What can the Maasai teach us about life?

maasaiI just finished reading a delightful little book titled Facing the Lion: Growing Up Maasai on the African Savanna, written by a Maasai tribesman Joseph Lemaolai Lekuton (pictured on the right).

Aside from doing a wonderful job of explaining what it’s like to grow up in another culture, the book also reminds the reader that deep down, people everywhere value the same thing: beauty.

Allow me to elaborate with a quick story: Cows are central to Maasai way of life; they give them some usual necessities such as food and clothing, but also social status. The more cows a person has, the more respect he gets—a person with a big herd will be listened to by others in the village, because you can only get to have a large herd if you work hard and excel at taking good care of the animals in an extremely difficult surrounding. What surprised me is that it’s not just the number of cows that the Maasai consider in evaluating a person’s value; the beauty of the animals matters too. A lot. Here’s how they judge a cow:

   “We have three criteria for judging a cow. Number one is the colour. The best color is white with a lot of black spots, like an Appolosa horse. To us that is the most beautiful cow. Number two is the horn. We like a male cow to have big, even horns. And number three is the personality of a cow. A good cow is always at the front of the herd. If the cow is always late, if he’s always behind all other cows, he’s not considered a good cow. We do not care how heave a cow is. Never. Just the beauty of its colour, the size of its horns, and how active it is.”

Whether on the African Savanna or in the streets of cities like yours and mine, beautiful = great value. That’s all nice and dandy, but how does this relate to my business?” Is that what you’re thinking right now? Here’s how: Let me remind you that one of the definitions for the term beautiful by the Oxford English Dictionary is: “Excelling in grace of form, charm of coloring… and other qualities which call for admiration…

You see, upon hearing the word beauty, it’s tempting to first think about beauty in terms of physical beauty. But actually, there are many other things and qualities that we find beautiful, that we admire: Think authenticity. Think trustworthiness. Think clarity. Think ease of use. Think simplicity. Think consistency.

Consider FedEx—is there beauty in its promise “When it Absolutely, Positively has to be there overnight?” Said differently, is there beauty in having peace of mind? Absolutely! There’s nothing shallow about the FedEx level of consistency. That’s why they touch a customer’s every sense. What FedEx stands for is essentially truly beautiful, and those are the main reasons why FedEx has been so successful.

My 2¢:
It’s clear to me that beautiful businesses touch our senses because they give pleasure to our senses.
It’s also clear to me that every business has a personality.
Your business is no exception. Is your business beautiful?

In the above book, I also discovered this interesting bit: if you’re ever chased by an African elephant (which are bigger and more aggressive than their Asian counterparts), apparently you could try to drive it away by whistling. African elephants apparently cannot stand whistling.