There’s something I have to admit to business types when they ask me about my ‘business strategy.’ Well, I don’t have one! I didn’t take a single business course in University. The Moksha Modo community is a yoga-activist, preventative-medicine, arts-supporting community-fam-jam. Studio owners share a lot of passions, but ‘business’ is not usually one of them. For me this became really apparent when I became the sweat-equity owner of my very first yoga studio in 2011. My lack of business knowledge almost immediately demanded a deep dive into the veritable sea of business literature. Today, 15 years later, I’m still not passionate about ‘business’ per say, but I have a keen reverence for business writers. The anti-corporate activist in me still cringes at terms like marketing, sales, brand, or franchise in reference to what we’re doing. But with a yoga alchemy we can easily re-define marketing as storytelling, sales as sharing, our brand as our emblem, our flame, and we are legally a franchise, but in reality we are a community, a sangha. There are so many fantastic thinkers in business and we’ve learned so much from their expertise.
We make our decisions collectively since we function as a linear and non-hierarchical democracy. Every year at our Annual General Meeting (AGM) of studio directors, where any major decisions are discussed, one of the presentations is always around a business book that left a lasting impression. We’re not a bottom line community, but we do have high standards, and a shared vision to change the world. In order to do that we are very clear about having our systems down (E-myth) and being clock builders, instead of time tellers (Built to Last). Being in touch with the business world has become part of how we share our mission for change as effectively as possible.
This year the book the business portion of our AGM was focused around was Simon Sinek’s Start with Why. His TED Talk was passed along to me by one of the 6 Original Studio Owners, Modo Yoga LA co-director (and my sister) Deena! It’s called How Great Leaders Inspire Action. In the talk Sinek, also a professor of Communications at Columbia University, shares that ‘people don’t buy what you do they buy why you do it.’ When I yoga-translate ‘selling’ to ‘sharing’ this idea is pretty exciting. We do our outreach because we believe in it, not because we want people to see what we’re doing. But maybe sharing our passion for outreach can be a call-to-arms to those wanting to take part.
I loved the talk so much I bought the book. I had good intentions to read it but it did stay on my shelf for many years. In the meantime I had 2 babies and immigrated to Costa Rica away from the supports of family and community. Start with the Why did make the book-cut but it sat on my shelf in Costa Rica for 2 more years until after the birth of my second baby Dakota. Two kids is no joke. Being a working mom means keeping strange working hours, sleeping much muchless, and sometimes I think it means feeling a bit shitty. Are you allowed to swear in blogs?
Being far from community meant I wanted to be hyper-connected online but still I felt geographically displaced. This tincture mixed with lack of sleep led to straight up self-doubt. Am I doing enough? Am I a bad mom because I have a passion-job? Etcetera, period. It was one of those days when I saw the subtitle: How Great Leaders Inspire Action. I’m in, I thought.
The idea of initiating everything we do with a clear thread to why we are doing it gave me a jump start, like a car battery jumped from the deep dead of a Montreal winter freeze. I realized that I can’t fuel my life without an almost daily link to my purpose. Without that connection emptiness is closer than necessary. And I don’t mean the good emptiness that leads to enlightenment, but a feeling of purpose-less-ness – the existential worst.
Our mission statement at Moksha Modo international is to ignite human potential through inspiring better health for individuals and the earth. Connecting with our own ‘why’ and inspiring anyone and everyone to do the same supports our shared mission. In yoga philosophy, the concept is called a sankalpa, and it is something that many teachers translate into ‘setting an intention’. My indie-rocker friends make fun of this little moment – ‘What does set an intention mean? Why do yoga teachers have to say that shit?’ Ha, and there I go swearing again. Touche non yoga-nerd friends. It’s true, without proper context this flippant ‘set an intention’ is confusing. What Sinek really clarifies is that finding your why can be a way to know if you’re doing a project, in a relationship or deepening any habit, for the right reasons. He so aptly points out – did Martin Luther King say “I have a…business plan.” No, he said “I have a dream.” We all have dreams, and when we’re brave enough to be honest with ourselves about our dreams, brave enough to cast aside the nihilistic cynicism that can easily feel pretty damn great, things can shift in every sphere of our lives. And when we find it, it only takes a breath or two to re-connect.
The why doesn’t have to be about yoga! It doesn’t have to be shared with anyone. But it does have to be something that makes your stomach turn with excitement, or your heart soften into a feeling of deep and unwavering truth. If you’re not sure how to find it, I am openly biased, but I find yoga helps.
If you feel like it – share your why in the comments. And, maybe your favourite business book too!
See you soon in a sweaty room perhaps – – Jess
Photo courtesy of Ksayer1