This week we are wrapping up the series of breaking the entrepreneurial fever. If you missed parts 1 & 2 you can read them here and hereLast week, I laid out the 4 keys to successful entrepreneurship: 
1. Keeping your eyes on the horizon (having a vision)
2. A willingness to be uncomfortable (evolutionary growth)
3. An awareness of the economy around you (it's not just about your vision, it's a marriage to your customer's perceived needs)
4. An internal focus on building a healthy company (it's culture over brand every day)

And in last week's edition, we discussed points 3 & 4. Today we're going to look at points 1 & 2. 

In order to wrap it up, we're going to look towards the light (pun intended). When you study general Chemistry, one of the first concepts you are taught that light is both a particle and a wave.  When you're a young general chemistry student, it's mind-boggling. How do you know which is which? Why can't it just be on or the other? The theory is known as the Wave-Particle Duality and  Einstien explained: 

It seems as though we must use sometimes the one theory and sometimes the other, while at times we may use either. We are faced with a new kind of difficulty. We have two contradictory pictures of reality; separately neither of them fully explains the phenomena of light, but together they do.

This approach is that we must be able to hold two seemingly contradictory truths together at once is the last step we can take to break the entrepreneurial fever.


When we think of business growth, we get to define what growth means and looks like to us. Growth, in my experience, is just about evolution, not a dominating stance. But when we don't take enough time to think about that and how it aligns with our company culture, we often fall into the trap of setting out to achieve and vision we aren't necessarily interested in, but that we believe we should aim for because they are part of the common narrative around entrepreneurship. I have witnessed the enormous pull entrepreneurs feel when they look at their peers, or their industry and decide that because it "must be working for their peers" that that's what they should do as well. But if we aren't careful, that's likely the first step of self-betrayal positively reinforced in our media as a path to business growth.

Martha Beck recently spoke about this phenomenon and called it "duplicity". She explains that we often think of the word "integrity" as a moral stance, but it actually means to be fully integrated within ourselves first. Our willingness to divide ourselves to align with that common culture and betray our inner knowing is what often leads to the symptoms of the entrepreneurial fever: personal-branding, performative allyship, mirage-like-innovation, workaholism, optimization, rapid growth, tribal-markets, trauma-bonding with teammates, and a co-dependent relationship to the market.  

We begin to tip the scales to outside validation of our success often marked by achievements: press, awards, customer validation. I'm not asking you to spiritually bypass what it means to be human and shun extrinsic motivations, I am instead asking you to hold both achievements and evolution with equal consideration. When we do that, we are combining the fixed mindset of achievements (particles) with the flexible mindset of evolution (waves). Our flexible mindset is often rooted in intrinsic motivators: what growth means to us, how we personally define success, what our true vision is, and what we want our legacy to be. With that balance, we can continue to keep our eyes on the horizon, or as Sarah Lewis says in The Rise: on the permanent future


But how do we do that? I was reminded of how over the weekend when I read a piece in Brooklyn Based by Millicent Souris titled, In the Light (there's a theme here!). This statement jumped out at me: 

Pivot. That’s the word we all use to talk about blowing up the systems we used and creating new ones, over and over again, in the blink of an eye. A pivot may require muscles you don’t have yet, like an exercise that reveals the utter weakness of one of your glutes. Muscle memory can be our enemy. An addiction to the way we used to do things.

The thing about evolution versus achievement is that it requires a consistent effort to build new muscles you didn't know you had. It asks you to step outside of your comfort zone regularly and grow as a human being. It might be a new skill set, it might be facing a lingering personal issue, it might be addressing your righteous judgments of the other, or maybe it's about setting better boundaries and committing to your honest vision and not the vision so often lauded in the common narrative around what it means to be an entrepreneur. All are opportunities to evolve. And the achievements that come through those evolutions will fuel you, not flatten you. 


In summary, I want you to know that so many of the things we rage against publicly: the culture of toxic capitalism, systemic racism, environmental degradation, misogyny, bigotry, and income inequality, are not just political problems to be solved by a policy change. They exist within each of us and within our companies whether we are ready to look at them or not. Change on a large scale is a "yes and" approach between personal and collective responsibility. Both policy change and internal change are necessary.  

Over ten years ago, I was asked to testify at a congressional briefing for Congresswoman Rosa De Lauro in support of her Healthy Families Act that promotes paid sick days for all. It was an initiative that we took up at the restaurant I managed prior to sick days becoming law in NYC. The bill has yet to pass nationwide. But the important point is that we didn't wait. We had a vision, we dug deep to do a lot of resetting that included painful staffing choices, a redirection of profits, and a hard look at the culture we had currently aligned with. 

By breaking the entrepreneurial fever, you can create more of the change you are seeking. 


Why I'm Not Going to Buy A Computer by Wendell Berry I've been speaking a lot about the difference between debate and degradation and this book WB nails this difference and how easy it is for us to make assumptions without evidence.
Fulfillment - Winning & Losing in One Click America
The New American Economy has started a book club.
Martha Beck on Goop What does it mean to live in integrity?

Biggie: I Got A Story To Tell for creative inspiration. 


Our next book club will meet next on Tuesday, April 20th from 7pm-8:30pm via Zoom. We will be reading The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins.  This is a free event, please email me if you'd like to join. 


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