THOSE WHO STRUGGLE TO RELATE TO THEMSELVES WILL STRUGGLE TO RELATE TO OTHERS
In her book, Good Chemistry, The Science of Connection from Soul to Psychedelics author Julie Holland, MD presents a unified theory of connection that starts with a connection to the self, progresses to connection with a partner, expands outward to connection with the family, and then builds onward to the community, the earth, and the cosmos. As I read through it, I found a parallel to entrepreneurship from a founder’s connection to themselves, to that with a partner (if you have a business partner) to that with the company (because the company is always something separate from ourselves), to our market, to the economy, and to the cosmos as well :). What I found is that as Dr. Holland’s work points out that those who haven’t learned to relate to themselves well will struggle to relate to both their company and their market. But instead of reflecting on themselves as the problem that needs to be solved, we project that disconnection onto our team members and our marketing strategies.
BE A GREAT MIND
Have you ever noticed you’re having a problem with an employee or vendor and you find yourself discussing them and not the problem? We get swept up in personality assessments, we get burdened by interpersonal dynamics, and we become disillusioned with our team and their ability to do what we need them to do. It’s an easy trap, it mirrors much of what we’re taught in society around interpersonal dynamics. It gets validated by our peers when we vent and they affirm that it’s the employees and team members that are the problem. The thing is, that’s not true, and each of those experiences: personality assessments, burdening interpersonal dynamics, and disillusionment with our team, are all indicators that we are projecting our own disconnection from ourselves onto those around us in order to avoid the painful process of our own personal integration.
Last week, during an interview, I had said that entrepreneurship is one of the three great mirrors we have in life for personal growth (the other two being in a long-term relationship and having a child). If we fail to see the experience as a mirror of what we need to change/adapt/grow/release/integrate within ourselves, we stay stuck in a vicious cycle of disappointment and victimization.
Eleanor Roosevelt has a quote that I like to use to understand this: Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, and small minds discuss people. Now, we can set aside the judgment of who is great and who is small, but the general idea holds true: when we are discussing people, we are our smallest, most constricted selves. When we see interpersonal events within our company as an opportunity for our own reflection on where we’re not relating well to ourselves as the leader of the dynamic, then we can shift into ideas. Where can we change/adapt/grow/release/integrate within ourselves to focus not on the personality of the individuals involved, but on the opportunity to understand what this event is calling to our attention? If we take this approach, we go back to rebuilding the connection to ourselves first, and with that improved connection, we will relate much better to the situation that occurred within the company. It’s not about avoidance or excusing, but it is about reflection and responsibility.
COLLABORATION IS INTERCHANGE
The big buzzword in entrepreneurship in the last decade is about building communities. We are trying to correct what we see as manipulative marketing and sales tactics of the past. If we truly think about what is at the core of community building we can see similarities in how we relate to individuals. We can project onto individuals, but we can also project onto groups of people in an effort to build community. Carl Jung said, “Loneliness does not come from having no people around you, but from being unable to communicate the things that seem important to you.” Most entrepreneurs that I see unable to grow their business to a viable state, (a state in which it provides for themselves, their employees, and their community as a whole) don’t lack effective marketing strategies, they lack the ability to communicate that which is important to them. They lack the ability to speak clearly about their own point of view. They are swept up and distracted by what they’re supposed to be saying in hopes of optimizing their efforts instead of communicating what it is that would allow them to genuinely connect to the people within the community they serve. We get seduced by that optimization when we fail to have a connection to ourselves first.
One of my favorite parts in the movie Soul is when Joe Gardner lands in the Great Before, which his guide quickly points out has been “rebranded” to the You Seminar LOL. It was such a poignant moment in this time as so much of what is intrinsically accessible to humans gets rebranded with business jargon creating a disconnect from its original meaning. This happens so often in marketing and we fall for it, either believing that it must be necessary or using it as a scapegoat for the avoidance of vulnerability and overriding our natural human instincts to build connections. In her book, All About Love, bell hooks explains, “Fear is the primary force upholding structures of domination. It promotes the desire for separation, the desire to be known. When we are taught that safety lies always with sameness, then difference, of any kind, will appear as a threat.” Out of unconscious fear, entrepreneurs constantly seek formulaic solutions they see their peers using and that promotes the illusion of safety through sameness. But it rarely pays off and we blame our marketing strategies, not our own avoidance to genuinely connect to our market.
Your business is a collaboration with your audience, it is you in relation to your community as a whole. In her book, The Collaborative Habit, Twyla Tharp explains, “The root of any collaboration is interchange—literally, change. Nothing forces change more dramatically than a new partnership (i.e. market).” If you see yourself in partnership with your market and the path of entrepreneurship as a collaboration with them, how would you relate to your market differently? How would you see beyond the jargon of marketing and the safety of the formulaic solutions to connect to the genuine needs, dreams, and desires of those you serve?
At the end of the day, no matter what industry you’re in, if you’re B2B or B2C, if you’re a solo entrepreneur or a company of thousands, you’re in the business of relating. All of the rest is window dressing that can easily distract us from our core purpose of connecting first to our own self and then to our company and our market. There is no “hacking” our way to self-connection. It takes a long-term commitment to discovery through vulnerability. It is a process that can’t be capitalized, can’t be packaged, and can’t be purchased. Once you realize this, the possibilities of connection become continuous. The world becomes expansive. And your journey of entrepreneurship actually provides that sense of actual freedom that so many entrepreneurs are actually seeking.