It was while on a two-month yoga teacher training in an ashram that Polly McGee finally connected the dots between her two passions and jettisoned the anxiety that had shadowed her life’s search for purpose. These two passions were working with entrepreneurs and their ideas, and studying yogic philosophy. Suddenly, the synergy between the path of the entrepreneur and the path of the yogi seeking enlightenment appeared to her in resounding clarity.
“Both of them had to undergo great hardship, have a laser-like focus, surrender to what is, accept change and impermanence, give up extraneous distractions,” says Polly. “Most of the entrepreneurs I know are driven by trying to solve big intractable problems in society, and share a lot of this discipline and focus.”
As a business strategist, Polly had made a career out of helping entrepreneurs with their businesses. She had also pursued an independent interest in yoga, Hinduism and Buddhism – reading, researching, and writing about Eastern religions and spiritualities, and living in temples, ashrams and among communities in India, Thailand and South East Asia. But for the first time, Polly started thinking about how she might merge the two.
In science, what Polly had was a eureka moment. In spiritual terms, it was a vision. Regardless, what came out of it was a guide for ordinary people and modern day entrepreneurs seeking a sustainable and more mindful approach to business.
Polly saw that the same problems that overwhelmed our everyday lives – lack of self-awareness, self-doubt, sabotage, distraction, and information overload – extended to our lives in the marketplace, that these Eastern philosophies and practices which had such positive effects in our personal lives didn’t need to be so confined. The problem was that these teachings were often complex and inaccessible, and required years of focused study to understand and apply. And so The Good Hustle was born. She started writing the book as soon as she got home, excited to distil in simple terms these two disparate ideas for the help and benefit of people way beyond her own client base.
Dharma, Dharma, Dharma!
The key to finding success and your good hustle is tuning into or finding your dharma. Unfortunately, there’s no Western translation of the word dharma. But as Polly McGee explains it, it has something to do with what your values are, and knowing what it is you are here to do.
So how do you get in touch with your dharma?
“Stop and listen. Slow down. Learn to recognise the feeling when you are drawn to something when you are beguiled and want to stay in that space forever. It’s like being in love; we know when it happens. What is harder than knowing is actioning the knowledge, often against the flow of reason and logic.”
“When you pinpoint happiness arising, ask yourself what is happening in this moment when you find you are loving what you are doing. This is the point on the chart where you drop a pin, a definite clue to your own happy map,” she writes in her book.
The yogi entrepreneur
Once you have an idea about what makes you happy and fulfilled by tracking your emotional responses to situations and opportunities, you can then interrogate the realities and practicalities of your idea by using the Good Hustle Hurdles.
The Good Hustle Hurdles are four questions designed to get you thinking about the realities and practicalities of your idea.
Will you enjoy doing it?
Does it come easily?
Does it give benefits to others?
Can you see yourself doing it for a long time?
The criteria for a good hustle, Polly says, is like the criteria for any good business. Can you clearly articulate the solution you have to the problem you are solving? Is there a big enough market to make it sustainable? And, at the end of the day are you still able to turn enough of a profit to justify the costs? If you can answer yes to all these questions, you can go on to the execution stage. “The fun part is integrating that with your spiritual practice,” adds Polly.
But, you don’t need to be spiritual to read and implement the practices of The Good Hustle. Whatever your beliefs or non-beliefs, the message is the same – that is, find what makes you feel like you’re contributing to something bigger than just yourself, embrace it fully, make it sustainable, and make sure it’s in service of your values.
The practice is the reward
Polly practices exactly what she preaches in her book. She meditates and does yoga every day – no matter what. As she does so, she focuses her mind towards her goal to serve others – her dharma – and tries to contain her attachments and distractions. The long-term consequences of this practice are significant, but in a subtle way. “I’ve been doing it for long enough now that there is a little groove in my neural pathway that sounds a gentle internal alarm when I am about to run off after something shiny, wallow in some judgement or criticism, indulge in some not right body, mind or action and generally be a dick. Doesn’t always stop me, but my awareness softens the experience and it’s easier to get back on track, curb the reaction and refocus on what I’m trying to achieve.”
Polly’s parting words are a preview of the kind of down-to-earth practised wisdom you find all through her book: “There is no silver bullet in this process, there is just consistent daily work on ourselves that as time goes by becomes a joy and a balm rather than a hassle, and allows everything to just be easier to deal with, even when it’s hard,” she says. “Going on a journey to the centre of you can take a while and be very interesting, and you find that you didn’t have to particularly change anything externally when the turbulence inside is calmed.”
The Good Hustle by Polly McGee, $24.99, Murdoch Books.
The Good Hustle: Creating A Happy, Healthy Business with Heart
On March 6, Murdoch Books and Collective Hub will present an inspirational evening with Lisa Messenger and Dr Polly McGee, entrepreneur, educator, yogi and author of new book The Good Hustle. This Q&A-style event will focus on how to create a happy, healthy business with heart.