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THE HAPPINESS OF PURSUIT

By Chuck Violand

April 25, 2016

Many years ago Tommy and the boys (that would be Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Robert Livingston, and Roger Sherman) were asked to write a declaration explaining why thirteen colonies felt justified in separating themselves from the British Crown. Justified enough, in fact, to put their lives and fortunes on the line. One of the reasons they gave was “the pursuit of happiness.” Scholars will point out that “happiness” was not defined the same way in 1776 as it is today but, nevertheless, the phrase remains a cornerstone of the collective American consciousness. And it is part of the consciousness of many business owners, American or otherwise.

In business, this pursuit of happiness plays itself out in lots of ways. Postponing financial and emotional rewards today in the hopes of enjoying better things tomorrow is just one of them. An ideal that seems to be gaining popularity lately even talks about building businesses today to flip them tomorrow, once again suggesting a greater reward at some time in the future. In my opinion, this kind of thinking overlooks one of the real joys of owning and running a company—the pursuit itself.

How different would things be if we reversed the order of the words in this phrase? Instead of “the pursuit of happiness,” what would happen if our objective was “the happiness of pursuit”? If we strived to actually enjoy our journey while taking it?

Unless your business involves the military, health care, or law enforcement, most businesses don’t involve life-or-death situations, and most of the decisions we make in them are not life-or-death decisions. Realizing this, maybe we should try to relax a bit and smell the proverbial roses.

Many of us start our businesses because we either enjoy performing or we’re especially skilled at a particular job. It might be accounting, selling, solving problems, working with our hands, or just interacting with others. We then use these skills to earn a living, build a career, and provide for our future.

If we’re not careful, it’s easy to get caught up in comparing our accomplishments to those of the people around us. In doing so, we may overlook the things we’ve achieved and the parts of our jobs we enjoy doing. We can get so consumed with competing, and doing, and general busyness that we miss the happiness of just being.

I’m a firm believer in the value of strategic planning, which means thinking about and planning for the future, but not at the cost of planning all the joy out of the present. How much better would our companies perform if we took the time to appreciate the value of our setbacks as well as our victories; our superstar employees as well as our troubling ones; the customers who rave about us as well as the ones who complain?

I think we’d do ourselves a huge favor if we took the time to find ways to better enjoy the performance of our companies today, appreciate the people with whom we’ve surrounded ourselves, and the opportunities for personal growth our companies provide. Tomorrow holds no guarantee of a better day. I think we’d live longer lives and have more fulfilling careers if we took the time to enjoy the pursuit.