Monday, September 26, 2011

Managing Our Lives

I know this leap seems a bit odd, but bear with me for just a minute. I was reading Peter Drucker's Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices this morning (like i do every Monday morning, because that's what my schedule tells me i have to do on Monday mornings), and ran across this bit of advice:

"The second administrative task [of management] is to bring the business all the time a little closer to the full realization of its potential. Even the most successful business works at a low coefficient of performance as measured against its potential—the economic results that could be obtained were efforts and resources marshaled to produce the maximum yield they are inherently capable of.

"This task is not innovation; it actually takes the business as it is today and asks, What is its theoretical optimum? What inhibits attainment thereof? Where (in other words) are the limiting and restraining factors that hold back the business and deprive it of the full return on its resources and efforts?

"One basic approach—offered here by way of illustration only—is to ask the question What relatively minor changes in product, technology, process, market, and so on, would significantly improve or alter the economic characteristics and results of this business?"

That, in a nutshell, is how i see my practice and how i live my life. It's just a little surprising to see it written in a book on business. I may be a professional failure, but that doesn't make the theories any less correct and pertinent.

Our "business," if you will, is living our lives. The product we produce is the life we live — not the life we want to live or the life we hope to live; not even the life we try and project for others to see, but the actual life we live in all its glory, disarray, and messiness.

The "technology" is what we use to live that life. I have a home practice, with some amount of bells, zafus, statues, etc. Others chose more advanced technologies and practice at Zen Centers and monasteries. Others opt for the highest technology available and actually take vows and become monastics.

The "process" is how we employ the technology we have chosen and how we implement its capabilities into our daily lives.

The "market" is two-fold: our selves and our lives, of course, but also the rest of "everything." Not just all other sentient beings, but the environment, society, culture, etc.

Our jobs, as the only possible managers of our lives, is to "bring the business" of living our lives "all the time a little closer to the full realization of its potential."

That is it! As Drucker points out, this does not necessarily (or usually) entail innovation. It is a constant awareness of where we are, what we are doing, and how we are doing it, keeping our minds open to finding those minor changes that would change the way we live in such a way that we expand that little bit more into our fullest potential.

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