for an entrepreneur. As entrepreneurs, we face challenges every day. We make mistakes every day. We are constantly pushing the envelope and in doing all this, having a mentor is invaluable. A good mentor is someone who understands you and has the same values in life and business. Armed with expertise and years of experience, a mentor can accelerate your personal growth and that of your startup.
“Yoga is a practical subject and not a discursive one. As each individual is electrically alive and dynamic, so yoga is a living, dynamic force in life,” B.K.S. Iyengar, wrote in his foreword to The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Compare this to what Reid Hoffman had to say in his book, The Startup of You, “All humans are entrepreneurs not because they should start companies but because the will to create is encoded in human DNA,” and you will see the two roads merging.