Alan Watts was perhaps one of the most influential thinkers who has had a profound effect upon business today. His philosophies gave us a platform for understanding ourselves better and for changing the way that we view the world around us, and it gave anyone exposed to his teachings greater insights into how to look at things to gain an optimal perspective when approaching business. It takes innovation and the ability to see the world in new ways in order to use creativity to interact in the business world and bring about change. There are hundreds of ways that Watts helped to influence business today. If you're not familiar with his contributions, it's worth your time to join us as we look at the history and significant contributions that Alan Watts has made to our education system and the way that modern business principles are taught and put into action.
Who was Alan Watts?
Mr. Watts entered the United States in 1938, from Britain, where he settled in Millbrook, New York and served as a priest in the Episcopal order. He became a prolific writer, philosopher and teacher who criticized society and pointed out the flawed thinking that leads to failures. He taught Buddhism and Eastern philosophy and also spoke through his radio show "Way Beyond the West" in the 1950s and '60s. He started a counter culture movement which would change the ways people train their minds to function. His focus was upon pointing out the ways in which we engage in thoughts and actions that waste our precious time and his teachings actually inspired to examine their thought processes to better understand themselves and the ways that the mind works. Human nature would have us live in the moment and go for situations which offer immediate gratification. Watts' teachings challenge people to move beyond this mode of thinking and look to the future and weigh the benefits of delaying instant gratification to obtain greater rewards in the future. When it comes to business, clarity of thought and forward planning is the best course of action in most cases.
A modern philosopher
In adding to the fascinating life of Alan Watts and the contributions that he made to modern thought, he lived on this earth for 58 years. During that time, he want from being an Episcopalian priest to an ex-priest, to a mystic, a philosopher of the modern age and a critic of society. He left behind a legacy that still endures and applies for the betterment of the world that we occupy. Watts has almost 400 recorded lectures which have been preserved and reproduced along with more than 25 published books and multiple essays, all of which are still in very high demand among those who follow after his philosophy.
He wrote a book that questioned societal priorities
How many of us known successful CEOs who habitually spend their time watching television or engaging in other pleasure seeking activities regularly? The most successful people in business are those who are passionate about prioritizing the use of their time and take care of business first, and reserve pleasure and leisure activities, keeping them at a minimum. Alan Watts book "The Wisdom of Insecurity: A Message for an Age of Anxiety" examines the priorities of society and points out how messed up they truly were at the time of writing. His philosophy suggests rather that we must learn to live in the moment.
Being true to the self regardless of the opinions of others
Watts' philosophy posed that the good things in life are the people and things that we surround ourselves with that make us happy. One of the principles that he stressed was that sometimes when we're doing the things we desire to do (be it in business or our personal lives), our choices may cause us to lose friends, but he countered this with the notion that they may not have been friends worth having anyway, according to author Bryan Garrett Farb, in his analysis of Watts. This has tremendous applications in the business world because free thinking and relentlessly pursuing individual goals and passions is what has led to some of the greatest innovations of our age. Without this type of tenacity that breaks away from the preset norms established by those in our society and inner circles, there are many worthwhile businesses, inventions and organizations that would not be in existence today.
Watt's take on world view
Alan Watts delivered a lecture that he called "The Myopic View of the World." In it he pointed out that people have a sort of myopia that only allows them to see a tiny part of the reality of the world that we live in. He suggested that we could mentally expand our vision to see the wonders of the world and become participants in what is available in the bigger picture. The influence that this has had on the business world has been tremendous for those who embrace this philosophy and look and work outside of the box to find new solutions to both old and new problems. It's one of the most basic principles for innovation and creativity as well as for creating new business strategies and developing new technologies. Before we can really start to question the status quo we need to be aware that there is so much more out there that we just haven't seen yet and through the exploration of our environments and our current mode of operations into new horizons, then we can bring about new and more useful methods and tangible products to improve our current systems and existence in the business world.
We're all interconnected
A famous quote made by Alan Watts is "I see every one of you as the primordial energy of the universe coming on at me in this particular way. I know I'm that, too. But we've learned to define ourselves as separate from it." This suggests that we realize that we're all individuals and we define ourselves, and some form the belief that they are all powerful and capable of far more than is humanly possible. In business, we've all had our share of run ins with these type of co-workers who made the work environment unpleasant at times, and it can even lead to unnecessary errors when this type of person is in a leadership position. However, Watts goes on in the same vein to clarify that being interconnected is where we gain our greatest power. He stated that "You are a function of what the whole universe is doing in the same way that a wave is a function of what the whole ocean is doing.”We are all interconnected and not even time and space completely sever our connections with one another. Here, we see the infusion of eastern philosophy and one of the greatest influences his words have had on the business world refer to the way that we have learned to draw on our mutual resources, and the work that has been done by others. One great invention and advance in technology is like a stepping stone that leads us to what the world will be like in the future, or even in our immediate present in some cases. It's when we overcome the illusions that have been holding us back that we realize there is an interconnection among all people, the natural world and our environments that allows us to move forward and advance and even evolve.
Overcoming the illusions that hold us back
Intellectual, spiritual and mental evolution has led us to a society, in some sectors at least, that realize that it's the awareness of the self, the world around them and the possibilities which exist when one can see these things with a more broad and inclusive world view. Watts addressed the way that humans have evolved that leads to the age of new thinking, grasping new concepts and ideas for further exploration, research, development, the creation of new platforms and every modern innovation that has been invented. His wisdom preceded the explosion of technology and business innovations as it served as a though provoking dialogue which set the stage for a new thinking that would usher in a new and modern age. It's when we finally realize that our old outworn modes of thinking and the actions that we take based on those thoughts could be vastly improved upon. He stated it perfectly when Alan Watts said, "Well, it is claimed, you see, that some human beings have broken through to that vision. That they slipped, somehow or other, into states of consciousness where they see the apparent disintegration and disorganization of everyday life as the functioning of a totality which, at its level, is completely harmonious. And you could say, “A-ha, at last, I see. I got the point. I’ve seen how all this makes sense.” But what this insight depended upon was your overcoming the illusion that space separates things. Watts also said, "As you realize everything is totally connected, you develop the ability to affect anything you want. We are connected with the people from our past who still influence our thoughts and actions today and neither time nor space truly separates us. We cannot dial up Alan Watts or Albert Einstein on the phone to talk to them today, but we have their legacies and the knowledge that they imparted to the world while they were here to draw upon, forming a lasting interconnection.
Three Alan Watts quotes that are critical in modern business
The philosophy of Alan Watts is timeless and applies to mankind as much today as it did when it was first written. You can find thousands of quotes which apply to humanity which are also applicable to the things that we do in life including leisure, family, play and work, but some contain pearls of wisdom with practical applications in the modern business world today. An examination of each of the three shows how they influenced some of the greatest accomplishments of our most influential leaders in business today.
The secret to life
Understanding the secret to life is one of the deep philosophical insights that has kept man investigating and debating for centuries. Watts summed it up succinctly in his statement “This is the real secret of life — To be completely engaged in what you are doing in the here and now." Just take a moment to think about one of the modern trends in society with regard to the practice of mindfulness. Watts describes the principle to a Tee here and it's one of the necessities of success in the business world. Living in the here and now not only applies to our every day lives and the things we observe, think about, digest and ponder. In business, it's vital to be aware of what is currently happening to ensure that operations run smoothly while keeping an eye on what could happen in the future. It is what we say and do in the moment that will have the greatest impacts on the business world of tomorrow.
On taking risks
Some of the biggest risk takers in the modern business world have become the most successful. The potential for loss may be great but the rewards can be even greater. This goes hand in hand with thinking out of the box, creativity, trying new things and not being fearful of taking calculated risks now and then. According to Watts, “No one is more dangerously insane than one who is sane all the time." Living a humdrum existence without stretching out and trying our wings is the only way that we're going to experience new heights of success. We've all heard the old adage that states, "If you keep doing things the same way you're going to keep repeating your mistakes." This is in essence what Watts was telling the world in this famous quote. A paraphrase of his emphatic statement is that it's insane not to take a chance now and then. Watts went on to discuss how being boring, and rigid in our approach to life is unnatural. It's best to let things flow naturally every now and then and soften up a bit.
Alan Watts taught the world to embrace change
In the business world, forward movement is a necessity to keep up with competitors as well as changing demographics and consumer preferences along with the demands that they place upon the industry. If you're not willing to change with the times and the new trends which occur with regularity, then someone else in your industry niche is going to do it and they're going to draw the customers that are more impressed with their ability to satisfy their needs and preferences. Permanence is only good when it relates to your ability to maintain a solid presence in your niche. Change is something that is a given in society today. Watts seemed to understand this on many levels when he stated that "The more a thing tends to be permanent, the more it tends to be lifeless." If there is no change, then there is no growth. Stagnation is what kills businesses and this famous quote that left us with is highly relevant to the business world today. Everything that is alive is constantly in motion. Even when an animal, plant or human remains stationery there is movement that is happening on the inside when cells are regenerating and even the universe continually expands.
He taught us the difference between money and wealth
How would you live your life if money was no object? The philosophical question was proposed by Alan Watts when he asked "What would you do if money was no object?" To maintain the context from the lecture that this quote was derived is that Watts was referring to society's tendency to confuse symbolic things for real things. When we relate this to the business world, the same construct of the intent remains. We strive to serve the companies that we work for, or own and although the mark of success for many is in the wealth of the company, maintaining a strong bottom line and becoming wealthy. Most people work to earn a paycheck and some earn much larger pay checks than others. Then you have the multi-millionaires and even richer people in the business world who work because of their passion for the goals they have set for accomplishing good things in life. Often, entrepreneurs get rich without even realizing how rich they are and they're happy because they're reaching goals they've set. Just look back at the life of Howard Hughes and his significant contributions to the commercial airline industry. If it hadn't been for his boldness and willingness to stand up against TWA and the governor's inquiry into allegations of his wrong-doing, we wouldn't have the diversity in airline choices that we have today, or at least it's not likely. For Hughes, money really wasn't an object but he was a talented engineer and he was responsible for the development of aeronautics technology that is still in use today. To get back to Watts' question, what would you do in business if money was no object?
The power of passion
Another profound pearl of wisdom that Alan Watts imparted to the world is that we truly need to pursue careers that we are passionate about. A person that loves what they are doing for a living is going to be more productive and personally invested in the quality of work that they accomplish. Watts stated “Forget the money, because if you say that getting the money is the most important thing, you will spend your life completely wasting your time. You’ll be doing things you don’t like doing in order to go on living — that is, to go on doing things you don’t like doing. Which is stupid." It doesn't get any plainer than this. He wasn't one to mince words and Mr. Watts laid it all on the line. Spending your life chasing money and doing something you're not happy with is a waste of your time and of everyone else's. When you're pursuing a career in a field that you love, you're much happier and it will show in the work that you do and in your relationships with those you work with.
Why Alan Watts was a huge influence on business
There is no single philosophy that Alan Watts shared with the world that you can point to when it comes to defining how he came to have such an influence on business. His approach used humor often, but he was also hard hitting and direct with some of the points that he made. Watts influenced business by causing people to stop and look at themselves, the way that they see the world around them, their level of personal happiness and how much time they wasted on things that really don't matter in the larger scope of things. We've derived several sound business principles from his contributions including better time management, prioritizing responsibilities, seeing the bigger picture with a wider view of the world around us, and being mindful and doing what needs to be done in the moment we are in right now. His criticisms of the lazy attitudes of society along with the dogmas and outworn beliefs and behavior patterns that hold them back from becoming successful in all aspects of their lives are also transferable to the business world. He helped us to change the way we think, and the way we interact with the world around us. Although not everyone was a fan of Alan Watts, he had a lot to say that serves as sound and practical advice for business today.
Written by Dana Hanson
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