I was asked a few months ago by a reader, “What advice do you have for someone starting a business?” As a business mentor it’s a question I get asked a lot and to be honest my answer has changed drastically over the past few years.
A few things…
First, in business, there’s the data. And I am a big fan of understanding the data of your business. Data is all the numbers, decisions, and really all the boring stuff that we don’t imagine we spend all that much time thinking about, but in reality it consumes us until we have it down on paper, in a spreadsheet, and then ultimately delegated. We need to see the numbers and the systems with our own eyes, out of our minds, as a real thing in the world. We need to know the rules. I advise and assist my clients in creating and understanding the costs, logistics, contracts, rules, systems and processes that make up the data and science of their business. This is often where we start.
All brilliant creative endeavors have rules. Really strong rules and it is essential to know this data, write these rules, and truly understand how our creativity and ingenuity is birthed from these rules. Matisse was able to represent the human form with a pair of scissors and construction paper because he had spent years in the science of studying the human form. And I mean the SCIENCE of the human form. Anatomy, light, shadow. Knowing and being able to see and recreate the ratio from the shoulder to elbow to hand. This understanding is critical to being able to translate the human form in a few simple shapes. It’s all about proportions. And you don’t reach that freedom, until you surrender to the science of your work.
For business it’s the same. Our freedom to create and innovate rests on the science and data of what we do. Knowing the numbers and the systems lets us soar. It’s boring, but ultimately spending some time in the data is what allows you to bring your ideas to reality. You want to be so solid in your numbers and your systems. Know your rules. Run your business like you are handing it off to someone else tomorrow. Get the rules out of your head. Make them real.
That all seems very measured and business like and what a business owner might be expected to do. There is never a client I walk through the process of creating the science of their business who doesn't fundamentally understand its importance. And I do think this process is critical to being successful. But it’s not the most important thing.
My first piece of advice is quite different.
I wrote a bit last week about understanding ourselves as a single vessel. All the parts we play, how all the ways we spend our time are connected and feed each other. There exists no separate “work” us, or “parent” us or “partner” us. While we may behave differently in these roles, they all share the same energy. They are all us. We are conditioned to compartmentalize ourselves in this way. Capitalism kind of depends on it and certainly this idea of a compartmentalized life has been forcefully shoved down the throats of women who are expected to shift roles as quickly as pulling off a bandaid. But that’s not really how animals function. Not well anyway. I think we are currently seeing the truly shitty effects of operating this way. We are depressed, anxious, stressed out, in a mental health crisis and oh yeah traumatized (I’m totally not up for it today, but trauma is the baseline for EVERYONE right now, I’ll write more about this and what to do about it, but for now know, YES, you are traumatized, your kids are traumatized, and that’s okay and a healthy response to the world being turned upside down since 2020). And it’s possible that the events of the last few years have birthed my new thinking about how to run a business, how to be successful. Probably.
The shift from a compartmentalized self to thinking of ourselves as a single source for all our roles, really changes the way we live. Instead of weighing work tasks in a separate category of energy or possibility, we start to include them in the broader context of our lives. Our down time, time spent in receivership, whatever that looks like for you is the most important thing. Being in receivership fuels all the parts of ourselves. Including opportunities. If we are one vessel, then the way we spend our time outside of work, fuels the possibilities at work. And the other way around. And this way of thinking actually gives us a tremendous amount of freedom. It slows down the hustle, prevents us from pushing, and allows space for joy. Rest actually feeds success. How mind-blowing.
I’m a big fan of allowing time and space for receivership. In fact I think it’s not only the most effective, but also the most sustainable way to success. And this view allows for a really wide perspective. Advisement I often give my clients is to include all aspects of their life when trying to identify what can change. Maybe the hours at work right now cannot change. Perhaps there is a deadline, you are training a new hire, there is a crisis that needs to be solved. Life is a mess sometimes. But when we look at ourselves as a single vessel, possibilities come fast. Maybe nothing at work can move, but what can? Where is there flexibility? Can you get your groceries delivered? Can you send out your laundry? Can you eat off of compostable plates for a week so you do not have to do the dishes? What about take out? Doordash? Delivery instead of running out to the store because that takes an hour. Every single time for pretty much all of us. Can you ride-share? Carpool the kids to school? Hire a Virtual Assistant to send in those health insurance claims for you? Just so you can sit, and be. Even for 30 minutes. It’s worth it. You are allowed to rest. You are allowed to play. All animals need rest. All animals need play. In fact, rest and play will serve your goals faster and better than doing all the things. All the time.
That being said…
And yes, totally, these are all privileged choices. 100% and the kind of basic support many of us would have access to if we lived in a country that supported the reality of our workforce. Only forty percent of the US population has a college degree. But our systems are set up for and reward the consistent upward mobility that higher education, generational wealth, and of course white supremacy support. And that’s bullshit. But also very real. It is a societal fail on the largest scale. We know from research studies on people living in poverty that the mind is so stressed from the constant churning for solutions that it is incapable of making sound decisions at the end of the day. The stress from one single unforeseen, very human occurrence falling out of sequence, like a bus being late or getting sick and not being able to work sets off a cataclysmic slide of decisions that need to be solved for in order to stay housed, fed, and safe. Our minds simply cannot solve for everything. And poverty forces us to run equations all day long. Power, specifically white supremacy, seeks to keep power by creating a system where people are starving, stupid, and scared (congrats to Florida you are really leaning into this). And also tired. And unable to make decisions because of all the decisions that have to be made in order to simply survive.
So how do we change this? Lots of ways. I can speak for myself in that I believe in the power of changing leadership, one leader at a time. And that’s what I do for a living. It’s a small thing, an imperfect solution, a very small insignificant part of the solution, but inspires progress nonetheless. When one person changes, it forces an entire system to change. Many embrace the change and also, the asshole uncle who still refuses to change, learn, evolve and grow and plants his feet deeper and deeper into concrete finds strength in this resistance. But often grows tired of fighting progress. They also inevitably die out.
Back to it, so yeah, change is a totality. We are one singular vessel, no matter the role we play. Ideally we can create change and shifts in the exact area of our lives where it is needed, but that’s rare. It is a grand thing to develop the skill of flexibility, as a leader and as a human. To be able to shift part of the entirety of your experience to create change, allow space for rest and also fun, when other areas of life are temporarily set in stone. And maybe it really is flexibility, or a new kind of flexibility that creates a strong and successful business. Being able to view your energy as a totality and also being flexible. Knowing the science and data of your business is a great foundation to this flexibility. The anatomy and lifelike brushstrokes that birth the more modern and abstract movements. The broader choices. Embodying this freedom takes work and then practice but is 100% possible. It’s all about perspective.
On February 12, the sun transits GATE 30, the GATE of PASSION.
GATE 30 tasks you with the opportunity to contemplate your passion and desire in terms of your intentions and what dreams and ideas you want to bring into fruition. To reevaluate if your passion is directed toward what you truly want, is in alignment or even suppressed. To be mindful which dreams consume your passion and how you can sustain the intensity of your passion to fulfill your desires. How you practice patience and allow yourself to wait is an important part of this transit. Can you wait until the right time to work toward your passion? How do you wait? What do you do with your energy while you wait for the right time?
Journaling Prompts for this week:
1. What am I passionate about?
2. Am I depleted? Do I feel burned out?
3. What do I need in order to sustain my passion? What changes do I need to make?
4. Is there a dream I am avoiding due to fear that it won't come true?
Have a great week exploring this transit! Let me know what came up for you! Comment below to share your thoughts.
It's impossible to be from Long Island and not have Billy Joel exist somewhere in your bones. When my parents were in the early 20's they used to go to a dive bar in Northport to listen to some local kid named Bill play the piano. I can show you the different houses he lived in depending upon the marriage and assure you that the album Cold Spring Harbor truly inhabits my childhood home. Through the times he's been cool and incredibly not, we have shared a story with him of what it's like to be from New York. And just a little bit crazy. We all just kind of get each other.
One of my all time favorite albums is Turnstiles - this song appears there first, but it is the live version on Songs in the Attic that seems to stop time. Summer Highland Falls has meant different things to me throughout my life in both celebration and incredible grief. This is one of those songs where everything comes together for me. The melody and the lyrics. Each beautiful on their own, but truly magical when they come together.
I hope you enjoy it too. Hit listen to get a taste.
SUMMER HIGHLAND FALLS
They say that these are not the best of times
But they're the only times I've ever known
And I believe there is a time for meditation
In cathedrals of our own
Now I have seen that sad surrender in my lover's eyes
And I can only stand apart and sympathize
For we are always what our situations hand us
It's either sadness or euphoria
So we'll argue and we'll compromise
And realize that nothing's ever changed
For all our mutual experience
Our separate conclusions are the same
Now we are forced to recognize our inhumanity
A reason coexists with our insanity
Though we choose between reality and madness
It's either sadness or euphoria
How thoughtlessly we dissipate our energies
Perhaps we'll help fulfill each other's fantasies
And as we stand upon the ledges of our lives with our respective similarities
It's either sadness or euphoria...