Monday, September 02, 2013

On project proposals, start-ups, and heck, life

I often think that a useful attitude to getting things done, Buddhist though it may not necessarily be in its effects (that's for another post, but it involves right speech and right livelihood), is to approach any task with the determination and confidence of Vo Nguyen Giap.  He's 102 now, Wikipedia asserts. Moreover, as you can see in the interview embedded,  his language is simple enough that if you have a even a smattering of high school French, you can understand him.

I bring up Gen. Giap for another reason about project proposals, life, the universe, and everything.

The odds are against you.

The odds are against you because you lack experience, you're getting older, because things work until they don't because you're never fighting the last battle, because history never repeats itself, because there's a zillion others in competition, because capitalism is inherently unstable and the markets for your products are decreasing because of increasing concentration of wealth, because time, money, equipment, and staff is limited, etc. 

The odds are against you and there's simply no point in worrying about it.  Rather you have to find yourself where you are, and act properly, and effectively where you are. 

And even monkeys fall from trees.

You will make mistakes. They will cost. The two most common reasons for failure by any organization are poor management and under-capitalization.  (Do you need a guru to tell you that?)  That is, people are living their lives in the work world as they do in the rest of their world. (I just realized that we need a part of speech that is like a fractal property, rather than a simile or metaphor, but I digress. A simile comes close enough for the purposes herein.)

All of the above is to say that the First Noble Truth permeates the work world, including the start-up technology work world.  And by realizing that one can start to dwell and to flourish amidst this world has the First Noble Truth and start to transcend it. 

And the only way to keep going is to realize that that you're either going to learn a lot and fail along the way (the most likely outcome for many new projects) or you're going to win by a combination of getting lucky and, through attrition, surmounted as many obstacles as were in your path and then some. Kind of like the approach that the North Vietnamese army took, but naturally their conduct was in the same category, morally, as those of any other war-making entities. They killed many people. As did the US.  But if you're too attached to the outcome of your project, start-up, etc. etc.,  you probably will not understand and learn from your mistakes, and probably get attached to the obstacles in your path.

So,  with right livelihood, and with an ethical approach, there's nothing wrong with borrowing the motivation for the morale of Gen. Giap, and not the nasty violent bits of war.

And one other thing to point out, which I'm pretty sure permeated the NVA's morale is this: You're pretty lucky already if you're involved in some high tech project or start-up or what-not.  Most folks don't get that far. And, hopefully, you've been exposed to real work so there's an understanding that what you're doing is far, far more easy on you than most people working in the world. 

Now I don't know if the guru of Silicon Valley had similar advice, but if not, I have no idea what he's peddling.

Will meditating help you "get ahead" in such an environment permeated by First Noble Truth chaos and the fog of economic war?  If you're asking that question in the hopes of getting an answer then you're too attached to the outcome.  Your meditation practice is of immense value in the conduct of your life for many reasons, but if you're trying to get something out of it,  please, if you are in the Zen school, consult somebody competent in a lineage and discuss your practice with that person. Please.


Al said...

This is a complete aside and I'm happy to talk in email but I realized that I have no idea of your actual background/history, besides that it is Zen (Rinzai?) and you're an engineer. Is there a deep post buried somewhere with your bio?

Mumon K said...

I used to have such a post but somehow the format change a few years ago seems to have eaten it.

I can be e-mailed at an address that you can probably get by using my Buddhist name.