Laid-back and Passionate

A Pakistani CEO of a BPO operation here in Sri Lanka was telling me how he can’t motivate his employees with financial rewards. Instead, it was the music played in the office and other seemingly trivial things that got his team pumped up. A bit more fun was more motivational than a bit more money.

An island mentality and Buddhist undertones in culture have made Sri Lankans a rather unmaterialistic lot in general. There are outliers, especially given increased Westernisation, but a notion of ‘satisfactory living’ is still clearly noticeable. Visitors from more driven and competitive places find this both irritating and inspiring.

Elsa Walsh, writing about Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In, says:

I have to wonder if Sandberg does not realize that she is going to die someday. There is so little life and pleasure in her book outside of work. Even sex is framed as something that men will get more of if they pitch in and help their working wives.


“Facebook is available 24/7 and for the most part, so am I,” she writes. “The days when I even think of unplugging for a weekend or a vacation are long gone.”

Imagine what that life looks like to a child. Imagine what it looks like to yourself when you are 80.

That is not how I want my daughter to live, and it is not how I want to live.

— Elsa Walsh, Why women should embrace a ‘good enough’ life

That is not how we, with our four-day work week, want to live either, though we do stay connected most of the time. At the end it’s about values and ideals: world domination is not our goal. Getting facebook-big is not an enticing prospect. Being 37Signals-awesome is. Practically, this is reflected in our entrepreneurial journey made of small steps, not giant strides.

With the next version of CurdBee shaping up nicely, it is likely that our steps would cover more ground in the months to come. Even then, though, we will stay a small team, with ‘satisfactory’ goals, and hopefully living ‘good enough’ lives.

“Sri Lankans are the least materialistic people I know,” my Pakistani friend said. Good, I thought, they’re richer for it.