Wait. Let me back up and tell you the story.
During our visit to Srilanka, we visited Anuradhapura - the ancient capital of Srilanka and visited the remarkable Maha Bodhi Tree - a sapling of the Great Bodhi Tree under which Gautam Buddha attained enlightenment (to start the 4th most followed religion today) - that has stood ground for 2,300 years.
It was the year 288BC when this tree got planted by the Indian King Ashoka's daughter Sangamitra. For the next two millennia - many things have come and gone, but the tree has stood ground.
Srilanka was ruled by Devanampiyatissa during that time - one of the first noted kings of Srilanka.
For the next few centuries his followers made Anuradhapura a great city rivalled by few other cities in the world - Babylon in Iraq, Alexandria in Egypt, Carthage in North Africa (still a mighty kingdom preceding Roman empire) and Pataliputra in India (still a go-to place for higher education in the ancient world).
The great libraries of Alexandria were just getting constructed during this time. The Mauryan empire still stretched from the modern day Iraq / Afghanistan to the woods of Burma.
The first villages in the valley of Rome were getting built once people in the valley got a hang of growing the ancient strain of wheat and barley on a dependable seasonal river water harvesting!
Just to imagine seeing a living contemporary of monumental historical events is akin to blurring the passage of time or just like pressing a historical pause button or even rewinding the clock to see that similar things existed in those times.
A lot of things have happened since that time and its remarkable the tree has stood ground.
Anuradhapura was the capital for many centuries post which it was abandoned due to many reasons - draught, lack of military might, weak rulers, etc.
In the meantime - the original Bodhi tree was either cut down or naturally died due to passage of time.
Anuradhapura itself was abandoned as a marauding Chola kingdom of South India was flexing its muscles in the 13 - 14 centuries. A group of Buddhist monks are known to have stayed back to keep the tree going as a holy site.
More recently - in 1929 a man determined to cut down the tree cut-off its biggest branch. Terrorist attacks in 1985 killed over 100 people - though hurt on both occasions - remarkably, the tree managed to survive and grow!
This brings me to the important question of just what has made the tree survive for so long. History teaches us a lot of things and there are useful tips here.
I want to map out the parallels to companies where as investors, managers and leaders - it makes very real sense to follow the nature's guidelines. Here are the top tips for endurance and permanence - the elixir of life so to speak.
1) It is not always the strongest, largest or the fastest which survive the longest
It is a profound thought that has left me pondering. The tree certainly looks very old - but it has the extreme resiliency which is remarkable to bear.
It is no secret that the longest surviving companies in the world are the beer makers in Germany, wine makers in France or alcohol companies of Japan which have survived for many centuries. Neither did they branch out or dilute their core-competency.
The fighting spirit - the ability to keep relevant and be resilient and influence change instead of standing upto it and dying are key aspects.
By design - Amazon's and Facebook's of the world will get disrupted - fastest and strongest don't really bear the test of time. Social media or internet based purchasing may come and go - something else will be the newest toys in people's hands.
2) The remarkable ability to bear pain
A lesser tree that's over 2,000 years old would have fallen down when its biggest branch is cut off. It is said - a lot of old people die due to complications when they go under the knife for a surgery. The actual ailment may be cured. Complications, side-affects do arise. They are lethal. Usually.
In the scheme of things - bad things happen over a long period of time. When the times are good - every Tom, Dick and Harry would do well.
As Warren Buffett says - "It is only when the tide goes out - do you see who is swimming naked".
The ability of companies, individuals alike to bear the pain of forces - draughts, competition, attacks, weak and crooked management, poor decisions, etc - is very important.
The core-competency, ability to focus on what matters and most importantly that which results in the ability to take pain are the key.
3) The do-good, feel-good aspect. Being a net positive in the scheme of things
A lot of positives go your way when there is net positive being delivered for humanity. A lesser tree which has no value - spiritually and mentally would never have got taken care off by humanity at large!
Survival and indeed thriving in nature is only possible when the entire ecosystem benefits by the particular subject in question.
I was researching how some of the family businesses thrives over many centuries inspite of weak ROEs, low growth and cyclical profitability.
They invariably bring some very real good to the entire ecosystem in which they operate. How and where we bring value to the entire ecosystem - suppliers, partners, employees, customers, society and humanity at large are very real questions to have clarity on when looking at aspects for companies operating today.
Nature finds a way to keep the net positives to ecosystem alive - as long as the value add is noticeably greater than value destruction.
In conclusion -
It is very important to remember the words of Spinoza - "You have to look at things in the aspect of eternity".
Long term vision is very important to stay relevant - plan for next 2 Qtrs is usually present with most companies. Few if any look at what happens a year, 2 years and 5 years or more out.
Finding constant relevance - in the current and future scheme of things is very important.
Ciao till next time...Harsha