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Buddha: 9 to 5

Nancy Spears, the author of Buddha: 9 to 5: The Eightfold Path to Enlightening Your Workplace and Improving Your Bottom Line (Adams Media, 2007), is a former CEO and marketing executive who embraces spiritual practice as a means of corporate survival. It should be noted that the approach she advocates for use in business is secular, not religious, in nature.

She writes, “More than 2,500 years ago, the Buddha discovered the key to enlightenment for ordinary human beings like you and me. He then gave us a practical set of guidelines that can lead to genuine happiness. Today, these timeless principles can unlock the gateway to renewed values and prosperity in corporate America.”

Here’s what Spears had to say about her reasons for writing the book and how she believes Buddha’s teachings can help people and organizations perform more effectively:

Q: What inspired you to write Buddha: 9 to 5?
A: When I owned my marketing agency, I personally witnessed a great deal of suffering in the workplace, which was created mostly by ego and poor communication. At the same time, I was very involved in Buddhist study. It became clear to me that the same principles that I was learning in my studies could help managers, executives, and others find greater satisfaction on the job. And so I wrote the book. The 2,500-year-old Buddhist eightfold path remains relevant today.

Q: What’s the basic thesis of your book?
A: When people operate using compassion, wisdom, and the right intention, they build a platform for long-term reward. These virtues will not only make us happier people but also more successful. The path offers ageless tools that will empower and engage leaders and their employees.

Q: So how does one start thinking like Buddha?
A: This is the core message of the book: each of us already is the Buddha! All we have to do is to tap into and engage our own natural wisdom, compassion, and intelligence. When we do that, working and leading like a Buddha is intuitive. We can access these virtues anytime and all the time…and especially 9 to 5! Buddha’s eight key principles are:
  1. Right View: Vision (communicating and listening with clear, unobstructed insight)
  2. Right Intention: Mission (developing a mission and having full awareness of it in every action)
  3. Right Speech (speaking with honesty, clarity, and directness)
  4. Right Action: Accountability (holding yourself and others accountable)
  5. Right Livelihood (loving what you do; being dedicated and committed)
  6. Right Effort (combining intellect and intuition, and using meditation)
  7. Right Mindfulness (staying focused and confronting challenges)
  8. Right Concentration (thinking in the present moment, but with an eye on the long-term)

Q: What advice can you give on how to be happier in one’s work?
A: The Buddha’s emphasis is on how our success makes the world a better place. People who embrace a Buddha: 9 to5 attitude love going to work. They show enthusiasm for every meeting, client, and employee connection. For them, work means more than earning a paycheck. They achieve their goals while injecting purpose into their lives and the lives of others.

We need to remember that there are no guarantees as to how long we will live, so we don’t want to waste one more day or hour in an environment that does not feel right. Everyone has basic goodness and some way to contribute, but finding one’s calling requires courage, stamina, and belief in oneself.

Reflect on the following questions to help determine if you are on the path to right livelihood:

  • How do you spend your day at work? Are there areas in which you just passively mark time?
  • Can you re-motivate yourself and recapture the spark for the passive aspects of your job?
  • If not, can you find tasks that are more meaningful to you?
  • Are you able to create the same values in your workplace that you wish to create in your life?
  • What are some simple first steps you can take at work in order to create a workplace with a more satisfying mindset?

Q: You advocate the use of meditation to improve productivity. How is meditation useful in the workplace?
A: In business, the ability to focus our energy gives us the creative edge we need to make the best decisions. The skillful art of meditation helps you look at situations in fresh ways. It encourages you to access your intuitive, compassionate side, to look at things with patience and wisdom. Meditation is also a healthy way to reduce stress, and one’s personal health is essential to working intelligently and productively. It’s amazing how much benefit you can gain from spending just a short time each day in mindful reflection.

Q: Is corporate America ready to accept a Buddhist approach to running a business?
A: I think American business is currently experiencing a great deal of stress and turmoil and that it is definitely ready for these principles. In fact, there are many companies who are already doing it right: Johnson & Johnson, the Ritz Carlton Hotel Company, Procter & Gamble, and Jeffrey Swartz at Timberland, to name a few. People have seen that manipulation, dishonesty, and fear-based management aren’t successful in the long term.

For more information about Buddha: 9 to 5, visit www.nancyspears.com

About the Author(s)

Shari Lifland is Editorial Communications Manager for American Management Association.  She is editor of the eNewsletters "Moving Ahead," "Management Update," and "Administrative Excellence," and manages content for the Members-only section of AMA's Website.