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.

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 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

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.

Growth.Reinvented: How Leading Companies Create a Concerted Front For Business Growth

As evidenced by numerous surveys, growth is the major enduring focus for business leaders. However, growth is tackled ad hoc across many organizations. Leading companies drive rapid, sustained growth through a concerted front strategy.

More and more companies have a leadership mandate to achieve growth, a vision of what growth needs to be and an understanding of a growth culture.

They embark on various growth initiatives, but these are mostly carried out in silos.

Leading organizations not only undertake numerous growth activities, but they also conduct them using a concerted front strategy.

They start by formulating a view across all their growth activities. They then translate that view into a business-wide operating system.

As their concerted activities mature this operating system shifts to being driven by a dedicated growth group that works across the business.

I’ve written a Growth Report that explores the concerted front strategy used by leading companies to achieve rapid and sustained growth.

The report starts by highlighting key aspects of the 10 facets for driving business growth, then considers what a dedicated growth group should consist of and what to look for when hiring the right people for it. It concludes with suggestions on how to create a 100 day growth dialogue.

You can download the full report from the EXOscalr website at the following LINK.

The EXOscalr Entrepreneurial Growth Program: How to convert chaos into growth

High growth scaling up is a function of converting random chaos into positive, directionally correct chaos. To do so you need to know where you are going and whether you are on track.
 
At EXOscalr we have devised the Plan Data Progress Operating System to help you transition seamlessly from startup to scaleup.
Find out more about this Operating System as well as other algorithms and methods for growth on the EXOscalr Entrepreneurial Growth Program. We have a limited number of spots available. Ping rand at exoscalr dot com if you are interested in being considered.

Exciting new role: VP of Business Development & Growth, OTE $400k

EXO2

 

EXOscalr is entering a new phase of growth and we are excited to be seeking a VP of Business Development & Growth.

Details of the role are below.

Serious enquiries (including resume and covering letter) can be addressed to our CEO, Rand Leeb-du Toit at rand@exoscalr.com.

Please no recruitment companies, or lead generation service providers.

 

Job description

We are looking for a senior business development professional for a Vice President role. The person will be responsible for sourcing and closing coaching and advisory clients, with a particular focus on the roles of CEO and Chief Digital Officer. You need not be based in any specific geographical location, however we are seeking a Silicon Valley-style Get Stuff Done mentality.

Responsibilities:

– Generate revenue by selling EXOscalr’s coaching and advisory services
– Develop a sales strategy designed to achieve set revenue targets
– Build and maintain relationships with corporate executives in CEO and Chief Digital Officer roles across a range of industry sectors, company sizes and geographies
– Develop and maintain a robust pipeline of qualified prospects
– Book consistent prospect meetings and follow up until clients are closed
– Develop a working knowledge of the issues CEOs and Chief Digital Officers face
– Develop a strong knowledge and understanding of the competitive landscape and be able to effectively articulate the EXOscalr value proposition
– Provide client/prospect feedback.

Qualifications:

– 10+ years of sales experience to senior executives, ideally selling six figure coaching and advisory packages
– Hunter, with a get stuff done mentality, able to be autonomous and generate significant new business
– Demonstrated ability to communicate effectively and persuasively, both verbally and textually
– Broad based knowledge of the sales process from lead generation to relationship management
– Mature communicator capable of handling high-profile clients
– Demonstrated ability to work in a team atmosphere
– A desire to work in a fast-paced entrepreneurial environment
– Prepared to back themselves.

Location:

We are geographically agnostic and so you may be based anywhere on the planet provided you have excellent Internet connectivity and have a Silicon Valley-style Get Stuff Done mentality.
Industry:

Professional Training and Coaching, Management Consulting, Venture Capital & Private Equity

Employment type:

Full-time

Experience:

Director

Job function:

Sales, Business Development, Growth

About EXOscalr
We empower leaders to be fierce with themselves, in their relationships and in their business particularly around disruptive innovation, growth and making a difference.

What’s It Like Taking The First Steps On A Transformational Journey?

Meditate2

One of my clients, Bridget, has written about the first six months of her transformational journey since starting to work with us at EXOscalr. It took a lot of courage to write and I wanted to share it with you. It provides an insider’s view of what it feels like to be ‘under way’ on such a journey and it is powerful stuff:

I had achieved substantial external success. However, internally it was a different story. I felt that I was a fraud hiding my true self and I was constantly burnt out due to anxiety and fear.

When I first started working with Rand I told him that while my quest – contributing towards bringing world peace on earth within my lifetime – was a seed that had been lying in the depths of my soul since my inception, and while I did not yet know how it would be achieved, the road towards action was littered with fears and distance within and between myself, and it was these barriers which needed to be addressed first.

Despite my external successes, my internal was lost. I had written a poem a few months earlier, in which I wrote;

I’m stuck in a wheel.
Why can’t I move on?
Be better, be me, odd as I am.

I knew that I was hiding from myself and others, from my dreams and future, and that the only way to become my best self that I so dearly wanted to reconcile with, would be to peel back the layers of fear that kept holding me back. And peel them back we have!

After a few months of working with Rand I broke through my biggest mountain yet. Denial. In a reflection I wrote;

For the longest time I have been unwilling or unable to accept myself. My true self. My true purpose. And maybe I am still hiding, but I am absolutely closer to accepting who I am and where I am heading.

And I am. This transformational journey has been a rollercoaster as with each layer that is removed a stronger, more aligned me is revealed, and almost as quickly a new fear rises up to be challenged. Despite facing the desire to run away multiple times, I am incredibly proud of myself for standing my ground and fighting for myself. It’s amazing how quickly fears disappear when you do.

I have more fears ahead of me to conquer, more transformation to undergo, and I am aware and gracious for the fact that I could not have achieved such significant and accelerated personal growth without Rand’s absolute acceptance of me, both during times of advancement and setback. I adore our sessions because Rand assists me in shining a light on the compass of my soul, the Sherpa and sage of my internal journey.

I am eternally grateful for the privilege of working with him and can’t wait to see what the next six months unveil.

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At EXOscalr we work with our clients to unleash their absolute potential and make a difference. We draw on decades of experience, including insights gained in venture capital, corporate innovation, building high growth organizations and advising the Fortune 1000 on transformation.

As a professional coach and adviser I constantly focus on the trends in achieving exponential growth and how you can make more difference.

I read all my email at rand@exoscalr.com and I’m also at +1-650-529-4181 and +1-646-480-0205. Feel free to reach out.

3 Ways Entrepreneurs Can Psychologically Prepare for a Venture Capital Ice Age

iceage2

 

Since initially publishing this newsletter to subscribers two days ago there have been two additional touchpoints worth highlighting:

* firstly, a comprehensive piece has been published on TechCrunch, After the Gold Rush, which lists a number of views from other pundits that back up my prognosis;

* secondly, reports from New York City of a young startup founder who appears to have jumped to her death.

These two incidents may in no way be connected, but the point of this piece is that entrepreneurs should prepared themselves psychologically for the rigours of startup life, which may become a lot harder in coming months.

Here is the original piece I wrote:

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I’ve never been much of a doomsday kind of person. I’ve been through two venture capital ice ages and definitely would not wish one on anyone. That said, the signs are there that we may well be heading into another one – it may be a gradual cooling rather than an overnight freeze, but entrepreneurs need to prepare.

The facts first:
In Q4 financing of startups fell by 6.6% to $17.13bn. This is still high, but it is the lowest in five quarters.

Venture capitalists in Silicon Valley are reigning in the throttle. New financing rounds are being done at lower valuations.

Startups are being urged to cut their cash burn even if they may not yet need to. 10% cuts are now becoming common place. Thanks to John Furrier of SiliconANGLE for this data.

Stats from WSJ/Dow Jones VentureSource point out that the number of US startups valued at $1bn or more for the first time has tentatively dropped by 50% for Q1 ’16 in contrast to Q4, which itself was over 50% down from the Q3 peak. They also point out that 35 of the 48 US tech venture-backed IPOs are trading below their IPO price.

We all know that most startups fail. In the currently cooling climate the number of failures may well skyrocket. Entrepreneurs should continue to listen carefully to their advisers and VC investors regarding trimming back on burn rate and shoring up resources. But what about their emotional side? The pressure of a cooling market can lead to significant psychological stress on founders.

I want to highlight 3 areas that may well help entrepreneurs psychologically prepare with excerpts from my upcoming book, Be Fierce: The Leaders Guide to Unleashing Your Potential:

– Dealing with Failure
– Dealing with Success
– Being Resilient

1. Dealing with Failure
For some people the fear of failure holds them back from doing things. At best such fear is self limiting, at worst it can be debilitating.

Mick Ebeling (of Not Impossible Labs) was able to progress beyond his fear of failure through learning to jump first and making the assumption that the net would appear. He believed things were going to work out even though when he leapt he had no idea how.

You can follow that belief, or you can follow the fear.

He puts it philosophically. We don’t know why we are here, on earth, but it’s not just to make money or have fun. He visualises us all on rickety little boats that are motoring across the narrow of expanse of time that is our lifespan. If we want to be successful then we’ve got to leave a way behind us. If we take life too slow and steady we don’t create a wake and then what’s the point.

The secret to success, for Mick, was the realisation that failure isn’t a big deal.

We tend to find ourselves entangled in what we should and shouldn’t do. When we unravel this we formulate constraints on what can and can’t be done.

They appear fact-like, but they are far from it. They only amount to conversations that we have in our heads, but so often they seem to crystallise into facts.

That’s not a bad thing, as long as the solidifying conversations are motivated by positive, motivating thoughts. It’s when we view fear-induced inner conversations as fact that we limit ourselves.

Without training and mindfully creating a different set of thoughts we can default to that negative conversation.

And so we need to do all we can to banish negative thoughts, banish fear and focus on having a positive conversation in our heads.

You can change reality through the power of what you say to yourself. As your positive thoughts and conversations crystallise into facts, you change reality by having these positive facts guide you, instead of the fearful ones.

By imagining a “Yes” when you’re expecting a “No”, by acting confident when you’re feeling nervous, you can become the person you want to be. Act like the person you want to be and success will triumph over failure.

Success and failure are far from random. They live within the very DNA of our character and personality. They are expressed through our thoughts and actions.

We choose which side of the fine line we find ourselves on – success or failure – by our courage in the face of both adversity and uncertainty and also how we choose to visualise ourselves. Do you see yourself as failing or succeeding?

2. Dealing with Success

Success can come with a dark side.

Loneliness and depression affect everyone in all walks of life. Successful people are more prone to it and entrepreneurs even more so.

Mark Suster, a venture capitalist at Upfront Ventures, believes that success breeds loneliness. It can be a depressogen and in some studies the rate of depression in successful people is higher than 1 in 3.

Mark identifies four reasons success can be a lonely place:
1) the expectations don’t stop – they get higher
2) there is so much more at stake and so many more livelihoods and legacies that you plan for
3) it is only a heartbeat away from failure and the press love a rise and fall story
4) you find yourself surrounded by a bubble and often a bubble with vested interests in your actions.

As leaders you can be thrust into the spotlight of success with far more impetus than other people and are therefore susceptible to the sudden onset of loneliness and depression, many times with no experience in how to identify or cope with it.

One moment Jim was a struggling entrepreneur. His mother kept yelling at him to get a real job. His friends told him that he was crazy. The next moment his company was valued at over a billion dollars and some guy he’d only ever previously seen on the cover of magazines was thrusting a very, very big check into his hands. He spent six months mastering golf and travelling the world. Deep down he began to feel more and more hollow inside. He was becoming detached from his former entrepreneurial self and didn’t know how to identify himself anymore.

What can you do to deal with the dark side of success? There are two avenues you can take.

Explore the dark

Your life exists as a narrative, a story arc with a past, present and future. In order to truly achieve well-being you need to delve into parts of your past and present that you may feel much trepidation about. There may be dark times when your arc dipped low and this darkness cannot be avoided. It must be explored as it leads to the next point.

Tackle the triggers

Loneliness is often exacerbated by triggers. Things happen in your life that for most people would be viewed as slightly negative, but you view them as off-the-charts negative. Having explored the dark you become aware why these things have such an effect on you. You can identify very early on, even before the trigger starts having an accentuated impact on you, that it is there and you can act.

3. Being Resilient

You want to achieve your best, you want to stand out from the pack. We all do.

And so you push yourself. Nothing wrong with being driven, it can help you attain your stretch goals. You equate stress with success. There is nothing wrong with this on the face of it.

Pushing yourself to overcome a challenge with the awareness that you may well have too few resources at hand to do so is the very definition of stress. And in many instances this stress is the very thing that drives you over the edge and empowers you to overcome that challenge. Cultivating short term stress can only lead to better performance, but it can also protect you through a boost to your immune system.

The issue, though, is that you don’t stop there. You push yourself continuously. You don’t give yourself time to decompress.

Isolated stress turns into chronic stress, and that is deadly.

And yet, as a society, we take pride in how hard we work, in how much stress we are under.

Have you ever asked someone how they are and they’ve replied, “Great, very relaxed, taking my time to complete a few projects.”

You are more likely to get the response, “I’m so stressed. I’ve been working like crazy and I’ve got so much to do.”

Take note of a person’s body language when they give you such a reply. They will puff out their chest with pride, their eyes will widen in excitement and they will smile at you. All is right in their world, this is how it ought to be.

And yet it isn’t ok. Annual stress-related healthcare costs have soared into the hundreds of billions of dollars. Chronic stress will weaken your energy reserves, it will reduce your ability to think and ultimately it can kill you.

Stress, like happiness, lives on a continuum. At one end stress is short-term, it is good. At the other it is chronic and bad. To cultivate stress and optimise your performance you need to determine what your stress limits are. Just the right amount and you are in the zone. Too much and you cross the point of marginal returns and the efficacy of stress in boosting your performance degrades.

The most reliable measure of your particular place on the stress continuum is your resilience: how quickly you recover from a stress event. It translates directly from Latin: “to jump or leap again”.

Resilience measures how long it takes you to revert to your restorative state in which you charge up your strength for your next challenge.

You may undergo a major stress and feel like you have recovered quickly. Feeling fine you take on another stress almost immediately. Again, you feel like you’ve made a quick recovery so you dive into a new challenge. However, each stress can build up a level of resistance to reverting to your restorative state. The end result is that you don’t ever fully restore your energy levels. And then one day you suffer a cataclysmic health issue.

When I was an analyst I saw the effect of this firsthand. My colleagues would step off the plane from a particularly gruelling few weeks travelling, only to literally turn around and do it again the next day. Meanwhile, they were pushing themselves to keep up their writing regime so that could meet their publishing deadlines and also working on keynote presentations for looming events. While they thrived on the stress of each one of these activities, it was their cumulative effect that wore them down.

Besides the constant barrage of challenges that we rise to, you may also be depleting your resilience simply by thinking or participating in routine events like reading a magazine or watching the news on TV. Our default though pattern is to think negatively and so the more we engage in activities that are open to being viewed in a negative light, such as emails and interactions with work colleagues, the more likely we are to stress over them and wear ourselves down. Similarly, marketers and the media are well aware of our how stress-inducing stimuli seize our attention and the daily deluge of ‘act now’ messages we receive have a similar affect.

How can you reduce the effect of stress and build up your resilience?

You come home from work after a busy day and decide to destress with a glass of wine. You try to drown out the thoughts that are stressing you by escaping into a reality program, the latest serial on Netflix or a novel.

But then you have to come back to reality. You do this day after day, night after night until the weekend arrives and you find that you are even more stressed.

This is because constant suppression of negativity leads to an increase in negativity. Not only does it cause you to have more negative emotions, but it can also reduce your self-esteem and lead to depression.

The most effective method to build up resilience is to breathe. By controlling your breathing patterns you alter your emotions and induce stress reduction.

When I was in the military I trained myself to take in a deep breath and let it out slowly. This would help to reduce my anxiety about a stressful situation and also increased my clarity of thought so that I could determine how to deal with the situation in the most effective way.

Taking in slow and deep breaths can stimulate your vagus nerve, which acts against your stress-induced fight or flight response to a stressful situation.

Extending your inhalation and exhalation for just 10 minutes a day can noticeably relax you. This in turn reduces your heart rate and lowers your blood pressure. It can also reduce inflammation, improve digestion and brain function.

Deep abdominal breathing involves expanding your diaphragm, the muscle that sits lengthways between your stomach and chest, and reducing your number of breaths by 50% per minute – long and slow, 4-5 seconds in and then 4-5 seconds out.

If you want an even quicker method to activate your vagus nerve, you can immerse you face into a basin of cold water. This method is best done after vigorous exercise. You mainly want to ensure that your eyeballs are completely submerged in the water as they are one of the key vagus nerve stimulation areas.

CEO Richard had a predominantly negative internal dialogue. “We are going to use up all our cash and have to shut down, what will you do then?” Such statements came in waves and at times it seemed like a constant barrage. He delved into one of these times, which has been triggered by a marketing campaign that his internal dialogue told him would fail. What Richard realised is that before the negative thought train left the station there was a primal feeling in the middle of his chest. Feeling always precedes thought. For Richard this was a sharp twisting, squeezing feeling that he best described as crippling anxiety.

He was able to work with this feeling through the practice of meditation. While sitting in his quiet place and meditating, one of these thoughts hit him. Instead of letting it take a hold he decided to explore the feeling itself rather than the accompanying thoughts. He asked himself, “What does it look like? If it were a real thing how would it feel to the touch? What would it smell like?”

These interstitial questions created a major shift in his thought processes. He was able to create a gap between the feeling and the thoughts. Ordinarily, he would notice the feeling and ask himself what was causing him to be anxious. Reasons would flood in. Over a period of months he worked in that gap and strengthened his ability to notice and separate it out.

This enabled him to realise that his anxiety did not stem from any one thing. Instead he had an overarching sense of dread, a feeling that many people experience purely as a result of being conscious.

The act of trying to push that feeling out of his mind had been heightening his anxiety. He decided to accept that it was there, it was a part of him and this acceptance helped ease its affect on him.

By doing so he was accessing his deep well of resiliency, which was as much a part of him as his struggle with anxiety. He did so by essentially standing still, feeling the feeling and not pushing it away with a justification for its existence. From this position of strength he could then return to focus on his purpose, what was driving him to build his company. Coming back to that purpose and holding to it increased his resiliency to the negative barrage.

Remember these three areas, Dealing with Failure, Dealing with Success and Being Resilient, when things get tough for you in your leadership role. Apply them regularly and they will help you deal with the pressure.

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At EXOscalr we work with our clients to unleash their potential and make a difference. We draw on decades of experience, including insights gained in venture capital, corporate innovation, building high growth organizations and advising the Fortune 1000 on transformation.

As a professional coach and adviser I constantly focus on the trends in achieving exponential growth and how you can make more difference.

I read all my email at rand@exoscalr.com and I’m also at +1-650-529-4181 and +1-646-480-0205. Feel free to reach out.

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