Career success in Zen. Why is your career important and essential? Why is it necessary to be successful and win in your career everyday? How can your career aid you in opening up higher levels of your mind? Your career is a part of your Enlightenment practice. It's probably the largest part of your life. How do you know if you are in the right career? What is the best way to approach it, to be successful and happy? What are the pitfalls? What are the problems to look for? How can you make more money? What do you do if you fall off the corporate ladder?
What is it to succeed at something? To succeed is to do what it is you want to do. It's pretty simple. The definition of success that each of us carries around inside of our mind is strictly personal. For one person success is making twenty thousand dollars a year; for another one that's failure. In some third world countries people make a dollar or two a day, and if they were to make twenty thousand dollars a year, that would be success beyond their imagination. Others feel that making under five hundred thousand a year is a terrible year.
For some people career success is not just equated with how much money they are making, but it also has to do with a sense of personal fulfillment. Some people gain that personal fulfillment by making money; others just enjoy what they do. Some people are in service related jobs where they are helping others. They've chosen to make less money, because they get more of a kick out of helping somebody else than making by money. Some people enjoy using their minds in specific ways. They go into computer programming, sciences. They like discovery. Some people enjoy artistic careers – playing music, painting. Some enjoy using their bodies and find a sense of accomplishment and winning that comes because they are good at what they do, such as, professional athletes, basketball players, football players, hockey players, or runners. But in order to succeed and win at anything, you have to first know what it is you want to do.
Career success begins with self-knowledge of what is it that you want to do. What are your goals? Naturally, your goals will change as you change, so it's essential to have some idea of what it is you want. Now naturally, there are the things you want and there are things that others want for you. There are also others who would like you not to succeed.
Career success is a battle. I think that's a good way to look at it. It's a battle, it’s a struggle, and it can be victorious, or it can end in defeat, depending upon how you conduct yourself. The first step in career success is to sit down with yourself and honestly evaluate what it is you would like to do now, not five years ago, not last month, but now. What career would you like to pursue? By practicing zazen meditation you will be able to get in touch with your inner feelings, most of which we lose along the way as we grow up. We live in a world in which we are conditioned to have certain value systems. The commercials and the TV shows show us who is successful. A certain idea of success and happiness is projected. But these are just TV shows and commercials; this is not necessarily real life.
People who are successful in their career are entrepreneurs. That doesn't necessarily mean you work for someone else, it means you work for your self, even if you are employed by someone else. You have to have a sense of independence. You are a free agent. You are making your own decisions and cutting your own way in life. You are not following the herd. If you follow the herd you'll go where the herd goes, and the herd doesn't achieve significant career success, either in economical terms or in terms of personal fulfillment.
You might think that the topic of career success is kind of strange for a teacher of Zen to be discussing. Not at all. A lot of people have some very strange ideas about Zen, but it's best if you have no ideas at all, because then you will learn it easily from the beginning. Some people think that Zen involves a withdrawal from the world, and not dealing with life in the world. There are monasteries in Japan where there are Zen teachers, Zen students, and Zen Masters who don't really traffic with the world that much. But they all have careers. In the monastery they work very hard at their careers, and they are interested in career success. Success and winning are a large part of Zen. Winning in Zen doesn't necessarily mean beating someone else. It means being perfectly you, being your natural self. That's winning, and it is a part of every one of us. When you match the work to your self and you become one with it, that's winning from the Zen point of view; that's the goal.
In Zen, the consideration is that your career is very important to your overall wellness. Zen doesn't exactly have a point, the way that most things have a point. It has a definite point; it has lots of them, and each one occurs at every moment. But in Zen, we are not really trying to get anywhere or do anything. We are getting somewhere and we are doing things, but we are not much concerned about where we are going to be tomorrow, because we know we'll get there when we do. In Zen we don't waste all that energy trying to get some place and be someone. We put all our energy into being where we are now, and being who we are now. If you do that, then most certainly you'll get some place and when you get there you'll get there completely. You'll definitely be someone, and you'll be there completely.
In other words, most people divide their lives and their energy into several segments, and they become ineffective in all of them. People are working on the job today, but they are trying to get some place tomorrow. They are so busy thinking about tomorrow that they missed today. Because we always think that it will better tomorrow, and it might be, but you'll find out tomorrow. By thinking about tomorrow today, you will not enjoy what today could be. If you take all the energy and attention in your mind and place it on today, and forget about tomorrow and also forget about yesterday, then today will be the best time of your life. If you do that today, with increasing power through practice and through zazen meditation, then you will have a very powerful life and a very powerful and successful career. You will win. If you don't win in a certain situation you will learn from it, regroup and go back and win again. To win you must be one with something.
There is a metaphysical thought for you here. As long as you are separate, it's very hard to control something. When you become one with something, or part of it, you win; there is a power in that. If you feel that you are separate from your job, and your career, then you don't do well with it. If it's your life, and you can't separate your career from you, then there is a power to your career and a power to your life.
In Zen the concern for career is tremendous, because you probably spend more time in your career than you probably spend on any other single activity. If you are like most people, then chances are you spend forty or so hours a week working, let alone the time it takes to prepare for work each day, the commute to and from the office, and time spent thinking about your career and managing it. Naturally, if your career is not properly managed, if the energy in your career is not tight and successful, if you are not winning, that will affect all the energy in other parts of your life. All your endeavors will be affected. Because if you come home from your work wasted and beat out, then, what are you going to do with anything else in your life? If by the end of the week it is the same thing, then, what is your weekend going to be like?
Career is of great importance. To lose energy and power in your career, which is the opposite of career success, will affect all of your life in a detrimental way. On the other hand, if you are successful in you career, then it will bring a positive energy into everything else that you do. If your career is off base, you are going to be very unhappy. If you career is on top, and even if there are other problems in your life, there will be so much residual energy that it will carry you through and give you clarity and strength to work on those other areas of your life.
Everything starts with zazen, the practice of meditation. Because meditation is a practice in which you gain the clarity of mind, one pointedness of thought, and the personal power necessary to first see and understand what it is you should be doing with your life, and then to go and do it and make it happen.
You should also pick career that you can win in. It is ridiculous to pick a career like being a Professional Football Player if you only weigh ninety-five pounds. It's ridiculous to decide to be an opera singer if you can't sing. I'm not going to become an opera singer; that doesn't mean I don't enjoy singing, and annoying others with my singing. But I am not going to try to make my living singing. My skill is the use of the mind, and instructing others how to become successful, and just how to have fun with their lives. That's the skill I use and that's how I pay the bills, so I can do the things that I want to do, which in my case is to go out and teach others how to be enlightened. That's my hobby or my recreation.
My career is divided into two parts: one is teaching people how to win. I'm like a coach and if you want to win and be successful in life, I know quite a bit about that. Because I have learned how to use mind. I am mind; I'm one with it. I know how to develop will power, how to be clear, how to fight, how to succeed, how to overcome opposition, and how to be strategic. But I have a second interest and that's Enlightenment. Enlightenment is something that not too many people are interested in; that's my hobby.
My hobby is to teach people to be enlightened, and to do that I travel all over the world. That's very expensive, so I pay the bills by teaching people how to win. People who go through my program and my seminars, particularly if they taken them on a regular basis, usually find that their careers improve dramatically.
You are in a similar situation. You have to pay your own bills, pay the rent, and all that stuff. This is the modern world and we all have our things that we have to do. Everybody likes to go on a vacation once in a while. There are things that you want to do in life, and only you know what they are. It costs a certain amount of money, and you should look for a career that is going to pay for what you want within your range of possibilities. This often means retraining, going to school. Now I'm a bug on the computer world, and I think that anybody with any brains in this world is. We are in the biggest socio-technical revolution that has ever occurred. The computer is changing modern life. Zen mind, computer mind.
I have encouraged many people who aren't quite sure of what to do with their careers to explore the world of computer science. Because for people who enjoy their minds, who are usually the kind of people who are drawn to this practice, it's a wonderful field. It is estimated that the computer business will be the largest business of our country. There is a terrible shortage of Computer Programmers right now, and more of a shortage is predicted for the future. Programming is a field which develops the mind tremendously: it’s very much like Zen practice. When people don't have anything special that they want to do, I suggest that they go to one of the six-month computer schools, or get a traditional degree in the subject, or even get a Master's or a Doctorate, and enter into the world of computing. It's very Zen, and you can make a great deal of money very quickly, working in a very clean environment with happy machines.
This is the particular career that I have isolated from all others, which I think does the most to build up a person's mind. That doesn't mean that a person should go into computer programming. People should do what they are inspired to do. I'm not a computer programmer. I do some programming, but that's not my main occupation. My major talent is Enlightenment and aiding others in becoming successful. I enjoy it as a hobby. If you are a football player and that's what you want to do, that's what you should do, or a doctor, or an illustrator, graphic designer, artist, writer. It doesn't much matter. What matters is that you find what works for you.
In order to know what works for you, it is necessary to do some introspection. By practicing zazen on a daily basis, you will gain that sensitivity and the insights into yourself to know. Then, you have to be willing to change. You may be 40 and you may need to go to school for a year or two and retrain to do something different, because you're in the wrong career. Perhaps it was the right career at one time, but it is not anymore. If it isn't fulfilling you. If you are not happy in your work, your whole life is miserable. If you are not happy, then why do it? Why not take the time to go to school? Even if you go nights. You might think, "Oh God, I'm so tired after work how can I go to night school?" Listen, if you like what you are studying it will give you not only the energy to do it, but it will make your whole life exciting.
I was a university professor at one time, so you might say I'm very big on education. I think that there is nothing more exciting than going to school, or going back to school at any age. But naturally, if you are looking for a hot career, don't get a liberal arts degree. If you just enjoy liberal arts, then do it. Research it, think about what you would like to do; meditate on it. The answer will come if you practice zazen on a daily basis, and ask yourself if your career is working for you. Sometimes you are in the right career, but the wrong job. You are working for the wrong firm. I think it is a great idea to change jobs frequently. I don't care what employers think. Who cares? They are only concerned for themselves, and with getting from you what they can. Remember, if they are paying you, how great can it be?
I think it is very healthy to change jobs once a year or every two years. Why not? How many years are you around? Unless your job is just doing it for you. But newness helps a lot; a new environment helps a lot; new co-workers help a lot. But people are afraid of change, which is silly. That's all there is. You need to develop confidence in yourself to know that you can do it. Now, obviously, go get the new job before you leave the old job. A certain amount of sensibility can accompany your adventure. Only you can decide these things. But I can definitely recommend that it is a good idea to think about your career. Ask yourself, "Are you doing what you want to be doing? Is this fulfilling you?" But don't get an impractical idea, and leave a great job to go pursue an impractical idea that is going to end in failure. It has to be something that you can do, that you can succeed in, and that you can get training for.
Don't be afraid to totally change your life around. And for a while it may mean living in a less expensive house and driving a less expensive car. But who cares about the house and the car, and the clothes, if you are unhappy with it? If you are unhappy with your life, it is better to live simply for a while and do something that you like. Gradually your own personal power will cause you to make more money and be successful. In other words, you don't make much money if you do what you don't like in most cases, because when you like what you do, power becomes active in your career, and then you succeed. But when you don't like it, and it is painful to go into work, if you dread it, you are in the wrong job. Take the time to retrain, go back to school, or do whatever is necessary.
From the Zen point of view, career is mindfulness. In Zen there are two principle practices: zazen which is daily meditation, which we practice several times a day to clarify and strengthen the mind and make it fun, intuitive, happy and profound. Then, there is the practice of mindfulness. Mindfulness means keeping the mind on what you are doing, being absorbed in it fully. It is another type of meditation. During the day, when you are at work, you should keep your mind on the job, and not think about a different million things. When you are not at work, you shouldn't be thinking about work. You should be where you are now. That's how one’s life becomes successful and powerful.
If you are out there and you are playing sports and you are a professional athlete, you have to learn to train your mind to be where you are now. Keep your eye on the ball. If you practice martial arts you have to become one with the movements. If you are typing you should be one with the word-processor. If you are teaching you should be one with the subject. If you are lifting boxes, you should become one with the box. This is how you become successful in a career or in anything. To do this requires mental discipline and strength, which you gain from the daily zazen that you practice and then by employing the methods of mindfulness. This is something that you can do all day long, and the longer you do it the stronger you get and the better you get at it, and the more successful you'll be.
There is a combination of introspection, in which we take out our compass and we figure out which way we want to go: that's zazen. We do that every day to keep ourselves moving in the right direction. Then when you practice mindfulness all day long, you have more to practice with. After we have refreshed ourselves and refreshed our mind, the next step is the journey. Each one of us takes a journey each day, and our journey takes us through many lands, many states of mind. The journey is within.
Work is not something that is external. It is internal. Work seems to be external – you are in a place, you are working, you are in the field, you are running, you are hitting the ball – but not really, work is within the mind. In other words, success in work is completely dependent on the state of mind that you are in. If you are in a broad, deep, sensitive and strong state of mind, then you will succeed in whatever you do. If you are not, then you won't. The real Zen of career success is entering into a state of mind, or series of states of mind, that will create success. There is a state of mind in which you make money, and if you are in that state of mind you will make money hand over fist. There is a state of mind in which you are sexy, and if you get in that state of mind, everyone will want to go to bed with you. There is a state of mind in which you win and no one can stand against you. These are some of the states of mind that exist: there are Ten Thousand States of Mind, and in Zen we study them all.
You can learn how to get into these states of mind and be whoever it is you like to be, and gain whatever it is you would like to gain. Hopefully, someday, you will learn that there is more to life than loss and gain, and that's the study of Enlightenment. But before you are really ready for the study of Enlightenment, you have to learn about loss and gain. I really think you have to be a winner before you learn about Enlightenment. Losers don't do well, because losers just pretend that they don't want things: sour grapes. But to really pursue the study of Enlightenment, you must first have a happy and satisfying life. You have to feel good about your self and be in command. Then, once you are successful, you can say, "I have seen what success has to offer, and I have seen the happiness and the limitations that it brings. And I have also experienced failures on the way to success. Now I'd like to go a step further, "What's next, Zen Master Rama?" you might ask, and I'll say, "The study of Enlightenment, in which my friend, there are worlds of awareness, magic, beauty, perfection, ecstasy, and peace of mind beyond anything that you can image." That's my hobby – teaching Enlightenment. My job is to teach you first how to be a winner and how to be successful.
There are specific states of mind that you can enter into which will make you wealthy, powerful and successful. Naturally, you might wonder how you enter into those states of mind. Well, how do you get good at anything? How do you become accomplished? You have to work out; you have to learn to work your mind out. If you want to learn to be a tennis player, you don't only play with people who are at your level, but you work out with a tennis pro.
In other words, you are only going to get out of your life and career whatever you put into it. If you are just satisfied to go to your job and just work at it, that's great. But the person who takes additional courses is going to get more out of it, and is going to be more successful. But while you can go get additional courses in your subject, no one really teaches you how to use your mind, except the Zen Masters, because their specialty is mind and intellect – how to use and focus your mind, how to gain energy and apply it in both visible and invisible ways, and how to be successful both in the material world and in the spiritual worlds of Enlightenment. The principles are also the same; it works in everything.
A person who is interested in career success should take some of his time and energy and devote them to the study of Zen or something similar. There are a million and one things to do. Develop your body so it is strong; have happy past times; have good friends who raise your energy level and don't drop it; stimulate your mind with hobbies, interests; travel, and spend a certain amount of time alone to practice zazen. These things are parts of the balanced program which will make a person successful. How successful? It depends on how much the person applies the methods, and on their own innate skills and abilities.
Career success is mostly dependent on how well you can use that mind of yours. By learning to use your mind, by engaging in the practice, you are going to be successful. It’s like fighting. Let's say the average guy is a good fighter; he can beat you up. But you go to study Karate for two years, and you might not even have a black belt, you can definitely put that guy down with one kick. Because while he may be good at it, if you study with a master of the art of self-defense, what you will learn in a year from the master who knows millions of times more than the bully, will enable you to beat a bully in no time, because you are learning from an artist who spent his whole life studying that subject. You may not go that far yourself; that's not your interest. You just want to learn enough to beat up the local bully.
Career success has to do with finding out what it is you want to do and learning how to do it. But it really involves the application of mental power. That's what makes a winner. If we are going to cut through all the junk here, I'm going to tell you the truth here. You have to learn to use that mind of yours in ways that other people can't and that will make you successful where they aren't. You need to learn to use that mind of yours in ways that you can't, and that way you will be successful where you aren't. Learn to use your mind – that doesn't mean to think a little more or to read a few books, or to take a couple of courses down at the local college. That's amateur level from the Zen point of view. The mind is like a diamond and it can cut through anything. The mind is not just the physical brain. There are thousands of states of mind, of which most people are completely ignorant. Study Zen and learn some of them. Work your mind out, work it hard, and you will have the competitive edge to win in your career, in sports, in hobbies, in love, in Enlightenment, in whatever it is you choose. But everything that you do is dependent on the power of your mind. Learn to use it and you'll have a great life.
I wish you well on your journey toward success; you'll find it. Develop that mind of yours, work it out and you'll have a great time doing it. It is fun just to do it. It is fun to be alive. Good luck!