As businesses bob and weave through the punches of the pandemic – shutting down, reopening, cutting hours, laying off workers, rehiring, repositioning, changing the way they reach and serve customers, and wondering about the survivability of their operation or industry – it is not surprising many people are feeling overwhelmed.
Business coach and author Cristina DiGiacomo suggests we take a moment to look back, way back in some cases, to the teachings of philosophers like Aristotle, Socrates, Plato and others. She says ancient philosophers tried to help the people of their day live a good life.
“Acting wisely in the 21st century is no different than acting wisely in the 5th century,” she says. “Philosophy really, truly teaches us how to act. It helps us and our ability to negotiate and operate in the real world, and it remains a protocol for engaging with the world.”
DiGiacomo is the author of “Wise Up! At Work,” and founder of MorAlchemy, a leadership consulting firm that helps CEOs and executives use philosophy to tackle challenges by teaching them to think differently and see new solutions to help their companies thrive. She calls her approach “industrial philosophy.”
“The reason why industrial philosophy or real-life philosophy is so important is that it actually helps you do the things you need to accomplish most in the corporate environment – elevate your perspective, do the right thing and act accordingly,” she writes.
In “Wise Up! At Work,” DiGiacomo points out where today’s sayings and traditions came from. The handshake, for example, originated in Greece during the 5th century B.C. It was a demonstration of peace, revealing that neither party was carrying a weapon.
“Our democratic ideals, the foundations of our government, the U.S. Constitution, came straight from Plato. This eventually freed slaves and gave women the right to vote.” And “having a voice,” she notes, was a concept expressed by Ralph Waldo Emerson.
“Even the idea of work/life balance has philosophical moorings in Lao Tzu’s teaching on balance in life. At some level, many top leaders understand this – either knowingly or unknowingly channeling ancient philosophers whose wisdom has remained constant and relevant for centuries.”
She offers a long list of highly successful people who have studied philosophy, including Steve Jobs, Jimmy Kimmel and Lana Del Rey. In a 2020 video commencement speech delivered by Arnold Schwarzenegger, DiGiacomo notes that he cited Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius. As COVID-19 created challenges in the final months of school for those students, Schwarzenegger used the quote, “What stands in the way becomes the way.”
“In other words,” says DiGiacomo, “Schwarzenegger told the graduates that impediments that keep us from our goals can also be the motivation to achieve our goals.”
DiGiacomo first turned to ancient philosophy at a time when she was struggling in her job and in life. “It felt like it was Groundhog Day every day. I had Sunday night blues, the Monday morning mind race, and was not feeling like I was doing anything with my life. I had always been intellectually inclined and needed something outside of work.”
That’s when she found The School of Practical Philosophy. She was hooked the first day of the introductory course when she learned that Aristotle believed everyone is inherently wise and it’s just a matter of bringing it forth and tapping into that inner wisdom.
She studied how our minds work, how cluttered our thoughts can become and how the mind influences the way we view the world. Today, she teaches others how to see challenges objectively, without bias, by framing problems in truth rather than perception. She discusses the benefits of not bringing past hurts into new situations. And, she describes the pitfalls of too much rest and too much action, quoting Socrates, “Beware the barrenness of a busy life.”
Ultimately, she encourages clients and readers to grow their awareness and practice wisdom, which she calls “the ultimate soft skill.”
“Imagine your workforce or your leadership or your organization tapping into the very ideas that moved societies, that inspired people, and that, yes, changed the world,” she writes.
DiGiacomo offers a free excerpt from her book and access to her monthly newsletter at cristinadigiacomo.com. “Wise Up! At Work: Manage with Calm, Navigate Obstacles, Lead the Way” is available on Kindle and in paperback. QCBN
By Bonnie Stevens, QCBN