The holiday season is once again upon us, and with it our long awaited, greatly appreciated and well-earned down time. That is, of course, excluding those unlucky ones who are at the height of their race to meet ambitious year-end targets. For them, the holidays seem like an impediment to closing business -- a hurdle that stands between them and their goals, or worst yet, their yearly bonus.
For those who see holidays as a godly weapon against capitalism, I would like to offer the following perspective: we can actually improve our business results if we just listen to what the holidays are trying to tell us. Here are some examples.
1. Jewish New Year (Sept. 24-26)
This date marks the anniversary of the creation of Adam and Eve. It is followed by 10 days of repentance, where people seek forgiveness from God but more importantly from people they had wronged in the passing year. At the end of these 10 days, following Yom Kippur, a new year starts, the slates are wiped clean and new possibilities emerge.
The holiday teaches us that in life in general, and also in business, it is all about relationships and how we treat each other, and that there’s always an opportunity to come clean and start again.
2. Diwali (Oct. 23-27)
There are quite a few new year days in the Hindu calendar worldwide. The celebration of the new year has more to do with community, language and region in Hinduism than with religious affiliation. This shows diversity and unity can live together, and we can and should look beyond our differences and embrace our commonalities -- an important lesson for individuals and groups within companies, as well.
A holiday, however, that is celebrated by all Hindus, Jains and Sikhs at the same time is Diwali -- a festival that signifies the victory of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, good over evil and hope over despair.
It teaches us optimism and resilience, two attributes that are paramount for business.
3. Islamic/Hijri New Year (Oct. 24)
The holiday marks the emigration of the prophet Muhammad from Mecca to Medina. Hijra means in Arabic “to leave, to move, to shun and to quit” and is used not just for physical transfer of residence, but also in the broader sense of leaving a wrong condition to a better one.
The original Arabic tribes were nomads whose only constant was change -- much like today’s business people who are changing roles, responsibilities, methodologies and processes at a fast pace to address our rapidly changing world. In such a world, we should not fear change but embrace it. We should ask ourselves how we can be and do better, challenge our assumptions and bravely move forward.
4. Bodhi day (Dec. 8)
Buddhists also have several new year celebrations around the world. Regardless, one can argue that for the enlightened, every instant within the year holds the promise of a new beginning.
There is one Bodhi day, however, that marks the day Siddhartha Gautama experienced enlightenment and became Buddha. In this process, he found the root of suffering, and the secret to liberating oneself from it, namely letting go of self-interests.
Apart from conveying the importance of camaraderie and collaboration within a company, this message also speaks to the importance of corporations adopting a "do good" mentality, and as such bringing about good karma. As Buddhists would argue, what goes around comes around.
5. Christmas (Dec. 25)
Christians around the world celebrate the birth of Jesus, who they say is the Messiah and son of God. Born in a stable to a carpenter father, Jesus grew from very humble beginnings to carry a message of appreciation and compassion for the poor and the powerless, and a lesson of humility to those who are strong and in power. In his words, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”
Strong, successful companies and business people should remember to act with compassion and humility and to keep themselves in check. Conversely, those who are still small and fragile should remember great things can happen for those who start with very humble beginnings.
6. Kwanzaa (Dec. 26 to Jan. 1)
Kwanzaa is an African-American celebration of cultural heritage and the values of family and community. The seven principles of Kwanzaa are unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith. The message of Kwanzaa is that one should remember where he came from, and be steadfast and united with his peers to achieve greatness.
As we each celebrate our new year and new beginnings, and think about how we can do well, let’s also think about how we can do good. The two can come together -- the holidays teach us how.
What lessons do you get from the holidays? Let us know in the comments section below.