I recently read something that immediately annoyed me. A tweet claiming to teach us ‘the right way to start a company’. I clicked and read a scepticism-drenched blog post saying that “passion comes from success.” Okay, but how does he define success? And, especially given the cynical tone to the blog, passion? Where?
That blog post is actually brilliant and it won me over to the blogger’s side of things. It perfectly presents the problem with waiting for the “right” time to start a business. It is one of thousands of such posts teaching us “the rules.”
When someone tells me the “right way” to do something I roll my eyes. The only exception is if that person is teaching me a specialized skill: knife handling, for example. Why? Because I am a rebel, folks. So I see the Right way game as a trap.
Playing the Right Way game is baked into human society. This game can be applied to all aspects of life, love and business.
We have been told for centuries that there is indeed a “right way” to do everything from find a partner to brush our teeth or bring up children. If we violate the accepted rules of doing it “right” then people can voice their dire warnings of what will come – total failure! Shock horror.
Then not only are we failures if we don’t do it the right way, but we are also 100% to blame for our sorry state.
How sad is that.
So, why have we been socialised to believe that the answer exists outside of ourselves?
We have given in to this way, and now we routinely search for that answer -asking critics and friends alike for advice. We have been trained to do this consistently, perhaps even by polling people on the street to get an acceptable sample to ask survey questions.
How are we equipped to take 99 pieces of advice, combine them (perhaps in a meta analysis?) and apply them in the “correct” way? That’s not the only problem.
There’s another issue at play: us.
If we are playing the Right Way game, we now have to get the advice past our own personal defences. The advice has to land in the “correct” way for us to take it in and digest it and use it. Otherwise advice would be pointless.
Because we get our backs up. If someone offers advice that is critical, we might take it to mean bad things about us. When someone criticises me or my business I put them through the thresher. That’s just my survival mechanism, and her name is Sanctimonious Saint. She exists to prevent me from feeling unloved and worthless.
How can we even trust positive feedback – can our friends and family be objective and not wear rose-tinted glasses?
As a coach I do not deal in advice. Advice is cheap. What did Oscar Wilde say about advice? Anyway, he hated it too. So instead I find out what lights people up. What would they do if failure just didn’t matter? What is holding them back?
Revelation: we humans have a choice in the games we play. We do not have to play the Right Way game. Nor do we have to know everything in order to choose to do something.
And it’s easy to say that but a different matter to follow through.
You could say that I have approached being an entrepreneur All Wrong. I left my job. Quit cold turkey. Spent my savings on travel. Then more money on coach training. And then I started a coaching business with no ties to any organisations, no built-in support structures, and inadequate savings to rely on. I toughed it out for awhile doing the best I could before hiring my own coach. Just for fun, I started a meet ups group for people into travel and mindfulness in my hometown. I still didn’t promote myself much on there but we did have fun. Then I went to England for the summer to see friends and grow my business. It didn’t grow very much. But I certainly had fun and met some wonderful people. Then back to BC and I joined a coworking space. More fun. Then I did a workshop. More fun.
Do you notice I am not saying anything about the bottom line or how much I am making? I was hardly making ends meet until very recently, and I am still a little way from being profitable.
I have decided that I will create a profitable, joyful and society-changing business that gives me flexible to have adventures, connect with amazing people all over the world and travel my buns off.
And, along the way, I am discovering all the ways that I am not empowering my decisions. I am seeing stories that I’ve not only written, but set to a soundtrack and these are running the show.
So the “unprofitable” work I am doing now, and the work with my own brilliant coach, is laying the foundation for me to become this business. For me to become a leader.
This is entrepreneurship. Unlike a typical ‘ship’, there is no announcement to let you know when you should (a) get on or (b) disembark. You choose when you get on the ship. (More on ‘choosing versus knowing’ later.) And I really hope that it’s soon. Because the sooner you get on, the sooner your life can begin. And we start by jettisoning your old baggage overboard. And, hey, I’m on the ship!
Where does passion come in? Do we throw a ton of mud on the wall and monitor it to see which mud sticks and which doesn’t? Or do we just commit ourselves to the thing that is eating us up and simply must be done?
Or is it totally dependent on passion? For me, passion is something that plays on my mind constantly. Passion is soul love. It’s a deep knowing that I must do the thing (the thing that usually terrifies me) or my life is a smile that doesn’t touch the eyes, a false thing. There are a few things that fall into my passion pit: photography. Serving people through conversation. Travel. Kayaking. Swimming. Making amazing meals. Creating art. Yoga. These are things that I see when I close my eyes. I breathe in and they make me excited. At times they are a struggle. But I return to them with love.
What is the right way to start a business? Look inside yourself and notice what you really, really love. What you cannot live without. What lights you up.
And then choose to go do that.