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Zen and the Art of Entrepreneurship

What the heck is “Art of Doing Something”? If it cannot be scientifically explained, does it really exist?

I wasn’t a motor bike mechanic. But I once had a job that involved trouble shooting and repairing electronic equipment. So I was very much enamored by this book by Robert Pirsig called “Zen and the Art of Motor Cycle Maintenance”. So much so that, I started applying and practicing his philosophies in my day to day work.

After a few years, when my manager asked me to conduct a 3 day training program for Defense Maintenance Personnel, I converted it in to a 7 day residential workshop. I named it “The Art and Science of Troubleshooting Electronic Equipment”.

Experienced Engineers from Navy, Airforce and Army came to Chennai and attended. 3 full days were spent entirely on the “Art of Trouble Shooting”. Thanks to Robert Pirsig, and my own practice, I had some case studies to kickstart the discussions. Soon the participants started sharing their own experiences about repairing MIG 21s, Warships and Vehicles. They shared their “Crazy” moments, “Throw the damn thing in the deep sea” moments and the “Zen moments”.

Cut the long story short, after that program, there were requests from all the forces to repeat it in multiple base workshops. The MD of my company was curious. Wasn’t trouble shooting and repair a logical reasoning process. What the heck was “Art of Trouble Shooting”.

When he asked me to explain the curriculum of the first 3 days, I told him : “I can’t explain. I can do a workshop for our own people and you can also attend”. And he did. He then asked me to train a few more workshop facilitators to do the same workshop. It wasn’t easy to replicate or scale the first 3 days of the workshop. But we tried our best and ran it for a few years.

5 Years later, at the age of 35, I developed a sudden itch to learn dance. Series of serendipities followed and I became a disciple of Dr Narthaki Nataraj. (Dr Narthaki received Padmashri in 2020 for the field of Bharatanatyam). I am still learning.

I also help her in her research. Bharatanatyam has a lot of structure and rules and demand for perfection. And so does classical music, that is the bed-rock of a Bharatantayam performance. The Thalas and the Jathis. The Steps and the Mudras. The Mathematics and the Geometry. You can call it the science of dance. But where does that beauty emerge from? When my guru performs, people in the audience cry. Or see God. How does that happen? As a student myself, I have experienced new planes of existence, beyond the cognitive mind. Can I explain it?

And Entrepreneurship? Can there be something called as “The Art of Entrepreneurship”? Apart from consulting to early stage companies and startups, I had my own taste of running startups. 2 of them failed. The 3rd one is now 2 years old.

I was talking to my Investor one day and I said, “outwardly nothing much has changed in the last 3 months, but I feel like a sculptor finishing up his piece”.

Another day, I was listening to a “Cloud-Kitchen” Entrepreneur who was excitedly talking about volumes and scale and mass manufacturing of food items for just-in-time delivery, with SOPs that can be executed by any unskilled person.

I told him about my millennial Daughter (earning in 6 digits) who uses Swiggy and Zomato at least 3-4 times a week. Then I asked him : “When there are 100s’ of affordable choices from Cloud Kitchens on Swiggy and Zomato, available to her for every meal, why is she desperately looking for a cook?”

We can endlessly talk about the Art of “cooking food”, “playing a sport”, “rescuing hostages”, or “running a startup”.

But what the heck is “Art of Doing Something”? If it cannot be scientifically explained, does it really exist? Or, should we take an easy route and say – what can be explained is science and what cannot be explained is Art? What exactly is the difference between the “Art” and “Science” in any field?

The “Art of doing something” is actually a misnomer.

Art is Being. Science is Doing.

The inner state from which you do anything, is the art. What you do and how you do is the science.

The process of immersing in to yourself is the art. At the core of yourself is what Peter Senge calls “Presence”. Otto Charmer calls it the “future field” that is waiting to emerge through you. It is the womb of all creation. From dance and sculpture to the breakfast that you make for yourself. Everyone can access it. From a machine operator working on a lathe to the fighter pilot in the midst of a dog fight.

As entrepreneurs, if we have to create something new that is truly valuable for the society – not just for our investors – we need to become artists, dwelling in to that womb of creation at the core of our selves.

In the movie “Dil De Chuke Hai Sanam”, the heroine’s father will give an advice to the Hero (Salman Khan) : There are singers who sing from their mouth. (Muh se Gatha hai). There are singers who sing from their stomach. (Pet Se Gatha Hai). And there are very few who sing from their heart (Dil Se Gaatha hai).

Many wannabe Entrepreneurs roll their tongue well. Few succeed. Because they put in a lot of hard work. Stress themselves out to the brink of disaster. And try earnestly and intensely from the bottom of their gut. But very few entrepreneurs can truly call themselves artists. By being grounded in their own sweet beings, they sing their way to glory, effortlessly.

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)

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