Silence – Truly “Golden”
It is said that silence is golden. More than simply holding your tongue or disconnecting from technology, a time of intentional quiet can also be a source of connection with a deeper, inner wisdom—a source of insight and selfknowledge, and a source of inspiration and direction. After 50 years of starting my day with a quiet time, I see it as an essential part of my life. But is it relevant for the world of business?
I’ve recently returned from a conference in Switzerland on ethical leadership in business where silent reﬂection was encouraged. There were very interesting panels and workshops, but perhaps most inspiring and helpful for me and other Americans present were the stories of two successful businessmen and their experiences.
Vivek Asrani, the Managing Director of Kaymo Fastener Company in India, recounted how the construction of a new building for his company was brought to a grinding halt by the “sand maﬁa”, who were refusing to deliver sand for the concrete until an extortionate price was paid. Vivek‘s ﬁrst reaction was fear, but in his regular time of quiet, he thought that fear was no basis on which to make a decision. His second reaction was anger, but again, even though his foreman was pressing him for a decision, Vivek felt he needed more reﬂection before acting. Finally, he felt clarity and peace. He should meet the man himself and speak to him as a fellow human being, a father like himself. They were about the same age. He told the man, “This won’t hurt me” (if the construction is cancelled) but it will hurt the people who are working on the project and those who will work in the building when it is completed, along with their families. The man’s heart softened, the price was lowered, and the sand arrived the following day.
Peter Vickers, the Chairman and Executive Director of Vickers Oils, a familyowned business started in the 19th century in England, told us about the ups and downs the business had experienced through the years, including most recently during the recession of 2009. Quiet reﬂection had led him to be forthright with his employees about the ﬁnancial situation of the company, resulting in the workforce accepting a reduction in wages in order to avoid layoffs. Peter joined them in this. Reﬂection had also led him to encourage the development of a biodegradable oil for ships, which led to a turning point for the business when an American company started using the new product, followed by others.
He faced a huge blow when his wife died very suddenly in 2015. Their only son was studying in Australia. After a few months, Peter took a three-month sabbatical from his work in order to properly grieve his loss and to contemplate his future. His reﬂection led him to the insight that while he had felt he was giving his son full freedom to pursue his own future, he was in fact holding on to the end of a ﬁshing line, expecting to “reel him in” to join the family business in the end. He realized he had to truly “let go” and he had a good conversation with his son about this. They found a closer, more open relationship as a result, and the son, while pursuing his his interest in photography, is also participating in planning for the future of the company. Peter’s “mantra” these days is “Love, let go, let God and go on.”
A lifelong Episcopalian, Evelyn “Randy” Ruffin is a former Senior Warden of Little Fork Church. She is interested in building bridges of trust across the world’s divides and creating community. Married with two grown children, she enjoys nature, the beauty of Piedmont country, and exploring cultural differences.