Commentary Geertje Couwenbergh Geertje Couwenbergh is an author, columnist and writing teacher potentialbuddha,com
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I MUST HAVE BEEN SIX OR SEVEN WHEN I SIARTED my first business. It was called, rather unambiguously, Geerfe's Shop. It offered a motley selection of green placemats decorated with a family of ducks, a stack of yellowing paper unearthed from an antique chest in my father's store and some scrambled office supplies that I repacked and resold to whomever I took it from in the
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first place. My entepreneurial urge didn't stop there. By the time I was 10, I'd started a clubhouse; I was making money selling leftover stock from my shop on Queen's Day, a Dutch holiday, I was running an invention agency (first assignment, from my sister, a homework machine); and I was editor-in-chief of a magazine. Not bad for a first decade, right? h 2005, still an anthropology student, I started my company, Potential Buddha. The name came from my affinity with the idea of Buddha nahre-the basic assumption in Buddhist traditions that every being is natr.rally awake and fully equipped for their existence. I pursued a range ofprojects under that name
yoga clubbing events to an organic clothing line mattered to me was its message-the idea that however hopeless things might appear, each ofus is a potential Buddha.
-from called "awareness wear". What
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Unfortunately, this didn't make me a firll-fledged enlightened entrepreneur. Eaming actual money doing what's close to my heart, feels more like a koan, an unsolvable puzzle. I'm realizing that my form ofentrepreneurship could more accurately be called "innerprenewship." That word actually reflects the openness
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and constant development that
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characterizes- and is
called for by-the way I do business. By now, I've come to believe that innerpreneurship might provide not only me, but many of us, with a new model for tlrinking about work, money, life and sociefl.
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You might say that the only true work as an innerpreneur is to turn yourself inside out.
Being an innerprenewmeans you see worknot as time out from "real life" but as fertile soil where your deepest ethical and spiritual convictions can flower. Every innerpreneur's business plan is founded on the awareness of connectedness----emotional, climatological or economic. The innerpreneur's way of doing business is inirsed with friendliness and curiosity. Whether you're a road worker, manager, writer or secretary, whatever you do can connect you to a sense ofwonder at life. You might say that the only fue work as an innerpreneur is to tum yourselfinside out. You must drop the poker face of professionalism-that all-too-common excuse we use to lock ourselves into the hamess of our on-the-job identity, whether it's the strict boss, cheerflrl dental hygienist, loudmouthed constmction worker or tormented writer. The innerpreneur wants to do her
as a human being first, then as a garbage collector, manager or lawyer. But shedding that safe, consficting hamess Iakes cojones. After all, who are we without our Linkedln recommendations, our company car----or our rebellious I'11-never-work-for-a-boss mentality? Still, grotmding yow way of doing business in a relationship with groundlessness, not knowing and its
partner, space, is incredibly powerfirl. It could even offset the crumbling of our culture's economic-and ultimately, ethical-pillars. We've lost sight of the innerpreneur's path. We've poured concrete over it and tumed it into a five-lane freeway. Fortunately though, our hearts haven't forgotten the path. More than that,
walking that path-living our human existence
is otu most personal and most shared desire. My own innerpreneurship hasn't changed much since the days of Geertje's Shop. I still consider it my job to collect stufffrom all over, dust it offand repackage it. And I still base my work on what's closest to my heaÍ. Another thing that hasn't changed is the fact that the path I'm walking isn't a straight, paved one.
Being an innerpreneur feels wlnerable, ilsecure, relevant, open and alive. And I wouldn't have it any
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