Business Success Through Jain Thinking
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About this Article: I wrote this article as a preface to a seminar I taught at the Bi-Annual Young Jains of America (YJA) conference held in Los Angeles, CA in July 2000. I spoke about ethics in business in modern Corporate America.

Business Success Through Jain Thinking
Presented by Saurin Shah
July 7, 2000 Los Angeles, CA

I. Abstract

This presentation will discuss the how perseverance, key habits, hard work, integrity, and Jain principles combine to help one succeed in business. The presenter, Saurin Shah, has experienced great success in starting his own business and making his dream into a reality. He has learned that incorporating Jain principles into business and entrepreneurship goes far beyond just ethics, and he hopes that to help inspire and motivate people to not only to strive for their dreams but to also uphold their beliefs.

II. Business Success Through Jain Thinking

We often hear people tell us that if a person wants something baldy enough, that he/she can achieve it. However motivation and ambition are not the only factors that attribute to a person’s success, the path chosen to reach a person’s goals remain vital also. Sometimes people have honorable goals but fail to recognize that an honorable course carries the same importance. Many times people either lack the confidence or enthusiasm to reach for their dreams, or the clarity of thought and mind to realize them effectively and ethically. To put it bluntly, the world is a tough place, and having the ability to follow one’s principles can be elusive. In spite of this anyone can turn their dreams into a reality and keep their Jain principles alive and very much a part of their actions. I will explain my views on how a person can accomplish this by discussing my background and experiences, and then relating them to the current and future environments of business.

Every since I discovered the world of music, I knew that I wanted to become an important part of it. However making this happen did not come easily, for it required a lot of hard work, dedication, and sacrifice. The dedication and passion came easily, because music spoke to me on an intimate level like nothing else could. In 1992 I discovered the world of tracking. Possibly the first music community on the Internet, the tracking scene exists as a place where a passion for music (from its production to listening to it) combined to form a devoted group of people who use computers to compose music. One day I had just completed a new song, of which I was extremely proud, and I submitted it to a music site for their acceptance. Unfortunately other people did not agree that my music was great, and they quickly removed the song and me from their site—after all they accepted only talented artists. I did not realize it at the time, but this moment proved to become a turning point in my life. From their rejection I drew energy and the conviction to help other artists like myself—I wanted to create a haven where new, unproven artists could go to learn, grow, and enjoy the gift of music. So in 1993, I founded the CyberLegion Artist's Network, a large group of computer artists and tracker musicians who used Bulletin Board Systems as medium for distribution and marketing. Then in 1995, I continued my work in the tracking community by founding Nebula Music Works, a tracker group that released the First Contact CD (1996) and performed at the Philadelphia Music Conference in 1997. Soon thereafter I successfully evolved Trax In Space (TiS) from Nebula Music Works and launched the site in 1996. Through my expertise and in-depth experience in the tracking scene, I quickly grew the site, releasing Interstellar Harmony: Volume One in 1999, and Interstellar Harmony: Volume II in 2000, and finally incorporating the company in 1999. Today TiS is an online music community dedicated to promoting, educating, and inspiring musicians in the digital music scene. It serves as both a community for promoting artists and a center for distributing artists’ music. The TiS site offers thousands of songs for visitors, available to them for free downloading. TiS brings the digital music community together through a variety of events and features: chat rooms and forums, themed Compos (music competitions), reviews, e-commerce, and the digital distribution of music. An important part of Trax In Space is its unique subculture derived from the Tracking scene (possibly the Net’s first music community). Years after its conception, TiS is now the largest, most visited tracking site on the Web, bringing its distinctive artist-first attitude to hundreds of thousands of visitors a month. Trax In Space represents the fusion of music, people, and culture of the tracking music scene and the realization of my vision.

With the success of the site and my becoming a key figure in the tracking world came many responsibilities to the tracking scene, the company, and myself. Often what was best for one group was not the best for another, and choosing the right path had its difficulties. The temptation to select the quickest and easiest route sometimes came close to conquering the need to maintain my beliefs and integrity. Greed is a nasty creature, and the call of this Siren pleases the ear, but as a Jain I am equipped with the knowledge and weapons to fight this monster. Of course the ability to abuse my status and power could just have easily have dictated my actions. Achieving success does not come without its evils, and I have experienced many days where the pressure of keeping my principles seemed too great. Fortunately I have always fervently espoused a people-first attitude, in which I strongly convey that ethics should remain a key factor behind all decisions. I want to help people. As a Jain my life demands this, as a human I crave this. I illustrate my thoughts by being an ethical leader, using myself as a row model for others in the tracking scene and the employees in my company. I believe that motivating others to absorb ethics into their lifestyle would help the company grow on multiple levels and not just the pocketbook. From writing papers discussing the discrimination of women in the tracking scene to speaking about ethics and people to others, I have avidly tried to show that Jainism should be very much a part of business. To me Jainism depicts more than a mere set of thoughts and rules, it presents an ancient, yet new, way of thinking that can lead to personal, corporate, and social success. Now that you know more about who I am, my business, and the role of Jainism in my life, let me explain how anyone can apply the concept on Jainism and success to his/her life.

Today the business world thrives as a combination of vice, ambition, passion, and of course, money. Not all of it is bad. In my opinion, most businesses attempt to encourage an ethical and fair practice. However I am more concerned about that smaller part that entices people with its promise of power, fame, money, and success. All of us have heard the term “ethics,” but how many of us actually understand it? Moreover how many of us actively make it a part of our decision making? Ethics is a set of principles of right conduct. It transcends the ideas of law and religion because it remains unique for each person. I cannot decide whether a course or action is ethical for you, only you can decide for yourself the ethics of a situation. Furthermore ethical dilemmas present themselves when making a decision is not easy and no clear choice exists. For instance, your business is losing money and might soon go under. You can save money by dumping your waste in a local landfill instead of properly (and expensively) disposing of it. Trashing the waste in the local landfill is legal, but you know that it can have an astounding environmental impact. What do you do? This example shows just of one of the many ethical dilemmas each one of us will face during our lifetimes, whether it surfaces on a social, personal, or business level. In the last illustration, your goal is to stay profitable but also be conscious of the environment—you have no clear answer. Thankfully I think that our world is changing for the better. Currently the paradigm for business and thought moves toward one that includes people and the environment on an [almost] equal plane as money. We still remain far from this, but every day brings us a little bit closer to this. One day ethical decisions will have an immensely critical role in business, because the careful consideration for factors (such as the environment in the last example) will be valued by people and rewarded in business. For instance today many people will not purchase items made in “sweat shops” even if it’s cheaper and better. This clearly shows that ethical decisions can have its monetary compensation in addition to the fact that people are being treated as humans and not as a means to a goal. So we are faced with ethical situations in business everyday, how does Jainism play a part in helping you become successful?

Jainism presents a unique advantage to us, because the fundamentals of Jainism teach how responsibility of a person’s actions is one of the keys to a successful life. All of us want to make the right decisions, but sometimes the sweet allure of earthly gains can be blinding. When an ethical situation offers itself, a person needs to carefully consider all the options. Can a person make money by making what he/she feel is the right decision? The truth is that all ethical decisions will not result in monetary success. Sometimes the need to reach a goal outweighs anything else, but at what cost? The responsibility remains ours to shift the world’s thinking to include the right decisions. However, Jains cannot add to the change until they incorporate ethics into their goals. If people measure goals only by money, then the path to reach it can often supersede the need to think of what is not only Jain but also what is ethical. On the other hand, if objectives consisted of money and Jain principles, then the decision making process will take both characteristics into account. If you are not the decision maker, you need to make the decision makers aware of the ethical implications of a situation, because it is up to you to make a difference. Remember that a vision starts with one person’s dream, and whether the dream will develop into reality depends on that person. At the very least, Jain principles need to be a part of a person’s mindset and work, no matter how limited the scope or his/her effect. Trax In Space did not grow because I began with the largest tracker site on the Web, it matured after a series of small decisions and small accomplishments, all of which centered on my passion, ethics and Jainism. It can happen, but you must believe it can happen.

In the face of wealth, pride, rank, and success, Jainism can often take a backseat in business. A new world slowly emerges, because people are becoming more aware of the world around them and the profound impacts their decisions have in business, society, the world, and themselves. Reaching a goal involves more than just passion, it needs clarity of mind, confidence in one’s self and abilities, rationale of thought, and integrity. Our Jain background is an advantage that must we must maximize. Only after people realize that business success can incorporate ethical decisions will the strength of Jainism become evident. The question is not whether it can be done, because it can be; rather the question is, will you.

(C) Saurin Shah