What if you were to suddenly die? Would you wish you had seized life more?
My new book Fierce Reinvention – out on 2nd October – will challenge you to live a more fulfilled life.
This week I farewelled my father, Eugene Leeb-du Toit, after a tough fight with cancer.
In his honor I want to share my Eulogy with you:
My father had many endearing qualities but I want to focus on two:
first, he taught me to live large; and, secondly, to be fierce.
Dad loved the ocean and boats were a big part of his life.
He built his first boat, a run about, in Durban as a teenager.
I remember as an 8 year old helping him build a wood and fibreglass speed boat.
Admittedly, I spent more time coating myself in fibres than anything else.
And then there was his most ambitious boating project:
a large flatbed trailer and crane arrived outside our house
in a sleepy seaside suburb in East London and delivered the hull and keel of a 35 foot Miura-class yacht to our front lawn; it promptly became a giant jungle gym for Alan, Viv and I as well as the neighbourhood; Dad lovingly sourced teak railway sleepers and transformed them into a thing of beauty, wood panelling for the yacht’s interior.
We enjoyed many hours sailing her in the waters of the wild coast, a stretch of ocean as feared as Cape Horn for its ferocity.
It took a special kind of courage, a fierce nature, to tackle those waters and again, to tackle the waters of life.
Dad demonstrated this fierceness in his fights with cancer:
when my sister was diagnosed with brain cancer at the age of 6 he was there, fiercely compassionate in his support for her; when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer
he tackled it with a brave face and beat it down;
but it was that third time when it sneaked up on him
that he needed to muster all his strength and courage,
and he was fierce in his fight with it right up until his last moment.
Dad dedicated his life to animals and loved his profession as a vet. He told us that he never did anything to disrespect an animal and for him this was a blessing of his work.
He recognised that we are all part of the river of life when he recently said, “We belong to nature, and I respect the way nature works, and for me it is easy to be a part of nature’s system.”
Today we are here to celebrate a life well lived; a life lived large and with fierce compassion; and today we are here to commit Dad back into the river of life.
Dad, thank you for all you did for us and taught us.
We love you so much.
This post is about growing your humanness and spirit through constant metamorphosis and reinvention.
We are ready for reinvention when we become aware of the constraints of the chrysalis we have been living in. This awakening is accompanied by the realisation that it is time for us to extend beyond the capsule of self, the pod that has defined us; it is time for us to reinvent ourselves and, transformed, take off for expanded horizons.
Our egoic thoughts, our limiting beliefs and our behaviours form the capsule’s walls. While these may serve us in our earlier phases of self-development there comes a time when we need to move beyond them; this time is marked by our exposure to an expanded reality, which may be through a single catalytic event like a death in the family, the loss of a relationship or job or even your own near death experience as was the case for me; or this widening of our reality may be a more gradual process, hardly noticeable at first, but as we expose ourselves to more and more of it we open up to a greater and more faster flowing reality, much like a small drop of water that is initially flowing on the back of a leaf down a slow moving stream and, as that stream joins the more turbulent waters of a larger river, the drop slips off the leaf into the wider waters; the drop is now far more vulnerable, but has also opened to a much greater canvas of possibility.
We take on what I call ‘fierce risk’ when we have greater and greater exposure to unknowns, to danger outside of our control and to the possibility of loss; by letting go of the familiar, foregoing our sense of security and not holding onto comfort-generating, past experiences this fierce risk empowers us to feel more and more alive. Breaking out of our chrysalis and embracing our fears takes a special kind of bravery and courage that is wrapped up in a sensitivity to our surroundings; this situational responsiveness is beautifully encapsulated in the word ‘fierce’; it is not about ferociously cutlassing through the walls of our cocoon; nor is it about blindly stepping into the future; this is about living each moment as if it were our last, without filters, zero constraints and openly aware to the risks that come with doing so and being comfortable with the uncomfortableness that may arise.
Fierce risk requires of us that we be fiercely present: we are unconditional in meeting the moment, no ifs or buts, no regrets or wishes, however small, should sway us or hold us in check. When one of your staff enters your office and you are fiercely present they can tangibly feel your focus. When your young son asks you a question at the dinner table he can feel when you are there for him, as his father, and not lost in processing deadlines, emails and meetings.
In this contemplation I want us to think about the benefits of seizing each moment gently and with the openness of fierce risk. Our creature comforts and habits make this a hard thing to do; we identify with our capsule; we are attached to the pod that we live within; our egoic nature habituates control as a counter to fear; we strive for what we think we need; we hold onto what we value and what gives us security; we forage and scramble for fleeting happiness and avoid pain; death is perennially a taboo topic.
It is not easy to break down the walls of your capsule when so much of what you do on a daily basis is centered around strengthening them. These centering forces are either positively or negatively aligned: positive forces include the need to control, the desire for fame, praise, recognition, success and the unquenchable thirst for pleasure; negative forces include the aversion to being blamed, avoiding pain and not recognising failure. Our pod is reinforced by the acquisition of more and more of these positive forces and the shedding of the negative ones.
What acts as a catalyst to our continued growth beyond our current capsule? What empowers us to break through the walls of our pod? Is there an event taking place in our lives that can act as a chrysalis trigger? Where are we sensing that trigger within our lives? Where do we find the walls of the capsule closing in on us? Where is the pod weakest that we may use this as a beachhead to break through?
Are you constantly trying to overachieve? Do you resent the behaviour of a member of your team to the point where you blame them even when they are not behaving ‘badly’. Do you fear the judgment of your peers. Do you self-medicate your stress with alcohol? Has you life partner walked out on you because you haven’t been present in the relationship for ages? Are you obsessively anxious about events you have little control over? These are all examples of the walls closing in on us. We can wrap ourselves in more tightly, keeping the outside world at bay, and ultimately give more power to the walls themselves; or we can see these things as triggers for us to step up, break out and begin to build a practice of being fiercely present and gently seizing the fierce risk.
A CONTEMPLATION ON FIERCE RISK
Picture your mind as part of the fast moving river we spoke of earlier.
Take a deep breath in and pause.
Open your mind and let the initial swirl of thoughts wash through.
As you slowly exhale, find yourself eddied out of the main current. You are close to the river bank and high overhead a willow tree’s branches and leaves offer you shade from the glare of the sun.
Take another, slower deep breath in and pause at the top of your breath.
As you breath out feel the air moving through you, feel yourself being more present within your body.
Now channel your thoughts and settle on a person who means a lot to you, someone who disquiets or excites your mind either because you are anxious about how they feel about you, you worry about how they may judge you or because you feel a responsibility or a duty of care towards them.
What is it that has been said between you?
What is it that has yet to be said?
How do you want them to judge you?
How are they currently relating to you?
Visualise your most recent encounter with this person.
What part of your ego showed up in this interaction?
What was your disposition, did any of your usual habits arise?
Was any fierce risk present in this engagement with them?
How would it feel to gently seize the fierce risk with them?
Would it feel like you are uncloaking from your old chrysalis?
Would it feel more open, more present, more vulnerable?
While your focus has been on a recent encounter with this person, think now about your next meeting with them. How might this be different without your current habits and egoic limitations?
In what way would fierce risk change how you relate to them?
One of the most powerful places for us to seize the fierce risk is in relation to the delusion of disrepute: we become self-absorbed with our unworthiness, we wallow in our reverie of shame, we are absorbed by our wickedness, we feel stupid and have a myriad of other self-deprecating thoughts. This delusion is particular prevalent when we deal with people who are important to us in our lives. One small comment from such a person at work can send us into a frenzy.
And so we opt instead to remain in our pod of comfort: what if I was totally myself and they didn’t like it? What if they pierced my veil and saw my doubts and fears? What would they think of me then, that I’m not worthy of my role, that I am not qualified to take on this position? This encapsulated delusion of disrepute closes in on us and is a powerful place for us to practice fierce risk. Instead of continuing the flow of such thoughts we empower ourselves to pause, to disentangle ourselves from them as they are simply thoughts, they do not define us.
Delve into these thoughts and feel out if by fostering them you are making them more powerful; picture what it would be like to cleanse yourself of these thoughts, do you feel a draw towards extending beyond them? If you do then you are ready to gently seize the fierce risk.
Focus again on the next time you are with this person of interest to you.
Imagine the place, the smell, the temperature, the sounds; visualise their eyes looking into yours, the expression on their face, the angle of their head; picture yourself gently seizing the fierce risk and opening to vulnerably being with that person; you are present in that moment without a need to control the situation.
Don’t allow any form of predisposed bias to intervene in this scene; if any past encounter tries to surface let it pass through you just as you let thoughts pass through your mind when you are meditating.
Try to see this person through fresh eyes, empty of any and all previous experiences; as you do so take note of what you arises as if anew; seeing them as if for the first time what may you have previously missed.
As you allow fierce risk to enter this relationship and break through your chrysalis you will throw aside behaviours, filters and habits they may have prevented you from seeing the love in this person. That love is extremely powerful and can itself trigger you to find love in more and more people. This is the transformative power of reinvention at work. Let it lighten your life and the lives of all those you come into contact with.
Come back to the present moment and bring your fierce risk with you. Allow it to grow, from the size of a small, germinating seed as you break out of the bonds of your chrysalis and, over time, let it tower above and around you as you slip back into the waters of the fast flowing river of life.
Grow your humanness and spirit through constant metamorphosis and reinvention.
As always, thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts. I do appreciate your continued interest in my work at EXOscalr and I love sharing my thoughts and insights with you.
The website for my upcoming book, Fierce Reinvention, is taking shape at https://www.
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In this post we are going to continue to explore fierce leadership as an essential modern leadership practice.
Fierce companies are at the vanguard of modern leadership practices because they understand that it is imperative to invest into their people as the cost of doing nothing means a huge bottom line impact through staff turnover and disengagement. Fierce companies cultivate their people’s potential rather than having them leave in droves to find places where they can reach beyond their capabilities. Fierce companies enable fierce leadership practices so that their executives and teams are able to draw on their inner resources and thrive in the fast-paced and ever-changing modern environment.
Fierce leadership can be defined as the practice of helping one self and others to follow their passion and purpose, while leading their lives with maximum clarity, connection and integrity.
Fierce leaders strengthen their leadership presence by fostering compassion and mindfulness; they harness this presence to power their decision-making and execution to the benefit of others and themselves.
Fierce leadership is a transformative discipline that uses breakthrough experiences and epiphanies to change the paradigm for leaders: they increasingly see themselves and the world around them differently which results in them positively changing their leadership activities, such as how they use their influence and pursue goals; they discover where their current leadership approach is lacking and not producing desired results; they shift their attitude and the way in which they view situations and their positioning in such situations, particularly high stress situations; and they approach their roles in business and society with more authenticity, care and purpose which results in exponentially better outcomes.
Through the practice of being fierce leaders can strip away narrative that doesn’t serve them and as a result become clear on what is happening in their minds on a moment by moment basis. By focusing on the paradigms from which they have been operating and inquiring into what beliefs and mindsets have been limiting them they can create a breakthrough experience for themselves; this gives them the epiphany that, firstly, they can have control over their thoughts and the attitudes and actions that follow such thoughts, and secondly, this control empowers them to have choices by illuminating counterproductive and dysfunctional behaviours and habits, how they form and how to break them.
This practice of fierce leadership can be kickstarted by a leader themselves or they can join colleagues within the safe space of a retreat to get to know one another better and share breakthrough experiences together.
After a recent 5-day retreat organised for a company to explore fierce leadership, Michael who had been with the company for 25 years and worked his way up to a senior executive position said that this was the first time he had the opportunity to invest in his own development in such a significant way. He felt that he got to know both himself and his colleagues at a much deeper and more meaningful level than had ever been possible in the day to day of being in the office. In many ways he had felt that over the years his engagement systems, his corporate life support mechanisms, had been progressively shutting down. The retreat boosted his personal energy levels and for the first time in many years he felt truly alive and excited. His team recognised this change when he returned to the office and soon thereafter he was reaching out for further fierce leadership training both for himself and his division.
Jessica, a twenty seven year old vice president felt that her breakthrough experience at the same retreat involved an intergenerational insight that all executives are dealing with similar stresses and issues. While we all react differently to similar situations there is much common ground in that, as leaders, we are all having to make complex decisions with incomplete information. As a result she was able to work with other generations without judgment. She found herself getting more done in the company through her increased ability to collaborate and persuade other executives to join her in achieving outcomes that had more impact on their company and across their ecosystem.
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.
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.
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
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
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:
|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.
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 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.
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.