I came across an article recently by one of my favorite self-help guru's, Dr. Wayne Dyer. His latest book, Change Your Life: Living the Wisdom of the Tao, is the end result of what he learned during the year he spent deciphering, studying, and meditating on the Tao Te Ching, a guide to life written nearly 2500 years ago by the Chinese philosopher, Lao-tsu. The Tao Te Ching consists of 81 verses chock full o' timeless life lessons. Among them, I thought the 44th, as cited by Dr. D. was intriguing.
"He who knows when to stop is preserved from peril, only thus can you endure long."
In these times of 'what have you done for me lately', stock market rises and crashes triggered sometimes by the seemingly most insignificant piece of prognostication, there's just so much pressure to grow. How much did you grow earnings from last year? Top line? Bottom Line? Net Worth? How much is your stock price going to rise this year? To which, Lao-tsu responds (or would respond if he hadn't been dead for a couple thousand years), how can anyone expect to find peace under that kind of pressure. Instead, he suggests we not focus so much on making the future better, but to concentrate on the one thing you can have a direct and immediate impact on, this moment. By doing whatever it is you do to the best of your ability in this moment, then we will get better at what it is we do, and with such improvement ultimately comes success.
Wayne interprets the verse as the following: 'a small business owner should not focus on 'finding new customers' rather on 'doing the very best job you can for the customer you are working for right now.' By consistently being in that moment, you will please your customers, they will return (with others), and you will enjoy a happier life at the same time.
I'm not sure Lao-tzu or Dr. D. would recommend completely throwing out your business plan or nixing sales projections or skipping those advance tax payments, but it is hard to argue that focusing on the customer at hand isn't sound advice.