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August 9, 2009

The Business of Karma

Recently, I was having a conversation with a friend who made a statement with such conviction, it has been swimming in my head ever since. He said, "everything in this world gets rewarded or punished just sometimes we don't understand - there are always consequences." What amazed me most about what he was saying was the context - he was talking about a business deal that went sour.

I have always subscribed to the Karma-esque "what goes around comes around" way of thinking when it comes to business (and I suppose life in general). As such I try to act professionally and with integrity and respect for others. Put differently I like to act in a way that makes it easy to sleep well at night. So, if this is what I already believe and how I already behave, then why did I find this statement so riveting?

Many of us have had that experience where we feel like we are plugging away and then our competitor who - fill in the blank (just launched, does not do good business, has a bad reputation, has behaved poorly, overcharges...) suddenly gets a - fill in the blank (a big media hit, lands a huge client, has a lot of buzz) and we scratch our heads and wonder what we are doing wrong.

Maybe it was just the timing or maybe it was my friend’s conviction or maybe it was the impact of hearing this philosophy from someone else, but bottom line - his statement put me at ease.

It is easy to forget that we never know the whole picture and that someone else's business feat (though it may seem like a setback to our business) is in actuality totally unrelated to our own (worthy) business and (good) behavior. If there is such a thing as Karma than we should really continue to work as hard as we can, be true to ourselves and our business, and know that doing the right thing will yield unknown rewards in the future. And if there isn’t such thing as karma, then it is still important to treat others respectfully and to sleep well at night!

posted by Amy


Alice said...


I just recently subscribed to your newsletters, and saw a link to this post - the title intrigued me.

I wanted to clarify that karma is not merely a belief one subscribes to, nor is it simply associated with personal conduct ("What Goes Around Comes Around"). Also, it isn't a system of reward or punishment - it's not governed by morality or subjectivity.

The word karma is a Sanskrit word meaning "action," and is usually taught as "cause and effect/consequences." This means that one action/cause is the seed for a future action, which then becomes the cause for the next action, etc." Most people get that part about karma.

But what people seem to miss is that the law of karma applies to everything in life. If you turn on a light switch, the light comes on. If you drop your wine glass, it will fall and break. If you plant an apple seed, you're not going to get a cherry tree. When it rains, things get wet.

Karma is just another word to describe the natural law/order of the way things are, and within the scope of the universe, our personal actions and their consequences are obviously a part of it.

It's not a question of whether karma exists or not. You say that even "...if there isn't such a thing as karma, it's still important to treat others respectfully and to sleep well at night." Well, that's karma too! How you treat others affects them as well as you (since you and others needed to share an experience together in order to "treat" each other a certain way).

And from the viewpoint of karma, doing the right thing or wrong thing is really a fuzzy line at best. How many times have we done something we think is good for ourselves or others only to find out that it was exactly the wrong thing to do? Or vice versa? This is very apparent when it comes to raising children, for example.

Therefore, what matters most is our pure intentions when we do a deed. We are kind simply because we are kind - that's it. We tell the truth because lying obscures the other person's view of reality.

To do something purely for fear of karmic repercussions or something to gain in the future - or even to sleep well at night - is not considered skillful because it is considered manipulating karma for one's own gain. And that too will have its own share of karmic consequences.

I feel that the word karma gets tossed around in the general vernacular with not enough understanding, and thought I'd offer a little more clarity.

Thank you!

In Good Company WorkPlaces said...

Thank you Alice for your thoughtful and insightful comments. I really appreciate your time in explaining Karma. I see that I clearly did not have a full understanding of the word. While my intentions are pure, I recognize that my fear of karmic repercusions are a flawed belief.

Thank you again for the clarification and eductation! I look forward to learning more from you in the future!