Guest Post: Privilege Based Pricing

A few months ago, I was connected with Peter Rubin who was experimenting with a new pricing model the likes of which I’d thought of before but of which I’d never heard: privilege-based pricing. As soon as I heard the name of it, I asked if he’d be willing to write a blog post. This isn’t a model I’ve implemented yet, and neither has he, but it’s the kind of thing I imagine I will be moving towards in the coming years for, at least, certain portions of my business.

Peter and I share an understanding that this world is full of institutionalized oppression, meaning that certain people (and it’s predictable who) tend to have it easier than others, get better access to resources etc. Myself being a white, CIS gendered, male in North America? I get a lot.

And I did nothing to earn those privileges.

Women, people of colour, indigenous people are marginalized and oppressed constantly. It’s something I’ve put much thought into over the years, even creating a blog you may not know about called Healing from Whiteness. I’ve also collected an impressive gathering of memes and articles on topics from Institutionalized Oppression and then a second one on that topic, Feminism and Gender, #BlackLivesMatter and White Privilege.

So, it’s been on my mind.

But Peter has taken this all to another level by considering how this could all be woven into our pricing structures.

This post is provocative. It may feel unsettling. I invite you to read it in full and sit with it for a while.

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by Peter Rubin

What is Privilege-Based Pricing?

Privilege-Based Pricing is an innovative pricing structure designed for social justice.

Unlike sliding scale systems which typically have no guidelines or simple income-based guidelines for how much to pay, Privilege-Based Pricing takes clients through a rigorous self-reflection and conversation process which determines a discount on services, ranging from zero to 50%.

The discount is calculated to correct for the imbalances of an unjust culture. It’s an experiment in taking all the rules of our society and turning them around 180 degrees.

This is not a scholarship or a charity for people who are less privileged. It’s also not a way to punish people who are more privileged. It’s a way to make the invisible privileges of our lives visible, bring balance to an unfair world, and spark learning and transformation for all.

What do you mean by privilege?

In one of my favorite books, Waking Up White by Debby Irving, she talks about “headwinds” and “tailwinds” as the forces that make our lives easier or harder each day based on whether we’re in a dominant or minority group.

Factors outside of our control, such as race, gender, access to education, family resources growing up, where we were born, experiences of trauma or lack thereof, etc., profoundly shape our life trajectories.

Where did this idea come from?

As a Business Midwife – someone who helps my clients give birth to their dream businesses – I’ve come to realize that certain clients are poised to make a lot of money from the outset, and for others it will likely be a much longer journey. This doesn’t have to do with their skill or how good a person they are — it had to do with their privilege.

For instance, a white male client with a graduate education, who has already had a successful corporate career, has a lot of money in his bank account, and is connected to wealthy and powerful people, will likely have an easy time getting a return on their investment.

In contrast, a black female client who grew up poor, is supporting 6 family members, has experienced significant trauma in her life, and wants to build a community-focused business will likely have a more challenging time paying for her coaching with me.

My question is, why are these two clients paying me the same amount of money?

In the old “equality vs. equity debate” the idea of privilege-based pricing is to look at a client’s resources and ability to make money based on their life story and privileges they’ve received in order to determine a price that creates equity by stretching everyone equally.

All clients receive the same high-quality service, and I hold all clients to the same Visionary Code – principles for being powerful creators in their lives and businesses. But the place each client is starting from is acknowledged.

How would you respond to people who might say, “Isn’t this reverse discrimination?”

No. It’s about equal opportunity and restoring balance to an unjust culture.

Women make 79 cents for every dollar men make (source). The median wealth of a black family is $6,446 while a white family is $91,405 (source). These are long-term trends and statistical truths, and they won’t resolve themselves without a change in policy.

Why wait for government policies, when we as entrepreneurs have the power to create change by changing how we price our own services?

For legal reasons, the Privilege-Based Pricing Questionnaire doesn’t ask directly about race, gender, sexual orientation, etc., but rather explores how our identities mixed with cultural biases influence our chances of business success, asking questions like, “Do you see other people who look like you leading in your field?” and “Do you have family members who are role models for business success?” and “What’s the most money you’ve made in your life?” These are the invisible headwinds that make it easier for us privileged people to succeed.

Why does this idea matter to you so much?

I’m currently immersed in a 2-year training with Lee Mun Wah to be a diversity facilitator. I’ve been deeply exploring my own whiteness, having conversations with friends about race and privilege, and have been curious about how I will bring these learnings to my business.

This idea of Privilege-Based Pricing came to me one day, and I smiled. I have a trickster side to me, and this feels like the perfect “trick” to play on all of us (myself included) to challenge the assumptions we have about how business should be done.

I’ve been doing some informal research on the concept with the intention of implementing it in my business in January of 2017. It feels like a big risk, and yet a unique and profound way to practice the social justice values I’m preaching.

I’m happy to discount my services to some clients in order to spark a healing conversation about privilege and, hopefully, have a more diverse and socially-aware group of clients as a result.

How exactly does the process work?

There are three steps to the process. They include:

Step 1 – Education

Because this is such an unusual pricing system, it’s important to give context. The model will be explained to potential clients so they understand what they’re getting into, and the intentions behind it.

Step 2 – The Questionnaire

I send an online survey to potential clients that asks about specific questions about:

  • Their personal and family story, and the advantages and disadvantages they’ve had from before their birth to the present.
  • Their existing resources – including financial resources, social capital, and more.
  • Their potential for future income – based on their vision for their business, who they plan to serve and how they plan to price their services.

The exact questions in this questionnaire are still being worked out.

Step 3 – Conversation + Decision

Then we review their questionnaire together and decide together how much of a discount to give them. There will be six tiers of discount, from no discount up to a 50% discount, with case studies that exemplify each tier. This conversation is held as sacred, and we will take time to process any emotions that come up along the way.

Do you think people will take advantage of the system?

I guess people could lie about their responses, but those aren’t the sorts of people I work with. I handpick clients who care about social justice and have a lot of integrity, and I trust them to answer honestly and pick the tier that best represents them.

Where do you expect to receive the most pushback?

Let’s be honest – there’s nothing comfortable about this pricing system!

In the testing I’ve done, just along lines of race, people of color have been pissed (“I don’t need your handouts!”) and white people have been pissed (“How dare you reverse-discriminate!”). People of color have been delighted (“What a cool way to bring privilege to the light!”) and white people have been delighted (“I’d be happy to pay more to support this”).

So I realize that what I’m filtering for isn’t privilege at all. I’m filtering for willingness to be vulnerable.

Determining your Privilege-Based Price is an incredibly vulnerable process and brings up the very things we are taught to be most private about – race, class, level of education, etc. I intend to be very tender with my clients as I talk through the questionnaire with them, expecting difficult emotions (shame, grief, fear, etc.) to come up.

Those courageous and open-minded souls who want to be part of a social justice experiment will be drawn to this new pricing system. Those who aren’t open to it will be turned off by it – and that’s just fine!

I’ve found that clients who are most vulnerable with me get the most value out of working with me. They’re able to release shame and reclaim their power, making them stronger business leaders. So filtering for a willingness to be vulnerable can only be good for my business.

What kinds of places could you imagine people using this?

This pricing system is somewhat complex – each client is required to fill out a questionnaire and have an in-depth conversation with a service provider who has the capacity to hold space for such a conversation. So I don’t imagine us using Privilege-Based Pricing at vending machines! But I do think it is promising for transformational education and services.

How can people learn more about Privilege-Based Pricing and the work you do?

You can visit my website at www.yourbusinessmidwife.com and sign up for my mailing list. I’ll be keeping my subscribers in the loop about PbP and announcing when I officially launch the new pricing system in January of 2017.

downloadAbout Peter Rubin

Peter Rubin helps visionaries give birth to their businesses. He gives his clients the support they need to get clear on their visions, craft a strategy, and deliver it to the world. Peter has developed this radical approach to business, having given birth to a series of transformational service-based businesses himself, each time pushing his edges and learning from his failures. Before becoming a full-time coach in 2011, he was a consultant at IDEO and Daylight, two of the world’s leading innovation firms. He has taught at the Stanford d.school, OneTaste, General Assembly, and beyond. He lives in the Bay Area with his life partner, Morgan West, a midwife (for real babies!) who continually inspires him with her badass midwifery skills and devotion to her clients at all hours of day and night. Learn more at www.yourbusinessmidwife.com.

Gifts vs. Tools

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Gifts and tools are different things.

Gifts are those things that come to you naturally. Those capacities, inclination, tendencies and abilities you were born with. These are the things you do that feel effortless for you where you lose track of time. We are, in some mysterious way, born with these. They are woven into who we are. Identical twins can be born and yet have such different gifts – one a good listener and the other a good speaker. Same DNA. Born into the same “when” and the same “where” and yet . . . so different. It’s one of life’s most enduring mysteries.

If you are thwarted in the expression of your gifts, you will suffer. If these are identified and fostered and you’re given chances to express them, you will thrive.

Tools are an entirely different beat all together. In the context I’m speaking of, a tool might be a modality you use in your healing practice (e.g. massage, reiki, NLP, yoga therapy, Non-Violent Communication, The Work of Byron Katie, life coaching, etc.)

While I was in Iceland for a session of the Orphan Wisdom School, Stephen Jenkinson was sharing with us his understand of what a “tool” is. The gist of it was that a tool is something basic, small and simple, with few moving parts. It’s something primitive. It’s not complicated. A tool extends the grasp of the hand (e.g. a wooden spoon), augments the strength of the grip (e.g. pliers) but it does so in a way that the hand recognizes itself in the extension – in kind, not degree. A tool makes the hand more able. The work you do with tools is a devotional act. You can see this in the incredible care that people took of their tools in traditional cultures and the veneration they gave them. They treated their tools as sentient, just just alive as they were. A tool is a sacred thing. But not a “thing.” A sacred “one.”

And so the techniques, skills, processes, and modalities we learn are tools and they extend, strengthen, magnify and enhance the grasp of our gifts. They allow the capacity for more detail and nuance in our work.

And so our tools are in a deep relationship with our gifts.

If you are doing work that isn’t built around your natural gifts and you have no tools you’re using, you’re “winging it” at something you’re mediocre at. Your work will only ever be functional. It’ll be okay at best.

If you are doing work that isn’t built around your natural gifts and you have a lot of really good tools you’re using, you’re probably “competent.” But you’ll likely only ever be good at it.

If you are doing work that is built around your natural gifts and you have no tools you’re using, you’re “winging it” at something you’re naturally great at. Your work will be good, but unpredictable. It’ll be inconsistently amazing at best. This is the mad genius, the unpracticed artistic genius, the untutored savant.

If you are doing work that is built around your natural gifts and you have plenty of tools you’re practiced with or in, this is closer to the neighbourhood of mastery or, better yet, a deep devotion to the expression of your gifts in this world, in the most skillful and articulated way possible.

And so, this is the goal: to find the right tools to help you express your gifts and become skillful in using them.

This is how you become trustworthy.

Guest Post: How To Use Back-To-School Momentum For Success

Guest Post by Craig Filek

Fall is in the air. Can you feel that back-to-school vibe?Purpose Mapping Fitzgerald Life Starts All Over

This time of year supports “New Year Resolutions” better than the dormancy of winter’s long night.

Whether you’re fresh out of school, or catching your second wind via your school-age children, we’re all entrained to make major behavioral shifts this time of year.

If you’re like me, you’re feeling both relieved and excited to settle in to some autumn productivity.

How can we use back-to-school momentum to lay down a new rhythm track of daily and weekly routines that fortify our success?

Stephen Covey loved the metaphor of putting in the big rocks first.’

Success, he explained, comes most easily when we schedule our big rocks (priorities) first. Gravel and sand naturally fill in around them.

Filling our calendar buckets with gravel and sand (small, unimportant activities) leaves no room to add the big important rocks, resulting in a hectic, mediocre life. 

Aristotle said, We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is a habit.”

Hab·it /?hab?t/ noun

1. an acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary: “the habit of looking both ways before crossing the street.”

Habits come from repetition.

The alternative is drifting. Drifting leads to failing (in identity-damaging ways), and ultimately flirting with compensatory habits, a slippery slope toward stagnation and even addiction.

To establish healthy habits, we need regular repetition with scheduled time to practice.

The big rocks, the big priorities, are the things we want to make second nature. Involuntary. This means they go into our daily and weekly schedules before anything else.

For instance, every morning I drink a mason jar full of organic green glop. I love it. I literally watch myself making this green wonder on auto-pilot every morning, without fail.

That’s a habit; all but involuntary. (Wasn’t always that way, but about 3 months in, the auto-pilot switch flipped for me and I never looked back.)

What Habits Will You Build Your Schedule Around This Fall?

Ken Wilber describes 4 Quadrants, or primary areas of life. I find these to be the most succinct framework for a well-integrated life.

Grab your calendar, and by the end of this post, you’ll have a healthy “rock” scheduled for each quadrant. They are:

  1. Self
  2. Body
  3. Relations
  4. Systems

Like any 80/20 assessment, one of these areas will contain your BIG rock. The rest will be supporting rocks, while everything else is gravel or sand.

What we’re after in each quadrant is the One Thing that, if you do it consistently and predictably, making it an involuntary habit, will make everything else easier… or unnecessary.

So, let’s identify a habit you can develop in each quadrant, and make sure you get the big rocks in place.

Before we do, a quick disclaimer:

It takes 2-3 months for a new practice to become a habit.

Using that time-frame, it’s far easier to start with ridiculously tiny, no-fail habits and work your way up to something  you feel proud of, which changes your life in measurable ways.

For example, start with 10-seconds of meditation every morning, and win! vs. shooting for an hour and failing right out of the gate.

Then the following week, bump that up to 30-seconds, and so on, until your’e doing 5, 10, even 30-minutes consistently. This rewires your brain and makes the practice an involuntary habit.

Consistency is the key. So if you’re already doing 10-minutes of meditation a day sporadically, try 5 or even 2-minutes every day without fail and build from there.

1. Self

Self-practices could include things like:

  • Meditation which is my current focus, but I do all of these more or less habitually now (after years of practice). Try apps like Headpace if you’re just starting out, or Insight Timer if you’re looking to build consistency in your existing practice.
  • Journaling is not as scary as it sounds. Just scratch out three shitty, stream of consciousness, never to be read again ‘Morning Pages’ first chance you get each day. Use cheap $0.99 memo notebooks and burn them once they’re full! (I use a Moleskine for my coaching / workshop / business notes and I don’t burn those.)
  • Gratitude Lists have been proven to bump your dopamine levels, resulting in a significant mood enhancement, especially when stabilized through daily practice. Start by writing 3 things you’re grateful for every morning when you first wake up.
  • Reading, or listening to Audible.com, even podcasts… anything that feeds your mind is a good Self practice. Most people never read a book after college. If you read one a month, you’re doing great. One a week, and you’re on fire. You’ll feel it, too!

Start by putting one of these practices, or some equivalent Self-enhancing practice on your calendar. Ideally, daily. Pick one and start with regular, no-fail doses.

Use apps like Momentum habit tracker to support you in gamifying your new practice.

Make it fun!

2. Body

Before you start getting antsy over going to the gym, let’s slow things down and look at some foundational Body practices that will support you to create a life and business that feels deeply nourishing for you.

Body practices I’ve seen work miracles include:

  • Sleep because the science is in, and it’s just non-negotiable. You need 8 hours, on average. So, cut out caffeine after 4pm (or switch to green tea until you restore your adrenals). Dim lights after 9pm and get Fluxio on your computer to aid in melatonin production. And avoid sleep medications – the sleep is low quality.
  • Exercise in a way that works for your body, start slow and build. Try walking around the block, or hiking for a start. A little cat-cow yoga or tai chi movement to get the spine lubricated in the morning. If you’re more advanced, consider hiring a personal trainer. Get consistent. That’s the key.
  • Multi-Vitamins every day because food just isn’t what it used to be. Get a good food-based multi like MegaFood, MyKind, VitaminCode or whatever you like that’s food-based so your body doesn’t just eliminate it, undigested.
  • Green Drinks are a genius way to start your day. I don’t love veggies, which is why I LOVE my green drink. If I get nothing else green in body each day, at least I’ve got this checked off.

Here’s my morning Green Drink recipe:

Base Model:

1 Organic apple or pear (chopped, seeded, and put at bottom for better blending)
Handful of Greens (I used the organic, pre-washed field mix + some kale or chard)
1/2 Avocado (for fats and oils… add half the pit for the best soluble fiber ever)
1/2 Lemon (or lime if it’s hot that day… this is a great way to alkalize your body)
Water (just enough to get it to blend, then add more until prefered consistency)

If you want to get fancy, try adding coconut oil and cilantro in summer, ghee and ginger in winter, unhulled flax & chia seeds for protein and enzymes, seaweed for all those nutrients, collagen powder for joints, or add ¼ cup aloe vera gel to keep things flowing smoothly in there.

Adjust everything to taste and monitor your body for sensitivities. Give your body time to adjust and notice how the taste you may dislike at first becomes a craving. That’s a great sign!

 

Getting some version of all these body practices going is the best basis for health to sustain you in every other area.

For now, pick one, or create your own, and start small with tiny, no-fail repetitions. Build up over time.

3. Relations

This is where I’m personally putting in my big rock first this fall.

My daughter is 15 1/2 and if she needs anything right now, it’s a strong father showing up for her no matter what. (Much easier said than done.)

So for me, the big rock is a daddy-daughter date every week. I’m scheduling it right after yoga when I’m nice and grounded. I rescheduled her violin lesson so her mom drops her off, and I pick her up from the cafe next door where I can leave my phone in the car, and give her my undivided attention for 20 minutes or 2 hours. Whatever it takes for her to feel seen and nourished by my presence.  

Knowing that’s on the calendar every week, in addition to all our other regularly scheduled days and overnights, communicates more to her than words can ever approach. That’s putting the big rock in first, and aligning the supporting priorities (yoga, violin, pick-up/drop-off times) around it.

Relation practices I recommend for friends and clients include:

  • Date Night, if you have a partner, this is such an overlooked no-brainer, and one of the most potent ways to ensure your relationship has what it needs to thrive. Block out the time, every week, and hold that sacrosanct for connecting with your partner. Or daughter. If you have multiple kids, rotate 1-on-1 time. It will work wonders for family dynamics.
  • Imago Dialogue ensures both partners feel heard, seen and ‘gotten’ which is the essence of real communication. The steps include Mirroring, Validating, Empathizing and offering a Gift. My friend John Wineland encourages couples to practice this every day for 40 days just to make it a habit. I couldn’t agree more. Get the book or just google “Imago Steps” to get started.
  • Men’s/Women’s Group is such a valuable support structure for your life. If you’ve never experienced a regular, weekly container for going deep without the distractions of the opposite sex, I can’t recommend this highly enough.
  • Singles Practices could include anything from journaling about your ideal mate, doing therapy to prepare yourself, or creating an online profile and committing to date at least one person each week to get yourself into a rhythm until you find the one.  

Again, we’re looking to start small and build consistency. That’s what rewires your brain and turns a practice into an involuntary habit.

Your habits define you.

You are already a cluster and pulse of habits. With this back-to-school momentum, you’re consciously choosing practices you want to become the habits that define you, and your relationships.

So choose wisely!

4. Systems

There are two types of systems:

  1. Your Environment includes your ecosystem at the macro level (Vancouver is different than Boulder is different than Topeka), and your home, office, even the chair you sit in and mattress you sleep on
  2. Your Contribution system involves what you’re contributing into the marketplace and what you are receiving back (usually monetarily, but not always).

Systems practices you can score big wins fast with include:

  • Clean Out Your Closet because all the stuck energy is holding you back in your life. Believe it. Try Marie Kondo’s book The Life Changing Magic Of Tidying Up. Hire a professional organizer if needed. Especially as you spend more time in doors this season, you’ll be amazed at how much flow this frees up in your space and your life.
  • Upgrade Your Systems is there something you use every day that you feel dissatisfied with? Like that old granny blender? Try upgrading to a Vitamix or Blendtec and you’ll be amazed at how your morning green drink seems to make itself. How about your chair or your computer?

Winners understand, environment is the better part of strategy.

  • Structure Your Space for the different types of work or activities you do. This is especially important if you work from home. Once I separated my financial space from my creative space, they both felt so much better, and the work got done more consistently. Make a list of the 3-5 highest priority things you do, and identify one activity that would feel so much better if it had its own space. Carve out that space and support your practice at the structural level. It doesn’t have to be its own room, just a station.

And the grandaddy of all Systems practices…

When my Purpose Mapping® clients discover their Purpose, the thing they were born to do… the thing that puts them in flow… they pause for a moment and glow, and then their very next question is always:

“Great, I know my purpose… so how do I make a living with this?”

My answer is:

  • Build Your Contribution System Around Your Flow State because anything less will leave you dissatisfied. The way to do this is slowly, through small experiments and lots of course-correcting repetition. Pick something you love to do and would do for free because it makes you feel so alive. Then give it as a gift to someone. Get paid in dopamine and endorphins. Then do it again. Get paid in testimonials. And again, and again… until someone says, “Hey, can I pay you for this?”
  • 80/20 Your Business if you’re already getting paid for doing your life’s work, then it’s time to take stock and dial in on the things only you can do, with an eye for how you can delegate, automate or eliminate everything else. Make a quick list of everything you do in your business, and circle the top 3 most profitable, flow inducing things that you do best. Make a plan to start paring away everything else on the list. One item at a time. Your increased productivity will astound you.

In Conclusion

By now you should have enough clarity to understand what the 4 Quadrants are, and why it’s important to have a practice in each area.

It doesn’t matter what practices you choose. But choose something, and put it in your calendar.

Then, monitor and adjust and correct your course continuously you hit your target. You need to understand that your target is fulfillment in life, and giving your unique gifts in powerful ways. That requires focus and FOCUS is an acronym for Follow One Course Until Successful.

Use the social momentum of the back-to-school season to make some quick, high-leverage changes in your routine, and stay the course.

Little changes now, well practiced, will result in habits that can carry you swiftly toward your goals with a lot less friction.

NOTE: Got a great idea for a habit-practice? Share what’s working in the comments below!

Screen Shot 2016-09-07 at 9.54.14 AMAbout the Author: Craig Filek knows success and significance are not the same thing. After building a 7-figure business, he walked away from it all to focus on what matters most — raising his daughter and living his purpose. With over 20 years experience coaching and facilitating deep, transformative work, Craig developed Purpose Mapping® to bring his own life into alignment. Now, he guides High-Achieving Misfits to reclaim their authenticity and find true fulfillment by using their talents to full capacity in service to a larger mission.

Executives, entrepreneurs, investors and professionals in the US, Canada, Australia and Europe seek Craig’s support when making life-changing decisions. If you’re ready to unlock your full potential without blowing up the success you’ve already created, request an invitation to speak with Craig.

 

“But aren’t people indecisive?”

During my last tour in Toronto leading my Marketing for Hippies 101 workshop, I was asked the same question, twice in different workshops.

“But don’t people have a hard time making decisions?”

And, both times, I had to stop to address it.

The notion that people struggle to make decisions is one of the classic premises used to justify pushy and manipulative sales techniques.

The logic goes like this.

  1. Your product or service is great and high value. It could really help people.
  2. People have a hard time deciding.
  3. So you have to help them decide. Helping them to decide is a service to them.

And that’s actually fine as it goes. It depends what we mean by ‘helping them decide’. What that usually translates into is ‘helping them say yes’ or, stated another way, ‘getting the sale.’

Let me ask you, the first time you fell in love, did you decide to or did it just happen?

Do you remember the first house or apartment you fell in love with? Did you decide to?

When people see something they like, they like it.

This notion that ‘people have a hard time making decisions’ is one of those core beliefs about humanity that feels similar to the notion that ‘kids won’t learn unless we bribe them with gold stars, grades and punishment’.

If I believe that you need what I have (which is the first thought worth questioning) and that you have a hard time deciding things (the second thought work questioning) then I will manipulate you. Those two thoughts are all I need to justify my use of pressure-filled, sneaky tactics to get you to say ‘yes’ to working with me. I’ve heard it said outright by well-known sales trainers that you need to sell yourself on your product so that you walk in absolutely certain that what you’re offering can help those people and then to do whatever it takes to sell them because you’re actually doing them a service by pushing them.

If I believe those two thoughts, I will also be blind to what’s really going on.

They’re not indecisive, they’re just not sure it’s a fit. They’re not sure it’s worth the investment. They’re not sure it’s the best use of their money. They’re not indecisive, they’re deciding.

And our job is to facilitate the decision-making process (whether that’s towards a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’).

If we let go of those thoughts and are willing to accept that we have no idea if others need what we’re offering and we let go of the idea that deciding is hard then what we’re left with is that some people decide to work with us and some don’t.

Without those two thoughts, we can see potential customers as capable human beings who are in the process of making difficult decisions. Some of them will be a good fit for us and some won’t. Some of the ones who are a good fit for us will decide to work with us and some won’t. That’s how it is.

Knowing this, we go embrace the notion of slow marketing and go back to the three roles of marketing, to crafting better packages, to gaining more skill in having conversations with potential clients, to clarifying our niche and our point of view.

Instead of applying more pressure to help them decide, we clarify what we do to make the decision-making process easier. We help them contrast and compare what we do with what others do.

Human beings are not inherently indecisive.

But, if you believe it, you might just become inherently pushy and hard to be around.

The Poverty of Believing in Yourself

13185318_sIf you’ve ever struggled with confidence in building your business, this blog post is for you.

This blog post isn’t written to give advice so much as it is to comfort and console and to lift our gaze up from our personal struggles to the bigger context in which they lie.

It is a long post that might need more than one sitting to get through but the topic is worthy of the time invested. One doesn’t approach such a topic, so central to our experience of being human in the dominant cultures of the world, lightly or casually.

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12417937_1160132484004549_2435039033404846341_nIn mid-March of this 2016, I had a two and half hour Skype conversation with Yahya Bakkar (pictured here) in New Jersey who had been following my work for years. Many parts of the conversation struck me but one has stayed with me in particular.

He has been a motivational speaker and is working to coach and mentor young men to find self-confidence and to believe in themselves. I was inspired by his work and what it might mean for these boys with whom he’ll be working.

And he knows something about the need to believe in yourself as he was raised in a strict, religious family and was disowned by his adoptive father in his twenties because he wasn’t religious enough for him.

He also found his birth mother in his mid-twenties. She was living in Thailand and working at the airport. He flew her to the United States to visit for ten days. On the fifth day, she had a meltdown and, while he watched, tore up his only photo of himself as an infant. He’d left it, framed, by her bedside during the visit.

And then she left. He hasn’t spoken to her since.

So, as a young man, he had to learn to believe in himself because no one else would.

He had to love himself because none of the people who should have did.

And so he was going to teach these young men to believe in themselves too.

It reminds me of this quote from Hunter S. Thompson:

“We are all alone, born alone, die alone, and—in spite of True Romance magazines—we shall all someday look back on our lives and see that, in spite of our company, we were alone the whole way. I do not say lonely—at least, not all the time—but essentially, and finally, alone. This is what makes your self-respect so important, and I don’t see how you can respect yourself if you must look in the hearts and minds of others for your happiness.”

Those words could only, I have, have been spoken by someone born and raised in a modern culture. I don’t know if someone raised indigenously would understand this.

I was struck by both the beauty and the poverty of the whole situation. This approach of ‘believing in ourselves’, complete with its affirmations and incantations, its notes on the mirror and its positive self-talk, is a solution to a problem.

So, what’s the problem?

Well, we imagine it to be that we don’t believe in ourselves.

But why don’t we believe in ourselves?

Because we weren’t believed in.

This is important. Our lack of self-belief isn’t a personal failing. It’s not that we’re internally deficient or lack some confidence gene that everyone else had.

This might seem like I’m indicting his parents for not believing in him, but it’s a bigger story than that. Likely his parents never got believed in either. Who knows how long this lack of belief goes back. And, frankly, this job of being believed in is a village-sized job that has been foisted onto parents. It’s too big. It’s too much to ask of the parents and it might not actually be a job that is suited for parents particularly. Surely, the aunts and uncles and grandparents have some important role in fostering the young person’s belief in themselves. Surely the rest of the community plays some role.

But it’s deeper than that.

When I talk about being believed in I mean something deeper than looking at a child and saying, “You can do anything”.

In fact, I certainly don’t mean that.

I mean something more along the lines of a community expecting the arrival of the child and considering that this child might be coming to them from somewhere and that it might be bringing with it, in its tiny closed fists as it emerges from the womb, some sort of gifts for the community. I’m talking about the community believing that its well being hinges on those gifts being properly identified and fostered into their fullest fruition. I’m talking about the community, its elders in particular, clearly seeing the seeds that have been handed down to the village from those who came before in the form of this little one and doing their best to ascertain the proper role for them.

I’ve done a lot of thinking about niching. Most of my colleagues use the word niche to mean ‘target market’. But I tend to define it as something like, ‘your role in the community’ as it comes from the old French verb ‘nicher’ which means, ‘to make a nest’. And it’s worth noting that the bird makes the nest for their young. The chicks in the eggs don’t build the nest into which they will be born. And so, the role of culture needs to be about helping the young person to find their role.

My father died when I was nine years old from multiple sclerosis and I never had a strong male role model growing up. Those male role models became men, most of whom I never met except in passing. They were men who wrote the personal growth books I devoured with a hunger I couldn’t understand. Leo Buscaglia, Stephen Covey, Tony Robbins, Gregg Braden and more. I was trying to elder myself with personal growth books because there were no elders around.

That wasn’t my mom’s job.

It wasn’t even just my family’s job.

It’s not a job that they, alone, were capable of. It’s too big.

The personal growth scene is big on confidence as a thing to cultivate.

After all, if you don’t have it, what might happen? It’s like a ticking time-bomb we know might go off. If we don’t become confident by a certain point, then it could be too late and the timer might run out, and the bomb could explode leaving us with a life of quiet desperation.

And yet, the desperation is present now in the way we approach this getting of confidence. It’s present in the way we talk about confidence as something we can ‘get’.

The desperation is present because the bomb we’re terrified might detonate already went off so many generations ago and we are standing in the crater of it. We are standing in the poverty of the dismantled village. We are left fending for our own belief in ourselves. We are left with a fractured, individualized understanding of who we are. Instead of understanding ourselves as a part of a community we are left to understand ourselves as some static, atomized individual who is responsible for making themselves feel worthy.

We are told that we need to parent ourselves. And I’m not arguing with this or suggesting this kind of therapy isn’t vitally important work to do. I’m grateful that the ones who do it are out there. But I am suggesting that the existence of this work and the clear need for it is a sign of the deep poverty of this culture and collapse of village mindedness.

It is madness. 

Of course, we feel desperate about it all.

*

“If you haven’t been fed, become bread.”

I think we also forget how much of authentic confidence comes from real competence.

If you are good at something you will tend to feel confident about it. 

When we are doing something we aren’t good at and we fail, it’s a terrible feeling. People have been let down. People have been hurt. We didn’t do a good job. If we’re an alive, empathetic human being, we’re going to feel bad about that because, in our heart of hearts, we’d never want to hurt someone.

When someone isn’t skilled in an area and is being asked to take on a big job in that arena, the appropriate response is not, “You can do it! Just believe in yourself.”

In a traditional culture, you’d never become a medicine person after taking a year-long course. You’d be mentored. You’d apprentice to someone. You’d be set up for success and not failure. You’d have support. And you would have, likely, been recognized as someone to groom for this role from a young age.

If a young person was born with a fascination in stories, maybe they might become a story teller. If they were more athletic, maybe a hunter. If they were drawn to crafting, maybe that.

But, in this culture, we are raised to conform, fit in, be a cog in the wheel of industry and progress. In this culture, we are told how to be based on our gender. In this culture, we are put into boxes of reward and punishment. In this culture, we are led so far astray from the reason we might be here, the gifts we brought in the trust that our community would recognize them, that even finding our way back there is a miracle. And finding our way back to that without help? It’s a miracle.

I found myself amazed at the work this Yahya was doing. “What you have done is Herculean” I told him. “It’s huge. You’ve taken on the work of a whole village in trying to find those gifts and then craft a way to give them. It’s too big. Robert Bly has the line, “If you haven’t been fed, become bread.” You’ve done that. You’ve become bread for these young men. And my hope is that your work with them helps ease their burden, that it’s another step towards some sort of a village so that those to come aren’t left with the too heavy burden of trying to figure out their gifts on their own or believing in themselves.”

*

The industry of believing in ourselves is often a band-aid solution to a deep laceration. It’s covering up something so immense. It’s an industry that whispers to the sapling, “Water yourself. Be your own Sun. Be your own soil.” As Stephen Jenkinson puts it,

“If you’re on the receiving end of that stuff long enough, what happens is, there’s this little bud that grows up from you being bombarded with somebody being certain that you’re loveable, no matter what you think. And that little bud is a bud of worthiness. That you didn’t do anything to conjure, or manufacture. It’s not a meritocracy getting loved, getting grieved, getting understood and seen. It isn’t. It’s a consequence that you’ve got sane people around you. That’s what it is. But if you have this bud of worthiness that somehow, involuntarily starts to take up room and your take on yourself? The inevitable consequence is your ability to love somebody is born there.”

In the video below, Poet Maya Angelou once recounts to comedian Dave Chappelle about her experience of meeting young rapper Tupac Shakur. The way she related to him was the way an elder relates to young people, a feeding of their deep importance in the scheme of things. This kind of interaction is one that every young person deserves on a regular basis. What she does to Tupac is not to feed his ego, but to feed his soul and to tether him back into the history of his people. She places him back into belonging. She nails him back to time and place. She tells him, “This is who you are. This is where you are. This is when you are.”

And how many young people will ever be on the receiving end of such a moment? How many will be fed in this way? How many will ever even meet someone capable of this kind of beauty?

I recall one story I heard from an elder who was sitting with a young man, an activist wrestling with the state of the world.

“I am depressed,” said the young man.

“Yes, you are.” said the elder. “But, depressed as you may be, while we are here together, you won’t be depressed alone.”

He was affirming his feelings. He wasn’t trying to change him. He was letting him know he mattered enough to have company in the matter.

While speaking to a group of kids at Vashon High School in St. Louis, ET the Hip Hop Preacher, a black motivational speaker, was confronted with deeply disrespectful behaviour from his audience of mostly black students. His response was not to attack or shut them down but to confront them with a fierce love and honesty.

There are so many ways this kind of love and believing in people can look.

But most of us didn’t get a lot of it.

This culture is full of olders on drugs but has a deep poverty of elders dispensing medicine. This culture is full of young people with gifts to give and no one to recognize those gifts.

Years ago, I interviewed the good David Waugh of the Natural Gifts Society about this issue.

Tad: So, how did you get involved in, with this work of helping people find their gifts?

David: Yeah, it started, oh, very early on. I would say one of the first mentors that I found when I was lost in my mid-life crisis, in that crisis all of my old identities didn’t work anymore. I had been running a business, I left that. My marriage broke down, so I was no longer a husband and a father, a worker. All of those identities that I really thought — when people would ask me who I am, I would describe myself in those terms.

When I left all of that, it was like the deep question: “Who am I?” It started to haunt me, and I had some time and I had some means so then I started to explore. One of the first mentors that I came across was a fellow named James Hillman, who just passed away last year. He has a wonderful book called “The Soul’s Code,” and that was my first hint that there’s some sort of code, there’s some sort of pattern and it’s really unique to each person.

The metaphor that he used was — just like the acorn that has the blueprint of the mighty oak tree, it’s that specific. Each person has something of a unique pattern, and that’s very different from a lot of how the culture represents us as more of a blank slate. I think the term is “tabula rasa.”

It’s actually echoed in many indigenous traditions around, and like you say, the Catholic mystics also discovered that people have these innate or inherent gifts of spirit, that’s the way they articulated it. James Hillman called it “the soul’s code.”

Then I started in my research, I met an African shaman who really still — he’s quite modern in the sense that he has a couple of PhD’s, but he went through a traditional initiation. His name is Malidoma Somé, and he says in their culture when the mother is pregnant with a new child, the medicine person or their shaman actually interviews the child when it’s in the womb through a kind of hypnosis, I suppose. They find out that the child has a unique purpose, a unique destiny.

This is probably the oldest tradition on the face of the planet since modern research is showing that we all originated in Africa at one point, and this is an ancient idea that we’re — each person is unique and how to find that uniqueness and have it unfold.

A lot from our education system focuses on kind of standardized testing and there’s a lot of mixed messages like “You can be anything you want to be.” Well, that’s kind of life telling the acorn that it could be a rose or a sunflower, where it’s actually more precise in, you know, we’re fortunate enough if we can be who we’re meant to be. That’s going to take some help, I think, some guidance.

If you struggle with believing in yourself it’s because, properly, I don’t think that it should be your job. It’s a job that’s too big for you. It’s a village sized job being taken on by an individual. It should have been the job of everyone around you as you grew up to help you find the perfect role for you in your community and to become good at it so that your community could receive your gifts.

“…in their culture when the mother is pregnant with a new child, the medicine person or their shaman actually interviews the child when it’s in the womb through a kind of hypnosis, I suppose. They find out that the child has a unique purpose, a unique destiny.”

*

If you struggle with believing in yourself, the truth is that you may always be plagued with this.

You may never get the confirmation from the world that you need.

It may be too late for you.

But, again, “if you haven’t been fed, become bread”.

If you didn’t get it from your family, you can be that for others.

Being wounded doesn’t mean you can’t heal others. It just means you know how important the medicine is.

If you don’t believe in yourself, then see if you can’t walk your way towards believing in others and why they’re here. And see if that can’t be something more than a reflex, blanket reaction of positive affirmations. See if you can make it particular to those you meet as you narrow your eyes a little to make out the types of seeds they carry with them in their fists that they never dared to open because they were terrified to lose what they’d been entrusted with knowing full well that their family and community had no capacity to see or help them plant those seeds so they can grow. If you’re very lucky, maybe some of those people will relax their fists open and you can sit next to them and help them in learning to weave them into that bigger blanket of a village that might be one day.

*

It’s good to distinguish, in all of this healing work, the difference between healing and a cure.

A cure means the problem is gone.

Healing means that some measure of wholeness has been restored.

And, often, we don’t find a cure, but we do find healing.

*

A good half of every treatment that probes at all deeply consists in the doctor’s examining himself… it is his own hurt that gives a measure of his power to heal. The doctor is effective only when he himself is affected. Only the wounded physician heals. But when the doctor wears his personality like a coat of armour, he has no effect.”— Carl Jung 

The archetype of “The Wounded Healer”, as we know it now, seems to have originated with Carl Jung (1875-1961) in the Greek myth of Chiron (a centaur, was known as a wise teacher, healer and prophet) who, in the process of overcoming the pain of his own wounds, came to be known to us in modern times as the compassionate master teacher of the arts of healing and medicine, privy to the secrets of life and death.

During a skirmish with a rowdy bunch of centaurs Hercules, carelessly and accidentally wounded his friend and mentor, Chiron, in the knee with one of his arrows.

The arrows Hercules had chosen to use on this particular day were arrows coated with the blood of the monster Hydra. Arrows coated with the blood of the Hydra were known to cause painful wounds that would never heal.

Being an immortal, Chiron would never be able to heal from the wound caused by Hercules, and being immortal he could never die.

He then retreated to his cave to heal himself, and, in so doing, created the healing arts. Ironically and despite this great achievement, his wound never healed. He had spent his entire life becoming very accomplished in the use of healing with herbs and other methods, but he could not alleviate his own pain. But, in his own search for personal healing, his ability to heal and teach others grew.

On the Moontides blog, I found these good words.

Chiron reminds to us that it is only by being willing to face, consciously experience and go through our wound do we receive its blessing.We are all wounded healers in one way or another, and many of us have been directed and made wise through our own painful childhood experiences. Hence, it is through these very experiences of hurt and pain that we can best help others…and it is not just helping those who are suffering similar experiences. In fact, the healing process applies to ourselves as well because each time we relive our pain in order to help others, we are also again dealing with and healing ourselves just a little bit more.

We each have the ability and perseverance to go beyond our issues, our problems and troubles, and not have suffering label us as who we are. There are many men and women – probably in our daily lives – who are an inspiration and testimony to that. Chiron symbolizes those who find the strength through suffering to help others avoid the pain they themselves have had to undergo. We are often directed and made wise by own painful childhood experiences. Chiron’s house and sign show where we have been deeply wounded and may hold the key to our own healing. Chiron takes us on a journey through our darkness, personally and collectively. He teaches us that our wounds contain a gift, and that the process of healing oneself is a journey back to greater wholeness and integrity…the gift of who we truly are. His story reminds us of the magic, relief and healing that can occur when we fully accept and honour who we are. 

A Chironian wound is an injury that will never, ever totally heal.

We learn, suffer and grow from dealing with this sensitive area . . . but the wounding will never totally heal and go away. This Chironian wounding is then a special area where we can help others. The more work we put into our own healing and learning, the more useful we will be to others. Having a wound alone doesn’t qualify you for anything in particular but Chiron also teaches us that we can still be a blessing to the world with unhealed wounds. 

The most important question is not how to get rid of our own wounds, but how to make our wounds a source of healing…it’s like the Grand Canyon is a wound in the Earth, but if you go into that wound, there’s a healing force coming out.” — Henri Nouwen

*

This culture is obsessed with the self.

We imagine ourselves to be self-made and value self-esteem. We try to teach young people about self-respect and self-worth. When we are dumped or heartbroken, we are told to practice self-love.

What if instead of manufacturing belief in ourselves, we could muster up some of the honest grief for having never been believed in the first place? Maybe that might be a more honest path to follow. Maybe that grief could remind us that we showed up here with something to give. Maybe the grief could point us back in the direction of the village we left so long ago.

What if, instead of trying to avoid our lack of belief in ourselves, we could learn that lack of belief and come to understand what it does to us? What if we could testify to what it does to someone when others look through them? What if we could give voice to the grief of never having been seen so that others might follow that our well-wept tears to water the seeds in our unopened fists? Isn’t this what many of the greatest artists in the world have done? They have turned their own suffering into art and beauty.

What’s missing is the grieving that this world full of people who don’t believe in themselves. What’s missing is the grieving of what’s been lost and what we never knew. What’s missing is a village full of grandmothers and grandfathers who help us find our way. When we don’t grieve its absence we have no chance at cultivating its presence. Our grieving it is our remembering that it matters. It is our affirming and praising its importance.

When we grieve, we aren’t cured, but we do receive some portion of healing.

So, if you’re looking for a cure to your lack of belief in yourself, consider that inwards may not be the only direction to face because the feelings of belonging, peace and happiness we’re after don’t come this alone.

“The devotion to personal contentment is the depression machine, it generates the depression. It makes the depression inevitable which of course obliges you to work harder to be happy and there we are. But how does it do that? Because it whispers to you that happiness should be the discernible consequence of you winning, of you trying hard, of your best intent being in the forefront of all your design. And a lot of people in the world, ancestrally, knew long ago that being content or that sense of well-being, that’s a consequence of your willingness to help the world live. That your happiness is actually a corollary—let me change happiness—that your health is a corollary of the health of everything around you.” —Stephen Jenkinson

If you are trying to ‘get confidence’ (as if it were something you could buy off the shelf at the local mall) you may be trying to find a remedy for something that has no cure. You may be a tree planted in the crater where a bomb went off, struggling to survive and feeling that it’s your fault that you don’t grow stronger not even knowing what it would be like to be a part of an old growth forest. And, if you learn of that heartbreaking impossibility, then you are left with the realization that the old growth forest isn’t for you. You will never live to see it and you deserve it as much as any human being ever born. You were not born in the old growth. It will be a thousand years before it arrives.

“The candle is not lit To give light, but to testify to the night.” – Robert Bly, The Night Abraham Called to the Stars: Poems

You were born now in the crater.

And so, what does this time and this place ask of you then? Perhaps, what it asks of you is to plant the saplings and tend to them, to be the source of that old growth for the ones yet to come. Perhaps the crater is asking you to redeem it and turn into a place worth coming from.

My friend Corin Raymond struggled with self-doubt for years and wrote songs about it. He was guided by the understanding that, if you need it, someone else will too. Jonathan Byrd calls these songs ‘Songs of Service’. “This is a song I worked on for many years, and I talk about it in the Record Lonesome Night book, how the song – even during the years it was unfinished – was a companion and a friend I could turn to. I had the idea when I was probably twenty, and I started writing it for a girl, but as the years went by, the “you” in the song became me. It became a letter to myself, a reaching out, an offer of friendship from the part of me that had faith that we were going to make it. It’s definitely one of the songs that saved me.”

What if we were less concerned about getting confidence and more concerned with creating beauty? And what if this included beautifully expressed grief? What if we were less concerned with acquiring belief in ourselves and more focused on believing in others? What if we stopped running from our low self-confidence and started getting to know it? 

As David Richo put it in this beautiful book, How To Be An Adult,

“Our problem is not that, as children, our needs were unmet, but that, as adults, they are still unmourned… neediness itself tells us nothing about how much we need from others; it tells us how much we need to grieve the irrevocably barren past and evoke our own inner sources of nurturance… What was missed can never be made up for, only mourned and let go of… We are grieving the irretrievable aspects of what we lost and the irreplaceable aspect of what we missed. Only these two realizationslead to the resolution of grief because only these acknowledge, without denial, how truly bereft we were or are. From the pit of this deep admission that something is irrevocably over and fone, we finally stand clear of the insatiable need to find it again from our parents or partner. To have sought it was to have denied how utter was its absence. Griefwork done with consciousness builds self-esteem since it shows us our courageous faithfulness to the reality of loss. It authenticates us as adults who can say Yes to sadness, anger, and hurt. Such an heroic embrace of our own truth transforms emptiness into capacity. As Jung notes, ‘your inner emptiness conceals just as great a fullness if you only allow it.'”

*

If you don’t believe in yourself, I don’t blame you.

It’s hard.

And it was never your job to begin with.

When someone says, “believe in yourself!”, it’s so worthless. It’s just words. And words aren’t food. So much of the meaning of your life is in the hands of others and the meaning they grant it by their actions and non-actions. When someone believes in you, there is no price that can be put on it.

One of my friends, in a conversation about this, shared with me, “This seems true and I find it so disheartening. I’ve never really valued myself and I’ve always struggled to try and believe that I had something to offer others. Now, if this is true then I’m left feeling both validated and powerless. Validated because I feel like the struggle to build my self-worth has never been successful and powerless because maybe I don’t have as much control over it as I had hoped.”

And, of course, we don’t.

But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to do.

I’m not against pump up and motivation. I’m not against therapy, visualizations, meditations, and retreats to build up self-confidence. Those all seem to be a needed part of the story these days, and god bless the people who do that work, but the fact that it’s needed is an indictment of the deep poverty of our culture. It’s what we’ve been left with. It’s not a sign of our culture’s wisdom. It’s the evidence of how much wisdom has been lost.

I’m not against the work people are doing to help other’s believe in themselves, and surely there must be a diversity of perspectives and approaches on this in the world, but, before you can believe in yourself, you need to see yourself and, the one thing we can never really see is ourselves. The set up of the whole arrangement of our bodies is that we have eyes on the front of our heads that see most of our bodies but not all of it. There’s a lot of yourself you usually don’t see. Without a mirror, you can’t see the back of your head or neck or upper back. And so, it’s up to the community to see the rest of you. If you don’t have a community, you’re left to twist yourself into contortions to get some perspective on yourself or to walk around believing only in the parts of you that you can see.

I’m not against the work of helping people believe in themselves but, in this culture at this time, much of that work seems to further the deification of our individualism. It’s the attempt to reify our capacity to be self-made. It’s the affirmation of our atomized understanding of this universe. It’s our saying. “I can exist without you. I don’t need you to believe in me… and you don’t need me either.”

And what is the end game of this all? Nobody needs anybody. Everybody is self-sufficient.

Cha duine, duine ‘na aonar (A person by himself is not a person).” – Scottish Gaelic Proverb

I’m saying that worshipping at the altar of the self is a lonely place to be.

I’m not saying the pain isn’t real. It’s too real.

I’m not against reading books on positive thinking, as long as it doesn’t get in the way of the heart-brokeness that these times seem to ask of us, as long as it doesn’t stop us from using that grief, or being used by it, to make something beautiful to feed life. Grief is a reliable compass, pointing us in the direction of what matters. Grief is what connects us with the beauty and preciousness of life and reminds us that life is worth believing in. Our deep grief can be a form of high praise for the thing we never got. Grief is what motivates us to make sure that it still has a place in this world.

I’m saying that, as Vernon Howard put it, “the resistance to the disturbance is the disturbance.” Our resistance to grieving what we never had is the issue, not just that we never had it.

I’m saying that confidence is the natural by-product a sense of deep belonging to a people and place. It comes from our lived relationship to all of the people we know, all of the natural world and whatever that mysterious unseen world is. Belonging comes from relationship. Belonging is the seed from which a comfort in our own skin might sprout and bloom into a flower that some might name ‘confidence’. Confidence is the natural by-product of being supported in developing an articulated skillfulness in the expression of your natural gifts that others helped you identify. 

I’m saying that the bromides of “You can do anything!”, “Believe in yourself,” and “You can do it,” are sometimes tonic and sometimes toxic. Sometimes they encourage people to keep going and sometimes they encourage people to do foolish things. Sometimes people should not believe they have the capacity to do things (e.g. “Sure! You could do brain surgery! You just have to be confident in yourself.” or “Sure you can lead this group through this healing ceremony!”). Sometimes confidence is misplaced. 

Believing in ourselves, in the way this culture asks us to, seems to be an impossible task like Sisyphus pushing a boulder up a hill only to have it roll back down again before it reaches the top. Our modern approach to confidence mistakes the sources of our strength and any swagger we might have and ignores the gravity of the culture that we live in.

 The soldiers settled down to filling and lighting their clay pipes. They continued to ignore him as if he were a ghost and they could not see him. Perhaps he was in a dream. Or perhaps he was a ghost; perhaps he was dead already. How would you know if you were dead?” – Peter Behrens, The Law of Dreams

The story we are fed is that we’re supposed to be able to live in a culture that fundamentally looks through us, or sees us as a resource to be used or that sees us as inadequate in some fundamental way and be utterly unaffected by this. That’s the story we are told is true. You’re supposed to stand in the face of that and remain intact. According to whom?

This is madness.

During the Potato Famine in Ireland, many Irish fled their country to North America. But the route took many of them through Liverpool, a town that, according to John Kelly in his book The Graves Are Walking, “had grown steadily wealthier on the high-end vices of the white man: African slaves, sugar and tobacco. In 1807, when Britain abolished slavery, Liverpool – nimbler than other English seaports – identified immigration as the next growth area of human trafficking.  By the 1820’s, the city offered regular passenger service to North America.” But even those Irish who, somehow, survived the famine that killed twice as many as the American Civil War, were often emotionally and spiritually crushed by their time in Liverpool. For most of them, “…Liverpool represented a first encounter with modernity… Under the sheltering umbrella of peasant culture, even the most humble could be esteemed. Of course, the peasant knew he was poor, but that was the result of being outmatched by life, and where was the shame in that? Many a man – many a fine man – had been outmatched by life. Besides, the peasant’s language, Irish, was such a glory, the saints in heaven spoke it.  In Liverpool, modernity pitilessly deconstructed all the comforting myths of peasant culture; the emigrant suddenly found himself an object of horror and contempt… In Liverpool, the emigrant was forced to see himself – judge himself – by the standards and values of the modern world. The historian Robert Scally has called this change in perspective the ‘Liverpool Mirror.’ and it was as cruel as any pestilential Vauxhall cellar. Standing in front of his reflection, the peasant saw the poet, honored for his perfect image of the moon, and the ‘scholar’ revered for his ”priest’s knowledge of Latin’ dissolve into Punch’s ‘aboriginal Irishman: illiterate, savage,’ a speaker of a language ‘through which no light had flashed for a thousand years.’… some were broken utterly and completely by it.”

Swagger doesn’t come from affirmations. It comes from belonging. It comes from having a people who have your back. Swagger comes from having a role in your community. Swagger comes from the end of self-concern which is the bloom on the flower of knowing your place in something so much bigger than you, something which your life is dedicated to feeding.

I’m saying that we can be the source of a world that would never place the burden of ‘believing in yourself’ on the shoulders of the young, a world where children would know that our love for them was a place they could rest and lean into not a prize to be won so that, when they are adults, they’ll know that they are here not to earn love but to spend it.

And, in reality, when my friend does his good work with young men around their self-confidence, his teaching the concept of ‘believing in yourself’ won’t be the power of his work. It will be his believing in the particular youth with whom he works, the look in his eyes and the fact that he makes time for them that tells them, “You matter.” The notion of self-confidence is the menu. His willingness to sit with them and listen and try to see what they’re seeing… that’s the food.

People seeing us and believing in us is food. We can’t live without it and we can’t self-generate it. We can question the thoughts that stop us from seeing all ways we have been and are being affirmed every day by simply being alive. We can question the thoughts that, “We’re worthless” but… it’s likely we even need help doing that.

Years ago, I heard an audio of Jack Canfield and he ended by telling the listener that, even if no one else in the world believed in them, he did. “I believe in you,” he said. And that message was a mixture of things. It was a beautiful and sincere message, the kind of message I am imagining he could have used when he was younger. And it was also a generic message, however genuine, to the masses. It was a ghost of the real thing that had very little power to touch anyone in a lasting way. It was an indictment of the culture that he felt, accurately, it was a needed message. 

Many of us grew up not believing in ourselves. We grew up not knowing our gifts or strengths. We grew up not getting much of the emotional and spiritual food that we needed to become healthy human beings. The most terrible part of this all is how normal it has become. We look at the situation, if we see it as a situation at all, and we imagine that it has always been this way, that it is this way everywhere and that it will always be this way. “Of course,” we tell ourselves. “Humans are plagued with self-doubt and don’t believe in themselves! That’s how it is!” 

It has become normal, but it is not natural.

The work Yahya is trying to do with young men is beautiful and it’s needed but what does it say about our culture that it’s needed?

There are other cultures who do not know these neuroses. We all descend from cultures like this. Remembering this is costly and asks a lot of us to see that. But, in seeing it and being willing to grieve the absence of it, our tears water the ground of our days to make it fertile for the possibility of the presence of it again in the days of those to come.

The central poverty isn’t that we don’t believe in ourselves but that we have to.

Suggested Reading: 

Long Life, Honey in the Heart – Martin Prechtel

What am I being asked to see here?

20104219_s“The greatest and most important problems of life are all fundamentally insoluble. They can never be solved but only outgrown.” – Carl Jung

Sometimes in business things go wrong.

Sometimes it’s because we are out of integrity. Sometimes it’s because others are. Sometimes, everyone’s in integrity and it still falls apart.

However it happens, there’s a certain amount of heartbreak that can occur. It can leave us feeling shame, regret and hopeless.

The questions we ask ourselves in these moments shapes everything.

We are often tempted to ask ourselves questions like, “What’s wrong with me?” or “Why does it never go right for me?” or “Why didn’t anyone respond?” or “How can I fix this?”

Here’s a different question I recommend asking: what am I being asked to see here?

If things have gone wrong, there’s a good chance that there’s something you didn’t see that led to it. Maybe it was something in yourself. Something in a business partner. Maybe it was something in the marketplace.

But this is a question worth setting aside a quiet, undisturbed 20 minutes for with a pen and paper. It’s worth wondering about. This question isn’t interested in making you or anybody wrong. It’s not interested in fault finding. It’s just interested in helping you to see more.

And then, once you see what you haven’t seen before. Look at that piece and ask yourself, “What am I being asked to see here?”

 

When we have a problem, the instinct is to move faster to solve it but it’s often wise to slow down and see if we can’t see more first so that any actions we take might be better informed and less full of drama.

We often get into trouble because we have some blinders on. And, before breaking into a problem-solving sprint, it’s usually a good idea to see if we can’t take them off, or at least open them up a bit.

Getting Unstuck: The Five Minute Support-Asking Blitz

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If you’re on this list you’re an entrepreneur but, if I know my people at all, that really means you’re a solopreneur.

Emphasis on the word “solo.”

That means you’re doing almost everything alone.

And you think that you should be doing better.

This is insanity.

What if, instead of beating yourself up for not being more successful, you were to step back and see the truth of the situation: you need more support.

In fact, you need a lot more support than you might think you need.

How much?

Well, you’ll be happy to know I can give you an exact quantity.

You need an embarrassing amount of support.

Possibly a mortifying amount.

I mean that, if you don’t feel embarrassed and humbled by how much support you’re asking for, it’s probably not enough.

My take on it: if you could have done better on your own you would have. Period. You haven’t done better and that tells me that something is missing. Maybe you’re needing support:

  • With social media; or your website; or other online presence issues
  • To get clear on your goals, or clear on where you’re currently stuck
  • Tidying up and organizing your workspace
  • Learning how to have sales conversations that feel good instead of terrible
  • With building better business systems

Great. What support do you need to make those happen?

Isn’t it true that you need more support?

The big question to me is, why haven’t you asked for it yet?

When you sit with that question, you discover that you’ve been scared to ask for help because of what others might think of you.

Here’s my assignment for you (and it’s a favourite part of participants of my Meantime 30 Day Cashflow Challenge):

Part One: Take five minutes and brainstorm all of the different kinds of support you’re most needing right now.

Part Two: Take another five minutes and go on a support-asking blitz. The rule is that, for those five minutes, you can’t stop asking for support. You must keep at it. You can text, email, message or post a request on Facebook. Keep at it. Keep asking. Note: if you don’t feel embarrassed by the end, start over. Ask big. Ask for what you really need.

Part Three: Schedule to return here to this blog to comment on what happened as a result of this support-asking blitz within 24 hours.

Stop Trying To Be So Authentic

Authenticity is not a goal.

It’s a byproduct of something else.

It’s not something you can put on like a coat. It’s not a strategy. It’s not something you can posture at. It’s not even the goal. It’s the result of something else that you’re doing.

There’s the old story of the archer who misses his shot because his eye is on the trophy he wants to win and not the bullseye. If you try to get the trophy, you miss the target. The only way to get the trophy is to stop focusing on it.

Every once in a while, I will hear people say things like, “I’m a very authentic person.” Or, “Well, to be really authentic about it . . .” And I also see courses on how to learn to market authentically.

I’ve seen email subject lines say things like:

This is the most vulnerable thing I’ve ever shared.” 

Or, “I’m really scared to share this with you . . .

Then I read it and that vulnerable thing is something so sales-y that is clearly not very vulnerable at all. They used my caring for them as a hook to get me to open the email. That didn’t feel good. As another colleague of mine, Teray, shared, “When someone sends too many “vulnerable,” and, “embarrassing” subject headings in a row, it starts to feel like me-me-me-me.”

Often this strategy rings hollow. Some of it makes the person marketing seem like they’re trying really, really hard to be authentic.

Authentic also doesn’t mean hippie, conscious, new age, spiritual, or any of that.

Want to know who has the most authentic marketing of anyone I’ve ever seen? Jay Abraham.

Jay Abraham is a hardcore capitalist and doesn’t hide this at all. His offers are direct, candid and he is extremely transparent about his own selfish motives for making the offers he makes.

Nothing is being hidden.

And though my political views couldn’t be more different than Jay’s, his marketing feels authentic to me.

Being authentic doesn’t mean speaking in soft and sweet tones all the time. It can sound sales-y too. Believe it.

Authentic doesn’t look a particular or specific way.

But when you use the language of authenticity and you aren’t actually being authentic . . . it’s the worst. And it’s often obvious.

So what is the bullseye on which we need to focus?

In marketing, I think it’s the truth.

But a particular kind of truth. It’s the truth of “is this a fit?” rather than “how can I get the sale?”

If your agenda is to get the sale then no matter what you do, short of telling people, “I really just want the sale,” your actions will be manipulative and they will land as inauthentic.

Most sales training is an attempt to cover this original sin, the type one error of focusing on the sale. It’s all about how to build rapport, elicit buying strategies, overcome objections, etc. So much of marketing is about trying to seem authentic while we pick clients’ pocket. It’s full of justifications for our own selfishness and desperation. It’s full of rationalizations for doing things that don’t actually feel right for us.

Having said that, collapsing and giving away the store for free isn’t particularly noble or authentic either.

But what if our focus wasn’t on trying to seem authentic.

What if it wasn’t even on trying to be authentic.

What if our focus was just honed in on creating something wonderful, giving great customer service, and getting the word out? What if our focus was – in those wonderful moments when someone expresses an interest in our work – on helping that client sort out if our work or offering was really the best thing for them or not?

What if we looked at marketing as filtering and not seduction?

Let your focus on providing value for your customer be the most authentic thing about you. Don’t use authenticity to sell something.

Recommended Resources:

The Seven Graces of Marketing – Lynn Serafinn

Marketing for Hippies 101 – Tad Hargrave

On Fake Vulnerability and Giving a Crap (Dear Marketing Guru…) – Ling Wong

The Four Most Dangerous Words an Entrepreneur Can Say

I_already_know_2I’ve met so many people who come to my workshops and, at breaks, speak to me in overly familiar terms about how they already know this stuff and how many books they’ve read and marketing courses they’ve gone to.

Everything they’re saying gestures to my flip chart notes covering the walls towards the end of the weekend workshops and says, without always saying it directly, “I already know that.”

And there they stand in front of me, struggling.

I usually don’t comment on this because struggling is a hard enough place to be without shame being piled on top of it.

But I see this all the time, the unwillingness to not know, the deep resistance to asking for help, the fear of humiliation preventing them from ever reaching humility and thus the utter inability to be vulnerable.

But if you’re dedicated to the culturally endorsed story of the virtues of self sufficiency you’ll never ask for help. You’ll be too proud. Your desire to be seen as having it all together is the very thing that guarantees you will, eventually, fall apart.

If you want to succeed in business, it’s going to ask you to learn some new things. That means admitting you don’t know. It means admitting you’re a disaster. It means turning to your friends. It might mean hiring a coach.

It means asking for a lot of help.

How much?

If I had to give you a specific quantity of help you need to ask for here’s what I’d tell you, “Ask for an embarrassing amount of support.” Meaning, if you don’t feel slightly mortified for all the help you’re requesting, then it’s likely not enough.

And you might be shocked by how fast things start to move when you stop pretending you have all the answers already, when you stop trying to impress your teachers and colleagues, when you admit that your business practices and marketing are a total disaster.

If you already knew it, you’d already be doing it.

Growing your business asks a lot of you and one of the first things it asks is your humility.

Something very beautiful happens to people when their world has fallen apart: a humility, a nobility, a higher intelligence emerges at just the point when our knees hit the floor. Perhaps, in a way, that’s where humanity is now: about to discover we’re not as smart as we thought we were, will be forced by life to surrender our attacks and defenses which avail us of nothing, and finally break through into the collective beauty of who we really are.” – Marianne Williamson

 Recommended Reading:

Are You Humble Enough – Mark Silver

The Work of Byron Katie in Marketing: “Why aren’t people buying from me?!”

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This blog post is the first in a series of posts exploring the connection between marketing and The Work of Byron Katie

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Frankly, I’m tired of hearing people talk about the importance of working on your ‘inner game’ in business. Because most of what I hear feels like self pressuring bullshit to constantly do more, be more positive, be better and keep persisting no matter what. Most of it feels like what John Kenneth Galbraith was speaking about when he said, “The modern conservative is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.”

Most of it seems based on toxic assumptions about money and an unwillingness to question this suicide economy we’re a part of.

Most of it seems to have no interest in seeing anything except the possibility of closing the sale and growing our business.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all about perseverance. But I’m more about awareness and being real about our situations. As P.T. Barnum put it, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. But, if you still don’t succeed, quit. Don’t be a damned fool.”

Most of the inner game work feels bereft of much that I’d call real learning which is, by its nature expensive. Sometimes we just have to quit or drop a certain perspective. Which can be hard. Hard to find it and harder to question it until it loses its grip on us.

And there’s something there. There’s something about the way we are seeing our business problems that actually is the problem.

For years, I’ve delved deep into The Work of Byron Katie and, more than any other tool, it has been a source of incredible insight, genuine learning, deep and unsought humility and humiliation and a profound sense of peace.

10409286_10155034733660195_5413425888966609089_nThe basis is that we suffer because of our unquestioned, stressful thoughts.

And, in business there is one thought I’ve seen which seems to cause more stress than just about any other. But it comes in disguise. It often sounds like, “Why aren’t people buying from me?” asked in a frustrated tone.

But hidden just underneath it, like a tortoise hides in its shell, is often the thought, “People should buy from me.”

This is crucial to understand because it’s a place too many people get stuck. Before you read further or inquire into this on your own… remember: learning is expensive. Really doing the work means encountering unsought and often unwelcome things and it requires you to pay with the thing you can least afford. You pay for learning with what you think you know. 

So let’s explore this idea that people should buy from us and see if it can earn its keep as a worthy and useful idea.

Question #1: Is it true?

This is the first question in The Work. We’re asked to inquire if the thought, in this case, “People should buy from me.” is true.

When I sit with it, I realize it’s not true. I want them to but they don’t need to. Busted. I can skip…

Question #2: Can I absolutely know this is true? 

I absolutely can’t.

Question #3: What happens and how do I react when I think this thought?

If you find yourself frustrated and annoyed with Life and the marketplace because you’re not making it and no one is responding to your offerings… pause and see if you can spot that thought that “People should buy from me.” See if you can notice it. Then see if you can sit with that thought and see how it’s affecting you. Almost like you’re watching some never before seen animal for the first time in the wild to see what kind of a creature it is and how it affects its environment. 

I know when this thought arises for me I immediately feel bitter. I feel resentful of people. I feel powerless and angry. I am jealous of anyone who seems more successful than me. “Why do they buy from that person and not me? I’m a good person!” But then I begin to wonder, “Maybe there’s something wrong with me… Maybe I’m broken.” If they aren’t buying, there’s an urge to push them harder to buy. In a panic, I want to add more hype or pressure. I want to cut my price down. And, at the bottom of it, I feel utterly confused. They should be buying but they aren’t. What’s wrong with this universe? Why don’t I understand it? And, if I’m honest, when looking at my world through the lense of this thought, I am deeply angry with the universe for encouraging me to start a business that will not sustain me. It’s like it tricked me and lied to me. 

I’ve met people who are deep in the thrall of this thought. They are not fun to be around. The energy is heavy around them. They are desperate. Their sense of other people’s boundaries are poor. Their desperation makes them incredibly vulnerable to manipulations of anyone promising them an easy path to wealth and sales. 

If I think this thought I will either collapse or I will apply pressure in selling situations without even meaning to. Sales pressure comes from the agenda to get the sale. If I believe you should buy from me and you aren’t, then of course I will try to make sure we correct this and this will occur as pressure to you.

The tragedy is that they do everything except the thing they need to do. They are utterly blind to what’s required of them because the problem lays out in the world and not with them. If ‘those’ people would just get their heads out of their asses and see what a good person I am and what high quality work I do then every thing would be okay. Damnit. 

When I think this thought, I feel superior to everyone. Everyone else is stupid and blind that they can’t see how awesome I am. WTF is wrong with them anyway?

So this thought lays heavy on us.

10302061_10155034732465195_1931724753386448115_nQuestion #4: Who would you be without this thought?

But, and this is truly the heavy lifting, if we are able to set that thought aside for even a moment and see our same situation without it, a miraculous thing happens. Imagine it. Nothing has changed in the outer world. No one is buying from you. That’s the same, but you are not able to think the thought that they should be buying from you. It’s as if a sieve went through your brain and removed all traces of it. Utterly gone. And yet you’re looking at the same evidence.

When I do this I suddenly feel at peace. Right, they’re just doing what they do. They’re buying what they want to buy. They don’t see that what I’m doing is a fit for them or a priority. And right! That’s my job. That’s marketing. Marketing is about establishing the value beyond the immediately apparent. And, apparently, it’s not immediately apparent how valuable our work is. Or, maybe, I might even be able to see, as humbling as it is to see it, that I’m not as good at what I do as I thought I was.

When you can let go of the thought that they should buy you are freed up to see the real reasons why they don’t buy.

This is so vital.

Underneath the question, “Why aren’t people buying from me?” asked in a curious tone is never the thought, “People should buy from me.”

Without this thought, I am filled with an easy sense of wondering and an openness to learning the truth of why people aren’t spending money with me. I’m open to asking people directly and getting feedback. I’m vulnerable in the best of ways. I’m at peace. I see the evidence of people not buying as just a chance to learn something about life and the market place.

Wow. When people feel this openness from you, they relax. They begin to tell you the truth. You stop getting objections and you get real questions. Or you get a real ‘no’ that you can trust because there’s no long anything in you trying to convince anyone to buy from you – and that makes you more trustworthy.

It might seem like I’m overstating the impact of questioning one thought but I’m not. If people aren’t buying from you and this is causing you emotional stress and frustration and anger at the marketplace, there’s a good chance you’re buying into this idea that they should be buying from you.

10857717_10155034732735195_174396198002034301_nThe Turnarounds:

This last part of The Work is all about twisting the initial stressful thought around and looking at it from different angles. We’re not trying to find the new, true thought, we’re just trying to see more.

Turnaround #1: “People should not buy from me.”

Bam.

Try that one on for size.

Consider if this might be just as true, if not more true, than the idea “People should be buying from me.” If you really sit with this one, what opens up is the possibility to see all of the parts of your business that, frankly, need work. I will likely see all of the ways that I’ve been pressuring people and… wow. God bless these people for not rewarding my desperate and pressuring ways with their business.

Who are these honest angels who have so consistently and kindly not pretended to be okay with my confused behaviour?

I am suddenly open to seeing clearly. I am able to look at the holes in my marketing, business model, customer service, quality of work, and packages and see all of the reasons why it’s so true that they should not be spending money with me.

This can be a vulnerable but life changing moment for an entrepreneur. Looking through this lense, I am able to see my business through the eyes of those not buying and I learn so much.

Turnaround #2: “I should buying from me.”

Honestly, I don’t get much from this turnaround though I’m sure there’s something there.

10622858_10155034733300195_5974786264670751787_nTurnaround #3: “People should buy more from whoever the hell they want.”

This one feels humbling to me. When I look for reasons this is true, I am suddenly brought back to the reality that my potential customers are other, autonomous human beings who exist for reasons other than taking care of my ass. I’m realizing that I want that freedom to buy from whoever for myself. I’d never want to be pressured to buy something I didn’t really want to buy so why on Earth would I put that on anyone else?

Turnaround #4: “I should buy from people.”

I should be buying the advice they’re giving me in their not buying. I should be be believing their feedback. They’re not interested or, for some reason, it’s not a fit and yet I’m not buying it. Huh. What if I was willing to take it at face value? I’ve been making them wrong for years for not buying what I have to offer and yet not making my self wrong for not buying the honest reflections they keep giving me. And they’re so persistently generous! They never seem to buckle and buy from me just to be nice. They really want me to get this feedback. How kind of them!

One of the hugest stumbling blocks I see in business is arrogance. This thought people have that they already know what people need. They already know that their product or service is amazing. And that blinds them to ever seeing that maybe they don’t know and maybe what they’re offering isn’t actually that great. Humility and not knowing, the being open to feedback and curious to know what clients really think, being a safe place to share this will grow your business faster than almost anything I know.

When I am done this, I notice that the thought, “They should be buying from me.” doesn’t hold the same purchase it did in the beginning. I’m free to see a bit more clearly and that seeing allows me the freedom to make the kinds of changes that might actually have them want to buy (whether I think they should or not).

Where does this all leave us?

I have no idea. There’s no empowering belief we’re trying to get to here. We’re just trying to see more. In business, there’s nothing we’re supposed to do or that we need to do, we just need to see more. And, when we see more, we often, intuitively, know exactly what to do. When we stop insisting that our map is right and take a look at the actual territory in which we find ourselves we make better decisions.

When we stop making the marketplace wrong for how it’s responding to our business we have a chance to actually learn something useful from it that might show us the path to grow our business.


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