This week, we are diving into the second installment of breaking the entrepreneurial fever. If you missed the first installment, you can find it here. When I teach business growth, I teach there are 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)
Today we're going to start by understanding #3 & #4 with a little help from our friends, Nobel Prize-winning economist, Paul Krugman, and Marti Scorcese's BFF, Fran Lebowitz.

In November, shortly after the election, PK sent out a newsletter (you should subscribe if you don't) about Atlanta. And in a pivot from his column that week, he turned away from the election to talk about the economics of Atlanta and how they differ from the financial and tech hubs of NY & SF because its focus instead, is on logistics. It's not that Atlanta doesn't have its own issues, but his summary gave me pause:

And there’s a lesson here — not just about cities — but about economic success in general: the fancy high-tech stuff may grab our attention, but it’s often the humble details that make the biggest difference.

This ultimately made me think of Fran Lebowitz Netflix special when she reminisced about young people asking her what type of artist they should be, which felt like such a funny question in general, as it seems odd to seek for an answer to this anywhere outside yourself. But she made a good joke saying that she had just read an article saying humanity was going to be running out of water in the near future, so you should probably be the type of artist that finds water! It again, made me think of awareness of the bigger picture within which you operate and create and the importance of marrying your vision to perceived needs. 


This brings us to our second step in breaking the entrepreneurial fever: knowing the difference between feeling alive and feeling intoxicated. Entrepreneurship in the 21st century is filled with opportunities to exist and operate in an intoxicated state. It is also marked by the following 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. When we are fully-integrated within ourselves and humble in our role, it's impossible to operate in these ways, but instead, the culture of entrepreneurship tends to praise these fractured, attention-grabbing, intoxicated states. 

And part of this, I believe, is due to our misunderstanding of the word humility. In Latin, humulis, came from humus which means "of the ground". Humility is not about shrinking or playing small, or martyrdom (also intoxicating) but I believe we've lost the groundedness that it requires to be seen, and known, as humble. I've always said that you're never, ever going to find a click-bait headline about entrepreneurship that praises the grounded founder, whose internal focus on their company and ability to marry their vision to their customer's perceived needs ensures that the logistics of their operations and growth are smooth and steady. (Said no journalist ever.) 

But if we want to break the culture of intoxicated entrepreneurship, that builds the culture of toxic capitalism, which perpetuates systemic racism, environmental degradation, and income inequality, we must all be willing to stop feeding the intoxication and instead choose to ground ourselves, every day. Logistics are grounding—that's the internal focus on clear operations, a clear vision, and clear company culture—but we often eschew them for the more attention-seeking aspects noted above. When we're not grounded in vision, we're constantly shifting at the winds of recommendations, or how we might think of optimization. Do you find yourself shifting to try to meet the market? Do you find yourself seeking to fix instead of build? Like any addiction, it's hard to break those cycles, but I'm not saying you have to move into a bland state of operating. Instead, I'm challenging you to think about what you are trying to achieve in an intoxicated state of entrepreneurship. 


I believe what we're really trying to achieve is a wild-state of creativity, but we've repressed our capacities to be creative in exchange for fitting into the culture and fear of rejection from the tribe of entrepreneurship if we do not. I'm often disappointed in the lack of creativity in creative entrepreneurship. Sure, there's creativity in the products, but when it comes to transitioning our thinking into theoretical business practices, we get stuck. We fall in line with the common narrative around entrepreneurship even when that narrative is toxic. I am amazed at how quickly the creative process breaks down when it comes to business planning. We all know that a state of intoxication is directly correlated to an avoidance of vulnerability.

To be wildly creative requires a level of vulnerability and the feeling of vulnerability is one of feeling alive. It encompasses all of the emotions that come with life not just the highs of intoxication. 

I cringe when I see seminars that will teach you to be creative. To exist in a wild-creative state is a natural birthright. It is not about learning but unlearning.  Much is written about the wild-woman archetype and I have written before about the error in the declaration of the female future, and that in fact, we all have masculine and feminine energies within us (and it seems Estés and I are aligned on that). But so often we all relinquish the wild woman for the optimized, performative, branded feminine and the scattered, non-disciplined, disorganized masculine. All contribute to burnout, and a negative impact on the environment and the economy (even when we are sold the idea that our economy is thriving and that we live in a prosperous nation). 

If you want to feel alive in your business versus intoxicated, you have to be grounded in logistics and the marriage of your vision and the customer's perceived needs. That infrastructure will actually allow you to be more creative in your path than you've ever been not just with your product development, but with your marketings & sales, opportunities for growth, and personal evolution in leadership. That creativity will be sustainable, not fleeting or prone to burnout, as the intoxicating expressions of it. But you have to ground. And to do so means letting go of the common narrative around what it actually means to pursue entrepreneurship in the 21st century. 


Good books on logistics, vision & vulnerability: 
The Zingerman's Guide To Building a Great Business (And their entire 4-book series)
Small Giants
The Advantage
The Checklist Manifesto 
To Sell is Human 
Dare to Lead
Women Who Run With the Wolves
Braiding Sweetgrass
How the Mighty Fall
The Soul of Money


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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