In his book “Conscious Business: How to Build Value through Values,” Fred Kofman takes readers through an inward journey to find the way to a fulfilling personal and professional life. Kofman, a philosopher and VP at LinkedIn, borrows concepts from ancient traditions, Eastern cultures and world religions, all of which make reading the book an enlightening experience.
Kofman challenges the myth that success leads to happiness. Happiness is the means not the end, argues Kofman: “People find happiness by how they live their lives, not by some goal they pursue.” While success and wealth are our culture’s attributes of happiness, these will not make us happy.
Kofman holds workshops where he asks participants to think of people they admire. He then asks them what characteristics they admire in these people. The answers that people give include “courage,” “humility,” “persistence” and “commitment to excellence.” These are all process attributes, values related to how someone leads their life not what someone achieves.
Kofman says that no one has ever said they admire their characters because of their success, job title or net worth. For example, we admire Olympic gold medalists not necessarily because they won, but rather because of the determination, commitment and attitude they display through their actions.
One of my favourite concepts in the book is that of “unconditional responsibility.” This means that in any circumstance, we must ask how we have contributed to the situation and what we can do to make it better. Responsibility is actually “response-ability” – our ability to respond to a situation.
Kofman’s idea of “response-ability” echoes Victor Frankl’s concept of the last human freedom, which states that a person can always choose their attitude in any situation. We can always be proactive and adopt the mentality of the player. But many people adopt the mentality of the victim, which is a very counterproductive way to live and work.
Below are the seven values of conscious people that Kofman says will lead to a fullfilling life: