Get the tissues and hankies ready. We’re diving deep today, because, let’s be honest, growing a business isn’t a party all the time. So, yes, let’s be honest…
I had a “come to the mountain” moment this weekend as I listened to David Whyte‘s keynote at the Psychotherapy Networker Conference.
David is a poet, author and speaks to organizations/corporations about creativity, being human and risk. He integrates poetry into his message and talked to us about the heartbreak of risk.
In words more eloquent that I could ever share he spoke a truth we all know somewhere deep down, but always try to avoid, “All points of courage lead to heartbreak.”
All points of courage lead to heartbreak
Every relationship in which we show a bit of our true self and trust another is a point of courage. Every real conversation we engage in involves vulnerability and risk. Every time we stretch out of comfort zone professionally we are brave. All points of courage.
But, ultimately, what we want, desire, hope for of others and ourselves won’t happen exactly as we want. And what others want, hope and desire of us won’t go according to their plan either.
Think about that for a moment. It’s true, isn’t it? We experience disappointment in small ways every day. This is true of our experience of our spouses, life partners, your children, business associates, clients, the barista at your local coffee shop. We have one vision and expectation and they live out another reality. Sure we get close to each others’ goal, but it’s never quite, exactly right. And then there are the times when we all utterly fail each other.
Yet we spend most of our time (I’d say over 90% of it) trying to avoid being hurt. We spend our time turning away from the inevitable heartbreak. We withhold our true self, we stop reaching out, stretching, moving out of our comfort zone. Some people avoid any real intimacy because it just seems “easier.” We stay safe in relationships, work, life. No heartbreak is safe, or is it?
David tells us there is no way to grow without being heartbroken. To grow is to leave parts of us behind. And make ourselves vulnerable to the unknown.
And just as every child’s birthday is a reason to celebrate, parents mourn a bit…the heartbreak of losing the baby, toddler, 5th grader, the tears in the car after the drop off at the college dorm. And the older they get, the less we can protect them. Heartbreaking, and all of us want to run away and hide from that feeling.
Heartbreak and your business
Growing a business is an exercise in heartbreak. Just to start is a risk. And it never, ever goes according to an exact plan.
Marketing can be heartbreaking. You set up what you think is the greatest product, program, thing-a-ma-jig in the world and pour your heart and soul (not to mention money, sweat equity and your family’s last nerve) into marketing, only to have flat sales, and a need to pick up and retweak, adjust, look at it from a new angle and start again. Some of cry when we face that reality.
We invest in education, coaching and our limited money and time to learn to avoid total failure in our business endeavors.Yet, no matter how hard we try, how amazing our mentors, how smart we are, or how awesome our offer it won’t all ever be perfect.
But the choice is this- to accept heartbreak as part of the process and be ready to accept, reflect, cope, learn from and move on with growing, or to just stand still, paralyzed, ineffectual, safe but not engaged.
In both states we will be heartbroken, I’m afraid.
You know heartbreak
Health care professionals deal with heartbreak daily. Often hourly.
We develop compartments where we put others’ heartbreak. When a client experiences heartbreak we empathize, comfort, support but don’t experience it vicariously (or we try very hard not to).
We are very good at avoiding heartbreak. Because if we let ourselves feel it with our clients, daily, hourly, we’d be incapacitated. Remember that feeling when you started to learn how to do healing work? How hard it was to hold others heartbreak? We work hard to avoid that totally-emotionally-wiped-out-at-the-end-of-the-day feeling. I know I do.
And now we may be too good at putting potential pain into compartments. Because we fear any and all risk. We worry about trying something new, putting some skin in the game. We’d rather live with the heartbreak of a career in service to bureaucracy than strike out on our own.
Take a moment and think about this – if every path leads to some pain, which path would you prefer to take on a daily basis? You can’t avoid the heartbreak either way.
Get Good At It
David Whyte’s advice is “to get good at it.” Get good at heartbreak because it exists and can’t truly be avoided.
By getting good at heartbreak we can focus on building a business that is meaningful, true to our vision. And we can do the real work that needs to be done to bring it to reality. The places we get stuck, “What if it fails?” “What if people don’t approve?” “How will this change my life?” will simply be part of a conversation, and not a stopping point. Because we will know how to handle the heartbreak and it’s power will be less. Maybe knowing that disappointment is there no matter what, will allow you to do the business you REALLY want and not hold back and do something you think you should do (because you think the “right” choice eliminates the heartbreak – it doesn’t.)
For Those Who are Now Ready to Hide Under a Blanket
As I wrote this I told myself it would scare lots of people into playing it safe and standing still. Who wants to face sure heartbreak? But when David Whyte told me this, it was a relief because he was speaking to a real truth that no one wants to speak about publicly. I’m grateful to him, because he spoke to a state I’ve experienced and I now see friends living through.
Shame grows in the dark, and if you worry that any potential failure means you must never try…you’re worrying for nothing. Heartbreak is. But….
Heartbreak isn’t Forever
Have you had your heart broken in a relationship? I have. At first, it’s an all consuming grief. It can actually feel as if your heart will break into a million pieces.
But time and talk and new experiences do heal.
The same is true for all things that hurt.
I’ve failed in my businesses. I’ve launched products that had no sales. I’ve spent money on advertising that generated no business. I’ve trusted the wrong people, wasted months of time doing things that had no ROI. And any business person who is being honest has had all of those experiences at some point. Each and every one.
And yet, here I am, loving my work, helping others, making money, moving on and experiencing a joyful day. My private practice is full, I have wonderful coaching clients, I turned a cool profit in 2010, I can take a vacation and pay for everything my family needs.
The heartbreak isn’t forever. It’s a temporary state. There can be bad days, or a down week, but it doesn’t stay yucky forever.
How Your Business Grows
Your business grows when you realize your efforts and emotions are all fine. You grow when your vision is bigger than one bump on the path toward your goal.
Personally, when I encounter heartbreak, I hold on to it for awhile. I try to recognize it for what it is, take care of myself, get away from my usual routines and learn from it. Like a water that streams down the waterfall, I go with the process. I can’t fight the fall, but I can regroup and keep going, still whole and heading in the right direction.
I hope this post gives you the strength to know that while all points of courage require heartbreak, it’s going to be ok. I encourage you to do big things…the joys outweigh any struggle and we’ll be here to help you when the going gets tough.
Photo credit: Finding Josephine