When answering the question of what the best antidote to unhappiness really is, we would naturally assume that it is finding things that make you happy. Maybe a hobby or new friends or spending more quality time with the family.
It is in fact, purpose.
We often hear of a high powered person retiring and rather than finding the nirvana of golf and coffee in exotic locations around the world, they seem to be a shell of themselves within a few years. Lack of purpose can be destroying.
The markets, and in particular trading, don’t really have much purpose. It’s a business that is very self-serving and after a while, despite the huge pay packets it can generate, it provides very little satisfaction for the majority of people who participate in it.
And trading is the most self-serving of all. Unlike most other jobs where getting paid is a by-product of doing your work, the point of a trader's job is to pay themselves.
There is no job on earth that I can think of that has no other function than to just generate your pay packet. It is the most capitalist of all jobs in the world, right at the coal face of pure capitalism. Does this mean it’s a terrible job?
The Dalai Lama has talked many times about doing right work. What he means is that it must be a job that you grow from as a person. He passes no comment on what that might be, except to say that if the work advances you in no other way than economically, then it is not right work.
When asked whether it is okay to make money, or if profit is a good thing, he answers that if a job connects head to heart and if it advances you emotionally, or spiritually, or grows you in any other way in addition to just economically, then its right work.
He says by all means make lots of money and be hugely rich, but once you do, how you got there and what you do with your wealth is of the utmost importance.
He says that you need to tell him what your goal is. If it’s just to be wealthy, then do whatever you can to make as much money as possible. Be as unscrupulous, as sneaky, as conniving as possible. So long as every time you do and it makes lots of money, then you are doing right action to achieve your goal.
But if you tell him that your goal is to be happy, then he would say that these things will not make you happy.
Your work needs to have different outcomes, different reasons, different motivators and therefore you will take different actions in the workplace.
Financial wealth should be the by-product not the end goal and the irony of course is that you win either way. Even if vast wealth is not made, you are happy in your work because you are growing as a person and if vast wealth is made, you are probably indifferent to it because your job is giving you so much satisfaction in terms of personal growth that money becomes a nice metric but the satisfaction is really in the work.
Money, success, status, all these are now just by-products of being a happy employee in a happy workplace doing right work.
How is this relevant to VivCourt?
How do you give such work any purpose?
It can't be found in the existing corporate structure. But in our model, with a charitable entity being the ultimate shareholder and 100% of our profits flowing through to the social sector, we have tried to give the company purpose. The sole purpose of our company is to take the huge amounts of money sloshing around in the corporate world and funnel them through to the social sector.
How good would you feel as an employee of a firm knowing that yes, you may have received a bonus, but you know that you were part of a business that generated an equal, if not greater share for the social sector. Now you have purpose. Now you have a goal. This is something tangible, something very real, something that not only makes you feel good but directly improves the very community that you live in.
That’s the external effect of having a social shareholder. It gives the company a purpose and if the employer you work for has a clear purpose, it helps employees to find purpose and align with the company’s purpose. An employer should be a role model for its employees, it should model the behaviour and attitudes and goals and if it can model purpose, then even better.
What is the internal effect? This is the bit that is very fascinating.
Every company has some employee/management tension. “Management” often make decisions which are not transparent. “Shareholders” are this opaque group that needs to be served. The expressions, “bloody management” or “bloody shareholders” are often said in the one breath. And why wouldn’t they? The goals of shareholders and therefore management are quite misaligned with the goals of an employee.
So when there are no shareholders and when management has nobody to manage on behalf of except the employee, the manager can focus on the welfare of an employee. They define the work practices that will make them most happy, most engaged and therefore most productive. When a manager has a longer time frame to operate within and is not afraid to make a poor decision (which would otherwise result in a tap on the shoulder), the result is a longer term view and a positive energy within the company. There can only be far greater alignment with the employee and his aims because there is nobody else to align with.
If the employee has the requisite skills for the job, then the sole role of the manager is to help the employee find the levers and working conditions which will allow them to operate at maximum capacity and then just step aside.
Management becomes a tool for the employee, an ally, a partnership of equals to work alongside them as opposed to opposite them, being driven by a different agenda. When you find a company that has the exact same agenda as you do as a human being, which is happiness and satisfaction and personal growth and wealth creation and that company can model purpose for you in the very reason it exists then I would say you have a high chance of finding “right work” in this sort of organisation.
THIS is the business model we have created at Vivienne Court and is the new business model which we believe will become the norm for the future.
The corporate sector should help oil the wheels of commerce, it should be part of the drivers for growth and change, but it equally has a moral imperative to use its vast reserves of money to help find solutions to our social issues. It can’t save the world but it surely must at the very least not create more problems.
The old model is broken.
I don’t know how to change the old model and I readily admit to being part of the problem, but I do know how to create a better model and I hope that the model of Vivienne Court will prove to be just this and a stepping stone for future, more refined versions.