Years before he exploded onto the scene, Walt Disney’s dream was “to make millions of people happy.” Close your eyes for a moment and think about Disney’s vision. I’ll bet that the feeling it engenders within you is exactly the one Disney intended: a happy, childlike joy, with a big smile plastered on your face! Walt Disney made millions of people happy and continues to do so well beyond the years of his life. And Disney is one of the visionaries studied at length in the classic book, Built to Last, by James Collins and Jerry Porras. It is filled with insights that still apply today on how visionaries think and behave. It is one of my favorite books.
While Bikram Choudhury did not sit down and write out his vision statement, or develop a corporate infrastructure in the same fashion as some of the multibillion dollar companies written about in Built to Last, he has put together an organization that through its unconventional way carries out the same behaviors as those companies that are sited as very successful in the book. In fact, ironically, if you close your eyes and think of Bikram’s yoga, you might also conjure the thought “has made millions of people happy” feeling.
Bikram may not label himself as such, but he, too, is a visionary. If the men who wrote Built to Last were to sit down and interview Bikram, he would probably give them quite a set of answers, like that he sells the truth and not cheesecake. That statement alone is one of the fundamental markers for success, one that says: authenticity.
Other loaded questions for Bikram might be “Why are you here?”, and “Why does the company exist?” Bikram might say, “to self-realize” and of course, this would engender a host of conversations and, most likely, opposing views. Instead, Bikram, with his amazing intelligence, makes it simple, and breaks down his core values into “chunks” that we can comprehend: “make your mind your best friend”; “one of the biggest problems in your country is that you underestimate yourself”; “don’t let anything rattle your peace”; “having means nothing unless you know how to use it”; “your ultimate destination is mental peace”; “we are slaves to the bad habits.” I graduated from Teacher Training ten years ago, and I constantly hear these profound yet simple constructs in my head as I practice AND go about my daily life. If you’ve been around Bikram enough, I bet you can hear these, too!
If you look at this as a business model, you might see how Bikram is sharing his core ideology, much like we’ve read about with the success of the Packards of Hewlett Packard, and how they developed and created the “HP way.” Hewlett Packard worked to bring technological sophistication and advancement to society for the greater welfare of all. Their purpose wasn’t unique so much as it was authentic, and practiced deeply and consistently. Similarly, Bikram may have patents on his sequence of 26 poses and two breathing exercises, but these poses were created thousands of years ago. Bikram has done a great service by putting together a relatively simple package intended for everyone – and that means 6.8 billion people. I do believe that Bikram holds a high vision for humanity. Like the Packards and others described in Built to Last, there is no argument that Bikram, too, stays consistent and lives deeply in his purpose.
If you read business books like I do, pick up Built To Last as well as The Starfish and the Spider by Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom; The Art of Learning by Josh Waitman; The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell, I Can’t Accept Not Trying by Michael Jordan, and the Tao of Leadership by John Heider.
We at BYSJ are a part of Bikram’s ideology. Mind you, however, there is no contract. According to Collins and Porras, our willing participation emanates from the same core beliefs. I am so lucky as I get to own, teach, and be a student in a field where I have so much passion (and friends, too!) My job is to take a helicopter view and try to assess the health of our business. BYSJ works hard to stay true to the Bikram product and in so doing, serves a higher good. Like Bikram’s recipe, we strive to be simple and authentic. Even as we expand, that won’t change.
In the last few weeks I’ve noticed a shift in perspective that occurred once we announced to the Universe that a change was in the making for BYSJ. While we’ve known for awhile that our expansion was imminent, it wasn’t until the words were officially voiced and shared that new filters of processing set in. Over the eight years, we’ve invested in our own practice to become more of who we are, then made shifts to support and encourage others on their yoga journey as we became friends and a community. For the last two years or so my mind has been churning on the more technical aspects of how to make this expansion work. We’ve been focused on overcoming obstacles and assessing projections like any good business would do. But now with the kinks out of the way, possibilities prevail in every way, and you can feel that BYSJ, too, is seeking a bigger, fuller expression of itself. And it’s a cycle that will be constantly revisited: you will invest in your practice on a different level, we will become a tighter community and open up to new friends, and BYSJ will expand in even more ways. Just those thoughts make me step back and get out of the way. I’m inspired to keep turning over stones until the path is smooth enough for us to move into our new space.
For those of you just getting to know me, being from Chicago, I grew up with the Bulls and Michael Jordan. My family was, and still is, quite the fan of this Hall of Famer! And did you know that Michael made more game-winning shots in the final minutes of a game more than any other player in history! Amazing, right? Yes, but what about this stat: he also missed more potential game-winning shots than anyone in NBA history!! I’ve pondered these opposing stats for a long while. It’s obvious that Michael was confident enough to take the risk of winning or losing the game many times. And in his books he’ll tell you his game never changed no matter the playing field, no matter if his final shot was good or not. He mastered his movements, he was confident in his choices; he tuned out the crowd by playing his game like he did every day in practice. The authors of Built to Last will tell you that much of Michael’s success was his authenticity to the game. Yes, that’s true. But, he also was driven by creating more opportunities for the advancement of a fuller expression of himself. This became a way of life for Michael and you too, are creating the opportunity for your own personal growth here at BYSJ. That’s exciting to me. It’s not just your yoga practice in the room that is affected by our expansion of BYSJ; it’s the advancement of yourself that’s getting a boost.