Zen and the Artwork of Entrepreneurship


What the hell is “Art of Doing”? If it can’t be explained scientifically, does it really exist?

I wasn’t a motorcycle mechanic. But I once had a job troubleshooting and repairing electronic equipment. I was very much in love with this book by Robert Pirsig called Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Care. So much so that I started applying and practicing his philosophies in my daily work.

After a few years, when my manager asked me to run a three-day training program for defense maintenance personnel, I converted it into a seven-day workshop. I called it “The Art and Science of Troubleshooting Electronic Devices”.

Experienced engineers from the Navy, Air Force and Army came to Chennai and participated. 3 full days were spent exclusively on the “Art of Trouble Shooting”. Thanks to Robert Pirsig and my own practice, I had some case studies to get the discussions going. Soon the participants began to share their own experiences with repairing MIG 21, warships and vehicles. They shared their “crazy” moments, “throw the damn thing in the deep sea” moments and the “zen moments”.

In short, after this program there were requests from all people to repeat it in several basic workshops. The manager of my company was curious. It wasn’t troubleshooting and repairing a logical thought process. What the heck was “Art of Trouble Shooting”.

When he asked me to explain the first three days of the curriculum, I said, “I can’t explain. I can do a workshop for our own people and you can take part in it too. “And he did. Then he asked me to train a few more workshop moderators for the same workshop. It wasn’t easy to replicate or scale the first three days of the workshop. But we tried our best and did it for a couple of years.

5 years later, at the age of 35, I suddenly got itchy learning to dance. A series of coincidences followed and I became a student of Dr. Narthaki Nataraj. (Dr. Narthaki received Padmashri in 2020 for the Bharatanatyam area). I’m still learning.

I also help her with her research. Bharatanatyam has many structures and rules and demands perfection. And classical music, that is the cornerstone of a Bharatantayam performance. The Thalas and the Jathis. The steps and the mudras. The math and the geometry. You can call it the science of dance. But where does this beauty come from? When my guru performs, people in the audience cry. Or see God. How does that happen As a student, I myself experienced new levels of existence that go beyond the cognitive mind. Can i explain

And entrepreneurship? Can there be something called the “art of entrepreneurship”? Aside from advising companies and startups in the early stages, I had my own taste for running startups. 2 of them failed. The third is now 2 years old.

One day I spoke to my investor and said, “Outwardly not much has changed in the last 3 months, but I feel like a sculptor finishing his piece.”

Another day, I listened to a “cloud kitchen” entrepreneur talk excitedly about the volume, scope and mass production of food for just-in-time delivery with SOPs that can be performed by any unskilled person.

I told him about my millennial daughter (6 digits) who uses Swiggy and Zomato at least 3-4 times a week. Then I asked him, “If there are hundreds of affordable choices from Cloud Kitchens on Swiggy and Zomato available to her for any meal, why is she desperate for a cook?”

We can talk endlessly about the art of “cooking food”, “playing sports”, “rescuing hostages” or “running a startup”.

But what the hell is “Art of Doing”? If it can’t be explained scientifically, does it really exist? Or should we go a simple way and say: what can be explained is science and what cannot be explained is art? What exactly is the difference between “art” and “science” in any field?

The “art of doing something” is actually a misnomer.

Art is being. Science does.

The inner state from which you do something is art. What you do and how you do it is science.

The process of immersion in yourself is the art. At the center of you is what Peter Senge calls “presence”. Otto Charmer calls it the “future field” that is waiting to come out through you. It is the body of all creation. From dance and sculpture to breakfast that you make yourself. Anyone can access it. From the machine operator working on a lathe to the fighter pilot in the middle of a dog fight.

If we as entrepreneurs have to create something new that is really valuable for society – not just for our investors – we have to become artists and live in this lap of creation at the core of ourselves.

In the film “Dil De Chuke Hai Sanam”, the heroine’s father gives the hero (Salman Khan) advice: there are singers who sing out of their mouths. (Muh se Gatha hai). There are singers who sing from the gut. (Pet Se Gatha Hai). And there are very few who sing from their hearts (Dil Se Gaatha hai).

Many would-be entrepreneurs roll their tongues well. Few succeed. Because they do a lot of hard work. Stress yourself to the brink of disaster. And try it from scratch seriously and intensely. But very few entrepreneurs can really call themselves artists. By being grounded in their own cute beings, they effortlessly sing their way to fame.

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)