Surrender to what is. Say “yes” to life — and see how life suddenly starts working for you rather than against you.
Most days – either first thing in the morning, or just before it gets dark – I step out the back door of our apartment building, dart across Old South Head Road and make my way along the walking path on the cliffs of Vaucluse; down into Robertson Park at Watsons Bay; and along Camp Cove beach; then back again via Doyles fish and chip shop and the Watsons Bay ferry wharf.
After years of doing this walk, it still catches my breath.
Each day is different, and every time it’s magic.
Sometimes the sun makes a halo around a storm cloud, casting its reflection onto the vast inky blue sea. Other days you feel like you can almost see to the bottom, as clear aqua waves wash over the rocks at The Gap.
Some days the wind drives you mad, reaching its icy fingers into your neck, belly and back, evaporating any warmth you try to create with tightly wrapped layers of clothes.
Other times there is no wind at all. Instead, the air, thick with the heat of the day, rests on your skin. And the lights of the city twinkle silently across the harbour at its quieter cousin Watto Bay.
I often use the walk as a kind of meditation – opening the windows of my mind to the fresh gusts of off shore wind, vigorously blowing away the numbers, words, emails and ideas of the day.
Without ever planning to, I always find myself pausing at the lookout over “The Gap,” watching the waves roll in to a silent metronome.
Years of continual movement by the tides has carved and shaped the rocks into smooth squares. Some days it looks like an enticing spa, with bubbles of champagne frothing up between the patterns of tiles on my imaginary bath. But I’m sure if you could actually get down there, the reality would be different – more cut feet and life-threatening rips, than relaxing soak!
It’s always at this point – of stopping in my tracks to peer over the council-built rail at my spa – that I’m struck by the obvious: The sea does not care about my business.
It could not care less if an event gets sold out, if a client books a workplace program, if a partnership deal gets struck, if a blog post gets shared or what my revenue is.
It has been moving and carving those rocks long before I ever walked along these cliffs and it will continue doing that long after I’m gone.
I don’t find this depressing, I find it liberating! Because it smacks me with the fresh perspective I need.
So much of modern rhetoric urges us to achieve – we can do anything, be anything, change everything, if only we work hard enough.
There’s an obvious upside to this discussion: People become aware of the habitual thinking that is holding them back, they surprise themselves by doing things they didn’t think possible, and new ground gets discovered when people combine forces to create something new.
It’s Tony Robins 2.0 and it’s an exciting time for anyone wanting to branch out beyond the secure confines of employment.
The Internet has irrevocably changed how we do business – and it’s amazing!
But here’s what’s not so amazing:
A new definition of success has crept into the zeitgeist – go big or go home, dominate it, own it, crush it; and certainly fail fast but definitely don’t talk about failure until you’re a sure bet of success.
I don’t know about you, but to me this just feels like the same old sh*t dressed up in this season’s colours.
I want something more meaningful than this. I want a long view on the success of my business. I want a long view on success, full stop.
But even with these convictions I still stumble up against the “shoulds” —
I should be making more money by now. I should be booking more clients by now. I should have a higher profile by now. I should have a sharper pitch, a clearer business model, a more enticing product, and a sexier promotion.
Even naming these out loud makes me cringe!
But for all the feelings of vulnerability this brings up, I want to share it, because I think we need to shift the conversation to something more productive.
This kind of failure-based thinking not only sets most of us up for a flop; it’s immensely disempowering, creating a feeling that nothing’s happening, even when big shifts have already occurred.
I want to be clear that this is self-imposed, my own habitual thinking that needs to be examined. No one asked me to think this way. I chose to think this way.
While I wrote chapters in my book about money being a means to an end, not an end in itself, I simultaneously judged my business as lacking for not reaching the targets I had set for it.
While I taught the concepts of serendipity, grace and non-attachment in yoga classes, I filled up my head with thoughts of what was lacking, what could be better, and what was failing.
While studies in yin and restorative yoga opened up a universe of possibilities to me in terms of the healing, understanding and health that comes with stillness; I criticised myself for any day I didn’t “do” enough, aligning myself with the cult of productivity I had worked so hard to escape.
While holding so much compassion for my clients and their challenges, reminding them of the long road ahead and how far they have already come, I wanted to throw a tantrum for every lost opportunity in my own journey.
In yoga we are taught when the student is ready the teacher appears. Deciding my issue was business acumen, I asked around for advice.
I was pointed in the direction of diplomas, various business coaches and online programs. Useful, yes. But nothing was really landing.
One day a thought popped into my head: “Remember The Slow School of Business? That’s not unlike what you want to create. Why not learn from someone who gets it?”
So I got in touch with founder Carolyn Tate, bought her book Conscious Marketing, and signed up for a taster event with the The Slow School called “Slow Coaching.”
My conversations with Carolyn soon moved from profit, products and promotion to questions around value. She could see I was struggling with expectations and impatience.
“Has Make Do provided value for people?” She asked. “Has it given you the opportunity to explore your interests and passions? Has it made you curious and open to new ideas? Has it sparked new opportunities? Has it been fulfilling to create? Do you believe in its potential?”
The answers? A resounding yes.
Another principle in yoga is that we teach what we need to learn.
I’m not particularly enjoying sharing this lesson with you, especially as I’m not yet safely out the other side, but I’m starting to understand that this is something I need to learn.
Make Do Co. is designed to help people find work that they love, work that is meaningful to them and allows them to live the life they want. I want to help people find this in their own lives, and I want to help leaders create workplaces where this is possible.
And if Make Do’s values of small, slow, living, working, being, making and purpose, have taught me anything, is that this kind of business or career is not something we can create overnight. There is an ongoing personal journey of self-awareness, as well as a gentleness around the outcomes. We work hard and commit to the values, but we let go of the expectations.
By bringing the long view back into the perspective of my business, I have removed any pressure to perform, and instead replaced it with a commitment to create exactly what I imagine, in time.
I’ve realised it’s okay to continue subsidising my business revenue with income from freelance projects, especially in the early stages of this business (in fact, less-than-predicted revenue is common in many early stage ventures); and I’ve realised that there are countless ways to measure value in what we do.
And these are valuable lessons I can share with my community.
Anyone who has experienced a shift in perspective knows that from here everything changes.
Since releasing Make Do Co. from the bonds of business media and entrepreneurial hype, I have a renewed sense of the kind of business I want to create, passion for making it happen, and a stronger commitment to the values I set out to work and live by 12 months ago.
As Eckart Tolle has taught us, there is nothing more insane, than resisting the present moment. Thankfully, I have returned to sanity … at least, for now.
“Always say “yes” to the present moment. What could be more futile, more insane, than to create inner resistance to what already is? What could be more insane than to oppose life itself, which is now and always now? Surrender to what is. Say “yes” to life — and see how life suddenly starts working for you rather than against you.”
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