Buddhism & Accounting ~ Helping Other People is Self-Help

Since the start of the New Year, we’ve been using a quick “stand-up” (we mostly sit, we’re accountants) meeting on Thursday mornings to build and enhance our team culture as well as help us re-engage with our work for the week so that we finish the week strong.

The meetings start with a “warm-up”, no… not burpees or mountain climbers… but rather something to hopefully get the room engaged, creative, relaxed and comfortable with each other. In just the past few weeks we’ve watched Ted Talks; picked the juicy parts out of an accounting podcast (seriously); dove into a pool of motivational quotes; got fired up by football hype videos and most recently explored Buddhism – not all of it, but a bit of mindfulness and goodwill towards man.

With the recent passing of Thich Nhat Hahn (pronounced tik nyaht hahn), called Thay (teacher) by his followers, a review of some of his works and teachings lead to a quote of his, where he cautioned:

“Punishing the other person is self-punishment. That is true in every circumstance.”

What could that possibly have to do with accounting and advisory? Quite a bit actually, and really all business. Delivering professional service in general can be quite stressful, and tax-season serves to ratchet up those stressors for both us as accountants and our clients alike. Working extended hours, with tight deadlines and competing demands, when someone asks for a “status update”, for the fifth time, or follows up their email, sent less than a minute ago, with a call to make sure you got it, it can be easy to succumb to that stress and throw out a curt remark about a teammate, a client (no not you of course), or believe it or not, even the boss.

We’re all guilty of it (yes you too), so what can we do differently, and what could this possibly have to do with an accounting and advisory business (get to the point Stephan!). I’ll tell you. By flipping the script, if we recognize that “Punishing the other person is self-punishment.”, the opposite is then Helping other people is self-help., and this ties into one of our core values here, which is “Helps First” – Boom! I did it. I tied to Buddhism to accounting. Try it out for yourself, game-changer, guaranteed. The next time someone frustrates you or gets your Irish up, instead of reacting to cause harm, pause, and see what you could do to help. I guarantee that if you succumb to the frustration (like I’m guilty of the majority of the time) you think it about it all day, how you wish you would have responded differently, you don’t feel great about your reaction, rather the opposite, but, if you can pause just long enough, to allow the cooler head to prevail, and you offer help or a solution, the rest of your day goes differently, you don’t have to look back and feel awful, you get to look forward.

You see what I did there, I roped in our “approach” – Forward Focused… Buddhism and Accounting, joined at the hip!

For the rest of the meeting, we hit on:

  • feedback from clients ~ good and concerning ~
  • team challenges… is everything working? Are they taken care of and able to do their best?
  • we hit on our core values and call out how our teammates have demonstrated them (that’s a little kumbaya, I admit it);
  • and we finish by quickly hitting our to-do lists and weekly priorities – to make sure everyone is able to be successful.

All in, we’re generally 15-20 minutes, and definitely no more than 30. The overall goal is to tie our “why” to our what and how, raise spirts and remove roadblocks. As Thay told Googlers in 2013:

“Do not try to find the solution with your thinking mind. Nonthinking is the secret of success.
And that is why the time when we are not working, that time can be very productive, if we know how to focus on the moment.”

Getting out of our routine and grind, even if just for a few moments, if we can be present, can lead to outsized impacts on our culture and our team (that’s the plan anyway).

More on Thich Nhat Hanh. 1926 – 2022. One of the world’s most influential Zen Masters (and I thought CPA on my business card was cool). He endeavored to spread messages of mindfulness and compassion. The website of his practice center, Plum Village, describes mindfulness, as “the energy of being aware and awake to the present moment.” Sounds worth doing, doesn’t it. Better than looking at facebook, (or investing in it), yikes, plummeting stock alert*, I’m sure Mark Z will be just fine. After being exiled from his home of Vietnam for opposing the war, he went on to found Youth for Social Services, rebuilding bombed villages, establishing medical centers and setting up schools for those affected by the war. Pretty remarkable stuff. Thay referred to his style as “engaged Buddhism”, where Buddhist principles would be applied to political and social reform. Nominated by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1967; (no prize was given that year) MLK had these words to say: “I do not know of anyone more worthy than this gentle monk from Vietnam… His ideas for peace, if applied, would build a monument to ecumenism, to world brotherhood, to humanity.”

Impacting world brotherhood and humanity, those are lofty goals, anyone else want to go back and revisit their New Year’s resolution?

*Please do not confuse these musings with stock picking advice