Lifebushido Ethnography

This page is for anthropology stuff.
Version: 6/6/12 by Steve.

Written by Caroline Collins when she was a Recruit. Email her for feedback at crmandrill@gmail.com. Caroline also did a Lifebushido New Hire Ethnography after her first month at Lifebushido.

Feedback from Ishidos
Please share with everyone your thoughts, feelings, comments after reading essay below. Please put your name and comments and then your favorite sentence from the essay.
  • Name, comments, favorite sentence:


Cynthia Hall - Comments
My favorite sentence is about ishidos - "They hadn’t changed, but had become more of themselves – in their own words, stronger, better versions of themselves."
Perhaps we should send this as the first email to people considering working with Lifebushido - an outline of the challenges and difference to expect in the application process and a wonderful insight into what Lifebushido is really all about - a community of people striving to be the very best version of themselves and exemplars of that goal in business, their own lives and their communities.
Joanne Engel - Comments - Great job, Carolyn! I'm still "learning the language". My favorite sentence was:" One got the sense that one was seeking [[#|access]] to a foreign country, and that one must first learn the language and local customs in order to proceed."
Delores Johnson- Comments - I would just like to state that this was a very well written and interesting document. I think this person captured what many of us feel and can't necessarily express. I believe I have found a home with friends, family and loved ones!
Favorite Sentence: "This was a chance for additional self-awareness and better focus on just what sort of position one should be pursuing"

Erin D.- Comments: I would use this as a testimonial of sorts for recruiting. Her experience of researching the company and being in a triangle was very similar to mine, she just put it into words for me! Favorite sentence: "One got the sense that one was seeking access to a foreign country, and that one must first learn the language and local customs in order to proceed".

Debbie Day- Great job! Excellent interpretation of [[#|hiring process]]. My favorite sentence is: This company wanted more than worker bees, they wanted soul mates.

Michelle Beitzel - Caroline, Excellent! You did a great job of capturing the essence of Lifebushido and I truly wish I had this at the very beginning. This would make a great intro to Lifebushido as well as mini movie, audio, etc. Lifebushido has a incredibly unique approach (and potentially incredible) to hiring, team and talent development and overall structure of a company. It is essentially creating a new kind of workforce that I do feel is crucial to and a cornerstone of a new economy. I do believe it is a combination of the human way of "being" with "working" which is rarely, if ever combined. I like the idea of a beehive or even an ant colony (I love ants) with the Lifebushido's unique philosophy and methodology as the Queen Bee. It may be a bit romantic to envision coming together to protect and build a way of life rather than for any outside entity - because motivation for any cause or outcome always comes down to the individual and nothing else. I'm with you on the unique talent of putting people at ease. It is a talent of observation, reading people, and sensing what "theyyo" may not be able to sense themselves. You'd do well in finding talent perhaps? Is that Creative Team being built yet? If so, Caroline - you'd be an asset and I'd love to join you :) Again, excellent job! Favorite Sentence: "This company wanted more than worker bees, they wanted soul mates." Love it!

John Hardy- Excellent Caroline. I did not actually know what the japanese terms until I read this essay. I did research as well as most [[#|jobs]] where
you [[#|work from your home]] require you to buy something. The [[#|hiring process]] is certainly different than most companies. You are already expressing your unique talents with the anthropological references. You will definitely find your niche. Favorite sentence : A life filled with bushido... How true

JoAnn Hess - Very well written and fascinating introspective of the process. Some form of this should be used for recruitment and certainly should be read by everyone who emails their interest to [[#|apply]] to the company.
Favorite line(s): There were no false promises made, I was told. Employees really are supported and encouraged to find those positions that are the best fit for their unique talents. This was more than just a company, but a “big family” with “an empowering philosophy.”

Lifebushido: A Brief Ethnography

Mary Terry - Caroline, you are a very talented writer...this is amazing. Glad you joined us at Lifebushido! My favorite sentence: The job application process for Lifebushido was like stepping into an ongoing novel. You immediately captured my attention. Great work!

Tyrolienne Smith - Caroline, this is a wonderful expression of Lifebushido and the most unique job application process that I have ever encountered.
Favorite Sentence: There appear to be many paths to success within the world of Lifebushido, as long as one follows one’s heart.

The [[#|job application]] process for Lifebushido was like stepping into an ongoing novel. One got the sense that one was seeking access to a foreign country, and that one must first learn the language and local customs in order to proceed. I couldn’t even apply for the job until I read a week’s worth of introductory emails, designed to help me decide if the company and I were a good “fit.” This was certainly a change from the usual impersonal online data forms, and the focus on job skills alone. This company wanted more than worker bees, they wanted soul mates.
This unique [[#|application]] process was actually highly logical for a company that was quite unique overall. As I began to receive my emails I discovered that it was far from “business as usual” in the Lifebushido world. Workers were either “newshidos” or “ishidos,” but never employees. Much emphasis was placed on finding one’s unique talents and really enjoying one’s job. New workers were set up in “triangles,” which offered more than just a work group, but supportive companions and instant feedback. They also had a most encouraging motto: “Anything is possible.” As the email series progressed, I discovered that Lifebushido was not just one company, but the proud parent of many different companies and services. It seemed as if there was something for everyone. Along with the introduction, they sent out the basics – the pay scale, payment process, how to increase your hours, how to reduce your hours - all the details regular job applicants want to know. It was easy to forget they’d sent this to you in light of the much more interesting life philosophy that arrived alongside.
I was surprised when the first of the “Quick Questions” came in. They may have been quick to write, but answering required a bit of thought. Quick Question Number 2, in particular, was a puzzle – just what *were* my unique talents? I’m not sure anyone has ever asked me this before, nor had I thought about my skills in this fashion. Certainly I was “good at” many things, but was there anything that I could term “unique”? The website defined “unique talent” as “something you are passionate about doing and want to do as much as possible.” That narrowed it down some, although, honestly, I had many activities that could qualify. I love to read, to write, to take long nature walks with my dog, and spend time in my garden. I am passionate about creating my husband and myself a nurturing living space, so spend quite a bit of time with interior and exterior decorating plans. None of that seemed quite suited for a “virtual assistant” position.
As I gave this further thought I remembered that there was one talent I had possessed since as far back as I could remember, which had served me very well while pursuing my anthropology degree. I had unique people skills. I had a genuine interest in everyone and a way of putting even strangers at their ease, earning their confidence, and diffusing tense situations. Further, I have always had the ability to empathize, to move outside of myself and see things from another’s point of view. Certainly this was a talent that could be useful in a company whose main goal was to assist people. I decided to go with that.
I was invited to also send this question out to people that knew me, and went ahead and did so, mostly out of curiosity. The answers I received were enlightening, as well as somewhat ego-boosting. Only one person actually completely echoed my own conclusions. The others brought up qualities I had largely taken for granted. It was just how I did things. That was very interesting. It seemed as if the Lifebushido hiring process had much to offer in and of itself, regardless of outcome. This was a chance for additional self-awareness and better focus on just what sort of position one should be pursuing.
As I always do when considering a new job, I took to the internet to search for any “red flags.” I found very little of those since the company’s beginnings in 2006 – one negative consumer report and one disgruntled ishido page. For all I know, this could have been the same person. The bottom line conclusion from the work-at-home blogs and forum discussions was that Lifebushido was a legitimate, if highly unusual, opportunity. I did find several people on the forums who refused to apply simply because the process was so different. It made them suspicious. I imagine any innovative company will run into this sort of problem – a disbelief that a legitimate company could operate outside of the rigid standard business box. I have also found, in general, that many people have an aversion to free-thinking, and much prefer the known to the unknown. I was never one of those people, obviously, or I wouldn’t have sought to become an anthropologist. And how could I not at least apply to a company whose core value system can be translated as “Way of the Warrior”? That brought up reminders of my favorite anthropology anti-hero, Carlos Castaneda.
At the exact seven day mark, just as promised, I received an email entitled “Time to Apply for Job.” However, the journey was far from over, because the actual job application involved more self-examination and questions to ponder. The standard job-app form wanting me to list my work history in chronological order was nowhere in sight. Instead I had to explain why I was interested in this job, what products or services might I be passionate enough about to have innovative suggestions, and what life lessons I had learned, among other things. I was invited to sort myself into favored roles, something I had trouble doing as, by that time, every role they were offering sounded like real fun. Finally, I was able to attach my resume. I attached it wondering if it was “interesting enough,” rather than wondering about whether or not my credentials were sufficient. And then I hit “save” and that was it, or so I thought, because another email arrived shortly afterwards, inviting me into the realm of “triangles.”
“Triangles,” I was informed, were a “social experiment” designed for new recruits. They were a “support group,” which offered “insight into Lifebushido; advice, feedback and assistance on first tasks; and a shared human voice of other New Hires.” Further, joining a triangle greatly increases one’s chances of being hired. However, one could not simply join a triangle. As with every aspect of the Lifebushido experience, one needed to learn the lay of the land to decide if this was the right option for you, and there was a lot of information to assist in this decision. The way I saw it, triangles were yet another way for me to gather information and to even get some practical hands-on experience working for them before I committed. They were offering me the chance to evaluate them while they were evaluating me. So I joined and sent an introductory email out to one of the prospective triangle leaders that appeared to be a good “fit.” And then, about ten minutes later, my personal hiring process completely changed, with an invitation to write this paper. Such is life, I suspect, in the Lifebushido universe.
The meaning of “Lifebushido,” according to the material I was sent, derives from the bushido code. This was the code of the samurai, with its seven virtues - or eight virtues, according to another source (Clark, 2008). The samurais and their bushido code were the Japanese equivalent of the medieval European knights and their chivalric code. In both instances, the quality of these groups dwindled over time, but the historic ideal remained. In their days of glory the samurai set a moral standard for the populace and served as an inspiration. In the words of Lifebushido’s founder “For me, a Life filled with Bushido is being bold and brave to seek out and explore and discover your unique talents, define and achieve your Life Goals, and help others to do the same” (Kantor, 2009). Adhering to this code would put the ishidos in the role of ambassadors of sorts, demonstrating what a business could achieve if it held to a higher ethic and vision.
Of all the unique terms used in the Lifebushido world, the word “ishido” was the most puzzling to me. The official site definition of workers who’d reached 100 hours did not seem sufficient, because, for one thing, a worker still had to apply and be accepted for this status. Also, a company that placed such emphasis on philosophy would not just randomly name its core staff. One ishido site described them as “an elite group of work at home workers (modern day warriors)” (Suggitt, n.d.). A prospective ishido was being evaluated for more than just hours put in. Since I was seeking to become one it seemed important to pin it down. None of the ishidos or newshidos I contacted directly seemed to have any further insight for me and the closest association with bushido and the samurai culture I could find was the Ishido School of sword making. I suppose one could reason that, just as a good sword is critical to the samurai, the ishidos were critical to Lifebushido, but I was probably just reaching here.
The actual roots of the word were more enlightening. The Japanese word “bu-shi-do” can be broken down into two components: “bu-shi” meaning warrior, and “do” which means way. The word “bu-shi” can be further broken down into the equivalent of Chinese “wǔ” – military and “shì” – knight, or gentleman, depending on the source (Nitobe, 1905) (Peterson, 2007). So a warrior is a military gentleman-knight. This likely alludes to the adherence to a strict moral code, rather than just being a fighter. In his classic book on the topic, author Inazo Nitobe explains it more elegantly: “Bu-shi-do means literally Military-Knight-Ways--the ways which fighting nobles should observe in their daily life as well as in their vocation; in a word, the "Precepts of Knighthood," the noblesse oblige of the warrior class” (1905).
The component “shido” - the way of the knight, with the moral code that this implies - is found in all of the Lifebushido titles - i-shido, new-shido, baby-shido, and jedi-shido. This component makes sense in light of the expressed intent of Lifebushido. Three of the terms seem fairly straightforward from there, particularly if you shorten it down to its logical conclusion – then you have, roughly, new knights, baby knights (born to ishidos,) and, playfully incorporating a modern cultural iconic term from “a galaxy far far away,” jedi knights. This last group appears to be destined for more elite status – the learned elders of the community. Finally, we come back to my original problem. Is the “I” in ishido the personal pronoun? “I Knight?” Or, perhaps, it can be better phrased “I am the way of the knight.” The title here becomes a mantra or a daily affirmation.
In all of my googling, the sources I found the most interesting were those created by the ishidos and newshidos themselves. I found pages of links to websites, wiki pages, videos and slideshows – more than I’d ever seen from employees of any other company - all extolling the benefits of working for Lifebushido. Of course, a skeptic could conclude that these were *assignments* produced for the express purpose of impressing outsiders, and I did see several presentations from job-seeking New Recruit triangles. However, my personal communication with some of these individuals indicated that their enthusiasm has not waned since being hired.
I sent a list of questions (see Appendix) out to both the newshidos and ishidos I found that agreed to assist me. I did not reveal exactly why I was asking these questions, beyond just wanting to know more about what it was like to work for Lifebushido. Respondents echoed a common theme of high satisfaction, and even excitement, with their job. They had great respect for their co-workers and felt valued by those in authority. They exhibited strong loyalty, evidenced by the fact that several were wary of my purpose. Even those no longer working for the company had mainly positive input, felt they had gotten a lot out of the experience, and recommended giving it a try. The advice offered to job seekers and novices indicated that, though the hiring process was long, and the work highly challenging, all was well worth the effort. There were no false promises made, I was told. Employees really are supported and encouraged to find those positions that are the best fit for their unique talents. This was more than just a company, but a “big family” with “an empowering philosophy.” Though hardly anyone could define “ishido” for me beyond “an employee who’s worked 100 hours,” most everyone considered it to be a positive achievement and, in some way, an ongoing responsibility.

There were some difficulties noted, which is not surprising considering the company is still relatively new and evolving. The biggest complaint revolved around work hours – people either didn’t get enough or had too much. One respondent suggested there were still kinks to be worked out for advancing within the company. I note that the jedishido concept may be a step in this direction. Also, the triangle system received mixed reviews. Everyone liked the concept and felt it was helpful for new hires, but some found it less helpful for long-term employees. It tended to be more time consuming than working on one’s own. Indeed, while I was waiting to receive my replies, I experienced a triangle issue myself. The triangle I had been invited to join collapsed before it began. Our leader decided to seek work elsewhere due to the “too long and risky” recruitment process. Had I not already been pursuing another route, this would have set me back to square one. I imagine, in order for a triangle to work most effectively, members would need to be somewhat in sync, with similar motivation and ability to put in the time and complementary work styles. Triangles may either be a great support or a further bit of a balancing act within an already busy day. Despite these difficulties, everyone who answered my questions seemed genuinely happy to be a part of the Lifebushido community.

The question that most interested me concerned their personal philosophy of life.Since this company has such well-defined guiding principles I was curious to learn whether, or to what extent, this exerted an influence on the staff. Had working for Lifebushido dramatically changed anyone? What I found was quite the contrary. Working for Lifebushido actually strengthened their personal world views and principles. Those who did mention change gave some specific area of improvement. For example, one person said she was now “more disciplined,” and another had adapted the system of writing down goals. Of course, it is likely the case that Lifebushido only attracts, and accepts, certain types of individuals in the first place. It’s true that everyone I heard from had some traits in common, like a positive, grateful outlook, a strong work ethic, and a belief that they can succeed by their own efforts, but, within these general boundaries, I found a lot of personal variation. Everyone had their own approach and pursued those tasks that best fit their predilections. No one was being forced into any kind of uncomfortable mold. They hadn’t changed, but had become more of themselves – in their own words, stronger, better versions of themselves. Despite some bumps, Lifebushido’s unique mode of operation appears to be largely working. There appear to be many paths to success within the world of Lifebushido, as long as one follows one’s heart. Perhaps, after all, with this company, “Anything is possible.”

APPENDIX


Questions Sent to Ishidos and Triangle Members:
How long have you worked for Lifebushido?
What are your overall impressions of the company?
What do you feel is best about the company?
What is the worst part of working with this company?
How would you say this company differs from other [[#|work-at-home]] companies or other companies in general?
Are you an "ishido"?
What does the word "ishido" mean?
What does it mean to you to be an "ishido"?
Are you a member of a triangle?
What are your thoughts on the triangle system?
What would be your best piece of advice for someone considering [[#|applying]] to Lifebushido?
What would be your best piece of advice for new hires?
What is your personal philosophy of life - your day-to-day "modus operandi"? Has this changed in any way since you began working for Lifebushido?
Anything else you'd like to say that was not covered by these questions?



REFERENCES


Clark, Tim and McKay, Brett and Kate. (2008). The Bushido Code : The Eight Virtues of the Samurai. The Art of Manliness. Retrieved from http://artofmanliness.com/2008/09/14/the-bushido-code-the-eight-virtues-of-the-samurai/
Kantor, Steve. (2009) Steve’s Personal Vision. Lifebushido Vision. Retrieved from http://lifebushido.wikispaces.com/Lifebushido+Vision
Nitobe, Inazo. (1905). Bushido, the Soul of Japan. Retrieved from http://www.sacred-texts.com/shi/bsd/bsd06.htm
Peterson, S, (2007). Bushido: The Life of a Warrior. Japanese Bushido. Retrieved from http://japanesebushido.org/
Suggitt, Maureen. (n.d.). What is a Ishido? Ishido Showcase. Retrieved from https://sites.google.com/site/ishidoshowcase/what-is-a-ishido