How to Make Business at Leisure!
The Romans had two words to describe the relationship between home and working life: Otium and Negotium. These delineate the relationship and help us answer the question: is it possible to make business at leisure?
This first post in a sequence about work-life balance, focuses on Otium and I shall consider Negotium in a future post.
What Do You Want?
Otium is often translated as leisure. However, this is not a good translation because it separates home life from working life. It is perhaps better translated as what happens in private in preparation for working life.
Another interpretation might be self-development. This is closer but perhaps still misses the point. Self-development is sometimes tied to work. What training do I need to do my job properly? This is important but I would argue it is Negotium – a part of your public life.
Otium is much more about accomplishments and experiences that make you the person you are and equip you with something to share. From the business perspective the question is not so much what you need to do to meet the needs of your business as what you uniquely bring to your business.
For example, my background is in community development. Now I offer coaching in marketing. I occasionally get told by more experienced business people that this background is not professional enough. Maybe there is some truth in this but actually, it is my life experience that adds value to my offer.
I have experiences to draw on, skills I have practiced over the years, which are of great value to my chosen business. When you work in a situation where there are too few resources, you have to be resourceful. Running a small business and community development are not that far apart.
So, the question becomes: what do I want from my life? Imagine you have a rose-bush in your garden. The worse possible outcome will be for the buds to wither and drop off. What you want is the buds to open and the bush to flourish.
As a gardener you need to carry out various activities, eg feeding, watering, pruning, weeding to help the bush to flourish. The same applies to life.
There are three dimensions to this in constant flux.
- You need a cause, something to commit to, a change you want to see in the world. Your business is likely to be your main cause and so this is Negotium.
- You need a vision of your own personal future, the person you wish to be. This may be a range of activities and interests that help you become this person. This might include activities such as sport, hobbies, music, reading, religion, etc.
- Your relationships, again moving towards the public. This includes family and friends but also things like public worship, political activities, etc.
However, there is a fourth dimension, serendipity (and of course its opposite, the unhappy accident). Life throws up opportunities and disasters. Our triumphs and tragedies can all transform into something of value.
The Catholics call this experience formation and it has both dimensions – activities of our own choosing, disciplines, and those that we have to take in our stride.
Seen this way the boundaries between business and leisure are less clear then perhaps we believe. The question becomes: is the aim of your life to achieve your business aim, your financial aim or your forgotten aim of becoming a human being fully alive? Are all three possible?
We aim solely for financial success at our peril. Many business owners understand their business aim is integral to financial success. How many forget the human being at the heart of it?
The challenge is to unscramble what we want out of our lives and businesses. This will be the topic of my next post: what is my business offer to myself?
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Please comment and let me know what you like about this post. What would you like me to write about further?