March 29th, 2010

The Joy of the Journey

I find the parallels between the practice of yoga and entrepreneurism to be fascinating. I do not claim to be as accomplished a yogi as I am an entrepreneur, but I do practice both regularly and enjoy the benefits of each these disciplines. Success is a journey, not a destination. This is true both in yoga and in entrepreneurism.

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, and that is true of many experiences. Yoga is definitely a process; there is no end to how far we can go or how much we can achieve. A true entrepreneur knows that achieving success is also a continuous process. Every time you succeed or reach a peak, there is another challenge or mountain to climb. The best part of life, entrepreneurism and success is the joy of the journey.  In life and entrepreneurism, we are working to take control of our lives and minds.

We are working to not be controlled by the conditions around us. We are creating or changing our circumstances through conscious control of our thoughts, visualizations and intentions, through accepting, releasing, and constantly adjusting our practices. In both yoga and entrepreneurism, the more you do it or practice, the better you get. The changes you desire gradually manifest. The temptation to stop, or a lack of discipline in your practice, is what prevents progress. Dedication to the practice and to your goal is what causes a transformation from desired result into reality. In business, persistence attracts the right circumstances, and we experience breakthroughs. I have experienced the same thing in yoga. As with many things, the way to get good at business or yoga is to do it frequently and consistently. If you stop in either discipline or endeavor, you slip backwards and regress, losing what you gained. Entrepreneurism is a state of mind, as is yoga.

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In yoga, we work to master poses or “Asanas.” Few people are naturally good at all poses. One can be amazingly accomplished at some poses and unable to do others very well, or at all. Some require strength, others flexibility, others balance, or a combination of the three. The objective is to make progress in all poses. This is totally analogous to entrepreneurism and success. In yoga, the practice and improvement of one pose (comparable to a skill or aspect of success in business) affects your ability to perform other poses. Improving in one area or pose directly affects the ability to master other poses. Achieving poses is a combination of strength and flexibility along with concentration, releasing and controlled breathing. We must be the change we want to achieve. To a large extent, this is true in all areas of success. It is a transition, evolution, transformation, metamorphosis or process that happens. The time it takes between conception (thought) and realization (manifestation) of the goal is the degree to which we believe and totally accept the desired result with expectation and gratitude. It is the law of creation and manifestation. In business, it is a combination of things that dynamically work together to achieve the successful result. It still involves the same fundamental set of principles. By the way, there is no limit how far you can go or how much you can achieve — we can always get better. It is amazing how this works.

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An added benefit of yoga is that it is an anti-aging program. It prevents you from getting old, inflexible, brittle, stiff or disfigured. Inverted poses (shoulder-, head- and handstands) cause blood to run the opposite way in arteries and capillaries, and helps prime the lymphatic system. These poses also reverse gravity on the vertebrae, joints and skin. Other yogic poses and sequences stimulate the circulation and lymphatic system, as well as massage organs and help to eliminate toxins. It does wonders for your physiology. Some people think yoga is easy. Ha! Those are the individuals who don’t do it. That’s like saying you are lucky when you succeed in business. Ashtanga and power yoga, when done correctly, are the hardest workouts I have ever performed! It is much harder than going to the gym and weight or resistance training, but you build up to it. Weights and resistant training, as well as running, are good too. I do them all, but they are definitely not as challenging!

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An important part of yoga is the breath or life force, which is called Pranayma. Breathing evenly and deeply in a certain way balances the energy and allows the body to accomplish what is visualized by the mind. It also connects us with the flow of energy in the universe and universal consciousness, a power greater than ourselves. Getting into the flow in business, or the entrepreneurial world where you are liberated, is very similar and a goal in both disciplines. The most successful entrepreneurs are in the flow. We must eliminate outside influences and the chatter of distractions or superfluous temptations around us. We must become clear in our thinking and ready to accept intuitions, epiphanies and insight. We must assume a purpose. We must be here and now in the present and focused. Everything that we need to know or attract to be successful already exists; we just need to be open to it and attract it. In yoga, this is called Moksha, or liberation. We must stay focused in both yoga and entrepreneurism. Yoga entails mastery over body, mind, as well as the emotional self and the transcendence of desires to seek our true mission or calling. The path to success in entrepreneurism is parallel to this. When we accomplish this, the true nature of reality becomes obvious. In entrepreneurism, the way and the truth of your principles and purpose become clear and become your compass. We become entrepreneurs to become free, liberated, self-reliant and independent. Yoga reflects the same. So, to a large extent, true entrepreneurs are yogic by nature.

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The ultimate goal or purpose of yoga is to meditate or achieve pure meditation through the cessation of conscious thought or external influence. Meditation rests the mind and allows it to be recharged and revitalized. Everyone should meditate. Prayer can be a form of meditation where your intentions are projected or you become open to guidance. This state of mind allows us to see clearly and receive guidance and clarity. To know total success is to be in harmony and balance with what works and reality, as well as the needs of the world around us. In yoga, the union of the soul (atma) with God or the universal soul (paranatma) is called “Samadhi,” which is a hyperconscious state of liberation. That is what I seek in business as an entrepreneur. In that state, we are part of an ecosystem that is in perfect balance. The vision or ideal is materialized and we are in harmony with our business world. We succeed by providing what is needed and wanted and we do it through cooperation and creating success rather than by competing. Anything the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve. We must control our thoughts and environment through our minds to bring our pure intentions and vision into reality through practice, focus, gratitude and acceptance.

Actually, the practice of yoga reminds me that what comes easily to me in this business is not always automatic or easy for others who are learning the ropes. Many things in the fundamentals of the business seem like second nature to me and I wonder why people don’t just do them! Yoga is an insightful reminder that what might be easy for me, others need to practice and grow into, just as I struggle with certain poses. When I abandon the correct breathing while practicing difficult poses, it either agitates or humors my teacher. It is the same when inexperienced entrepreneurs in my business frustrate me by abandoning the fundamentals or not utilizing them correctly. There are some poses that I may never be able to do because of old sports injuries in my shoulder and one knee, but ever inch of progress is meaningful and success. The important thing is to observe the process and be aware and to progress, both in the business and in yoga.

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As my instructor, Raquel Glottman, says: “If anything, I would add yet another practical lesson derived from yoga that carries on to daily life. The intention of remaining emotionally balanced throughout your day and activities is invaluable. There is much to be said about not reacting, but rather observing from a neutral and grounded place. Not only do we release ourselves from the emotional roller-coaster and the stress that can come from life, but we learn to retain a lucidity and a calmness that allows for better performance and clarity of mind.” This hits the bull’s-eye when it comes to the truth, and the truth shall set you free.

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Ultimately we can make our goals become reality if we have purity of intention as well as discipline. You must succeed so that others can realize their dreams and, in so doing, your wildest dreams become a reality. If you don’t practice yoga, practice entrepreneurism; it is yogic by nature. The most important thing of all is to keep growing! When you stop growing, the journey is over and you have perished mentally and spiritually. There can be no joy in the journey if the journey is over. Enjoy life because all we have is time. It is what you do with that time that counts.

I believe in you! Keep Growing!

-JR Ridinger

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