Category Archives: Entrepreneurship

Starting Something New: The Courage to Cultivate Authenticity

Starting Something New: The Courage to Cultivate Authenticity

Lately, I’ve been very aware that I am in a period of recapitulation. I’ve been in this place before, but mostly I just reeled against myself in resistance because I couldn’t stand the uncertainty that comes with the territory.

To recapitulate something is to summarize and restate again the main points. In terms of growth and development, it’s a period of introspective evolution — an expansion of consciousness, if you will.

I admit at times, it’s damn uncomfortable. It’s also very sweet and this time around I’m savoring the sweetness of it and being ok with letting things inside of me germinate at pace slower than to my liking. It’s actually kind of peaceful.

As most everything in life needs a period of “rest” after it’s been worked (soil after it’s been tilled, dough after its been kneaded, our bodies after a good work-out and our souls after a challenging period), all of this comes on the coattails of three very challenging years.

In 2011, I walked off a cliff and started a music festival–a blues music festival to be more precise. I also publish a magazine. In this latest issue, I wrote about my experience starting this Festival, which was a totally harrowing experience, and one I wouldn’t change for the world. The journey of the last three years inoculated me against everyday fears that frequently plague all of us. It shined a light in the dark corners where these fears hide and exposed them for the frauds they really are. Where I was once blinded by darkness I can now see, and I am fortified with some truths that I might never have known any other way.

As I look at my blog, I’m realizing the extent of my neglect has been almost a year. So it’s time…time for me to share with you what’s been keeping my attention. Here I share with you my story of starting something new and how that helped me to cultivate authenticity. Starting Something New: The Birth of Tall City Blues Fest

The Ruinous Side of Virtues

The Ruinous Side of Virtues

I’ve often felt there exists an invisible boundary that tempers the goodness of virtues, a sort of diminishing returns when relied upon to the extreme.

I term this experience ‘running riot’ with the virtues. It starts out with a good, pure virtuous motive, but then very subtly our experience becomes something else–something not so virtuous.

Let’s take for example, acceptance. Acceptance in its purity is about loving others in spite of their exasperating qualities, while at the same time having and honoring boundaries that prevent us from taking ownership of someone else’s poor behavior (see another blog post I wrote about acceptance here). But acceptance run riot to the nth degree becomes resignation. We resign ourselves that the world, our marriage, our kids, our jobs, (fill in the blank) are doomed, so why bother anymore. That’s just the way things are. So it’s not surprising when we find ourselves abruptly detaching with resentment and putting up a wall to cope. This is not acceptance; this is resignation.

Resignation is acceptance run riot. Acceptance is swathed in love; resignation is seeded with resentment. Let’s look at how this works with other virtues:

Honesty run riot becomes brutality;
Truth run riot becomes self-righteous;
Freedom run riot becomes lazy;
Kindness run riot becomes self-serving;
Ambition run riot becomes domination;
Adventure run riot becomes frivolity;
Strength run riot becomes caustic;
Humility run riot becomes self-sabotage;
Leadership run riot becomes controlling;
Willingness run riot becomes overcommitted;
Diligence run riot becomes dogged;
Assertive run riot becomes aggressive;
Tolerance run riot becomes self-neglect;
Patience run riot becomes procrastination;
Silence run riot becomes withholding;
Solace run riot becomes isolation;
Concern run riot becomes criticism; and
Love run riot becomes suffocation.

And, of course, this is just a sampling. The list could go on and on.

To the Aspiring Writer: The Job Requirements

To the Aspiring Writer: The Job Requirements

I’ve been thinking lately about writers and the thought occurs to me that as writers, particularly aspiring writers who are not already getting paid for our work, we’ve really got it cush, yet we think we’ve got it tough.

As aspiring writers, we inadvertently sabotage ourselves, or at least hold our potential at bay, because we have both a wishful desire to get paid as a writer, and at the same time, we privately wonder why anybody would pay for our writing. What is profoundly insightful or insatiably intriguing to others, to us may seem commonplace. And we fall into the trap of thinking that if we thought of it, then anyone else can think of it too….so therefore our thoughts are not remarkable…and therefore our words are not worth money….and because they are not worth money, of course no one will pay for them. And voila! We’ve conveniently justified not writing. Because why bother anyway? Only people that are already getting paid for their writing, get paid for their writing, right? Wrong!

This is a classic case of a thought thread beginning with a statement of truth, but very quickly veering off track into a self-deluding lie, albeit one that tastes palatable and so therefore must be true. It’s too easy to assume because the seed of our thought started with a truth that the end conclusion will also be a truth. But that just isn’t the truth!

Herein lies the flaw: Just because anyone else can think of your same thought doesn’t mean they will, and even if they do, it doesn’t mean they will do anything with it, and even if they do do something with it, so what? Is your take on the same motif going to be EXACTLY the same as someone else’s? I hardly think so! But, by far, the biggest lie in this line of thinking is assuming that our thoughts are unremarkable and unworthy of monetary consideration because everyone else has the same thought potential as we do.

So that’s true: everyone else does have the same thought potential. But potential is where the truth ends. If we don’t turn that potential into writing that someone else can read, it remains just that–potential. And how much money do you think potential alone ever made anybody? Zero! Potential has to be turned into something. This is what distinguishes writers from thinkers. And the ‘something’ it gets turned into may or may not command money in the marketplace. But that doesn’t matter.

When you’re a writer (that’s not already getting paid for your writing), you can’t use whether or not your writing is going to get you paid as your impetus for starting to write in the first place. You just have to write and let your stuff get filtered thru the universal sieve of the marketplace. We all know that people get paid for crap writing all the time, but crap is subjective. If that crap is generating money for its author, then it is withstanding the test of the marketplace, period! The only difference is degree and as an aspiring writer, we can’t afford to concern ourselves with degrees; we should instead be concerned with breaking the barrier from not getting paid into getting paid, assuming of course that we are writing in the first place! And even after we break the barrier and start getting paid, degrees still really don’t matter, at least degrees relative to other writers. The only thing that matters is our results relative to our desires. And for promotion and marketing: they’re a numbers game. Promotion and marketing are a hedge, that’s it; nothing more, nothing less. We still have to write.

It’s like this: We miss 100% of the shots we don’t take, and as a writer we have to take the shots (i.e., write the stuff) regardless of what we think the outcome might be. One of two things is going to happen: We’re either going to produce stuff that people will pay for or we’re going to learn a hellava lot in the process, presumably about ourselves and about writing. And besides that, writing is an art and art works by working on its creator. The more we create (write), the better our (art) writing becomes. So who’s to stay that what we are writing now that no one is paying us for won’t pave the way for us to write something that someone will pay for?

The point is this: Write. Just write. Write regardless. Write with abandon. Whatever happens, it’s a win all the way around.

Money or no money, as writers, we have to be willing to put ourselves and our writing out there. It’s a requirement for the job!

P.S. Please excuse my several instances of prepositions at the end of sentences. If it makes you feel better, think of it as post-positioning instead of pre-positioning!

Striving for Failure

Striving for Failure

I wonder what would happen if we changed our idea about ‘failure’ to simply mean a milestone for having tried something big?

And if we try something big and fall short of the goal, does that really mean we failed? If failure means not having met the goal, then yes it does. But I’d offer that our definition of failure is flawed. Shouldn’t the objective always be to do something bigger than we believe ourselves capable? Isn’t life about stretching ourselves, taking risks, embarking on adventure?

Where did we get this idea that the point in life is to be comfortable? Seeking a comfortable, easy life is analogous to striving for planned complacency–and doing it on purpose!

We’ve been programmed to believe that failure is bad and should be avoided, but what if we strived for failure on purpose? And I don’t mean planning for failure; I mean striving for failure. There’s a difference!

Planning for failure is using this idea as a means of justifying and explaining your failures in some kind of twisted logic where failure becomes the new success. “Well, the point of the exercise was to fail, and there I failed, so I succeeded.” No!

Striving for failure, on the other hand, is deliberately choosing projects or goals that are bigger than you, that feel scary, that are beyond our capability to handle and that have an element of unknown. Of course, when we do this, we are likely to fall short of our goal; but more importantly we will have tried something big. We will have stretched ourselves. We will have expanded our consciousness. And maybe, just maybe in the process of trying something bigger than ourselves, we can make a difference in the lives of people around us–in our families, our communities, villages, towns, cities, etc! ‘Bigger than ourselves’ by definition will have a ripple effect even into the lives of people we don’t know.

It’s like this: If it isn’t scary, it’s not worth doing. If at first you don’t succeed, then you were not challenging yourself enough. No one ever achieves something big by being grandiose. We accomplish big things by being willing to risk failure, by not being afraid to put our heart and soul into something that just might not work, by being willing to try. Trying is not dying; trying is the opposite of hiding (1).

(1) Thanks to Seth Godin for the perspective on trying.

The Death of Idealism

The Death of Idealism

I read this this today in Seth Godin’s book ‘Poke the Box’, which is a term he uses to describe innovating, initiating & starting something new. I thought these words very profound & worthy of sharing.

Sooner or later, many idealists transform themselves into
disheartened realists who mistakenly believe that giving up is the
same thing as being realistic.

When they start out, the idealists believe that doing something is far
better than doing nothing. They understand the system, the process,
the way it’s all set up to work. They want to fix it, change it, or least disturb it.

Over time, these politicians, entrepreneurs, or activists discover that
as they get more leverage, they seem to give up the very thing that got them into this position in the first place. The people arguing on behalf of accepting the status quo are the ones who, years ago, set out to change it.

For so many people, this transformation is preventable.

As disillusionment set in, people stop poking. They find themselves
slowing down, dissuaded or disheartened, so they start to accept the
status quo. The irony is that the act of creating and shipping
remarkable ideas is the very thing that can change the status quo.
Yelling at the cable TV anchor never changes anything. Yell long
enough and you’ll merely end up hoarse.

Click here to read more inside the book.

Commanding Power (in the name of love)

Commanding Power (in the name of love)

Commanding power is not the same as demanding it. -Ixchel

Demanding is that childlike tantrum while commanding comes from that place of inner self-sovereignty and is based on the sure and steady knowledge of one’s self.

Commanding comes from a place of love, both for one’s self as well as for others. I once heard that one of the measures of love is the extent to which I am willing to be inconvenienced–both by myself and by others.

Do I love myself enough to walk thru the uncomfortable feelings, tend to my responsibilities even when I don’t feel like it and honor the commitments I’ve made to myself? And do I love others enough to make myself available when they need help, perform acts of unsolicited kindness and be willing to temporarily shoulder a burden that might help them reach a personal triumph?

Wimp Junctions & Ugly Wrapping Paper

Wimp Junctions & Ugly Wrapping Paper

What the hell does that mean? And who would use ugly wrapping paper–especially on purpose?

I’ll tell you who….Life, the Universe, Nature, God, the Life Force, the Divine!

When we ask for Divine Guidance and Intervention, sometimes the Help we get comes in the form of another frustration, headache, embarrassment, more of the same crap we’re already sick of or a pain in the ass situation we now have to deal with. That’s what I call a gift in ugly wrapping paper. But why is that a gift?

Because it’s exactly these type of situations that put us at wimp junction–that crossroads between choosing to keep doing the same thing over and over or to triumph. Wimp junctions are always uncomfortable (did I say always?), usually don’t give us very much time to make our choice and are always rooted in fear (did I say always?). When we emerge victorious from wimp junction, we have learned a lesson that is paramount to our own unique development. We are released from its bondage.

Let me give you some examples:

Having a client that treats you like crap (gift in ugly wrapping paper)
Risk losing the client and the income they provide (fear)
WIMP JUNCTION
(1) Deciding the abuse is worth the money, or
(2) Informing the client that the way they treat you will not continue to be acceptable
CONSEQUENCES
(1) Go straight to jail, do not pass go, do not collect $200 (bondage)
(2) The client moves on and makes room for better clients or changes they way they treat you (gift)

Losing money on a big project (ugly wrapping paper)
The impact of this on your future (fear)
WIMP JUNCTION
(1) Letting the situation define you as a failure, or
(2) Deciding to do the work necessary to learn from it
RESULTS
(1) Go straight to jail, do not pass go, do not collect $200 (bondage)
(2) Being armed with new knowledge and insights that can be applied to the next project (gift)

Having an alcoholic spouse (ugly wrapping paper)
Losing the relationship (fear)
WIMP JUNCTION
(1) Continue to accept their unacceptable behavior and be miserable, or
(2) Seek help
RESULTS
(1) Go straight to jail, do not pass go, do not collect $200 (bondage)
(2) Building new relationships or deepening existing relationships (gift)

Are you catching on? It’s the messes that are the gifts in ugly wrapping paper! They give us the opportunity to stand in the middle of wimp junction and decide for ourselves if we’re going to rinse and repeat or do something different. I read recently in a book that the only people that have their shit together are those that are standing in the middle of it! We all have shitty, uncomfortable messes in our lives. The question is not “Why is this happening to me?”, but rather “How can this help me to grow if I choose to see it differently?”.

The Crux of Writer’s Block

The Crux of Writer’s Block

It seems like ‘writer’s block’ is more about having too many ideas, rather than not enough.

I think the ‘block’ is more about the paralysis that results from having too many thoughts, than it is about being lost in the black void of nothingness.

The real challenge, it seems, is more of a sorting-thru-all-this-great-stuff problem, than it is a finding-new-content problem.

Who Am I?

Who Am I?

I am your constant companion. I am your greatest helper or heaviest burden. I will push you onward or drag you down to failure. I am completely at your command. Half of the things you do you might just as well turn them over to me, and I will be able to do them quickly and correctly. I am easily managed-you must be firm with me. Show me exactly how you want something done and after a few lessons I will do it automatically. I am the servant of all great people; and alas, of all failures as well. Those who are failures, I have made failures. I am not a machine, though I work with all the precsion of a machine plus the intelligence of human being. You may run me for a profit or turn me for ruin-it makes no difference to me. Take me, train me, be firm with me, and I will place the world at your feet. Be easy with me and I will destroy you.

Who am I?

Habit.

Seeking Fulfillment: Why Excitement Isn’t Worth It! (as published in the Midland Reporter-Telegram-Sept 2006)

Seeking Fulfillment: Why Excitement Isn’t Worth It! (as published in the Midland Reporter-Telegram-Sept 2006)

Among many challenges we face as entrepreneurs, I have noticed that managing emotions is critical, but often dismissed as fluffy or ridiculous. It is so easy to get excited about a deal closing, getting your next client – or first client, meeting a really lofty goal you had set for yourself, or getting a really big check in the mail. These are all milestones that deserve celebration, but there is an easier way to celebrate them than to get excited.

Likewise, when the deal falls apart – you don’t get the client, meet the goal or get the check you were expecting – that can be rather debilitating. But only if you let it. Interestingly enough, getting too excited is just as debilitating. It’s simple physics at work here. What goes up must come down. And it will come down at the same rate it went up.

Sometimes I think we fuel our own insanity as entrepreneurs. And we do this in lots of ways – like doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. But one of the most potent ways we do this is not managing our emotions. A good rule of thumb is don’t get too high and don’t get too low. “But.” you say. But those exciting times are not worth the withdrawal that comes in tandem. You will waste more time recovering from your own excitement than you would to just have been calm. Excitement is a lure. It is pure adrenaline. And the same is true of anger or other highly potent negative emotions. They are short lived and only at the level of the mind. But fulfillment, on the other hand, is satisfying. It is satisfying at a gut level and it is long lasting.

Fulfillment is what we are looking for out of our businesses, not excitement. But it is easy to mistakenly confuse the two. One of the greatest character traits of an entrepreneur is to be the calm in the storm – through the great times but also through the tough times.

There is a natural law of change that occurs all around us that we are powerless to do anything about. But what we do have the power to do is choose our response to this change. Don’t be a slave to this law of change, just because you don’t know how to manage your emotions. For that matter, don’t be a slave to your emotions, always looking for the high – the great times – and avoiding the lows – the bad times.

As a matter of fact, according to Webster’s, the word excited means being stirred emotionally, agitated, stimulated to activity and brisk. Is that really how you want to be in your business? Or would you rather be fulfilled – bringing into actuality, carrying out, measuring up to, satisfying, bringing to an end and completing? Which do you think sounds better? I don’t know about you, but being excited all the time wears me out. I would much rather be fulfilled.

But herein lies the challenge. We all want immediate gratification and we are programmed to get it. It is easy to go for the excitement instead of the fulfillment. When we are always indulging in the excitement, we are probably not planting seeds to be fulfilled in the future. And so, very quickly you begin to see how we get into that insanity trap of doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. In this case, by thriving on one exciting success to the next.

But there is good news. Here are some practical things you can do to start getting your emotions in check:

First, don’t react to situations; respond to them instead. A reaction is a programmed response that can be no better than your belief systems. That may be a harsh statement, but I cannot tell you the number of times that I have reacted to a situation, and then later when I can see the situation more clearly, realized I would have chose a different response if I had taken the time to think about my actions. I would always rather respond than react because when I respond, I don’t have to go back later and try to make things right or apologize. A response is an action that is thought out and carefully deliberated. A response takes ownership for my part and is an action with which I can live.

And really there is no need to react, because everything is temporary anyway. You might think that great times are going to last forever when you are in them, but I can promise you they will not, despite what you do to try to make them extend their stay. That is a fundamental violation of the natural law of change. And conversely, you might feel like the bad times are going to last forever and, as a result, succumb to your emotions and quit right before you turn a corner. I can promise you they will not last forever. If bad times never passed, we would never have good and if good times never passed, we would never have bad. Whatever is going on right now will pass; I promise.

Second, don’t buy into the excitement that often comes along with setting goals. This is particularly true at the beginning of a year when you are making your projections as to what you think you could do in the coming year. Set the goals and be done with it. Don’t spend any time pondering how wonderful life would be if you could accomplish those goals.

As a matter of fact, I recommend you set the goals and then put them aside for the rest of the year. The process of setting the goals programs your subconscious as to what it needs to do. Any time spent pondering whether you will achieve them is planting a seed of doubt that will surely germinate as the months of the year pass. I am not saying don’t track your activity, I am just saying don’t subject yourself to the insanity of constantly trying to measure up to your goals. Let the course of the year ebb and flow naturally without force-fitting your goals on top of your business. In other words, let your business produce your goals, rather than you trying to squeeze your goals out of your business. Subtle, but powerful.

Third, when you accomplish a goal or have a big success, don’t stand there and admire it. Celebrate it and go on. Your success does not suddenly mean no more effort is required on your part. It just means you had a success. Likewise, when you have a failure, don’t just stand there and stare at it in a stupor. Acknowledge it and go on. At the moment you stand there and admire your work or throw your hands up at the mess you made, you have just become your worst nightmare. Chronically successful people don’t take time to admire their own work or whine about their failures. Whatever happens they keep moving on. They are the calm in the storm.

And last, practice consistency. We can come up with all kinds of excuses to not be consistent, but consistency is the one thing that will save your hide when the tough times hit. Any moron can run a successful business when the getting is good, but it takes some real fortitude and stamina to run a business through the hard times. But most of all it takes consistent, diligent effort. In business, I have found that whatever seeds you plant today will germinate in roughly 60 days from today. So it’s not so bad – really. Be consistent, but not insane.