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The 52-week guide to becoming an entrepreneur – Week 36

February 25th, 2014 No comments

IMG_2818 - Version 2This is the thirty-sixth post in my epic journey going from lawyer to entrepreneur.  You can read the previous entry here, and next week’s entry here.

What an unusual week – no big ups or downs.  Nothing terrifying.  No moments of waking up in fright and remembering what I hadn’t done.  Just opportunities to slow down and enjoy what was showing up.

Two times I’ve graduated from a post-secondary education, and both times, the same phenomenon has occurred.  I’ve gotten to the end of the week, sat up on the weekend, and felt guilty for not working on something.  There’s a sense that you should be doing something and that it’s wrong that I wasn’t.

Almost every student has experienced this process.  The shift from a pattern of always trying to play catch-up to trying to remember that it’s okay to relax.

What I realize is that being an entrepreneur is a lot like making this journey, back and forth, over and over, on a much more frequent basis.  Underneath it all, we are constantly working to develop the ability to simply be with whatever uncertainty shows up.

Lately, that’s meant recognizing when my fear shows up and just leaning right in to it.  I got really embarrassed last week, and after allowing myself to feel that way, I became present to the fact that embarrassment, rather than being something to avoid, is actually a sign that I’m taking on something outside of my comfort zone.  If it wasn’t embarrassed, I’d probably already be good at it, or already comfortable with what I was experiencing.

So in a lot of ways, it’s a bit confusing.  We’re learning how to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.  That almost doesn’t make sense.

I think a lot of us approach this from the belief that once we’ve developed enough, we stop feeling uncomfortable, but that’s not true.  Discomfort is there as a sign that I’m taking on something different or new.  As long as you’re alive, you’re capable of feeling discomfort.

As an entrepreneur or anyone else stepping in to possibility, it’s important to recognize that fear and discomfort is going to show up.  If it hasn’t, it’s time to take another step.

The funny thing is that sometimes it’s as difficult to learn how to embrace the calm, as it is the storm.

Ah!  There’s the lesson for this week.

To really love your life and your work as an entrepreneur, you have to learn how to love the calm as much as the storm.  Entrepreneurship is no different than life.  After every storm there is a calm, and after ever calm, there is a storm.  Trust that it will all work out, and learn to love each part of it.

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Speaking from the Heart – Part 5

February 19th, 2014 No comments

Working on relationships is hard.

Over a year ago now, I distinguished that the way I tend to do relationships is 150%.  I show up with a ton of energy and drive, pushing at the other person and with a ton of criticism and judgment about myself, themselves, and everyone else in the mix.

That kind of structure doesn’t allow a lot of room for the other person’s process.  It also creates situations where people feel disempowered or like it doesn’t matter what they do.

“Adam’s going to barge in here anyway, so what’s the point?”

Bay and I have been working on the intimacy in our relationship for years.  It’s something actively work on, except when we don’t.  Intimacy is terrifying for me.  It’s way easier to meet my own needs, and keep myself totally safe and precious.  If I don’t open up, I don’t have to be vulnerable, and that keeps me nice and safe.

It also keeps me perfectly stuck where I am.

I hate awkwardness.  I don’t know why but I’ve avoided it like the plague for as long as I can remember.  Filling every single minute in conversation (to the detriment of any connection that might be created with the other person) was way better than a single minute of silence.

Again, 150% in a relationship, even when it is simply about conversation.

This pattern would show up everywhere – I could never be around girls in school because it was so painfully vulnerable and awkward.  Maybe if I was high or drunk it would be possible, I thought to myself – but that didn’t help either, it just caused me to retreat even further into myself.

What I realize is that creating anything really worthy of who we are requires vulnerability.

A friend of mine once said that you can’t force vulnerability, only set the table for it to come.  But I don’t believe that’s the case – there’s always an opportunity to drop in to your heart and share more than you currently are.

That’s the path of growth.

I don’t relish sharing this stuff, because it’s scary, and it’s vulnerable.  But the fact is, sharing it is what releases it’s hold on me.  Opening up the kimono and sharing all of me is what lets people in.

Welcome in.

The 52-week guide to becoming an entrepreneur – Week 35

February 14th, 2014 No comments

IMG_2812 - Version 2This is the thirty-fifth post in my epic journey going from lawyer to entrepreneur.  You can read the previous entry here, and next week’s entry here.

I’ve been taking Aikido classes.  Aikido is described as more like a physical philosophy and way of living, than a martial art.  In fact, many people in the martial arts community feel that Aikido is a poor choice of martial art if your desire is to defend yourself.

After my first class, I went home and started googling everything I could.

“Is Aikido a good martial art?”

“Is Aikido worth doing?”

“Is Aikido a work out?”

No more than four hours earlier, the Sensei had asked me what drew me to Aikido, and I answered (honestly) that I loved the philosophy behind it, and was also looking for a spiritual practice as well as something physical to do.

Notice that none of my questions reflect that reason for taking Aikido.

I think that entrepreneurship, and taking on your life in general, are reflected by this way of being I exhibited before and after my first day of training in this new martial art.

I was clear on my vision and reason for joining.  And then, almost immediately after getting my first taste, I had shifted my focus to something more immediate and short-term.  Physical exercise and self-defense.

Self-defense?  Really?  I’ve never been in a fight, and never intend to.  Notwithstanding the fact that sometimes trouble just finds you, why would I suddenly be concerned that my pursuit would aid me in something I seek to avoid at all costs?

It is exactly the same process entrepreneurs move through.  I start doing the work because I crave freedom, putting my mark into the world, and living out my purpose.  I want to create inspiration everywhere, and being a coach, working independently of the restrictions of a company, is one of the ways I can do that.

And then things gets started, and something scary shows up, or even just a reason to take a different path, and we lose sight of all of that.

Part of the requirement of being successful, as an entrepreneur or anything else, is continually re-presencing ourselves to our vision and why we’re taking this on in the first place.  Don’t let yourself believe (like I did) that you want it enough right now that you won’t ever forget why, because you will.  You will forget, because you’re human.

This time, it was one of my teammates, Brian, that reminded me why I’m taking this on.

We need those support structures outside of ourselves, because sometimes, we’re just human, and we lose sight of what we’re up to.

Speaking from the heart – Part 4

February 13th, 2014 No comments

So Bay gave her notice at her job!

That is amazing.  It’s been a 7-year process, including a pitstop for an MBA, before she reached the point that she was able to pull the trigger and step courageously into what the future holds for her.

I’ve been moving in and out of fear and possibility.  So has she.

We’ve had some really weird jogs, where she starts out super empowered, and I’m struggling to see what’s possible beyond my concern that the pain in my tooth is now going to lead to our bankruptcy when we don’t have dental coverage.

Then, as Bay talks about what she sees for herself, I start to see things a little differently.

“Wait a sec, you could just buy dental coverage, dummy”.  Oh yeah, that’s right!  Then I start to get present to what is available to us.  The wide-open world.  Anything is possible.

Then Bay starts to hit some bumps, just after half-way through our run.  And then I’m up, and she’s down.

It’s wild, this ride!  I fluctuate in and out of possibility and terror almost on an hourly basis.  When I’m scared, I feel like a shitty husband because I’m not being supportive enough.  And when I’m excited, sometimes I feel like a shitty husband because I’m judging Bay for being in her process and having her own fear.

Oh dear.

There are so many things I want to create in the world, and so many people I want to inspire.  The words of Christopher [ McAuliffe, one of my coaches and mentors] keep ringing through my head:

“Adam, I don’t know anyone else more poised for success than you.  It’s ridiculous that you spend so much time worrying about it.  And because of the fact that you do, it has you playing tiddly-winks.  It’s a small game!”

First of all, tiddly-winks is a shitty game.

Second, the pattern I’m in with Bay, seeing possibility and then not, is a reflection of where I’m at in general.  Fluctuating in and out of being present to my vision and purpose on the planet, and then back looking at the fear I have of failing.

Is this how Gandhi or Mandela felt?  Did they ever question what they were up to?

Judgment: I’m arrogant for asking that question that way.

Anyhow, this is getting melodramatic, which isn’t my intent.  My intent is simply to open the kimono, and share what’s inside.  To let people in, and see if I die when I’m vulnerable (so far I have not).

One of my current practices: Notice where fear or embarrassment shows up.  Then step into those areas.

Here we go…

Speaking from the heart – Part 3

February 10th, 2014 No comments

I got some great reflection today.  I’d been in conversation with another coach (outside of AC) and had been pushing her, via e-mail, to make some declarations.  My intent was to be a stand for her.  To have her play a bigger game and step in to what might be possible, instead of hanging out in the realm of the predictable.

I hadn’t heard from her in a while, so I sent her a quick e-mail amidst the other things I was doing.  My e-mail was short and to the point.  I didn’t put a lot of thought into it, but rather, simply jotted down what I had in the moment and fired it off.

She responded bluntly.  She told me I was coming off as pompous, arrogant, and like I had all the answers.  That my e-mails were demanding and bossy.

And you know what?  I was embarrassed!  Embarrassed about how I had come across, and embarrassed that I had done something wrong.  I felt like an ass for how I had presented myself.

My default was to go to my safe place of survival mechanism.  Make jokes, ignore what I was feeling, be goofy with Bay.  But then I stopped and really took the time to let myself feel embarrassed, and it was a gift.

Not a gift like the kind you open up on Christmas day.  But a gift like having a good cry.  A gift like really letting yourself be angry.  I really allowed myself to be embarrassed.  And on the other side of that, I was able to see that everything that happened was actually a gift to both myself and this other coach.

An opportunity for me not to beat myself up, but simply to have made a mess and now to get to clean it up.  An opportunity not to practice regret, but to be grateful for the reflection I’d been given and to see what was next for me.  An opportunity to actually let myself feel embarrassment instead of doing my default of joking through it and never letting it penetrate past the surface.

What I want to enroll you in is in creating breakdowns everywhere, and cleaning them up when necessary.  Life isn’t about playing it safe.  It’s about swinging out and swinging big.  You might have to look like a fool or an ass at times, but it’s how you grow.  It’s how we learn.

Play big and embarrass yourself.  It’s how you know you’re moving forward.

The 52-week guide to becoming an entrepreneur – Week 34

February 7th, 2014 No comments

IMG_2808 - Version 2This is the thirty-fourth post in my epic journey going from lawyer to entrepreneur.  You can read the previous entry here, and next week’s entry here.

The theme for this week has been uncertainty.  I think I’ve written about this before, though I can’t remember if I’ve specifically called it out.

Entrepreneurship plays this funny game with your head.  You figure that you know all of the possible variables, and you take steps to address each of them.  “Aha”, you think, “Now I’ve got it all sorted out, and I can rest assured that things will unfold the way I expect them to”.

Then the universe proves you wrong.

And thank goodness for that.  Because if you’ve got it all figured out, and you’re moving toward your destination, it’s pretty bleak.  I know that you think it’s good, because it’s nice and controlled and managed, but that is actually the death of your creativity and your greatness.  That is inside your comfort zone, where possibility ceases to exist.

This week, right when things were starting to look settled, and I’d created calm and peace for myself around the way things were going, life threw Bay and I a big fat curveball, upending the security of the way things were going, and thrusting us once again into the unknown.

We often forget it, but this is part of why we become entrepreneurs.  Sure, the money is better when you’re operating out on your own (higher risk, higher reward), but it’s the thrill of manning your own ship, and mastering the sea on your own terms.

Thrill is not that far off from fear and terror.  They occupy very similar places on the emotional spectrum, and often overlap.  The difference is often simply in our ability to trust that things will work out (consider the difference between turbulence when you’re flying, and sitting on a roller-coaster).

So, a huge part of entrepreneurship is learning to embrace that uncertainty, and see it not as a challenge or a problem that you have to fix, but an opportunity to practice your creativity again.  This is what makes brilliant entrepreneurs: not having everything settled and sorted, but being able to walk into uncertainty and unknown, trusting the fact that they can make it work.

Do I have fears?  Hell yah.  A ton of them.  But those are just fears.  The same ones you have, and everyone else too.  Fear isn’t a reason to stop what I’m up to.  It’s just an emotion to be with.  It’s okay that I’m scared.  I get scared when I’m sitting on a roller-coaster too.  I don’t need to fix it, or change it.  I just need to trust in myself and this journey.

If I can do that, I can get back to the thrill of entrepreneurship, instead of the terror.

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Speaking from the heart – Part 2

February 4th, 2014 No comments

Breakthrough, at the end of the breakdown rainbow.

My breakthrough showed up as stillness, and peace.  There’s magic in giving ourselves space.  When I create time to allow myself space and quiet, it provides me more room to expand in to.  It provides me more access to my brilliance.

Tonight I got a bunch of my shirts, put on music, and ironed.  It’s another form of meditation for me.  As I sat there ironing, I noticed myself going in and out of “shoulds”.

“I should be thinking about the heartfelt e-mail I intend to write tonight”

“I should be thinking about what’s next for my coaching practice”

“This is your meditative time, you should be spending it thinking about something productive!”

How hilarious is that last one?  This is often what meditation looks like for me.  It’s thinking about not thinking.  But it’s cool – I see the humour, and I appreciate it for what it is.

Rick Carson, in his book “Taming Your Gremlin” talks about the art of Simply Noticing.  You don’t have to change a single thing.  Simply notice what you’re doing.  Once you’ve started doing that, you can actually choose something different.  Or not.

Here’s something else that’s funny:  As I noticed the peace that stillness and meditation brings I started to come up with grander and greater schemes for creating it.

“Maybe I’ll take a cleanse from TV for one whole year!”

How quickly my Survival Mechanism co-opted my breakthrough!  It doesn’t take long..

So, for now, I’ll stick with simply creating space to simply notice.  It’s relaxing.

The 52-week guide to becoming an entrepreneur – Week 33

February 3rd, 2014 No comments

IMG_2788 - Version 2This is the thirty-third post in my epic journey going from lawyer to entrepreneur.  You can read the previous entry here, and next week’s entry here.

It’s pretty impressed that this series has gone on as long as it has.  I’ve surprised myself in my diligence to keep up with it, and although the readership has stayed pretty low, I’m still proud of what we’re creating together.  Yes, together — without you, the person reading this, a blog is simply a diary.  So thank you for visiting, and thank you for reading.

Onwards.  The last two weeks, I’ve been in breakdown.  If that sounds dramatic to you, please check out this post clarifying my views on breakdown.  In short, you can’t have breakthroughs without a breakdown.  Going through the eye of the needle requires shedding our old ways of being, and that creates breakdowns.

So, it’s not bad that I’ve been in breakdown.  It’s good.  And, in addition to being good, it also sucks when you’re going through it.  The good news is that I think I’m on the other side.  The breakthrough I’ve created has been around stillness and freedom.

Here are some things I’ve learned on the heels of that most recent breakdown.

1.  I do not create space for myself

Even when I have spare time, I spend it either blogging or writing, exercising, or playing video games.  There’s nothing wrong with any of these things, but notice that they’re all based in doing.

Video games are a funny one.  We play those to relax right?  For myself, I play video games typically in one of two modes:  Either I play with an unquenchable thirst for mastery, or I play them to numb myself.

Competition and mastery can be good things, but they require effort and focus.  To get there requires doing.  At no point while I’m playing video games am I create space for myself to expand in to.  In fact, it’s quite the opposite.  It removes space, and creates another area where I am not doing enough (because, at least as far as my gremlin is concerned, if I was doing enough, I would have mastered the damn game by now and shouldn’t be losing).

I took Tuesday, last week, off, so that I could create some space for myself.  I didn’t have any intent for the space, just an awareness that it was what I needed.  I walked downtown to a coffee shop, purchased my drink, and then just sat there gazing out the window.  After I finished, I walked to another coffee shop and did the same thing.  No music, no books, no computer.  Just me, sipping a drink, gazing out the window.

While walking to that second coffee shop, I realized that I have almost never been in this situation before.  I was walking to a coffee shop without any agenda.  I didn’t have anything I *needed* to do.  I even noticed myself mentally checking out the rest of the day in my head.  “What do I need to do next?  How long can I sit here for?”.  With bliss, I realized the answer was: “Nothing”.

Actually creating the space to simply let me sit, without any agenda, was a radically different experience for me.

2.  TV, Video games, and other similar pursuits do not solve boredom — they numb it

One of my mentors and coaches, Jodi Jan Larson, describes boredom not as a lack of stimulation, but a lack of generation.  That doesn’t sound so significant until you think about it.

First, it means that boredom is on us.  Saying “I’m bored” as a complaint is at effect.  If you want to overcome boredom, you get to be at cause.  You can generate whatever you want.  The other profound thing I notice is that our default is opposite what this definition suggests.  When we’re bored, we seek out stimulation:  TV, video games, a trashy book, etc.

The trouble with this is that it doesn’t solve the boredom – it merely passes the time, and numbs us to the fact that we are bored.  What has you bored?  What’s missing in your life that has that as your experience?  Framed this way, I can really see the costs of numbing myself with pursuits like TV and video games.  It actually becomes self-perpetuating.  Because I numb myself, I never get underneath what is causing my boredom.  As a result, the boredom persists, and I go back to numbing myself.

It’s an addictive cycle, like anything else — the addiction is to stimulation.

Shifting my focus to generating requires addressing what is missing, and actually generating that, instead of flipping on the TV.  Is there a lack of connection?  Time to call up some friends and see what they’re up to.  Maybe it’s as simple as chatting on the phone.

So, that’s what I’ve generated since we last talked.  My time is currently being spent meditating a lot, creating sacred space in my calendar, and taking a cleanse from video games (it turns out I have more time than I thought!).

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