The Bigger Deal
Excerpt from the book
The meaning of life is that it stops.
Eight very meaningful words from Franz Kafka. I read them years ago, and experienced a pause.
Our time on this earth ends. In all cases. With no exceptions. There’s a full stop. For some, this full stop intrudes early in the story. For others, the period comes at the end of a long, winding tome. But for all of us, life ends.
We don’t know when our full stop is coming. Really, we don’t. We may expect to live seven decades or more, but that’s just playing probabilities. You probably won’t die tomorrow, but you certainly might. Whoever you are.
Is there life after the full stop? Perhaps there is. Some have faith to guide them beyond the full stop, others don’t. The full stop in this life happens regardless of what we believe.
So then. It’s a short life, we don’t have much time, and we don’t know how much. So what are we going to do?
This simple question is what lies behind The Bigger Deal. Far from making us lose hope, Kafka’s sentence should give us renewed vigour. What, indeed, are we going to do with this short, unpredictable life?
The answer is to make it a bigger deal. Life should be a very big deal indeed, but so many of us settle for something far, far smaller. We settle for a deal in which we narrow our focus so much that we seen nothing more than ourselves. A deal in which “me and mine” is the abiding credo. A deal in which we put on a mask of pretence to the world, faking concern and noble aims, when really all we want is self-gain. A deal in which we become conmen and spin-doctors, tricking people into buying things that won’t do much for them. A deal in which we value the flashy car for ourselves more than the process of creating value for others. A deal in which we fritter our time away in arguments and squabbles, petty scoring of points, nursing of much ill-will and many a perceived slight.
Many do these things, incessantly and repetitively, and I wonder how much time they think they have to actually live. Life is short and precious; it should matter; and it should matter a great deal.
My life’s work has been in the world of business, and so this book’s primary focus lies there. I have a deeply held personal belief: that business should be a bigger deal than it currently is. Most people on this planet work for businesses – their own, or in employment for those of others. Even if you have never worked for a business, however, if you think about it, business is a primal force in your life.
Business is the great engine of growth in the world; the primary creator of wealth; the key provider of employment for the people around you; the producer of the goods and services that make all our lives easier, more productive, and more enjoyable. Business is a very big deal.
When we take delight in a mouthful of cake in a favourite cafe, or sit in the thrall of a riveting book, we are responding to pleasures created for us by someone’s business. When we buy our first refrigerator or seek insurance for our belongings, we are trying to solve problems in our lives with the help of someone’s business. When we reach for a smartphone to send an urgent message to a loved one, or transfer money quickly, we are having our lives made easier by someone’s business. And when we look for learning apps for our children or professional advice for ourselves, we are responding to the hope of betterment that springs in every heart and hoping that someone has devised a business which will deliver exactly that.
My continuing role in business is as a lifelong student, advisor, teacher and observer. I believe in the nobility of business. I believe that corporations can be a force for good in society. I believe many products are created that are of great utility for the ordinary person. I believe corporations can provide meaning and fulfilment for their employees, in a world largely devoid of meaning.