Do you believe in serendipity? I’ll admit I didn’t think about it much until last week. I looked up the definition to make sure it was happening to me, and yes, “I experienced an occurrence of events by chance in a beneficial way.” I didn’t search for this week’s blog post; it found me.
It all started when I listened to a voice mail from a friend as I was getting ready to attend a conference. Here’s the last sentence my friend, Lisa, left on the message, “I know you’re busy, but call me anyway.” I paused from getting ready and smiled. I hadn’t spoken to her in a couple of months, and she knew it’s because I’m busy being a new business owner. Instead of, “Why don’t you ever call me?” or “You’re always too busy to call me.” She validated what we, as business owners know; we’re ALWAYS busy. However, in that one sentence, she also reminded me I’m more than what I do. She cares about me for who I am, and she misses me, “…but call me anyway.”
These words stayed with me all day and set the stage for the insights I’m sharing with you.
How, I wondered like every entrepreneur on the planet, do I own my own business which can consume my time and stay true to my most treasured relationships?
In other words, how do I stay true to my human connections in pursuit of my passion, my business, and not in spite of my passion?
I carried this thought in my mind and heart as I left for the Minnesota Social Service Association annual conference as a volunteer and supplemental speaker with friend and colleague, Andre Koen. Since I was busy supporting the speaker, I didn’t take the copious notes I usually do at Andre’s wisdom-filled presentations, but I did write down three things:
- Cultural artifacts stem from a root of values.
- Attitude and goals are connected. To change an attitude, reframe the goal.
- To participate in difficult conversations, we must listen with our hearts.
When I reached for my phone this morning to call my friend and my notes app with these lines showed on the home screen, it hit me – Bam! Serendipity. How do I integrate time for my loved ones with the swirl of activity inherent in entrepreneurial life? Read on. My good fortune is your good fortune.
My success must grow from within.
The quote above is my bottom-line takeaway. If I’m going to grow my relationships while I grow my business, all the decisions about where I spend my energy must come from within. For each note I took, I’ll share the context and the lesson I learned about my entrepreneurial life.
The note: Cultural artifacts stem from a root of values.
You might be familiar with the iceberg theory of culture where 10% of cultural artifacts and behavior is visible while 90% of culture is hidden under the water. In fact, I use the illustration in my ebook, Leading Teams That Get Results.
Andre Koen shared a far more organic analogy with conference attendees, comparing culture to a carrot. His explanation identifies our behaviors and cultural artifacts (dress, language, stories, etc.) as the visible stem of culture. The remaining root, or unseen elements of culture, stores our values. Artifacts nourish values and values fuel our cultural artifacts. In the carrot, if you sever the stem from the root, they both whither. When we act without connection to our values, we create stress in our lives.
The lesson: Connect what I do to what I value.
We make choices about what to do with our time every day. Do I stop to make a healthy dinner or do I work an hour or two more and order pizza? How many networking events can I attend in one week and still complete my workload? Can I have coffee with my friend or go to my child’s concert and not have to work through the weekend? If our activity, what we choose to do, is an artifact of what we believe, is what I’m doing lining up with what I value?
I’m going to spend the week tracking what I do and mapping it back to a value to answer the question. If the activity doesn’t map back to one of my core values, I’ll either: stop/say no, delegate, or outsource it.
The note: Attitude and goals are connected.
The basic premise of the note I took in Andre’s session is this; if you achieve your goal you, and those that helped you, are perceived to have a good attitude. If you face obstacles and you are frustrated in the achievement of your goal, you aren’t. Let me give you an example.
If my significant other asked me to put away my folded laundry over lunch so he could use the baskets for the loads he wants to do in the evening, I say yes and do it; he would consider my attitude to be “good” or positive. He, in turn, would feel good and display a good attitude as well.
If he gets home, and our kids need clean clothes for the next day, but I didn’t put my clothes away, and now he has no baskets to use, my attitude is “bad” or negative. He’s understandably grouchy as he goes about the laundry and I’ll read his attitude to be negative, too.
Have you faced a child, significant other, friend, or client that you believed displayed a “bad” attitude? Get to the goal behind their attitude and you might discover the motivation for their behavior.
The lesson: To change an attitude, reframe the goal.
Let’s face it, dealing with bad or negative attitudes is draining. It takes time and focus away from your work. My takeaway from this lesson has mostly to do with client work. When I get an email from a client that frustrates me, instead of spending energy on the reasons behind what I consider the bad attitude, I’ll spend time examining, and possibly reframing the goal.
I’ve had several clients at the beginning of our projects question the need to nail down a brand messaging architecture (I’ll write more about this document in a future post.) Essentially, the document is the foundation for the client’s verbal message across their marketing: website, social media, content calendars, and more. I get the connection and explain the purpose to clients many times throughout the process. Why oh why, then, do I have to remind them? Can you hear the frustration in my sentiment? Can you imagine the energy my frustration could drain from my day?
Now I’ll dig into the goals from my client’s perspective. Perhaps they have a deadline in mind for the website, and they haven’t shared the reasoning behind the date with me. They are pushing to complete the website copy before the brand messaging architecture is complete. If I discover they are facing outside pressure, we can have a conversation about reprioritizing our timelines to fast-track the document’s completion and the web copy. Much. More. Productive.
The note: To participate in difficult conversations, we must listen with our hearts.
Andre’s final session of the day dealt with the topics of Black Lives Matter/All Lives Matter. Regardless of the platform or cause with which you identify, we can agree that the conversation is tension-filled and divisive. Andre set the context for the conversation by guiding participants to listen with their hearts. If we only listen with our ears, we may hear the words (artifacts), but we’ll miss the meaning (values.)
The lesson: Put “me” in the center of pursuing my passion.
I come full circle with this lesson. After writing this post, I now know why my friend Lisa’s message rang true to my heart. When someone questions why I’m so busy and in so doing invalidates the artifact of my activity, they are also invalidating my values of independence, creation, and entrepreneurial spirit.
I have many friends and family who listen to me when I talk about what I’m doing and how full my days and nights are as a business owner. When they, with all good intentions, question why I’m not calling them or get upset at the frequency with which they see me, they are listening with their ears, not with their hearts. If they simply want to connect with me, their friend, sister, daughter, mom, loved one, and I’m disappointed with what I interpret as their pressure or lack of understanding of what being an entrepreneur means to me, am I not doing the same thing?
To successfully grow my business and my relationships, I pledge to listen with my heart. I pledge to grow from within.
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