Ego is a powerful thing, even when it comes to explaining how humble you are. As someone who began his career as a salesman 30 years ago, I’ve either burned out or grown up; or a little of both. I don’t care if I convince anybody of anything anymore, I simply want to help those I can help and still appreciate those I can’t. Conquering the world is no longer an option. Playing guitar on the beach is a much better choice. I wonder if everyone gets to this point?
I attended a very good business conference last week that was hosted by a company run by a group of very competitive, successful, and religious guys. They aggressively led with their faith and I couldn’t help but admire the zeal they had for both their business concept and their faith in God. The leader and founder of the company is a passionate man, trying to spread his business concept while using every opportunity to speak at his church or any other forum that allows him to talk about how much he values relationship over business and how “Working on his faith,” is the most important thing in the world to him. I got the opinion that working on his faith meant finding every opportunity he could find to be a public speaker.
I was conflicted, I have to be honest with you. If working on your faith is an opportunity to practice humility, service, and being centered than I am all in. If working on your faith is merely seizing every opportunity that you have to proclaim your faith and sell it to others, I am uncomfortable and so were some of the people who gathered in the room; especially those who devoutly practiced other faith traditions. Conversion was not an option for them. Ego is a powerful thing and serving it in the name of God is not a new affliction, it has been around for ages. At the heart of the attitude is the premiss that says, “I know the only way that works and I am going to tell you about it.” There is a fine line between preaching and bragging, or even trying to convince yourself, and all of these were in evidence.
Sales, after all, may be a dying profession, but there are still a lot of us who have the need to convince other people to see things our way. I understand that but I am more swayed by actions than words, more interested in how your faith leads to you to do business in a more Godly-way than I am in hearing you tell me how I ought to change my behavior.
I am lucky enough to have grown up enough to strike people as someone who is “grounded” and that often gives me the opportunity to spout a little wisdom. I am grateful for the opportunity, but I don’t go looking for it. Even though I am a public speaker, I don’t have the DNA that needs to speak from the stage (or the pulpit), which is good, because no organization is dependent upon my skill as a missionary. I believe my spiritual and religious life is mine and I don’t feel the need to convince you otherwise.
Besides, as a creative person, religion is too easy a target, even though I am religious. Creativity involves asking a lot of why and how come questions and that makes people who believe that faith is the answer very uncomfortable, especially those who are more fundamentally inclined, who believe that everything is already decided and not open to interpretation. Those who lean on religion as a set of stone inscribed, unbending rules are less likely to appreciate new and creative views. Just ask the artists in Tehran.
I am, after all, going to be working with these guys for a long time. I like their business concept, and despite the sermons, I know that they have helped me to find a way to do business from a spirit of servant leadership and I look forward to setting a grounded example for them as we work together. But there will be moments when we clash, like when I suggested to one of them that all his organization needed was little Improv Training, he looked at me like I had three heads and I understood (and laughed, I successfully poked the bear.) Just as Bob Marley said, “Love is my religion,” I say “Creativity is my religion” and I’ll quietly keep spreading the word.