Despite having stated that I no longer offer business consulting, I occasionally get emails asking me if I can make an exception. Sometimes I’ll write back asking what they hope to get out of consulting, and it usually turns out they want advice on what they should do, or instructions for how they should do it.
One of the reasons I stopped offering consulting is that I found myself drained by the details of the situations I was analyzing, and anxious about the responsibility to give advice that would actually help them achieve what they wanted. Another reason is that over time, I’ve found myself less and less interested in “what” and “how to” and much more interested in “why”.
Why do you want to start a business? Why do you want to travel? Why do you want to work 4 hours per week? (Or whatever it is you think you want.) What do you think your life will be like if you do these things? The answer to these questions fascinates me, and I think it has a bigger influence on whether or not the results are achieved, than does following someone else’s instructions or process.
Someone recently asked me if I could be their “mentor”, and in addition to tips and advice, they were hoping for a “kick in the pants” to get moving on their business. I never had an official “mentor” in my business, so I wasn’t sure what they expected. But I don’t think I ever needed a kick in the pants. I willingly spent nearly all my free time working on my business, maybe to excess. If I didn’t know how to proceed in some area, I would research and soul search as much as I could in order to find out.
I believe that when the “why” is strong enough, the “how to” will naturally follow. If you feel like you need a kick in the pants or some other external motivation to get moving on a business idea, then it’s probably not the right business idea for you! Although sometimes fears or limiting beliefs can hold us back, too. Several years ago, I wrote about a post called Finding Your Driving Force, which goes into more detail on finding your “why”.
Subconsciously, I think most of the choices we make are driven by a desire to feel a certain way. Either we’re trying to move away from something we perceive as unpleasant, or are trying to move toward something we perceive as desirable. Maybe we think starting a business will help us feel safer, more in control, and more creative. Traveling might help us feel more exhilaration, appreciation, and connection. Working less than 4 hours per week might help us feel more free. In short, we think something in the future will make us happy.
And maybe it will. But maybe it won’t. Or maybe it will, but only for a little while. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of thinking that something outside of us, or something in our future, will finally bring us the peace we’re looking for. Some situation, some possession, some financial level, some social status, some relationship, some lifestyle, some action, some future goal we can work toward and achieve. Yes, our current life situation and our thoughts about the past and future can affect our emotions and happiness. But this is a choice we have some control over. Why wait to be happy until a future goal is achieved, when you can give yourself that gift right now, regardless of your present circumstances? Happiness is a choice we make in each moment. And we don’t need a reason.
Yes, it’s not easy when our thoughts come in with complaints about how bad things are and why we can’t be happy now. But these are just thoughts, and we don’t have to believe them. Detaching from thought takes practice, but it is possible, and empowering. It allows us to see what’s happening more clearly, below the labels and stories we tell ourselves. Through this process, I feel like I’ve gained more understanding and peace in my own life as I’ve experienced some mind-bending epiphanies that turned my world upside-down.
Recently, I started working on a new project that I’m very excited about. It’s the Groove piano that I’ve written about a few times. A professional 88-key digital piano that separates into three sections for easier transport, and has some other features no other piano has. There is so much work necessary to pull off a project like this, and I’ve had to learn everything as I go. I’ve run into several hurdles, but have moved through them, and I’ve been enjoying every minute of it! I’m driven by the vision of having a piano with me when I travel, and making other musicians happier with a revolutionary new instrument that’s much easier to take to gigs, practices, and performances. I’ve found some talented people to help me, and I’m optimistic that we’ll be able to make it work, and get enough crowd funding to start the mass-manufacturing process. But if not, it will have been a fun journey and I’ll have learned a lot in the process.
One lesson I’ve learned is that there is no “right way” or even “best way” to create a business, or live a life. Each person gets to define what works best for them. Another lesson I’ve learned is that goal achievement in itself does not bring lasting happiness. Happiness must be cultivated every step of the way. It’s a skill that must be developed, and doesn’t come automatically when goals are reached.
I personally find happiness in living from my heart, honoring what I feel driven to do and create, staying open to new possibilities, connecting with, appreciating, and accepting others, and enjoying the process as much as possible in each moment.
This reminds me of a poem by Dale Wimbrow that we memorized as a family last year, about following your own inner “why”. Maybe you’ve heard it.
The Man in the Glass
When you get what you want in your struggle for self,
And the world makes you King for a day,
Then go to the mirror and look at yourself,
And see what that man has to say.
For it isn’t your Father, or Mother, or Friend,
Who judgement upon you must pass.
The person whose verdict counts most in your life
Is the man staring back from the glass.
He’s the fellow to please, never mind all the rest,
For he’s with you clear up to the end,
And you’ve passed your most dangerous, difficult test
If the man in the glass is your friend.
You may be like Jack Horner and “chisel” a plum,
And think you’re a wonderful guy,
But the man in the glass says you’re only a bum
If you can’t look him straight in the eye.
You can fool the whole world down the pathway of years,
And get pats on the back as you pass,
But your final reward will be heartaches and tears
If you’ve cheated the man in the glass.
I’ve learned a lot from other people, and I continue to. Following someone else’s “how-to” can be an effective way to move toward a goal. But my greatest successes — and my greatest enjoyment of those successes — come when I tap deeply into my own creativity and desire, and forge my own heart-led path.