I arrived into Newark Airport from Tel Aviv at 4:45am ET, having been awake for 30 hours straight. U.S. Customs was rather empty so early in the morning. I approached the agent, handed him my passport, and waited for the inevitable inquisition:
“Were you in Israel for business or pleasure?” Never has the question struck me so hard as when arriving home from Israel, each of the three times I’ve been so blessed to travel there.
It is asked as an “or,” as though business and pleasure are mutually exclusive. It’s an outdated and unfitting question especially in the United States where national ethos dictates that we be fulfilled by our careers, follow our dreams, and strive for personal achievement in all that we do.
Being self-employed, this is particularly true. I have complete freedom over the course of my career, with money, skills and time being my only limitations. When business and pleasure are two distinct entities for an independent, you’re doing it wrong. I’ve fallen into this trap time and time again.
Despite the promise that our expansive country offers to immigrants from across the globe, there remains an undercurrent of professional dissatisfaction among many Americans. Work is associated with dread, business with selfishness and exploitation and dehumanization of even its most talented employees. We have constructed a society (or have allowed it to deconstruct as the case may be) in which it has become increasingly difficult to break out of this mold, where “work-life balance” is a business initiative designed to further inculcate the 150-year-old industrial construct of work-leisure dichotomy while pretending to make us feel good. The ideals of few have become the handcuffs of many.
I am determined to make business my pleasure and pleasure my business. For the last three years I have been consumed with achieving success, status and financial gain, foolishly equating ambition with breadth of achievement rather than depth of happiness. In the last couple months, all of that has changed. I’m no longer trying to climb the ladder that persisted in my mind even after leaving the corporate world. Instead I’m taking on a much more challenging pursuit of pleasure infused in all that I do.
Pleasure in business doesn’t require the same amount of activity as success in business does. This can be daunting at first; we’ve been trained to believe that momentum and velocity are signs of progress. But there’s progress in rest, too. In deep contemplation and 360-degree delight. It often means doing less, more slowly, for a longer period of time. It takes dedication and concentration and resilience, similar qualities of character applied in whole new ways. I’m enjoying the process of learning how to be still and still be me. After all, it’s the journey, not the destination, right? The only path in life I feel compelled to follow is one of wholeness, goodness and peace.