Work is Worship

By Julian MacQueen, Founder and CEO, Innisfree Hotels

I believe work done in service to mankind is equivalent to worship.

This comes from the Baha’i teachings that talk about actions and deeds. This is not a religion of words, it’s a religion of action. You can’t simply say something with words and not back it up with deeds.

The teachings, in my view, are very practical – not salvation simply through words. That really resonated with me when I started investigating the religion. To me, it made a lot of sense.

So about 20 years ago, I read this book called “Barbarians to Bureaucrats: Corporate Life Cycle Strategies” by Lawrence Miller, a well respected Baha’i and corporate coach who has worked with big Fortune 100 companies including Chick Fil A.

He talks about the evolution of a businesses from this barbaric, ‘make-something-happen’ culture. As success evolves, you end up going into a bureaucratic mode, where rules and procedures take precedence over the entrepreneurial spirit.

He interprets the evolution of America as this process of explorers going out to the borders of society, beginning at the East Coast with the pilgrims. They weren’t mainstream society, they were the outcasts, looking for something Europe couldn’t give them. Much was driven by religious zeal. They wanted to set up their version of Christianity.

So they would come to America and start over again.

Other people on the fringe were not content with the society created in America, now moving into the West and the Appalachian mountains. Those folks would become dissatisfied and move into the Plains and then the Rockies and ultimately to California. They were the Gold Rushers and the rejects.

Now you see a series of rejections moving westward. You get to the ocean, and there’s nowhere else to go. There, you have these people who are not mainstream thinkers. It’s an evolution of borderline thinkers … people who are looking for something that is not being satisfied.

When you get to the West Coast, that’s as far as you can go. So California is this cauldron of borderline thinkers who have now evolved into the beginning of everything new.

All trends begin in the west. Even today in 2017, all the big thought leaders are sitting there on the West Coast.

This put into perspective for me the evolution of people pushing against the social mores of the time. People will die for a principle, but they will only work for a paycheck.

Something clicked when I read that book.

I wanted to create a company based on principle, not paycheck.

I wanted principle to be our leading edge.

For example, at Innisfree Hotels, if someone understands they are changing a person’s life by making a comfortable and inviting environment, whether it be a beautifully made bed or a meal served with a smile, they can begin to see a higher purpose in what many would consider mundane.

Once a guest feels that this is something special, it builds on itself and over time, and with great colleagues, the atmosphere of the hotel takes on another feeling that is more conducive to building connections and seeing the world around you as a better place.

This thinking led to my deep ties to the Baha’i faith and principles. Work is worship, if you can figure out a way to change the perception. If you can find people who view service as a meritorious attribute, those are the kind of people you want to be around.

We know from our writings that, if you do that, it’s effectively worship. So what is the purpose of life other than to worship God and find yourself in a better place after this plane of existence?

These have become the ingredients of building something worthwhile here at Innisfree. To stay involved. To continue working on the culture. To build a legacy company based on these principles and not a balance sheet.

But it all starts back at the beginning when you ask yourself … what is the purpose?

If I’m going to spend 80 percent of my waking hours at work, do I do it to build my wealth or to create a culture that has some deep sense of purpose?

At Innisfree, we will always choose purpose over paycheck.

– As told to Ashley Kahn Salley
Lead Storyteller, Innisfree Hotels