Three Ways To Become a Better Leader By Waking Up To Your True Self

Design your own wake up call and become a better leader.

Design your own wake up call and become a better leader.

I want you to join me in an exercise in expanding your mind and opening your heart. The objective of this exercise is to help you become a better leader so it is worth your while to play along.

Imagine with me for the next few minutes that you are someone else entirely.

Your name is Sam.

You’ve spent the last few years in the web of a double life that has finally caught up with you.

Last week you were sentenced to 15 years in jail with no parole for smuggling drugs into the United States.

You had realised that your life had two sides to it, but it is only now that you have been delivered a huge wake up call.

You realise that your actions will devastate your colleagues, but more importantly, your family as well.

What do you do?

How will you survive one and a half decades in prison?

Would you turn to violence? Would you play the blame game, seeing yourself as a victim of circumstance?

This is an exercise in fantasy for you and me, but for one young person it was far from that. It was reality: at the age of 24, convicted of drug smuggling and destined to spend part of the 1980s and 1990s in a US federal penitentiary.

For the sake of consistency let’s call him Sam.

As he did his time Sam came to understand that there are three key things he could do to survive and thrive in this situation:

1. Completely owning your experience
2. Catalysing your awakening
3. Reclaiming your inner wisdom

I believe that this is also a pathway to becoming a better leader and Sam’s approach fits with my mantra of being fierce, removing our masks, tapping into our innate capacity for compassion and taking heroic action.

Completely Owning Your Experience

Sam realised that the only way to survive, the only way for him to finally walk out of this nightmare was to completely own the experience. He accepted that he was at fault and that his destiny was of his own making.

He decided to transform his life through developing a practice of meditation and deep contemplation. He went on to have a major impact on the lives of many prisoners by advocating for and providing access to mindfulness practices. Since his release from prison Sam has widened his work to influence people all around the world.
During his time in prison he came to see the world and his place in it for what it truly is.

He realised that if we simply allow ourselves to live an unexamined life we find ourselves on the evolutionary path with our mammalian drive for survival overriding everything. In this way we set ourselves up to follow fear based, habitual, mechanistic and survivalist lives. Layered on top of this we co-create a culture and set of institutions that are also blame and fear-based, habitual and mechanistic.

Even the most highly functioning of us are susceptible to and have the propensity to live unaware that we have condemned ourselves to follow such a fear-based, mechanical path.

You live your life in quiet desperation; you wait for a light bulb moment that never comes; you never really deeply examine your situation and you don’t realise that you are roving like a hungry ghost, finding fleeting security in whatever confirms your existence or your sense of worthiness; finding home in external confirmation of your ‘success’: your bank accounts, your job, or your relationships.

You  haven’t really done the internal work necessary to find your true place, which has been residing within you all along yet has been cloaked by your an evolutionary override and peer-based cultural mask. You have an innate basic goodness that saturates and permeates through you. You can tap into this goodness through your tenderness and your vulnerability.

Catalysing Your Awakening

Finding yourself in a highly charged situation, facing your version of 15 years in prison, you have a choice. You can condemn yourself to continue living a habitual, fear-based life.

Or, preferably, you can use that moment as a catalyst to awaken yourself, increasing your compassion and becoming even more vulnerable. In choosing this awakened path you open yourself up to living a life of service to others, which is one of the highest things we can aspire to do as human beings. By doing so you not only give your life exponentially more meaning and fulfilment, but you also turn your compassion inwards and satiate your hunger for external confirmation.

Reclaiming Your Inner Wisdom

How do you get to the point of making such a choice, particularly if you are really struggling with the situation you have gotten yourself into?

You need to use self agency to break the conditioning so that you can start being more than a victim of this conditioning and the world you and society have constructed around you.

You need to use this self agency as a springboard for self empowerment. This will heighten your level of awareness and empower you to reclaim your inner wisdom, your innate goodness.

No matter how much the world seems to have conspired against you and convinced you of your unworthiness, you know, somewhere way back inside of you, you know this is all a mask and that you are innately good, you are innately wise.

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This post was initially sent out as part of the EXOscalr Be Fierce newsletter. If you don’t want to miss out you can subscribe here: http://eepurl.com/bxGzD1.

 

How to Increase Engagement With Compassion, Purpose and Positivity

Horizon

We live in an increasingly narcissistic world in which more and more people are suffering from depression and killing themselves. Suicide rates have increased 24% in the last 15 years.

That is a huge number and my first instinct is to ask, “How can we, as business leaders, help turn this situation around?”

It is possible to take on a higher purpose AND make a profit.

That may feel like a question for foundations, for charities and others not focused on turning a profit. But that impression would be very wrong. It is possible to take on a higher purpose AND make a profit.

In fact, if your business only focuses on profit you are likely to lose a rapidly increasing part of your workforce. A greater number of staff are millennials today and their numbers will continue to increase as older generations cycle out of the work environment. As many as two thirds of millennials would rather earn 50% less salary so long as they work in a job that has impact. 76% of them want their organisations to change their stance around engagement and making a difference. These statistics can be layered onto the current corporate canvas in which 70% of people at work are either not engaged or actively disengaged.

And yet business is the most logical vehicle for making positive change happen in the world. We cannot rely on the not for profit sector, nor can we rely on governments. In addition, people are not finding social connection in their lives generally, their workplaces (where they spend a predominant amount of their waking time) should be providing that. Over 100 years ago Emile Durkheim presciently pointed out that as people become increasingly disconnected from their families and societies they will become more depressed and this will lead to greater numbers of suicides. He posited that the workplace was the logical place to find a replacement for our innate human need for connection.

Business is the most logical vehicle for making positive change happen in the world.

A person’s occupation, their place of work, should be integral to building a healthier lifestyle and overall health and well-being. Ideally a person’s role purpose should align with that of their team, their company and their community. It if does, this can increase their overall purpose in life and lead to not only increased longevity, but also from a corporate point of view it will ensure they are more deeply engaged. One study has suggested that having a low purpose in life is equivalent to smoking up to 3 packs of cigarettes a day!

I want to highlight what three companies are doing to make a difference in this area.

Finding Heart and Soul

Kellogg has created a corporate responsibility strategy designed to form the backbone for their growth as a business. This heart and soul strategy drives them to see themselves as more than a business.

Kellogg Chair & CEO, John Bryant says, “We are a company with heart and soul. We care about nourishing people with our foods, feeding those in need, nurturing our planet and living our founder’s values.”

They have set out to align their vision (to enrich and delight the world through foods and brands that matter) with their purpose (nourishing families so they can flourish and thrive) and create a culture for growth so that their people become a diverse and inclusive community of passionate people making a difference.

Part of this difference making is to ensure they undertake responsible sourcing of the ingredients that go into their foods. They have quantified this commitment by pledging to help improve the livelihoods of 500,000 farmers over the next 15 years.

Chief Purpose

PwC recently appointed a Chief Purpose Officer. Shannon Schuyler’s responsibility is to activate the company’s purpose (building trust in society and solving important problems). Their hypothesis is that a purpose-driven organisation is far more likely to have its staff doing what they do with an elevated sense of meaning, understanding and really wanting to lift society in a different way.

One of her challenges is filling the gap between why leaders and employees think purpose is important. Leaders feel that purpose helps drive innovation, product development and ultimately revenue. By contrast, employees think purpose is important because it brings meaning to their jobs and delivers value to society through the work they do. So far she has rationalised this down to there being different layers of purpose – a continuum that spans organisational and individual purpose and that also includes a nuance between personal and role purpose.

One of the important problems PwC is tackling is the shift to a freelance culture. By 2020 almost half of the workforce in the United States will be freelancing, many by conscious choice. How do they retain their 240,000 staff in such an environment? They are starting to experiment with hiring millennial staff for four month stints that coincide with peak client demand. This strategy has lead to more engaged millennials who prefer to work hard for a condensed period and lead a balanced life the remainder of the year.

The average tenure of a millennial in an organisation is 18 months, because it’s usually at that inflection point that they put their head up and ask. “Is this all there is to what I’m doing at work?”  And then they constantly change jobs because no one is helping them to figure out what is missing.

PwC is taking people who have been at the company for two years through a week long program called Discover which helps them find their purpose. They work with a personal coach and take the time to figure out why their job is important, why what they do is so fundamental to who the company is and to the success of society through their skill set. Through this process their coach also helps them figure out what values and behaviours will help drive their success.

Hiring Compassionately

Many times you can feel the culture of an organisation within seconds of walking into one of their offices or talking with their staff. There is either a palpably positive, and contagious, energy or the very air seems toxic. Leading organisations recognise the importance of having a positive workplace and actively undertake to make sure their people are confident, optimistic and resilient. Companies that take this seriously incorporate this approach from the very first employee touchpoint – the hiring process.

For example, LinkedIn selects staff based on compassion. Interviewers use questions designed to illustrate the value of compassion in an answer. Here is an example:

Imagine you are a business partner visiting Seattle from Mountain View for a very important meeting with top managers in the global sales organisation. You step out of the meeting to use the restroom, and one of your managers stops you on the way, saying…
“One of my employees in California just had a baby. The infant is in the ICU at a hospital that is an hour away from her home. Is there anything we can do to help her?”

How would you answer?

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This post was initially sent out as part of the EXOscalr Be Fierce newsletter. If you don’t want to miss out you can subscribe here: http://eepurl.com/bxGzD1.

Breaking Through Control And Ego: Shifting From Fear To Empowerment

Breaking Out!

Breaking Out of Your Trance!

After my sudden cardiac death I remember feeling sad as I lay on a hospital bed in intensive care. I was sad at the thought of never being able to glide through the water on my beloved stand up paddle board. I was watching the sun rise at the start of a pristine summer’s day and yet I felt that life wasn’t co-operating. This sadness bordered on anger. Underlying this feeling was the emotion of fear. I was caught up in my separate self, consumed by my problem. I didn’t feel like I had a choice in how I related to this situation; I was a victim; I was oppressed; ultimately, I was disempowered.

What I really wanted to do was to control things. I sensed that my health situation meant I wasn’t going to be able to do what I loved; my life wasn’t co-operating and so I grasped for control of my health; I also became a victim of my circumstance and tried to take control by judging myself. In doing so I was entering a trance.

DISRUPTING CONTROL

You can enter this control trance through any number of things: losing your health; someone you love gets sick; your financial situation drops off a cliff; your relationships unravel. Common to all these circumstances is a grasping on your part to try control all aspects of your life in that moment.

You feel disempowered and insecure and this fear leads you to grab for control.

You feel disempowered and insecure and this fear leads you to grab for control. This has a negative effect on other parts of your life and can cause a downward spiral; it leads you to hurt others; it results in you ruining both personal and business relationships.

The challenge is to see this trance for what it is; to see that any solution you try to secure when in this state will not work.

You need to wake up from the trance and do a complete reversal.

You need to wake up from the trance and do a complete reversal: counter intuitively shifting from insular and controlling to open and trusting; shifting from seeking power to tapping into the source of all power. By connecting to the universe, by plugging into the source, you can replace your grasping and insecurity with profound awareness, love and deep security. By breaking this trance you empower yourself; you become free to choose your attitude, to choose how you respond to whatever is going on, no matter how disruptive that situation may seem.

GET THE FULL STORY

The brain is our search engine – using a universal algorithm it indexes the world according to our limited human capability. Over time we build up an ego, which uses a secondary set of algorithms to filter the indexed world according to our unique context.

The ego determines how we see the world and ourselves.

The ego, as gatekeeper, provides us with manageable information it deems most relevant to us. The ego determines how we see the world and ourselves. Our context is determined by the experiences we go through and how they shape us.

Our actions are mostly determined in other parts of the brain than where the ego resides. This means that even though we are led to believe by our ego that it is determining our path through life, much like the distinction between story and plot, other parts of our brain are providing the plot, the what and why we do what we do, while the ego presents us with the story, how we are doing it.

Your greatest challenge is to break out of the trance your ego has created.

Your greatest challenge is to break out of the trance your ego has created. Your ego filters the world so that your awake awareness is only comprised of what it predetermines is good for you. As such you have been living on automatic, in a reactive mode, grasping for control when life doesn’t seem to be co-operating. To break the trance you must bring into awareness aspects of the world that have been hidden by the story your ego has created for you.

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO BREAK OUT OF BOTH THESE FORMS OF TRANCE?

In trance many of your energy centres remain closed up; you find power from within your sense of separate self; you operate from a very limited and contracted place; you are within the illusion, the fairy tale, that has you grasping for power and fulfilling a false need for control. When you break from the trance you enter universal flow; all your energy centres open; power comes through the universe to you and it is unlimited; you access your innate super powers of compassion and love; you achieve full empowerment.

3 Ways to Boost Your Energy and Immune System

Health Tonics

Last week I shared with you a method for creating meaningful behavior change. This week I want to share some further practical advice, this time around boosting your energy and your immune system.

All three of the tonics listed below are designed to keep your body in balance and ward off stress-induced illness. Add them to your daily routine and enjoy the benefits that come from having more energy.

Daily Squeeze

Squeeze up to half a lemon’s worth of juice into a mug. Add a teaspoon of honey and fill the mug up with boiling water. Have this as you first drink of the day. It is a great anti-inflammatory.

Turmeric Tonic

This is another, more powerful, anti-inflammatory and immune system booster. Have a small glass of this daily. Note that your body absorbs turmeric better when ingested with black pepper so sprinkle some ground pepper into the glass.

Add 50g (quarter cup) sugar, or preferably honey, and 60ml water to a pot and heat on medium until dissolved. Remove to cool.

Pour the mixture into a 1 litre bottle or jug and add 180g (three quarter cup) of squeezed lemon and 500ml of cool water.

Use a juicer that can masticate and grind an unpeeled, chopped 5cm piece of ginger. This should yield 2 teaspoons of ginger juice, add to the bottle.

Do the same with 12 x 5cm pieces of turmeric root to yield 120ml (half a cup) of juice. Add this to the bottle.

Screw on lid and shake the bottle well.

Chia Fresca

This is an energy booster and your body will slowly absorb the chia throughout the day. The best time to have this is at the start of the day before going for a run or gym session.

Combine 1 teaspoon of dry chai seeds with half a glass of cold water. The seeds absorb 9x their weight.

Stir the mixture a few times over 10 minutes to ensure they don’t clump together as they swell up. After 10 minutes they should form a gel that has the consistency of yoghurt.

Add half a lime’s worth of juice (2 teaspoons) and 1-2 teaspoons of xylotol or agave syrup to sweeten. Drink immediately.

How to Create Meaningful Behavior Change

No matter when or how strongly motivated you are, behaviour change is hard. The best of intentions can still lead to a low probability of turning a decision to adopt a new habit or break an old one into a long term behaviour.

How do you go about making change stick?

Today I’m going to share with you two mindsets that can help significantly and also give you a methodology for making behaviour change that I’ve successfully tested.

BUILDING A PRACTICE

In my case my overall objective was to build up a regular yoga practice and I decided to do 100 yoga sessions as a means to make it a habit. The key word here is ‘practice’: change is not a one off event, a lever you pull down one day and it then stays down indefinitely.

Building up a practice requires conscious commitment in three stages.

In the first stage I made the decision to increase my mindfulness and overall well being. I also chose to do so through yoga. I did contemplate building up my running regimen or joining a gym again, but decided that yoga was the best approach.

The second stage was all about doing the work: the hard slog of showing up; day in, day out. This was harder in the early stages of building the practice as I was yet to notice the benefits; my body was anything but supple, which meant even the most basic yoga poses were tough.

The third and final phase is about maintaining the practice. Once I’d reached the peak of my practice and done 100 yoga sessions, I could not slack off; I had to keep showing up. Yoga is a great behavioural change teacher because the longer you miss your daily sessions the more you punish yourself when you finally do a session; your muscles have tightened, you struggle to get into the zone. This gives you a very direct, short term incentive to keep the practice going

POSITIVE TRIGGERS PERSIST

What is motivating you to attempt a behavior change? Negative drivers like guilt or fear are much less likely to produce long-lasting change. Instead you should find a positive trigger for change, one that is self-motivating for you.

This has a lot to do with the power of visualisation. Seeing yourself affected positively by the change will drive you through the slumps when you don’t feel like showing up and doing the work.

In my case I saw myself more focused and fitter, happier with myself and in greater balance with the universe. These were all powerfully positive triggers that have persisted as I used the behavior change system below to create a yoga practice.

IMPLEMENTING A BEHAVIOR CHANGE SYSTEM

I firmly believe in the mantra: no plan, no progress. How can you know you are on or off track if you have no plan and are not analysing your performance data. I’m going to share with you a system that will empower you to map yourself from plan to data to progress and ultimately to creating a practice.

You will need a notebook. You are free to use whatever form of notebook works for you: paper or digital, as long as it is readily available to you.

I use Evernote for most of my working notes, collating research for my various projects and as an avid foodie, for my favourite recipes. I have set up an easily accessible system within Evernote for tracking my annual objectives. If you are interested I’d be happy share this system with you.  One of those objectives was to set up a regular yoga practice.

And so I set up a note in Evernote titled ‘Build up to a regular yoga practice’. This could be a Word document, or a dedicated set of pages in your diary or journal, whatever tool works for you.

My page was divided into three main parts:

– Affirmation of Intent – a positive visualisation motivating me to complete the objective
– Next Actions – a to-do list of what I needed to commence and complete the objective
– Key Results – a collated set of data tracking my progress.

AFFIRMATION OF INTENT

I visualised myself having achieved this objective. I asked myself how this made me feel? I then made a declaration affirming my intent. From this I could extract my main motivators for building up this practice. I listed my top 3 motivators. Remember that the stronger and more positive these motivators are the more likely you are to continue with the exercise and achieve your objective.

I visualised myself being more centred and relaxed. I saw myself smiling more, treating others with greater empathy because I was more in tune with their rhythms and the energy of the universe. I was fitter and more flexible and saw myself partaking more in one of my favourite sports, stand up paddle surfing.

Here are my motivations for having a regular yoga practice:

– Increase mindfulness
– Increase body flexibility
– Increase fitness

NEXT ACTIONS

In this section I listed the specific and detailed actions I felt I needed to take to bring me closer to achieving my objective. I made these as specific as possible and created a to-do list so that I could check off when I had completed each action.

Here is my completed list:

[x] Get an app that coaches me through yoga

[x] Use Yogaglo for trial, if OK then continue using

[x] Check in half way – at 50 sessions

[x] Final check in at 100 sessions

KEY RESULTS

Without data you cannot know if you are progressing. In this section I tracked my progress by using my daily exercise as a measurement. I set this out in table format as per below:

Date Measurement
28/04 Starting 100 day plan from 29th April – map it out below
29/04 1. Yin for people who sit a lot, L1, 60m with Tiffany Cruickshank (Yogaglo)
30/04 2. Yoga for SUP, L1, 30m with Alex van Frank (Yogaglo)

I set out the date and numbered each yoga session numerically. My aim was to get to 100 yoga sessions and I had a real sense of satisfaction adding in each session straight after I’d completed it and watching the numbers go up and up. I then listed the name of the yoga session, what level of difficulty it was (Yogaglo sessions range from 1-3, with 1 being easy, 3 being advanced), how long it was and who the teacher was.

Initially I also listed on which platform I was doing the session. You may want to alternate some live classes with a local yoga teacher. You may also want to try out a few online platforms. I used Yogaglo initially and then tried out a few others. I found that I preferred Yogaglo. I was really comfortable with some of their teachers. In addition their format most approximated a live class (to me), yet had the convenience that I could do it at home or on the road any time of the day. It also helped that their monthly cost was equivalent to the cost of one local live yoga class.

I successfully completed my goal in 5 months, interspersing yoga sessions with walks, stand up paddle sessions, the occasional minor health interruption (a cold, a tummy bug) and intra-week exercise breaks.

Here’s my final check-in note:

Overall this worked well as a tool for inspiring behaviour change. By tracking my sessions it prompted me to ensure that I did them regularly and also by giving myself a mini key result aim of 5-6 hours of yoga a week I pushed myself that much harder to do sessions.

I found the ease of being able to simply set myself up in a room with a mat and launching yogaglo was far easier than going to physical classes. I also found a mix between doing different sessions to break any chance of monotony was balanced by doing some regular classes that I enjoyed more than others and where I could get into flow quicker without having to think about each move as I new what was coming. For example I did the 60 minute Sacral Chakra Flow with Jo Tastula at least once a week. I also thoroughly enjoyed synching to the universe and doing the Contemplative Full Moon Flow class on the day of a full moon. Interestingly even though I had access to about 20 teachers I tended to stick with one above all others because I was most comfortable with her style.

I played around with the ideal class duration. On Yogaglo sessions range from 15 to 90 minutes. I did a few short sessions, one or two 90 minute ones and a good few 30 minute sessions on days when I felt short on time or had low energy. However, the bulk of my sessions were 60 minutes. I enjoyed the cadence of this hour long classes. There was enough time for an initial meditation, we spent longer on chakras and ended with a nourishing shavasana. As I have done some yoga before I quickly moved from Level 1 to Level 2, but I aim cognisant not to over extend my capabilities and cause injury and so did very few Level 3 classes. I did have the occasional pulled muscle where I pushed too hard on a yoga move, but with the help of some anti-inflammatory treatment I recovered quickly.

NEXT STEPS

Use this method to set yourself up with a regular yoga practice or for any other behavior change you want to achieve. It definitely works. Personally I’m a huge fan of yoga and cannot more highly recommend you build a practice for yourself. Namaste!

Fear Revisited

Fear.

 

It’s always there.

It can either liberate or bury you.

It all depends on how you deal with it.

Compare fear with the wind. When it is a gentle breeze against your cheek, you hardly notice it. However, when it tuns into a howling gale you instinctively brace into it.

No matter its strength you only become mindful of the wind when you notice it, gently rippling over or buffeting your whole body. In that moment of mindfulness you can decide to enjoy nature or cower from its power.

Fear is always blowing.

At times with ferocity.

Choosing how you confront fear puts you in power.

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As much as we sometimes fear fear itself, it is an integral part of our overall energy system.

I’ve pitched for millions of dollars in funding; I’ve given many keynotes and run countless workshops all over the world; as a lawyer I delivered numerous arguments before packed courtrooms; and yet, every time I take the floor before an audience, I feel the familiar butterflies rising in my gut.  Instead of railing against them I embrace them.

I know that the more of them there are the greater high I will feel after my talk concludes successfully.

You see fear is a raw emotion that arises from deep within us and it can be harnessed and converted into a powerful energy that drives us to step up and achieve more than we may have without it.

Without that fear I may become nonchalant and try to wing my talks. Previous experience has shown, for me at least that this can be a disaster.

I need that fear to achieve at my best.

I choose to harness it, rather than let it debilitate me.

Fear and Hope

Fear is the ultimate tool of oppression.
Dictatorial regimes and bully bosses are past masters at using it as a tool for controlling their citizens and staff, respectively.
People can be manipulated to do terrible things through fear.
As individuals we use fear to achieve self-oppression.
Some of us are masterful at tapping into the pervasive undercurrent of fear percolating within our deeper layers of consciousness.
By doing so we reveal specific fears:
the fear of saying the wrong thing; the fear of being laughed at; the fear of being betrayed by a loved one; the fear of losing your job; the fear of being diagnosed with a terminal disease.

Recently my father was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. Coming less than two years after my own sudden cardiac death experience, this hit me hard at first. He is the toughest man I know; I always saw him as indestructible. It may sound counterintuitive, but to now see him in the fight of his life fills me with hope.

Briony Scott, herself a lung cancer patient, sums up how hope can overcome fear in a beautiful piece she wrote for the Sydney Morning Herald:

Hope, knocked down, gets up. The spirit bends towards life. Surrounded by those who know the worst and yet focus on the best, those of us sidelined by fear are able to pick ourselves up, shelve the grief, and do what needs to be done. The force wielding the gun is just as deadly but you care less. You have choice. To spend whatever is left of your life in fear or to get on with living. You do everything you can to extend your life but you will not spend it waiting for the end to come.”

One year on, I am back running a school, doing what I love. But I have changed. I am intimately acquainted with both fear and hope. They merge and cross from time to time but with an extraordinary team of people working quietly and persistently towards a cure, for all types of cancer, and especially for lung cancer, fear will not win. Hope does and will; again and again, and again.”

Such powerful words, but how do they apply to us in business?

What do we do in a work context when fear arises?
Do we confront it or push it away by working harder?
Fear needs to be confronted, directly, by the team facing it and collectively they need to brainstorm solutions to overcoming that fear.

The team’s initial instinct is to rather work harder at solving the problems that are causing the fear, for example by closing new customers. This amounts to busywork and is being done to mask the fear. Tensions will continue to rise until people on the team feel like the business is unraveling.

The real work requires the team to be fierce and confront the fear together, deciding together what solutions are best for them to pursue. This is the best way for a team to find sustainable solutions to dealing with the fear. It will also bring them together as a more cohesive unit, mending relationships and bringing people back together. While it may feel like the tougher option in the moment, it will provide the focus needed to shift the business to a higher level.

It does not matter what the underlying cause of the fear is, confronting it directly, as a team, is the only way to solve for the long term.

How can EXOscalr help?

Our work is focused on guiding people to be fierce, with themselves, their relationships and their businesses and to tackle their personal and business fears with hope.

We take our clients on a journey of self-discovery and powerfully guide them to go deeper into themselves and step into their greatness; we are bold truth tellers and guide our clients to be the same; EXOscalr is fuel for the soul; we give our clients an audacious wake up call and assist them to find and reclaim the innate powers they possess; we are their compass, challenging them to find their direction and go beyond their limitations; within themselves our clients find compassion, joy, personal power, timeless wisdom and unconditional love; we strip away everything that no longer serves them and give them the tools and inspiration to rebuild their faith in themselves, while showing them how to live a bigger, more true life.

We work with our clients individually one on one, as well as with their teams; we meet our clients where they are, combining insights into personal development and business growth.

Venture Capital: The 5 Essential Fundraising Rules

Entrepreneurs are faced daily with so many unknowns, so much chaos and survival pressure.  Adding fundraising into the mix can often feel overwhelming. How do they keep their heads above this murky water and avoid the many obstacles that lurk below the surface? I’ve distilled out five rules that apply to all fundraising activities as a series of guiding principles.

1. Timing is everything.

Sharks can detect a drop of blood from a long way off. Investors can similarly detect fear from a distance and this can negatively impact their view on investing in your company. At worst they will walk away, at best they will command a much lower valuation and more onerous terms.

The worst time is when you have little capital left and a very high burn rate. It would be far better to close a fundraising round ahead of needing to increase your burn rate.

Similarly, putting your product out into an unprimed marketplace that ignores it or does not deliver the level of hockey stick growth you were wanting will send a negative signal to potential investors. It would be far better to raise capital so you can use it to generate the right level of publicity and interest in your product ahead of its release so that there is pent up demand for it.

2. Fundraising is not transactional.

Think of raising capital as a continuous process that starts when you launch your company and ends when you sell it.

Always be raising based on your continuum of growth needs. But never be raising at some juncture when it is critical that the funds come in or your business will falter, as per the point made above.

Also factor in that however long you thought it would take to close a round is probably only about half as long as it will actually take.

3. Funding marketplaces are cyclical.

Be aware that the climate for funding can shift markedly. At one moment there can be a funding frenzy with investors desperate to get into specific opportunity spaces. This will drive up valuations and give you a feeling that funding is easy, that you can demand better terms.

However, just as quickly the market will freeze over and it can become much harder to raise money either for a specific sector or overall.

Currently we are in the middle of a slowdown. The frenzy is over. Investors are taking their time doing due diligence and forming relationships before they ink deals. At this point you need more patience and to be more realistic on valuations than a few years ago.

4. Leverage funding inflection points.

Make sure you raise the right rounds of funding to match your position on the growth continuum.

And raise only enough to progress through the risk reduction you aim to achieve in that round. Too much funding may allow you to skirt through this risk reduction process and continue down a flawed pathway, building a delusional sinkhole that you cannot escape.

Continuously pare back on opportunities that present themselves to focus on core activities that progress you through each round’s inflection point.

Seed funding should be used to build a basic, but demonstrable validator for your hypotheses. Ideally this should be scalable – starting with a bare minimum validation but then progressively adding to it so that your product begins to approximate, but not reach product market fit. Remember to listen carefully to market feedback at this point and don’t power ahead into that delusional sinkhole when all the signs are there that your hypotheses are not being validated.

Series A funding is raised to get you to product market fit and the subsequent market traction that this enables. Investors prefer to come on board when they can see product market fit on the horizon as this allows them a more reasonable valuation than when customers are banging the door down to get to your product.

Series B funding is used to deliver scalable growth. You’ve built the rocket ship, you now need to scramble out of the growth engine room and into find the command console so you can steer your business into directionally correct territory that sets you up for the next round of funding.

Series C funding is perhaps the hardest round to raise as it is the real truth seeker. Up until now you could have relied on buzz to generate growth, but now you need to prove that you have the right unit economics in place to ensure sustained, profitable growth. This is a crucial time to be aware of that delusional sinkhole again. If you’ve raised too much money you could be plowing it into revenue growth and delaying the hard conversation you need to have around the economics of your unit growth. Revenue growth must convert into positive unit growth or you will sink your business as you expand it.

There are always exceptions, but raising outside of these inflection points is exponentially harder.

Coming back to the key point that timing is everything you should factor in about two years between each of these funding rounds. That gives you enough time to focus on growth for a full year before picking your head up for six months to raise the next round, while maintaining a six month contingency as a buffer.

5. Optimise your fundraising for success.

Does the investor or group of investors you are bringing into a round have what it takes to support you, over and above the capital infusion?

If you answer a resounding yes, then find an approximated win win deal and close the round. You could keep negotiating them down on deal terms or look elsewhere for a higher valuation, or a bigger named venture firm. But that would be a distraction. A financing deal is one moment in the growth continuum of your business. Keep your eyes on the prize: business success.

You are taking on a venture capital partner because you want to build a bigger business at an accelerated pace to what you could without their funding and guidance. Don’t over obsess about your equity stake. Think more about how much more you can grow your business with their involvement so that you all win, big. Keep that goal in mind and view each funding round as a mile-post on that journey. It is an important enabler, nothing more, nothing less.

By investor I refer to the sponsoring partner at a venture capital firm, not the firm itself. Your relationship with them is going to be a lifelong partnership, not a transactional, deal-based one-off interaction. Are you comfortable they would take your call at 3am in the morning or delay their Wednesday afternoon golf game to attend an emergency board meeting? Think of them as talent you are bringing onto your team. Talent you are prepared to take advice from and whose counsel you would trust implicitly.

I hope these rules assist you in your capital raising endeavors and provide you with much needed perspective to view funding as a part of your growth journey.

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This post was initially sent as part of the EXOscalr BeFierce newsletter. If you want to receive it directly  you can subscribe here: http://eepurl.com/bxGzD1

Are Entrepreneurs Suicidal?

Avoca

The topic of depression in startup founders is becoming more prominent. It is an important discussion that was highlighted when outspoken serial entrepreneur Jason Calacanis was asked his views by a journalist.

He replied, “Running a startup is a mentally-challenging pursuit, with the chances of failure being absurdly high and the effort required being so extreme. Most of the people attracted to changing the world via a startup are highly-driven and quixotic, but sometimes they are manic.”

“I don’t think startups cause depression, but I do think depressed people can be lured into the chemical rush of running a startup without understanding how trying it really is.”

My personal view on the topic is that being prone to depression should not be a contra-indicator to becoming an entrepreneur.

Instead there are methods for dealing with depression, fostering resilience and reducing fear (of failure, of success) that while important for all entrepreneurs become imperative for those who need to fight their shadows more than others.

The most likely accelerator for depression is not being true to one self. Do a startup for the right reasons that resonate at your soul level, not because it is cool. Not being true to yourself creates emotional friction that will wear down your resilience and let the shadows in.

There is also a misunderstanding about what generates depression and people often oversimplify this very complex issue. It is not as simple as “just getting over it”.

This comment from a Reddit thread on the topic points to the complexity involved:

“The solution to depression is to be happier and stay positive, but doing that involves rehauling habits, improving one’s environment, setting goals, having the proper environment and support, and putting consistent work into changing the way one thinks, day after day without fail or else one runs the risk of undoing every step of progress. By the way, you have to do all of this while your mind tells you how pointless everything is and leeches away your capacity to feel pleasure or pride about a job well done, so any progress you do make provides no intrinsic motivation.”

Many entrepreneurs feel overwhelmed by the sheer number and weight of the decisions they face. Do I hire this person? Do I fire that person? Should I take funding from them, or them? Who is giving me the right advice? What are the consequences of releasing a new product feature – too early, or too late? Should I sell the business to them, at that price? And on and on.

These decisions can mean life or death for their business. Yet for people living with anxiety, every single decision, no matter how small they may seem to others, feels like they have life or death consequences. Factor anxiety into the mix for an entrepreneur and they become far more prone to depression and even suicide.

Another Reddit comment highlights how someone with anxiety thinks:

“It’s like a life or death game of chess. You have to think ten moves ahead and have a move for every situation in advance. The fear of death gets worse with every possible move you analyze. And if life makes a move that you didn’t see coming, instant breakdown, no matter how small insignificant the move was.”

Nor is depression a tap that can be turned on or off at will. It is with someone constantly as another poster to Reddit said:

“Every day of my life! Normal people don’t get it. They think you are acting crazy and irrational and treat you like you can just turn it on and off whenever you want, like it’s a choice. It’s not. I’ve learned to “deal” with it and suppress it a bit but it’s always there.”

Unfortunately there is a rise in suicide rates across all demographics, not only entrepreneurs. A 24% rise between 1999 and 2014 in the US has been attributed to concerns about jobs and personal finances. These issues can be exacerbated amongst entrepreneurs worried about how they keep supporting their staff and feeding their families.

It is important for entrepreneurs to realise that there is no direct causal link between being in the grip of fear and spiralling into depression. Realisation and resilience are key to staving off the shadows. Former Google and now CEO at Accompany, Amy Chang said in an interview recently, “I’ve made so many mistakes along the way. I have those ‘3am wake up and can’t go back to sleep moments’ all the time. It is good for people who are just starting their careers to know that too, so that when they are totally scared out of their minds of failure, or whatever else, they know it is 100% normal.”

My advice to entrepreneurs, be they new to the game or old hands, is tread the entrepreneurial path with eyes wide open. Do not be afraid to talk about your fears and anxieties and seek assistance if things get more serious.

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This post was initially published as part of the EXOscalr BeFierce newsletter. You can subscribe here:http://eepurl.com/bxGzD1 .

A World Leading Entrepreneur Growth Program for Leaders

EXOscalr is proud to launch its world leading Entrepreneur Growth Program, which is designed to provide early to mid stage companies invaluable insights into achieving high growth.

The Program runs over 6 weeks and gives senior executives practical advice, algorithms and methodologies that will significantly boost the velocity of their growth.

Announcing the Program, EXOscalr CEO Rand Leeb-du Toit said, “Growth is the perennial focus for business leaders. Yet it is often misunderstood and mismanaged. The Entrepreneur Growth Program dispels the myths and delivers an unfair competitive advantage.”

“This advantage firstly delivers the impetus for growth through a suite of tools designed to achieve a growth boost and secondly, delivers methods for harnessing the ensuing chaos and ensuring it is directionally correct.”

The Program is available to companies globally and brings cutting edge insights from leading high growth organisations, in Silicon Valley and internationally, directly to entrepreneurs and business executives.

In addition, EXOscalr is releasing its 2016 Growth Report which highlights the 10 facets for driving business growth and how to create a concerted front strategy and business-wide operating system for achieving the levels of growth only seen by leading companies.

“Growth is not all lead generation and pitching. There is a much wider set of activities that must be undertaken by dedicated growth groups working across a business. Anything less is tantamount to stagnation in today’s dynamic business environment,” said Mr Leeb-du Toit.

The Growth Report explores what a dedicated growth group should consist of and also what to look for when hiring the right people for it.

The Report can be downloaded from the EXOscalr website and expressions of interest in the Entrepreneur Growth Program can be made directly to Mr Leeb-du Toit via email: rand@exoscalr.com.