In the steamy swelter of this summer, I have often thought about the days of my youth when we didn’t have air conditioning. It didn’t really seem like a horrible thing (and we couldn’t complain to our friends via Facebook anyway); even the hottest days were managed with big fans. My dad, the ever clever “MacGiver,” fashioned “air conditioning” by placing a big block of ice right in front of the fan, cooling the hot air that blew through the little galley kitchen. We grilled out – not because we were inspired by the most recent Bobby Flay show in Food Network, but because my parents didn’t want to heat up the kitchen. We would stay outside on the back patio, visiting with neighbors (uninterrupted by Blackberries and having no “app” for any point of contention); talking by the light of the metal “tiki torches” until I drifted off to sleep, only to awake in my bed the next morning. And yes, my mother did put my leotards and tights IN THE FREEZER so my summer dance classes would at least BEGIN in a cool manner as the then-downtown Jordan College of Music dance studios didn’t have air conditioning either.
It was a special time. In my mind, it sort of runs like an episode of the Wonder Years. But it makes me ponder, what would happen today if an entire community reverted back to a life without all the conveniences.
Well, our Amish friends to the north exemplify what can happen.
I came across an article I “bookmarked” in May called “Why Amish Businesses Don’t Fail.” It recounts Erik Wesner’s new book, Success Made Simple: An Inside Look at Why Amish Businesses Thrive. The article reveals some really surprising statistics including the fact that 95 percent of Amish businesses succeed – in contrast to the 50 percent success rate of small businesses in America. And, just a note: This success rate is for the most part without cell phones or websites.
Some lessons leaders of organizations and entrepreneurs might take to heart:
- Hard work and cooperation – These factors create REAL relationships and a sense of commitment and loyalty that are rarely broken.
- Stick to what you know – The Amish know the value of their “brand.”
- Credit business success to those around you – A sense of humility goes a long way.
- Recognize the balance between work life and your moral compass – While a majority of Americans don’t see technology in the same “taboo” light as the Amish, there’s a whole lot to be gained in terms of “quality family time” if you are not checking your smart phone every 15 minutes.
My dream of the “sustainable farm” with chickens and goats and a year-round garden is looking pretty good; until now, I never thought about creating a business model around it … May be something to think about.
Have you taken steps to simplify your life? How did you do it?