Have you ever considered the cultural influence your country has on your view of work and business?
It’s something you don’t usually notice until confronted with another culture’s view clashes with your own.
Today I want to give you 3 principles that might help shape your view of work into something more freeing and life giving.
These are principles that I’ve been chewing on ever since arriving home from an extended vacation in the south of France.
The following thoughts were adapted from a piece my wife wrote and reflect the many conversations we had during out time this summer with the wonderful French people.
How The French View Work
After a month in the French countryside (specifically Provence and the Perigord region) my wife Shay and I have brought back more than just a daily craving for croissants and a mid-day Rosé (with ice cubes of course!).
What we’ve brought back is a deeply challenged perspective on work and more specifically, business ownership after spending a month meeting the locals and business owners in the very small country villages we visited.
If you will indulge me and allow me to make a few sweeping generalizations I realize that I cannot dare to speak for ALL the French, nor can I speak for what “city life” in the more modernized French cities looks like.
A month with the French certainly doesn’t make me any kind of expert on French culture but there were a few things happening around me that were impossible to miss and if any part of you is secretly exhausted with the constant demands of business ownership than lean in…there might be something here for you.
The French work to live instead of living to work.
Happen upon any small French village on a Monday and you will likely be met by a Ghost town.
Holiday? No. Worked extra over the weekend? Non. Why rush into the work week when you can make a leisurely stroll into it instead.
But thats not all.
Most businesses close for two to three hours each day for an extended lunch and then still close before dinner every evening! gasp!
Many also close on the weekends. How dare they!
And sometimes they pick another random day of the week (or two) to be closed if they feel like it.
And as if they are in an all-out effort to commit business suicide, many shops close down entirely for a month or two each year. (Sacrebleu!).
Here’s the takeaway:
They have decided on a lifestyle and run their business to serve that preferred lifestyle. Here in America so often we bend our entire lives to meet the demands of our work.
Skipping lunch, missing dinner, working on laptops in bed, working over the weekend, taking work on vacation. Year after year we sacrifice so many of our “priorities” to serve our businesses hoping that someday it will get better.
The French are not afraid to miss out on possible profit
Don’t you think it would be tempting to be the one bakery that is open during lunch time or over the weekends?
Think of all of the business they are missing out on when they close their doors for the all of the above mentioned occasions.
These are not wealthy shop owners. These are husbands and wives, blue collar families with small family businesses.
But they are still willing to miss out of potential profit for the sake of long lunches sipping espresso and catching up with neighbors, evenings and weekends spent at home around big meals and entire months to travel or simply rest.
In contrast we (Americans) tend to be so afraid to miss out on any possible dollars – bending our preferences and boundaries for the chance to make just a little bit more.
Which brings me to my next observation…
The French work just enough to support their simple lifestyle.
We met so many interesting people from shop owners to actresses, authors, and artists. Many of them with irregular jobs and irregular pay.
All of them go from one project to the next, live off the earnings and then take on another project when they are ready or need more money.
They did not drive fancy cars or live in big homes.
They did not wear the most current fashions or decorate their homes elaborately.
Rather, they enjoyed the simple things in life like eating drawn out meals outdoors with friends and long conversations over red wine that last into the night.
Business owners never spoke of their 5 year growth plan, or how much better Q3 was over Q2.
If their business supported these simple lifestyle priorities they were happy with thing just the way they were.
We ate at the most amazing restaurant in Brantôme run by a husband and wife. He cooked all the meals and she ran front of house and they shut the restaurant down for a few months each year to travel the world.
Can you imagine that? Closing their doors completely! Wouldn’t the “lose momentum”?
The goal with so many of these business owners was almost never growing the business, opening more stores, etc but simply to be able to continue their current lifestyle. If was refreshing, and convicting.
Why are we so obsessed with growth?
Here are the questions that I am asking myself after a month surrounded by so many kind French men and women – many of them entrepreneurs of some sort themselves.
- Why is growth always the goal?
- Does it have to be?
- When is there enough growth?
- What would be enough profit?
- Is more always better?
- Would I still love my job if things stayed the same from here on out?
I hope that there is something there that you can chew on. Something that might lead to just a little bit more freedom and resolve.
I’m right there with you fighting for healthy business ownership with flourishing lives as a result.