The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.
As we begin to emerge from social isolation and return to places of work and study, I see this time as a new beginning for many careers – including my own career in corporate finance.
Like many of us who had no work travel or person-to-person contact with colleagues or clients for over a year, I am considering the implications for work life and future priorities. I’m asking myself, how do I want to direct my time in the post-pandemic period?
Having a year to reflect, space to work differently, and opportunities to get to know my colleagues more personally while operating entirely online brought me new insights that will inform how I could work differently in the future, starting today.
I found myself wondering if these insights would resonate with others, including those just graduating high school, college, or advanced degree programs, or with those transitioning to new jobs or even careers.
So as part of a series of professional-youth exchanges, I brought together seasoned professionals with youth to share world views, examine our experiences, and reflect together. Called Fortunes of Mankind, the series ran for eight sessions in April of 2021, utilizing Baha’i professionals from the finance, law, agriculture, and banking industries. They shared their experiences applying the Baha’i concept of service to their work, and shared quotes from the Baha’i writings that drive their aspirations to work with an attitude of service to humanity.
The Baha’i writings say: “Work done in the spirit of service is the highest form of worship.” If each of us could view our fields of work through that lens of serving others, in each moment and interaction, we could create a better world and more inclusive work environment where people – of all faiths, orientations, education, and persuasions — could feel valued and uplifted.
1. Don’t Compromise Your Values
The best beloved of all things in My sight is Justice; turn not away therefrom if thou desirest Me, and neglect it not that I may confide in thee. By its aid thou shalt see with thine own eyes and not through the eyes of others, and shalt know of thine own knowledge and not through the knowledge of thy neighbor.
In the “real world,” we make business judgments every day. Sometimes, in the drive to generate more profit each year as we look to grow our economies, that can also tread a fine line between cutting corners for the sake of efficiency and taking the time to find out the full story.
Baha’is recognize how fundamental truth is to every situation, even if it brings temporarily adverse consequences. Our speaker shared that they had lost their job for bringing to light illegal practices at a former firm. Yet by acting with trust and confidence, the result was a future job with even greater potential to serve and grow, with the ability to impact millions of people.
2. Strive to Be Distinguished, But Not In Title
Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’u’llah’s son and designated successor, who Baha’is look to as a role model of spirituality in action, explained that our service to humanity should be what makes us stand apart from others. He wrote:
You must become distinguished for loving humanity, for unity and accord, for love and justice. In brief, you must become distinguished in all the virtues of the human world— for faithfulness and sincerity, for justice and fidelity, for firmness and steadfastness, for philanthropic deeds and service to the human world, for love toward every human being, for unity and accord with all people, for removing prejudices and promoting international peace. Finally, you must become distinguished for heavenly illumination and for acquiring the bestowals of God. I desire this distinction for you. This must be the point of distinction among you.
In our conversations about the world of work, particularly in more traditional work environments like banking, we considered: What voices are not fully represented at work, and how can we include them?
3. Apply the Spiritual to the Practical
How do we create “safe space” for sharing out-of-the-box ideas? How do we find common ground and make decisions in an environment with diverse perspectives? A Baha’i project manager working with electric cars in the automotive industry shared that when you deal with the unknown every day, the most important part of decision-making is preserving unity. This means that sometimes, individuals must set their ideas aside and follow the will of the majority. Abdu’l-Baha said:
If they agree upon a subject, even though it be wrong, it is better than to disagree and be in the right, for this difference will produce the demolition of the divine foundation. Though one of the parties may be in the right and they disagree that will be the cause of a thousand wrongs, but if they agree and both parties are in the wrong, as it is in unity the truth will be revealed and the wrong made right.
While we often prefer the most practical option in business, we should also be able to let go of perfection and focus on unity of thought. If we make the wrong choice, we will learn from it together. What a wonderful way to foster teamwork and consensus while averting a lapse into competition without a frame of collaboration!
4. “Serve to be Perfect, Be Perfect to Serve”
This phrase is a quote from my great uncle Tarlok Singh, who worked as the finance minister to Prime Minister Nehru of India after its independence from Britain. His work in economics, especially focused on the poor, reminds me of this passage from Abdu’l-Baha: “… the honor and distinction of the individual consist in this, that he among all the world’s multitudes should become a source of social good.”
Since early in my career, I’ve noticed that our organizational environments sometimes rank material success and achievement as the ultimate goals above anything else. Should our true goal be to make as much money for everyone as we can? Or can we find a more balanced approach when informed by our spiritual nature?
As the quotes above reflect, we can always re-anchor our focus on how we can be of benefit to our coworkers and our society.
This Fortunes of Mankind series of talks and conversations was both inspirational and practical. I was grateful to have clearer insight and direct connection to the guidance in the Baha’i writings, as well as a growing network of service-minded professionals to help focus my efforts at work.
My takeaway regarding turning reflection into action as an investment professional? Personally, I plan to let the superpower of prayer, meditation, and the Baha’i writings guide my attitude at work, and to help me ensure that taking a personal interest in my teammates and clients is integrated into how I view my impact at work.
I also created forums to actively group mentor the young women in my network, and invite conversations on how we can take charge of our own spiritual growth and contribute to the transformation of society.
But I would love to hear about your plans, as well! Everyone is welcome to join the next Fortunes of Mankind dialogue, and assist in our efforts to promote service and community well-being at work. Just register here for our session on July 16th with actor Justin Baldoni, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to get involved. There’s more to come as we all come together to facilitate a new world unfolding!