One part of the farm life we love are the many types of labor involved.
Labor day is a big day. Perhaps it should be a greater celebration than it is.
Labor day can give us one of the most important investing and business clues of all.
Labor is defined in the dictionary as “1. a. Physical or mental exertion, especially when difficult or exhausting; work.
How very wrong. Labor is giving…a part of the human existence that we need more than we can imagine.
I learned this the hard way in Ecuador, about seven years ago, when the Ecuadorian economy stopped. The country ran out of gas. All the banks were closed and accounts frozen.
Yet everyone…almost…came to work…even though there was no money and they could not get paid.
Workers like these fisherman who park their boat in front of our Pacific condo kept right on working even though their money and ability to be paid were gone.
This is when the realization hit me. People want to work. We humans need to give. This is half of our natural existence… to give along with the need to take. This is the universal principle give…take…give…take.
Give and take, are each parts of the whole. They go together and when either is lost missing, a great imbalance begins. Labor is the lack of slavery and dependence.
It’s as bad to just receive without giving as it is to work without receiving.
From the moment we learned this, Merri and I changed the focus of our Land of the Sun Foundation which had just been giving to the poor of Ecuador. We shifted the foundation’s goal to creating jobs…to help people learn how to work at what they love…so they can be fulfilled and paid.
Meson de las Flores is owned by our foundation and helps people like Eduardo and Consuelo above have jobs they love.
Here is a small village supported by workers at our hotel.
This is how it is with investing and business…a give and take wholeness.
During the 40 years I have been writing and speaking about global business and investing, I have watched some investors make fortunes while many people lost.
The difference was that the losers just asked, “What’s in this for me?”
The winners though ask “What will this labor provide and how much will it receive for the giving?” instead.
The winners had the profit motive for sure…but through giving. Their successful outlook was full and complete.
The typical losing mentality just looks at the receiving without seeing the whole. The losers forget to ask, “What does this give?”
So next time you look at an investing or business idea, think about the problem it solves first. What labor does the business or capital provide. Then ask about the profit.
Good investment and business opportunities contain both seeds…for giving to the market and for receiving from the giving.
Finally if you focus on opportunities in areas you love, you get a bonus. You become involved in whole ideas that are good for others, profitable and satisfying to you and fun! Then work is not labor but love.
A great poet, Kahil Gibran, stated this thought better than I in his poem (one of my favorites) The Prophet when he wrote about work. Here is that part of the poem with our best wishes for a fulfilling Labor Day.
You work that you may keep pace with the earth and the soul of the earth.
For to be idle is to become a stranger unto the seasons, and to step out of life’s procession, that marches in majesty and proud submission towards the infinite.
When you work you are a flute through whose heart the whispering of the hours turns to music.
Which of you would be a reed, dumb and silent, when all else sings together in unison?
Always you have been told that work is a curse and labour a misfortune.
But I say to you that when you work you fulfill a part of earth’s furthest dream, assigned to you when that dream was born,
And in keeping yourself with labour you are in truth loving life,
And to love life through labour is to be intimate with life’s inmost secret.
But if you in your pain call birth an affliction and the support of the flesh a curse written upon your brow, then I answer that naught but the sweat of your brow shall wash away that which is written.
You have been told also life is darkness, and in your weariness you echo what was said by the weary.
And I say that life is indeed darkness save when there is urge,
And all urge is blind save when there is knowledge,
And all knowledge is vain save when there is work,
And all work is empty save when there is love;
And when you work with love you bind yourself to yourself, and to one another, and to God.
And what is it to work with love?
It is to weave the cloth with threads drawn from your heart, even as if your beloved were to wear that cloth.
It is to build a house with affection, even as if your beloved were to dwell in that house.
It is to sow seeds with tenderness and reap the harvest with joy, even as if your beloved were to eat the fruit.
It is to charge all things you fashion with a breath of your own spirit,
And to know that all the blessed dead are standing about you and watching.
Often have I heard you say, as if speaking in sleep, “he who works in marble, and finds the shape of his own soul in the stone, is a nobler than he who ploughs the soil.
And he who seizes the rainbow to lay it on a cloth in the likeness of man, is more than he who makes the sandals for our feet.”
But I say, not in sleep but in the over-wakefulness of noontide, that the wind speaks not more sweetly to the giant oaks than to the least of all the blades of grass;
And he alone is great who turns the voice of the wind into a song made sweeter by his own loving.
Work is love made visible.
And if you cannot work with love but only with distaste, it is better that you should leave your work and sit at the gate of the temple and take alms of those who work with joy.
For if you bake bread with indifference, you bake a bitter bread that feeds but half man’s hunger.
And if you grudge the crushing of the grapes, your grudge distills a poison in the wine.
And if you sing though as angels, and love not the singing, you muffle man’s ears to the voices of the day and the voices of the night.