Mundane Meets Spiritual At IMTS

Today I get to celebrate the end of IMTS and the start of the Jewish New Year – Rosh Hashanah. For me these are surprisingly connected events to be treasured and assessed.

My life is a combination of the mundane and the spiritual, but I find it strange and sometimes inspiring how the stuff of business and the practice of my religion wrap around each other so often in my daily life. This hit me at IMTS when I met with a fellow traveler in the machine tool world at the Mazak exhibit. He had sought me out after reading my work for many years. We share a love of this business, a passion for sports and to my surprise, a commitment to Judaism. I know some people wonder why I occasionally bring religion and God forbid – God – into my columns, but he gets it, and out of the blue, he engaged me about my Judaism over bottled water at Mazak.

One of the nice things about doing Swarf for 12 years is that people feel like they know me, which frees them up to expose more of themselves than they normally would to somebody they’ve never shaken hands with before.

We played a little “Jewish Geography.” He knows a couple of distant cousins of mine, at least I think they might be cousins. Then he asked me about my religious practice, which seemed odd with the machining centers cutting metal 20 feet away. Yet he asked with such a matter of fact sincerity that I answered him with more depth and nuance than I would have even expected of myself. Two sixty-something guys who had never actually met sat and talked about how we pray at IMTS in Chicago. There was a refreshing innocence in the incongruence of the moment and it made me sweat with the rawness of the happening.

I usually have a lot of deep conversations over the course of a week. I guess I crave them because they give texture and depth to my days. I was discussing with my wife Risa my struggle to get as much done during my work day that I feel I ought to and she suggested I curtail my serendipitous conversations which sop up my available minutes. My talk at the Mazak booth was one of those. It took me away from some other business connections I wanted to make at IMTS.

But as I think about it today, as Rosh Hashanah is about to begin, I would gladly trade three business card exchanges at IMTS for my 45-minute ad hoc talk that intersected our spiritual connection.

Will that talk transfer into more money in my bank account? God knows – or doesn’t. But in September of 2012, the beginning of my New Year, this is how I look at it. I have a finite number of days left of health and breath. I want these days to be as rich as possible, which definitely has something to do with my business success and my organizational acumen, or lack of it. But it’s the emotional connection that really makes my days precious. If I can find that and savor it at those crazy incongruous times it surfaces, like at the Mazak display, I want to go for it. Screw the “to do” list, give me my moments.

Question: Should religion be off-limits in business?

Share this post

20 thoughts on “Mundane Meets Spiritual At IMTS

  1. Josh Weaver

    Off limits? As a topic of discussion? Inherently no I do not think it should be off limits. I think that faith has done a lot of good for a lot of people. I will personally vouch for the benefit of Christianity in the lives of some of my closest friends and family. The issue with discussion religion lies in the fact that we don’t all choose to practice the same faith. What would the responses to this blog be if you and your companion were practicing Muslims?

    Personally I believe there are good and bad people who follow any religion which is why I’ve mentioned Islam. It’s a very very sensitive issue in this country and by and large a very negative opinion of Islam in America. While most of us can feel safe discussing our faiths of Judaism or Christianity in the workplace I must ask how we might feel as Mormons or Atheists or Muslims? How would people respond to openly speaking of a faith or lack thereof that isn’t the culturally dominant force where they reside?

    I don’t think discussions of faith are bad, I support pretty much all forms of debate and discussion and in fact I enjoy debate and discussion which is why I post here occasionally. In a perfect world free of prejudice we would all be able to discuss what we believe and openly reason with one another about our beliefs and why we believe them and how we practice them. We would probably learn a great deal about those we may have misconceptions about. Unfortunately we do not live in a world free of prejudice. We live in a world where people are gunned down in a temple because someone confused Sikhs and Muslims.

    For this reason it may just be best to keep discussions of faith private in the workplace as well as those of politics. In the workplace we are all on the same team and divisive topics can lead the workplace away from teamwork and productivity to a place of bickering and mistrust.

  2. mike parker

    No, it should not be. If we are going to be real with each other, and if relationships are a part of our business thought and transaction, why do we have to pretend that a part of ourselves are off limits?

  3. Nick Bloom

    As I read your article, Lloyd, I realized that it’s not really a question of whether religion should be off limits in business, but rather can we share our personal, more intimate aspects of life in the context of business. And more importantly, can we stop and smell the roses as we struggle to succeed at business.

    You don’t force your religion on anyone. But as a writer of articles that often include your personal insights, sure, religion, politics, human nature, all inform your perspective. But it’s your choice. It’s what makes your articles interesting to some and maybe of no interest to others. I give you a lot of credit for taking the risk that comes with letting people you don’t even know, into your life. I have no doubt that you are happier and more fulfilled as a result. When we stop and smell the roses, aren’t we all richer for it?

  4. Jeff


    Your tale is told elegantly again today! I must confess I can’t wait to see your next article! It is my firm belief that if you can look at a starry night and imagine all of the other planets and galaxies and still believe the creator of all this gives a shit what you think, that you’re
    sadly and ignorantly mistaken; the universe is too complex for our feeble minds to comprehend we are cavemen screaming at an eclipsing moon; there are far more complex organism on our planet than we are much less the universe, it’s mans ego that allows thoughts if being made in the creators image; just like religion….. Who is right? Buddhist? Jews? Hindus? Christians? Agnostics??? In business religion does come up, I once picked up a dealer from Ohio at the airport, his first words said in a very thick accent were: “so are you Jewish?”. To which I replied in the same accent, no but I think I’ve met one once, we both laughed and put a deal together; a perfect life’s moment where two people put aside their differences for the good of all; “imagine all the people living life in peace”. And “dude, be excellent to each other”

  5. John Bressoud

    Well it would be easy to just throw in a quick line of yes or no, but I think the question deserves a more in depth answer. In brief religion, or spirituality, is not off limits. There are some people who are not comfortable talking about such things, and that is fine. With each person we relate to we find the level at which the relationship can flourish. For some that is not much more than sports and weather. But if we limit our business relationships to just “the business at hand” we miss out on an opportunity to really connect with another person.

  6. John Sweet

    No, it shouldn’t be. The questions “Is there a god?” and “Who is that god?” are the most important any of us will ever answer. These questions have eternal implications. Discussions on religion are too important to be left outside any sphere of life.

    I can understand the apprehension with religious discussions, though. Truth–if it’s really truth–will stand on it’s own and will not need to be forced through a pride-filled argument. Many discussions on religion turn out to be just that.

    What’s the answer then? Humility. A humility that comes from outside ourselves. A humility that comes from our Creator.

  7. Pat Bresnahan

    To all those who do believe that God should be discussed in business and for all those that don’t believe that God should be be discussed in business I offer this:
    May God Bless you!

  8. Jerry Cleair

    As a man of faith I am comfortable with discussing religion in the work place; but my two fears are that it be used as a sales tool, and that it is used as a litmus test. Lets all shine Gods light at work in any way we can.

  9. Josh Weaver

    I think Jerry Cleair makes a very very valid point. When religion is used as a litmus test in an employment decision it cheapens members of all faiths. To imply someone is incapable of performing work duties because of their choice of religion is rather ignorant.

  10. John Braun

    Not in the least. I have met more fellow Christians through work relationships than I can count. If nothing was ever said it would have been a great loss. After all, we are called to evangelize. If that falls on deaf ears then we move on.


    Lloyd: For a good part of my adulthood I was a professional soldier. I am from the generation that composed, “God is My CoPilot” and “And There Are No Athiests in Foxholes”. When you serve your people you have signed a contract to kill in their behalf. It is of paramount importance that you depend upon a higher rule than depend upon the rule of mere man. If you have faith, then vengence will be the province of the Lord, not ours to exercise. There are many times when my life was in peril that I am sure I touched the face of my God. and returned safely to earth.
    Some years ago I was invited to Israel to discuss difficulties they were having with a new military vehicle. This was long after I had retired from active military duty. The IDAF flew us to a test facility in the Negev and dropping us off said they would return in six hours. I only needed a half-hour to determine the problem with the vehicle and make my recommendations. There were no facilities at this site so we sat in the shade of a corrugated iron building and soon started discussing the Bible (Old Testament). The project engineer was a bit startled with my knowledge of the Torah as well as Wisdom and Prophecy. As we continued our discussion, he kept saying, “You are Jewish.” In fact he insisted so strongly that I was hiding my true faith that I had to tell him that we both use the same books of faith and that the only change is the added books of our salvation. He paid me a great honor, “You know more about our religious writings than many of my friends.” It was a great time for this discussion because the phrase Judeo-Christian Ethic is no empty slogan. We have a common heritage.



    Believing the, ” we are a good Christian family and company and you can trust us “, cost me 300k. When reliegion is brought up in business negotiations now, I immediately remove myself.

  13. Peter Frow

    Hi Lloyd,
    I love the transparency and vulnerability of your blogs, not to mention the wide spectrum of their content. I would have loved to be part of your ‘moment’ at the Mazak stand.
    A person feels most valued when they feel best understood. To regard as off-limits that which a person considers important, if not supremely important, is to dishonor them.

  14. Bob

    Your own argument can be used against your own statements. ‘Man’s ego’ has brought you to a potentially sad and ignorant conclusion. Perhaps Jeff, you haven’t gone far enough beyond the capability of your feeble understanding to consider a creator capable of building the vast galaxies, beings, & organisms may just have the capacity to connect to all of the creation as well. So Lloyd, maybe God does give a damn what you think. I believe God is as interested in us as we are in God, we are part of the creation and God wants to see what the creation will do next, and may even help us evolve along the way.

  15. John Braun

    Jeff, I can only pray that when you are on your deathbed you choose the right God, and not the one which you have created. There is only one, and there is such a thing as absolute truth.

  16. Jon Gruber

    I don’t believe that religion should be off-limits, but I feel that it should only be discussed with people who are willing to hear your opinions and beliefs, and give you their opinions and beliefs. If you change theirs or give them some insight into something deeper and greater, you’ve achieved something beautiful in a day.

    But as with all religious conversations, people who are intolerant can’t handle somebody with views that alter from their own, and it CAN be a potentially hazardous practice.

    As Bob a few comments above me has stated, if you don’t share his same Christian beliefs then you are ignorant and feeble minded, and have come to a sad conclusion spiritually. Discussing religion with people like Bob, yes, should be off-limits.

  17. Jeff

    Bob I actually seek to release the ego and attain enlightenment thru the pursuit of expiriences; I don’t need a book and a church who keeps money it brings in and spends it on stained glass and crucifixes rather than feed the poor; religion is the first profession; enjoy your faith and I will mine; BTW I have a 146 IQ so feeble minded isn’t correct but if it helps you so be it;

  18. Bob

    Jon, ‘sad’ ‘feeble’ ‘ignorant’ all came from Jeff’s original post, I intentionally used these words to contradict his own conclusions, sorry if you didn’t catch that.
    Jeff, I am not a big believer in church or religion either, it’s man-made and full of flaws. I think you may underestimate the reach of God is all.


Comments are closed.