Coach’s Challenge for 3/25/12 “Startups”
Good day, team.
Last week, I found myself in midtown Manhattan meeting with my new startup clients — six people from different backgrounds, business experiences and living situations, all incredibly pumped up and focused on their new venture. There is nothing like the energy of a startup. It’s equal parts certainty and uncertainty, which puts the people involved in a perpetual state of optimism and fear. It’s life on the razor’s edge. Some days, you’re convinced that everyone will want to buy your product, service or idea, and other days, you wonder how you’re ever going to get this baby off the ground. Where will the money come from? How will you ever get all the work done with so few people? What convinced you that this could work?
Leaving a steady job that seamlessly deposits money into your checking account every two weeks is a tough thing to do, particularly in today’s uncertain job market. The security that comes with that paycheck is often enough to help us ignore the dysfunctionality that occurs in most large companies. How often have you heard someone say, “I really hate this job, but I’m paid so well and have such good benefits that I can’t afford to leave”? The brave souls who leave that security to venture into the unknown territory of a startup almost always feel a combination of burning desire and heartburn.
This week’s challenge is about accessing that startup passion and commitment, regardless of what kind of job or profession you’re engaged in. Here’s an example. One of my current clients — let’s call him Joe — has worked in the same profession for 15 years. He’s really good at what he does and has slowly made his way up in his organization to hold a senior position. Joe is well-known and highly respected in his industry. He also has a growing family that he loves more than anything. Although the demands of his job often sneak into quality time with his family, he has managed to set some healthy boundaries with his boss to maintain a healthy work-life balance. He makes good money, enjoys where he lives and has great friends.
So why did Joe engage a coach? From the outside, his life looks pretty good. However, Joe found himself in that place Dante described so well in the “Inferno”: “Midway upon the journey of my life, I found myself within a forest dark, for the straightforward pathway had been lost.”
Indeed, Joe wondered where he’d lost himself along the way. You could call this a “mid-life crisis. But when I see people at this crossroad in their lives, regardless of their age, I recognize an opportunity to make a fundamental change. To reboot, so to speak, so they can access the passion within them. When the thing that ignites the essential fire within has been lost, finding it again is essential to carrying on.
Startup companies thrive on this kind of creative energy. In fact, it’s often all they have in the beginning. The ability to tap into that passion within oneself is the very thing that helps us make our way out of the dark woods. Like finding our true north again, it’s the compass that guides us away from confusion and doubt and into the light of clarity and new possibilities.
This week, spend some time finding your passion. If many aspects of your job have become stale, think about ways to redesign the way you do things to bring your creativity into your normal routine. How about taking the family some place you’ve never been before? One client I had took his family to Alaska on vacation, after many years of going to the same place on the beach in Mexico. He arranged for them to take a small plane ride to a remote island where they camped and fished for two weeks. He observed that it greatly improved all of their relationships. The kids were excited about learning how to fish and to see bears scooping salmon out of the water. He and his wife rekindled the fire he thought had long ago burnt out. As he watched her hanging hand-washed clothes on a makeshift clothesline by the lake, he saw the woman he so loved and appreciated. As he remarked, “She was just so incredibly beautiful in that moment, it brought tears to my eyes.”
Find what brings that passion back into your life. We can’t all be lucky or brave enough to be involved in a startup, where the nature of the new beginning reconnects us to that spirit of adventure and creativity. But each of us has an opportunity to change our habits just enough to wake up to the beauty around us. That beauty actually exists in every new moment, whether it’s in seeing a fellow teammate in a new way or connecting with a loved one.
Dante wasn’t really lost, he’d just misplaced his ability to see or find the way out. Sometimes the answer is outside of us, and we have to adjust our vision to see it. More often, the answer is inside us, and we have to be courageous enough to embrace it. This week, don’t be afraid to change a habit to allow your passion and commitment to be rekindled.
Have a good week!
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