Remember that awesome Loverboy song, “Working for the Weekend”? Let me refresh your memory. I’m sure it’ll brighten your day:
Not bad, right? I hope you’re still with me and didn’t run out to get a perm and a headband.
The lyrics are pretty straightforward:
Everybody’s working for the weekend
Everybody wants a little romance
Everybody’s goin’ off the deep end
Everybody needs a second chance.
Thereare other lyrics, sure, but these, I think, encapsulate the song’sprofound vision. It’s pretty simple: We are not here in the presentmoment. We are living in the future, which we hope will be better thanour current, unsatisfying lives. We need “a second chance,” to live a(briefly) satisfying life, because we know that we will return toendless samsara, with hopes of another upcoming weekend respite.
Didyou ever find yourself working for the weekend? I know I used to, allthe time. I was resigned, and there was a lot of “in order to.” I’lldo this, in order to get what I really want, which is that, and thenwhen I get that, I can start working towards what I really, reallywant, which is…
I’ve written about this elsewhere, about my personal journey, but here, I’d like to discuss how Right Livelihood and the Six Paramitas affordyou the opportunity to have a career and life that you love, righthere, in the present moment. Because a lot of us spend close to halfour waking hours at work, and we don’t have those hours to waste.
First of all, what is Right Livelihood? Here’s Thich Nhat Hanh on the subject, from The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching:
“To practice Right Livelihood, you have to find a way to earn yourliving without transgressing your ideals of love and compassion. Theway you support yourself can be an expression of your deepest self, orit can be a source of suffering for you and others.”
And from H. H. The Dalai Lama and Laurens van den Muyzenberg’s The Leader’s Way:
“Theconcept of right livelihood means that one should earn one’s living ina righteous way and that wealth should be gained legally andpeacefully.”
The sutras tell us of some specific things thataren’t Right Livelihood–arms dealing, raising animals for food, beinga butcher, selling alcohol and drugs. One can argue about thesespecific points and their relevance in the modern day, but what’s morerelevant to this conversation is, how does Right Livelihood allow me to stop working for the weekend?
Becausehere’s the thing. None of us has a moment to waste. Not one of us knowswhen we’re going to die. It could be tomorrow, or in ten minutes, or inten years. It’s pretty unlikely that we’ll see it coming, and we surelywon’t have the wherewithal to plan all the contributions we want tomake if we do, in fact, get that call from the doc that we’ve got sixmore months. (For a great meditation on this particular subject, checkout this podcast by Lama Marut.)
So since we’re all gonna die andwe have no idea how long we have to do the things we want to do in ourlives, it’d be nice to have a path that would allow us to be happywhile we work. Presto, here‘sLama Marut on what he calls “The Six Perfectionizers,” traditionally”The Six Perfections” or “The Six Paramitas,” which he says can help usto be happy–because what’s not going to work is the usual.
“The way to happiness, the way to the absence of pain, is to trysomething different… Rather than get another boat or get anotherrelationship or go to Ecuador on some other lonely planet country, trythis for happiness… try the Six Perfections.”
Asthey are generally described, the Six Paramitas are generosity,discipline (also described as virtue, morality, or ethics), patience,endeavor (or effort), meditative concentration, and widsom. Listen tothe podcast for a brief description of each of these:
“Theseare perfectionizers, They’re making you perfect by training yourself tothink about someone other than yourself… which is the secret of yourown happiness. The secret of your own happiness is to stop worryingabout your own happiness all the time and start worrying about thehappiness of someone else.”
Marut points out that all ourpresent happiness comes from happiness we’ve created for others in thepast; it’s the essence of karma.
So how might this look in the workplace? Geshe Michael Roach (in The Diamond Cutter)offers that there are direct correlations in business and in life,based on the karma we have created. When “company finances areunstable,” he says, “be more willing to share your profits with thosewho have helped you produce them, and be very strict about never makinga single penny through any improper action.” And when we’re faced withhigh rents, and difficulty finding real estate to expand our business,he says, “make sure you help others find places to stay when they needthem.”
This might seem like an oversimplification, and toGeshe Michael’s credit, he explains how this works in our minds ingreat detail, in a way that makes it make sense.
But thinkabout generosity for a second, and how you’ve seen it work in your ownlife and business. When someone has done something for you that appearsgenerous on the surface, but you ultimately know is motivated by adesire for reciprocity, does that feel good to you? Compare that, forexample, to someone who’s selfless, who’s helping you because they wantyou to be happy.
The genuine desire to make a difference forothers–your boss, your fellow employees, your customers–is anincredibly powerful way to have your career work for you. Here’s Shantideva on the topic:
“Allthose who are unhappy in the world are so as a result of their desirefor their own happiness. All those who are happy in the world are so asa result of their desire for the happiness of others.”
I’ll be back to take a deeper look at generosity and how it (and the other five Perfections) can help you stop working for the weekend. In the meantime, please let me know where you’ve seen the Six Perfections work for you in your career.