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The blind men and the elephant
Remember the old fable about the blind men and the elephant? Each one of them touched a different part of the animal and conjured up a description of it that was wildly different from the others’, based on their personal experience.
Stay with me….
I have had an experience like this with my business recently. Instead of being blind, though, it’s more like I was up-close-and-personal with my section of the elephant. All I could see clearly was the bit right in front of me. In my desire to really get a good look at where I am and where I’m going, I tried stepping back a bit, but really only got a wider view of the broadside of the elephant, though. I needed to back WAAAAAAAY up to really see it as an elephant….er, as my business.
I am fortunate. I just got back from almost two weeks’ worth of vacation on a lovely tropical island. Lots of beach time, lots of “spare room” for my mind to unwind, and little to no “screen time” to distract me (THAT was nice!). It took most of the vacation for my mind, at all levels, to unwind and back-off enough to not only see the elephant, but discern if this was the elephant I wanted and have been working for / toward for years.
This is humbling, and an eye-opener…
One consideration I confronted was “What do I consider success?” This is a tougher-than-you’d-think question. It is beyond revenue, recognition, client-lists, board and committee memberships, or mission statements. It is “What am I about?” and “Why do I do this…..really?“
This requires me to go deeper into my reason for being. If I truly believe the importance of mindfulness and the present moment, this must be reflected by my business. As a consultant (which holds for any small business owner…), I really AM my business. So, again, what am I about?
Without going into the story about how this particular revelation came about, my reasons for being where I am and doing what I do are:
Yeah, I know. They can seem a bit broad and subject to interpretation. Still, here’s how I see them today:
I see this as a broad brush that impacts numerous small things that I am. It is not BE GOOD, as that can easily be interpreted as something completely internal and having little affect on anything around me. DO is a verb. It implies action, with the eye firmly on the process and the outcome. A corallary is that I can do a lot of good and never actually see the outcome, and that’s OK.
There is a three-part view of this phrase I believe:
- It is a word of encouragement. Interpreted in this way, I see myself as individually and collectively (a part of teams and groups…) given the impetus to be a certain way and do certain things that follow a positive pathway.
- It is a command. This gives me a certain purpose to how I am to be and what I do. After years in the military, I understand the meaning and authority behind commands. Sometimes they can be difficult to carry out, and sometimes they are natural, almost like breathing. They are, regardless, commands.
- It is a word of creation. This is little harder to explain. Having read Jean-Pierre de Caussade’s Book “Abandonment to Divine Providence” several times, I have boiled down one of the chief messages for me to this: In abandoning myself to the divine, I can be assured that I am where I am supposed to be, doing what I’m supposed to be doing. In other words, in this state of relationship with the divine, I can know that what I do is good. I may not see it, but it is. Am I infallible? Good grief, no!!! But I am assured that all will be well.
BEAR MUCH FRUIT
This is the process and result of the good done.
The thing about fruit, as anyone with gardening or farming in anywhere their background will tell you, is that it takes resources: time and work are two obvious ones. There is also the likelihood that you are not the only one involved, that you may not see the harvest, and that it may not turn out like you think it should. Still, I’m not the one that ACTUALLY creates the fruit. I am the one (or one of many) through which fruit is borne. There’s a difference. That, however, is the subject of another article…
So, where does this get me, having returned from this vacation and gotten a good view of the entire elephant, so to speak?
- I have started (and am still working through) a prioritization and culling process with my projects and engagements. Thanks to this period of time and some excellent books I read recently (Deep Work by Cal Newport had a particularly strong influence on my approach…) I am making profound structural and tactical changes to my business and how I journey through each day. These changes are values-based and reflect the ongoing effort to DO GOOD and focus on the processes, projects and relationships that enable and encapsulate that. This is on-going….
- I am struggling with breaking all the old, comfortable habits of work and life that calcified me in place for so long. This is WAYYYYYY harder than it sounds, being a creature of habit. However, I’ve discovered (and, in some cases, rediscovered) that which helps me. There are also those to whom I look for guidance and honest encouragement (not just “RAH-RAH!“…) who are helping me stay on the rails.
Two items of this size and importance are enough. More would only stun me and keep me from moving forward.
Work to engineer some kind of experience like this for yourself as a human and as a business owner. You owe it to yourself, to those around you, and to the continued true success of your business.
Let me know how it goes.
It is a pretty cool journey.