Friday, April 15, 2011

Should Prayer be Part of a Business Plan?

I have been asked on occasion, before undertaking a new business initiative, if I have obtained the blessing of a Rabbi.  Here in the secular, material post-modern western world, this is not question to which most people can relate, especially in Manhattan, where voodoo has more credibility than G-d.  This is not a sermon, by the way, just some thoughts about whether or not prayer should be a component of a business plan, along with advertising, marketing, networking, etc.

We are religious in the observance of the secular commandments that are essential to our success in business.  We go to networking events.  We use Facebook and Twitter to help make our websites socially relevant.   I’m 57 years old, and suddenly I find myself “tweeting” to an audience, even writing a blog.  We must pay homage to the secular god of our day and age, Google, in order that we may land on the sacred first page of web searches for our services.  Does it not also make sense to ask the true G-d of the universe to help us comprehend the mystery of Google’s algorithms, and help us achieve our business goals?  It doesn’t if we don’t believe in Him.  It doesn’t if we believe that after creating the world, He deserted his post.  It does, if we believe that He is within each of us, guiding the destiny of the world and of all living things.

In order to seek out the blessing of a Rabbi or spiritual leader of another faith, you have to first believe that obtaining such a blessing would in some way be effectual.  In the Jewish faith, some figures of particularly righteous character are believed to be capable of channeling G-d’s good will upon another.  Years ago, people would stand on line for hours to obtain the blessing of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the famed Lubavitcher Rebbe.  We learn from the Torah that even the blessing of an ordinary man, even a thief and a scoundrel can be beneficial.  

Most people that I know believe in G-d, but their ideas about the subject are very fuzzy.  Since G-d is an abstraction, most people do not relate to Him/Her in a concrete way, except through formal prayer, in synagogue and in church, and other houses of worship.  Most American Jews to not take a proactive role in prayer.  They rely on defense.  They go to synagogue once a year, (if they go at all), on the ominous Day of Atonement, Yom  Kippur, to ask  forgiveness for their transgressions.

The Jewish religion also affords an individual an opportunity to ask for G-d’s blessing, in the form of ritualized prayer, three times a day.  There is an optional prayer that one may insert in each prayer service that relates specifically to livelihood.

I recall a cartoon I once saw in a magazine of a man pleading with G-d to make him a lottery winner.  It showed a large dark cloud in the sky above him.  A zigzag lightning bolt emanated from the cloud along with a booming heavenly response:  “At  least buy a ticket.”

That’s the message of this muse.  If we want G-d to grant us success in business, perhaps we should consider buying the ticket.

Happy holidays to all.

Friday, April 1, 2011

NYC: What Counts Here is the Not the Color of Your Skin but the Quality of Your Work

I recently made the acquaintance of a tutor, who is a native of Trinidad.  He told me that he had relocated to Atlanta some years ago, but found it hard to make a living there.  “The first thing people would ask me,” he said, “is where do you worship?” The answer to that question often determined whether or not he got the job he was seeking.  After struggling for a few years, he moved back to New York.  “Here people don’t care about the color of your skin, or what religion you practice,” he told me.  “They care about the quality of your work.”

The other day, I sought to help one of the tenants of the Executive Office Center at Fresh Meadows, who is Muslim, with a personal referral.  I am a yarmulke (skull cap) wearing orthodox Jew.  He told me of the work he had done for the late Rabbi Wolf of the Great Neck Synagogue, and of other Jewish organizations that had engaged his services.  He said to me, “It’s too bad that everybody can’t come to New York for a lesson in how to live and work with people of all faiths.” 

Mr. Singh, my telecommunications consultant for over twenty-five years is a Sikh.  He wears a turban.   Since arriving in the United States at the age of 17, he has always lived and worked in New York.  He doesn’t advertise and has never advertised because his reputation precedes him.   He also believes that New York offers a level playing field for all races, creeds and colors. “No one is out of place in New York,” he said.  Then, he added, with a laugh, “except possibly the descendents of the original colonists.”  The only time he ever felt threatened by prejudice was just after 9/11.  “People were scared.  They looked at me, and all they saw was my turban,” he said.  “It didn’t last long,” he added, “and it didn’t cost me any work.  People always judged me on the basis of my ability and expertise.” 

I, too, remember my days as the co-owner of First Choice Real Estate, Inc.  First Choice was a microcosm of the borough of Queens, which, with its population of 2.3 million people is the most culturally diverse county in the Untied States.  The agents included such disparate nationalities as Chinese, Koreans, Russians, Irish, Greeks, Indians, Israelis, and spoke a cumulative total of twenty-one different languages.   There was often bickering among the agents, but it was like the bickering of my children. What I remember most about them was not the differences between them, but the family they constituted.