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The 52-week guide to becoming an entrepreneur – Week 41

March 28th, 2014 No comments

IMG_2853 - Version 2This is the forty-first 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 all about hanging outside of my comfort zone.

It’s not that this is new information for any of us.  We’ve all seen the image on the internet pointing out your comfort zone, and a space outside of it, which is labelled “Where the magic happens”.  But that’s fine — this series isn’t about providing you something brand new, as much as it is to chronicle my own journey in the hopes that you take something away from it.

I started preparing to deliver our training this past weekend and was instead presented with a different offer: head over to the other room where we were starting a new program, and begin acting in a different position.  I was moving up — and that meant stepping in to leading a new team, meeting that team, showing up as a leader in a room full of new participants, and taking on things I’m not comfortable doing.

The thing I noticed is that this is what is next for me, but my gut instinct was to resist it.

“Maybe when I’ve learned a little bit more.  Maybe once I’ve watched someone else do it a few more times”.

The same things I hear my clients try to enroll me in when we look at what is next for them to take on in alignment with the lives they really want to be leading.

Seriously, the exact same stories.

How embarrassing.

As I sat there, trying to strategize my way out of feeling intimidated and like I wasn’t good enough, I had an awareness come over me.

“These people don’t know that I’m worried, or scared.  I want to be a certain way so as to hide that from them.  But I don’t need to.  I can just show up the way I show up around anything I’m comfortable with, and let whatever happen, happen”.

And it was that simple.  That doesn’t mean it was easy (more on this over at Evergrowth’s blog soon) — but it was simple.

The way I show up when I just let myself be authentic is connected.  Open and witty.  Insightful and brilliant.

All there really was for me to do was trust that it would be alright, that those qualities are always available, and to connect with the people in front of me.

And that’s all there really ever is to do when you’re willing to step outside of your comfort zone.

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The 52-week guide to becoming an entrepreneur – Week 39 & 40

March 21st, 2014 No comments

IMG_2849 - Version 2This is the thirty-ninth and fortieth post in my epic journey going from lawyer to entrepreneur.  You can read the previous entry here, and next week’s entry here.

This is the second time I’m doubling up weeks, on account of the theme for this past week: getting support.

I’ve been up against a lot lately, it seems.  I’ve wanted to take on bigger things and have increased the scope of my projects accordingly.  If you’re not scared by the goals that you’re taking on, you need to make them bigger.  As a coach, I have to live by that mantra.  I have to model the work.  And I have been — and my projects and goals have been scaring me.  So much so that they’ve led to overwhelm.

See, here’s the thing.  If someone isn’t taking on a project big enough to scare and sit outside of what they know they’re reliable to produce, it won’t require any transformation on their part to get there.  Life isn’t simply about accomplishing goals, it’s about continually growing and stretching.  Developing ourselves, physically, emotionally and spiritually.  Big projects allow for that.  They require that, in order to achieve them, we have to change how how we’re being in the world.

I’ve been overwhelmed with everything I’m taking on, unsure of how to handle it.  All of my defaults are working, and they’ve left me filling my time up in ever increasing increments so as to get everything done (ostensibly to achieve my goals).  

When time gets stark for me, I look to become more efficient.  

“How can I get even more done?”, I wonder to myself.

It almost never crosses my mind that the real way forward is to seek support.  In fact, I actively resist support when I need it most.  Instead of reaching out to people and asking for help, I tell myself that that will just require more time, and dammit, I don’t have any of that.

This time though, this time I did something outside of my pattern: I asked for support!

I asked for support from my teammates, my coaches, my mentors and my friends.

And you know what?  It made a huge difference!

At one point I was talking with, and getting coached by, a colleague and coach I have deep admiration for.  As I shared with her what I was up to and what I was struggling with, she listened, and then said to me:

“Well, Adam, I’m going to use your own quote against you.  You said that goals big enough to scare you actually enable you to transform…  And it just seems like you’re resisting all of the transformation that is available to you here”.

Oh.  Well that would make a lot of sense.

A bunch of my teammates reached out to me offering support.  Contrary to what I assumed, time became available.  I got coached, listened to, and held.  It was easy and simple, and it didn’t leave me frustrated, just heard.

It certainly isn’t the first time I’ve said it, but entrepreneurialism is a funny gig.  We’re drawn to it because we’re lone wolves that want to make our mark on the world, and do it our way.  We don’t want to be beholden to someone else’s rules, or vision that is too small — we want to be able to create the vision that we have.

While that is admirable and a spirit that you should never let go of, it’s important to recognize that it can be a hook too.  Everyone needs support and to be supported.  No one is an island, and anyone that thinks they can do it all on their own is almost certainly going to be limited by their own blindspot.

Get supported.

And on those days when it feels like you simply can’t get supported?  Get supported twice as much.

Speaking from the Heart – Part 7

March 17th, 2014 No comments

I don’t relish sharing this — I have a story that sharing about the dark side of things like despair makes me sound like a downer and someone more focused on complaining than moving forward and being responsible in their life.  Nevertheless, now that I’ve started down the path, here’s Part 7 of my ongoing foray into vulnerability.

As I sat and meditated tonight, I got present to something I don’t want to be with: despair.

Despair that things won’t “work out” (whatever that is).  Despair that, in spite of my best efforts, things are going to fail.  I have despair that even though I’ve asked for support, it doesn’t matter (and frankly, the places I’ve asked for support are pretty flimsy).  Despair that even if I do get responses to my request for support, I can’t fit it in, so what’s the point anyhow?

I don’t have enough time.  Even if I did, I’d just fill it up with more stuff.  I don’t have time to support other people, and I don’t have time to request support, let alone accept it if I was to receive it.

It’s a setup – and no wonder I feel despair.  Inside this context, there’s no room for anything else.  It’s Ouroboros.  I am simultaneously creating my own trap, getting inside the prison, locking the door, and then trying to figure the way out.

So here’s what I can distinguish:

  1. I’m not happy with the way things currently are.
  2. When you’re in a pattern, the thing to do is to notice your pattern, and choose anything different.
  3. Inevitably, I don’t choose something different (“But I really DON’T have time!”)

This work is infuriating.  While working on this last week with my coach, I got supremely furious.  I was confronted by the pointlessness of it all.  What does it even matter?  There’s no room for anything, and any time I clear space, people are going to ask for more of my time.

Now we’re back to despair.

My default is to go back to more doing.  Maybe if I do a bunch more, that will solve the problem?  Maybe I’m just not doing enough — if I did just a little more, and achieved just a few more results, I’m sure that would remove me feeling this way… right?

It won’t.  Because it never does.  It hasn’t for the last 35 years.  My survival mechanism wants to tell me that “wait, listen Adam, this time it’s different.  This time this thing that you need to do really WILL make the difference”.  But I know it isn’t true.  It’s in black in white, in those three steps up there.

Time to seek out some support.

The 52-week guide to becoming an entrepreneur – Week 38

March 7th, 2014 No comments

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

(No, my sense of style hasn’t gone out the window — I’ve just been suffering with a cold as of late).

Sometimes, all it takes is a good run.

That’s this week’s theme.  With all the demands constantly besieging you as an entrepreneur, it’s easy to lose sight of the vision you started with.  If you’re not careful, your days can deteriorate into a battle simply to get yourself to inbox zero, address every damn thing coming your way, and get through this day (as well as the next one, and the one after that, and oh god they never end!)

The funny thing is that as an entrepreneur, your job IS to maintain the vision.  That’s what enrolls people to follow your leadership.  The vision is what inspires people to take up the mantle behind you, and to pursue your dream, even through the fear and the tribulations that are inherent in the work.

And, that being said, it’s still really easy to fall into the trap of forgetting this fact.  Today, someone cancelled on a lunch that I had set up, only minutes before I left my house to make the appointment.  It left me thinking “Oh geez, things are never going to work out”.  And when I get confronted with that story, I do what I always, predictably, do: I get attached and focused on doing.

Who else can I contact?  I better get in touch with thirty people to ensure we don’t fall into the abyss of failure.  Maybe I should reduce my rates.  I should probably say yes to all those other things too.  Maybe I should start looking for jobs as a lawyer again.

So.  Much.  Mental.  Chatter!

It goes and it goes and it goes, and my survival mechanism really just wants to grab a hold of it and get me doing stuff, because at least when I’m doing stuff, I’m moving forward.

But sometimes, all you really need is a good run.  The thing that I’m most likely to deny myself when I’m in the throes of it all (well being and space) is often the best medicine.  It’s funny how, as entrepreneurs, we deny the very thing that got us in to the work in the first place: our freedom.

The opportunity to be ourselves is what draws us to entrepreneurial work — and predictably, that’s the very thing we start to shut down and deem impossible (or worse yet, that there isn’t enough time for).

So when things get tough, remember: sometimes all it takes is a good run.

Speaking from the heart – Part 6

March 5th, 2014 No comments

Let’s talk about sex.

Not because I want to — specifically because I don’t want to.

I don’t like talking about sex at all.  It makes me feel uncomfortable.  It’s taboo in society to even have a conversation about it.  These days, kids learn more about sex from internet pornography than they do from conversations with their parents or their peers.  (I’m making that up, but it sounds accurate, doesn’t it?)

Growing up, becoming an adolescent male, sex was embarrassing and highly desirable.  I was filled with hormones, and those hormones led to loads of embarrassing situations.

Sometimes I was attracted to girls that had a crush on guys that would pick on me.  So that sucked, because it enforced the story I had that those guys were better than I was.  It ended up just being easier to repress that attraction — so I did, making my sexuality, at least in those areas, wrong.

Sometimes I would be attracted to someone and share it with my Mum, slyly, and she would tease me, gently.  There was no harm in it, but it made me embarrassed that she could so easily see through me being coy.  So I learned to hide that part of myself – to shut it out and keep myself flat and level.

Sometimes I would be out with my family and we’d be walking through a crowd, and my Dad would laugh, and say to my Mum “Did you see that?  That guy just checked that girl out from head to toe.  He wasn’t subtle at all!”  Other times I would hear girls talking about guys being creepy, or how obvious it was when a guy my age looked at another girl (and sometimes that was also said with a healthy amount of scorn, because they resented the guy looking at that girl instead of themselves).  So I learned that it was wrong to consider other women attractive, or even looking at someone I find attractive. It became safer to look at someone attractive with scorn.  “Pfft, what a slut”.  At least that was acceptable (that was the story I created).

By the time I got to the age and maturity where women were willing to even consider sex with me (it took a while!) I was a big huge ball of wrong, shame, and control.

And this is where Bay entered my life.

My stuff grows more and more clear to me each week as I continue to work on it.  Out of all of the lessons that I put together as a child and an adolescent, I reached the point where there were parts of me that were simply unacceptable.  It was not acceptable that I found women other than my partner attractive.  It was unacceptable that, when watching TV, I would sometimes get turned-on because of what we were watching.

None of those things are actually bad.  They come with being a human being.  The problem wasn’t that I found other women attractive, or that sometimes I got turned on when there was a naked woman on TV — the problem was that I was not able to own this part of myself.

I had basically fractured myself into two parts.  The part of me that felt all of the things that I felt, and the part of me that I was able and willing to own and share with the rest of the world, including my partner.

As a result, intimacy (including but not limited to sex) became impossible.  There was no room for me to actually be myself, because I couldn’t even own that.  I would carry on the façade as long as I could, but eventually we would inevitably stop having sex, and then intimacy altogether.  There was simply no room for me to be both myself, authentic and vulnerable, and intimate.

In some relationships this leads to the situation where one partner cheats on the other partner.  For me, I cheated once on a girlfriend when I was much younger, and felt so horrible about it that I vowed never to do it again.  So instead I’d just shut out my partner, turn to internet pornography and meet my own needs.  It was perhaps less “morally reprehensible” in the eyes of our societal views, but what I can see is that it had no less impact on the health of the intimacy of my relationships, nor the mindset of my partners (“What is wrong with me?”, they would ask, wondering why I had shut them out).

I was shut down everywhere.  I couldn’t even admire someone who was beautiful, because that was the part of me that was wrong, and as a result, I learned to stifle the impulse.

But, as I’ve said before, humans are not like a set of plumbing, with multiple valves we can turn on and off.  If you cut off your energy in one place, you cut it off in other places.

What there is for me to do now is to start owning these parts of myself. Own them as simply facets of me, wholly and complete.  There’s nothing wrong with being lit up by someone who is beautiful — what there is to do is to take that energy and share it with the person I love.  It doesn’t mean that she isn’t important, or that I don’t find her attractive; the energy is my own, and I get to choose where I provide it.  What has changed is that I’m now choosing to provide it to my partner, instead of miserly guarding it for myself (where it was safe, but ultimately empty).

What does that look like?  It means sometimes sharing with Bay when I notice myself following the usual pattern.  Oh look, now I’m denying myself any access to anything that might be arousing, because that way I can control myself.  Oh look, I just opened up google and typed in “sexy nuns”, and then quickly shut down the page.  Oh look, this time I did the same thing, but took a little longer to shut down the page.

It’s not Bay’s responsibility to immediately accept what I share with her.  Unconditional love doesn’t mean that we don’t get taken out when our partners share something we don’t like.  We may very well struggle to be with a part of themselves that they’ve spent most of their own lives rejecting (after all, they’ve been struggling with it…).  Our job as partners is to hear it, notice what it creates in ourselves (and what it reflects in you that you cannot own), and then take that on.

In this way, relationships can be the ultimate ground for personal growth — but it requires stepping into your fear over and over.

I don’t love sharing this with you, because I’m not yet ready to fully own that that is who I am.  But I am sharing it because this is the process by which I do begin to own myself, as a powerful leader; one replete with wisdom, arrogance, kindness, judgment, humility, grace, foolishness, wit, defensiveness, and yes, sexuality too.

Thanks for reading and sharing in my process.

The 52-week guide to becoming an entrepreneur – Week 37

March 3rd, 2014 No comments

photo - Version 2This is the thirty-seventh 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 most certainly been breakdown.  The teams I lead as part of my ongoing coach training have been struggling to generate what they’ve declared, and that always drives up people’s stuff.

People’s stuff being driven up isn’t a bad thing.  That’s a hard thing for most of us to actually come around to accepting.  When people have their stuff driven up, it’s actually a gift — it’s an opportunity for them to really get clear on what they can’t be with, get coached on it (if they choose), and practice coming from a different place.

The challenge is that when other people have their stuff driven up, it drives my stuff up to.  When other people show up triggered, I get pulled in.  You’ve experienced this too, where one person getting hooked and taken out by something ultimately derails an entire meeting, leading to everyone feeling frustrated and annoyed.

The crazy thing about my career is that my job is to actually be with people’s stuff.  My whole career choice exists in service of having people taking on goals or projects that they can’t see how to create, and then standing for them while they struggle.  You know what happens when you struggle?  It gets messy.

So.  When my team is in breakdown, it’s challenging for me to stay in altitude and avoid getting drawn in.  My default is to go to blame, or frustration.  I get cold and distanced and become a calculating business man.  It’s no fun for anyone, and it’s especially no fun for me.

The thing is that breakdowns are always the juiciest moments of opportunity.  I’ve been through enough of them myself to know this, and, it’s my work.  Invite people to create breakdowns and on the other side, the breakthrough.

But I don’t like them.

I don’t like breakdowns myself, because they feel terrible (right?).  Breakdowns are great for other people, but not for me.  That’s how I’d like it to be.  But it isn’t — and living like that wouldn’t be in integrity with who I am and what I do.

This Friday, while working to support my team-members, I got an e-mail that the Clipper (our mode of transportation) had a mechanical failure, and we would no longer be able to catch it down to Seattle.  An alternative was available, but it required getting to the terminal two hours earlier.

All I wanted to do was tell everyone messaging me to shut up so I could solve things.  It didn’t matter that half of the people messaging were actually doing so in order to support me — when I’m hooked, I don’t care about any of that.  Just get the hell out of my way and let me do my thing.

It’s kind of funny.  When people are struggling in their stuff, I lose access to compassion for them.  And I do the exact same thing with myself.  When I’m struggling, there’s no room for support or any of the other garments that compassion wears.  I get cold and distant and shut myself out just as much as I shut anyone else.

So what this week ultimately provided me was the opportunity to be present to my stuff and choose something different.  Instead of pushing people away, open up and allow them in.  Choose to create connection and compassion with people struggling in their own stuff.

Look for the breakdowns.  They’re how you know you’re growing.