The Gifts of Imperfection: Book Summary and Riff

The Gifts of Imperfection Let go of who you think you’re supposed to be and embrace who you are

by Brene Brown

This book is about living a wholehearted life. As always, I think about business. As I read this book, I was thinking about what it means to live a wholehearted business.  I have already written about your mindful business. Let’s explore wholehearted business.

This post started out being a summary of the book and ended up being a mashup of Bene Brown’s book on wholehearted living and my thoughts on wholehearted business. Any mistakes or flawed logic are mine. All the good stuff is her’s. Italicized text are quotes.

Living wholeheartedly

How much we know and understand ourselves is critically important, but there is something that is even more essential to living a wholehearted life: loving ourselves

Head work is important, but heart work is just as important. Your business needs to make sense (cents) as well as feed your soul.

Courage, compassion and connection are daily practices. My favourite virtues and the ones by which I run my business are courage, truth, wisdom and beauty. Sometimes I lose sight of those as I get sucked into the day-to-day, making-the-mortgage rat race of small business. When I do, I find myself and my business spiralling into an abyss.  Every time I stop myself and focus again on those virtues, my world opens up, money flows again and the anxiety melts away. The more human, courageous, compassionate and connected I am in business, the more successful I become.

Courage to do the right/compassionate/vulnerable thing. Courage to show ourselves as less than perfect.  The reality is we are not perfect, so our business is not perfect. Pretending to be, means we are lying and everyone hates a liar.

Compassion involves learning to relax and allow ourselves to move gently toward what scares us. The heart of compassion is really acceptance

Connection is the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard and valued; when they can give and receive without judgement; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.

Until we can receive with an open heart, we are never really giving with an open heart. When we attach judgement to receiving help, we knowingly or unknowingly attach judgement to giving help.

This may be one of the hardest lessons for small business owners to learn. Part of the difficulty we have with delegation is around not being willing to let go and not being willing to receive help. I took part in a discussion the other day where one business owner talked about getting help from a number of people. Her business is a very community-minded social business. Another business owner asked about how she managed those relationships so no one felt taken advantage of. Her answer was – cookies. She makes awesome cookies. That discussion opened my eyes to how I don’t ask for help enough. I’ve looked at that first business owner and seen the amazing progress she has made. That discussion is a clue to the reason why.

Can we love others more than we love ourselves?

If we want to live and love with our whole hearts, and if we want to engage with the world from a place of worthiness, we have to talk about the things that get in the way – especially shame, fear and vulnerability.

We want the how-to and it is very alluring, yet we are still standing in the same place. We have to clear what’s in the way. It’s not that we don’t know how to be happy, it’s that we do the things that make us unhappy. Like feel shame, afraid and alone. Everyone struggles in their business. This is where comparing my insides with other people’s outsides makes me feel like I’m not doing as well as everyone else. I must be a really lousy business owner. So who am I to offer to help people with their business…. You get the picture. You’ve probably said the same things. Loving and accepting ourselves is the best thing we can do for ourselves and the people we want to help.

In the same way that we all know how to eat well, yet it’s a struggle to do it all the time; we all know how to make our businesses work. Yet, we let the opposites of courage, compassion and connection get in the way – fear and the sense that we need to do this on our own get in the way.

Shame resilience 101

Here are the first 3 things you need to know about shame:

  1. We all have it. Shame is universal and one of the most primitive human emotions we experience. The only people who don’t experience shame lack the capacity for empathy and human connection.

  2. We’re all afraid to talk about shame.

  3. The less we talk about shame, the more control it has over our lives.

We have a tendency to judge our insides by everyone else’s outsides. That leads to feeling inadequate. We feel that our businesses reflect ourselves and if they are less than perfect, then so are we. The myth of the lone entrepreneur overcoming obstacles to reach that pinnacle of success, is just that. A myth. First of all every successful business person uses the word we, not I. They readily tell you that they did not and could not have done it on their own. They will gladly share their failure stories, too. They will tell you that their failures are what lead to their successes.

A wise and very experienced business woman told me about guiding her business through the recession of the 80’s. She said the worse thing was the loneliness and the feeling that she must have done something wrong otherwise her business would have been able to weather the storm better. After is was over, she said she heard the same things from other business people and she promised herself never to let her fear and shame keep her from connecting with other business people.

Guilt = I did something bad

Shame = I am bad

When our businesses are less than perfect – and whose business is perfect? – we don’t feel we did something wrong or made a few bad decisions and we certainly don’t feel that it’s the ecosystem we are in, no, we feel there is something wrong with us. We are bad business people.Too many business owners ask me if they should get an MBA so they can be a better business owner. We are sold the idea that we need to master marketing, operations, HR and finance. No one can do that. So we feel shame that we are not good enough.

 

Guideposts to Shame resilience

Cultivating Authenticity. Authenticity is a practice. We can let our business reflect who we really are. It’s what makes people want to do business with us rather than someone else. Staying true to ourselves is the hardest battle we will have.

Get Deliberate: Face into your uniqueness and practice awareness of it

Get Inspired: Look around you to other business people who are practicing their uniqueness and take courage from their example.

Get Going: recognize when you begin to slip away from your authentic self. Give yourself a little space and gently allow yourself to be yourself.

Cultivating Self-Compassion. Perfectionism is the unhealthy expectation of never making a misstep. Striving to be your best and to improve, are positive endeavours. The best businesses have a healthy doses of the unknown, messiness and letting go. We need to be able to accept in ourselves the compassion we share with others. You would never tell a friend that they were stupid for making that decision in their business, so why do we feel it’s okay for ourselves. Perfectionism is contagious and we end up infecting everyone around us creating critical and charged environments.

Get Deliberate:Listen to your self talk and if you wouldn’t say it to a friend don’t say it to yourself

Get Inspired: Imperfections are not inadequacies, they are reminders that we’re all in this together.

Get Going: Have a replacement mantra for when we feel our critical self-talk begin.

 

Cultivating a Resilient Spirit. Resiliency is that capacity we build so we can draw on it when needed. Recognizing and building a community around you that you can draw upon when you need help. The ability to ask for that help and receive it. So, hope is a combination of setting goals, having the tenacity and perseverance to pursue them and believing in our abilities. Hope is learned. From experience, we can squash our hope, and therefore our resilience by focussing on the times we didn’t follow through with goals we set rather than applaud our courage in trying many things and focusing on the ones we did accomplish.There’s a difference between thinking we deserve something and the knowledge that we can accomplish it. One of the ways we deal with these feelings of shame is to numb. Any behaviour that has a whiff of addiction is eligible. Facebook, anyone? Email checking. Bad eating, work a holism, another podcast? all of these. when we numb the dark, we numb the light.

Get Deliberate: Food your body, mind, spirit and community every day.

Get Inspired: Hang out with people who have a resilient spirit.

Get Going: Develop a practice that nourishes you.

 

Cultivating Gratitude and Joy. These go hand in hand. Having feelings of gratitude gives you feelings of joy. When you are feeling grateful for your customers do you treat them differently than when you don’t. The answer for most people is yes. Don’t let this become another thing to fail at. No one feels joy and gratitude all the time. The opposite is fear and scarcity. When we are working from a place of scarcity and fear, we make decisions that are based on protecting, hoarding and saving rather than on generosity (which always ‘pays’ more in the end), openness (which invites collaboration and support) and investing (which multiplies).

Get Deliberate: Recognize when we are acting out of fear and making decisions based on fear. Replace those feelings with gratitude and feel the joy.

Get Inspired: Recognize and acknowledge the small moments of joy. Celebrate. That’s something we don’t do enough, especially in business!

Get Going: create a gratitude practice.

 

Cultivating Intuition and Trusting Faith. Intuition is not a single way of knowing – it’s our ability to hold space for uncertainty and our willingness to trust the many ways we’ve developed knowledge and insight, including instinct, experience, faith and reason. What gets in the way is our need for certainty. We need the facts! the process happens without our consciously following it. Faith is also about letting go of uncertainty and trusting. You know more than you think you do. You have accomplished things that you didn’t think you could when you started them, but you did.

Get Deliberate: When you begin to feel the anxiety of uncertainty, lean into it. Give yourself some breathing room to let it wash over you and come back to a still place. Then listen to your intuition.

Get Inspired:

Get Going: Allow intuition and trust to guide you for small things and build from there.

 

Cultivating Creativity. There’s no such thing as creative people and non-creative people. The only unique contribution we will make in this world will be born of our creativity. If we want to make meaning, we need to make art. The more you let that side of you out the richer your business will be. By that I don’t mean rich in money, although it is inevitable that money will follow. James Altucher talks about our ideas muscle. He advocates spending time every day to come up with 10 ideas for the sole purpose of exercising that muscle. I consider myself to be a very creative person, whether or not I’m doing ‘art’. I did try to avoid using the words creative and bookkeeper in the same sentence, because sometimes people would misconstrue. I was and remain a creative bookkeeper and business strategist. I think this is one of the most underrated competencies in business and one that flies out the door the more stressed we are. That’s when we need it most.

Get Deliberate: Carve out time to be creative. Bring creativity to all you do.

Get Inspired: Connect with other people practicing creativity.

Get Going: Take a class. Explore widely. Pick up magazines in things you’ve never looked into before. Bird carving? Cabinet making? Jewelry making? Pottery? Yup, there’s a magazine for that and very likely you will find a copy at your local library.

 

Cultivating Play and Rest. Our best ideas come when we play and rest. We are living in an epidemic of sleep deprivation. We cannot do our best work when we are tired, cranky and strung out. Play and rest are the antidotes. In these days of our self-worth being tied to our net-worth and our worshipping at the altar of productivity, we revere workaholism.When things aren’t going well, our instinct is to put our heads down and push through. The reality is that the strategy most likely to work is to step back, play, rest and come at it again with renewed energy, creativity and vigour.

Get Deliberate: Get very clear about what the ingredients are for your ideal business. We’re not talking about revenue goals here, but what it feels like for you, your staff, your customers and your community. What is the joy and meaning in your business?

Get Inspired: Watch children closely enough that you see the light bulbs go off as they play. Then go do that.

Get Going: Take something off your to do list and add in play or rest.

 

Cultivating Calm and Stillness. It’s not about being anxiety-free or even anxiety-averse; [but] anxiety-aware.  ..bring perspective to complicated situations and feel their feelings without reacting to heightened emotions like fear and anger. Slow down and start by making sure you have all the info. Stillness is not about focusing on nothingness; it’s about creating a clearing. It’s opening up an emotionally clutter-free space and allowing ourselves to feel and think and dream and question. Meditation comes to mind. We’re supposed to focus on something (an object, image or mantra) and if our minds wander, we should gently and without judgement bring our thoughts back. Holy, moly, IF my mind wanders? It felt like a failure every time. But I came across something that helped the object isn’t about emptying your mind so much as it’s about practicing controlling your thoughts. The whole object of the exercise is to practice focusing our thoughts. That I can get my head around.

Calm and stillness are contagious in the same way anxiety is. One of the paradoxes of time I have found is that the more I slow down, the more time I have. The worst thing to do when I’m up against a deadline is to rush. Invariabley I make mistakes and I can’t engage deeply enough to bring my best. When I take a breath, focus on the task and ignore time, I have enough.

Get Deliberate: Recognize when anxiety is rising and breath.

Get Inspired: Stand up and step away from your desk. Get outside for a 10 minute walk. Your whole perspective, breathing, body language and focus relaxes and engages after that.

Get Going: Take it up a notch and try meditation or regular trips into nature. Allow yourself the luxury of leaning into flow with a hobby or your work.

 

Cultivating Meaningful Work. Ignoring our gifts and talents eats our soul. This is where bringing your uniqueness into your business feeds you and it means you bring the best of you to play. Some people are able to align their passions with their profits. It takes a strong awareness of what your gifts and talents are, deep work on building a business model around those and then consistent and sustained effort to build that business. It may seem effortless from the outside and certainly with hindsight. In some ways I’m not sure if I will never retire because I love what I do (and I don’t have the savings) or if I have already. I have the luxury of dictating my own schedule. I don’t live a life of conventional success, but I get to choose what success means for me. And you do too.

When we define who/what we are we need to own it. I tell people all the time that I’m not a writer, and yet, I have a published book, I have blogs dating back to 2004 and I spend the majority of my time making sounds with my computer keyboard. It is how I spend most of my working time but I don’t make money that way. We are what we do. I am a writer. and a mom, friend, strategist, community builder, traveller, etc.

Get Deliberate: What does meaningful ‘work’ mean to you. I use quotes because I want to define work as how you spend your time, not how you make money. That may or may not come, but it definitely won’t if you don’t define it.

Get Inspired: I try to take the first hour of every day to work on interesting projects, you know the kind, the ones that we promise ourselves we will get to, once we’re caught up and everything is working properly. After many years of waiting for that time, I decided just to go for it. I find that I can tackle the rest of the day with more joy and creativity.

Get Going: Choose one thing that you want more of and do it. Volunteer, make it a hobby, integrate it into your offerings, write about it, study it – do what it takes to make it a part of your life.

 

Cultivating Laughter, Song and Dance. This is a tough one for me. I used to dance – I was a disco dancer, I took modern dance as a young adult. I have a stack of vinyl records that I haven’t heard in about 2 decades. I’m not telling you this to give away my age, but to indicate how much I have shut this part of my life down. I have a hard time with multiple sources of sound, so I tend not to impose my choices on the rest of the family. I’m . I always feel noticed in public. I don’t dance when all the girls head to the dance floor, because I am 6 ‘ tall, head and shoulders taller

I think (Country)’s Got Talent, Dancing with the Stars, So you think you can Dance and (Country) Idol have created an atmosphere of judgement around dancing and singing. It’s not about joy any more, it’s about how you compare.

I miss singing and dancing for the pure pleasure it brings. I wish I had a story about how I got brave and did it anyway. Maybe I will some day. I’m going to work on that.

The Hopi Indians have a saying, “To watch us dance is to hear our hearts speak”

Get Deliberate:I did try to start a women’s modern dance class at the dance school my daughter attends. I will keep trying.

Get Inspired:

Get Going:

 

This is a book about Wholehearted Living. I’ve taken each piece and applied it to Wholehearted Business. I’ve incorporated Mindful Business and I’m adding this into my exploration of business. I am so interested in your thoughts on this.

How do you make your business wholehearted? Can you have a wholehearted business? What will it take for your business to be wholehearted?

Frances Schagen is a small business innovator rebelling against the MBA model of business management for small business. Join all of us at the Business Owners Success Club for a better way to make Your Effortless Business.

Lean Canvas isn’t just for Startups

The lean canvas  is a tool used by Startups to model a business idea. There are several versions, but they all have you think through essentially the same things: your customers, how you interact with them, and their problem that you are solving. Further they ask you to outline revenue and costs.

When used properly, it is designed for you to make several lean canvases with different assumptions on each one.

For instance, you may want to make an app for shared rides to and from other-than-school classes (band practice, teams, dance or music lessons). You identify several distinct user groups: after school kids, other than school kids, adults. Each group has different needs, wants and desires. In several cases the user is not the payer – parents pay, but kids get the lift.

A lean canvas is made for each user group and the riskiest bit in each scenario is identified. Those risks are tested to see which of those scenarios is the most likely to succeed. As you do that testing, you will be looking for all feedback that will help you refine your offering. For instance (yes, I played with this one) I thought the riskiest bit would be that parents were afraid to let their kids travel with ‘strangers’ (really just other parents that they could all get to know), but the feedback from parents was that even though they found the driving around irritating, they felt it was a way to show their parental love. That’s a tough one to overcome. If one were to pursue this app, we would have to show how this app would help parents in showing parental love, by maybe pointing out that not driving meant a home cooked meal.

You can see how this is a valuable tool for a startup that is trying to figure their way forward.

Can you use it in your traditional, mature business?

You bet you can!

In fact, you have a huge advantage, because you have access to your customers, right?

Start by making a canvas for each of your product/service offerings and each of your customer groups. for instance, if you had a women’s clothing store, you might have a canvas for business attire, for dressy and for casual. Your customer groups may be business women and retired women. Once you start playing with mixing and matching those, you get a better understanding of which group buys each of your offerings and what they are most interested in with them?

Then ask them. Start by asking them why they come to you. When I asked my bookkeeping customers why they came to me, they didn’t talk about competence, timeliness or adherence to regulations, no, they talked about comfort, relief and assurance. That changed the way I set up my service, how I offered it and the story I told to attract the right customers for me.

Think about your favourite customers. What do they buy? When? How?

How can you do that, only more?

What service is important to them? Back to the women’s clothing store: can you spin that service off as a value-add or as a paid option? Personal buyer, private viewings, trunk shows?

As you can see this is a great tool for strategic thinking for every business. What do you think?

If you would like to learn more, join me for our Lean Canvas is not just for Startups Workshop.

Productivity is for People Who Don’t Love What They Do

There is a whole industry around productivity tools, tips, tricks etc. The funny thing I found is that people who love what they do and are really, really good at their art, don’t need any of those things. They do their art. The thinking and planning time is done to support them in doing their art, it’s not a category of task in itself.

We’re using the Seth Godin definition of art.

“Art isn’t only a painting. Art is anything that’s creative, passionate, and personal. And great art resonates with the viewer, not only with the creator.

An artists is someone who uses bravery, insight, creativity, and boldness to challenge the status quo. And an artists takes it personally.

Art is a personal gift that changes the recipient. The medium doesn’t matter. The intent does.

Art is a personal act of courage, something one human does that creates change in another.”

If you love what you do, you jump out of bed and dig in wholeheartedly

You don’t have to trick yourself into working. You don’t need tools, lists, motivational talks or pumping up routines. When you love what you do you get other things out of the way so you can work on your art.

You know what the most important things are to do to move your project ahead and you get to it

Whether it is a painting, a renovation, displaying your wares or building a business, you know where you are going with it, you have a process to get there and you execute. As you build mastery with your art, you spend less time with planning and more with doing.

You don’t get mired in the day to day. Those tasks feel like distractions, like necessary bits to get out of the way so you can get to the real work of building or doing what you love.

You have a better dialogue with your lizard brain.

Your lizard brain is stronger when you aren’t committed to what you are doing. When you are committed and excited, whispers of disaster are more likely to make you smile than to make you fearful.

Your lizard brain has a role to play, but if you listen too much, it will stop you from doing anything new. You tame your Lizard brain by listening, thanking and patting it on the head and doing what you want to do anyway.

When you do your art, you tap into something bigger than you

In her TED talk, Elizabeth Gilbert described how genies or genius comes from outside of us. When you are deep into making your art, you feel the touch of that genius as ideas and abilities come from seemingly nowhere to manifest in what you are doing.

What a relief! It means that if you do great things, you can only take credit for channeling the genius and if you flop, well, your genius was being a bit lame that day.

Tapping into the genius, is a magical feeling. It feels like running with the wind. What you do is better than the effort you put into it.

Until you get to that point, it can feel more like a slog. You have to practice your art with deliberation and mindfulness until you reach mastery for your genius to be there reliably. Is that what beginner’s luck is? We are open to the genius when we try something? But then we get deeper into our head and focus on the mechanics until we have them mastered. Then the we let the genius in again. Hmm, interesting thoughts.

When you love what you do, you go with the Flow

You know that feeling when time stand still and you lose yourself in what you are doing? I’ve experienced it playing volleyball and managed to make moves that shouldn’t have been possible.

I definitely experience it when doing bookkeeping (don’t judge me). The numbers begin to dance with a movement that is both logical and beautiful. It’s why bookkeeping and any other task that means interruption, such as reception don’t mix. Just sayin’.

I like writing, I like it a lot.

The writing itself for me is a means to an end. I’m highly motivated to write when I have something I feel I have to say, or I’m writing to work through some thinking. My book, Your Effortless Business began as a writing exercise to puzzle through why business seems to be so hard when it’s really just about buying and selling what other people need or want. Business isn’t hard in the same ways all over the world, which led me to think it isn’t inherently hard. Writing it out helped me clarify that thinking.

I didn’t need help rolling out of bed every morning at 6ish to put in an hour or so at the keyboard. I’m able to keep it up anytime I have something I want to say or to figure out. If I don’t have something to say, I need the push of the productivity machine to ‘make’ me write. That’s no fun!

It’s why an artist doesn’t need motivation to do their art, but does when it comes time to make a living from it, unless sharing their art is part of doing their art. If you want to make a living with your art, you have to get to a place of loving the sharing of your art. The place of seeing that as a necessary and loving piece of the doing of your art.

The best productivity tip I can give you is: Love What You Do.

Mindful Business

I’m working away and another email comes in from a client asking a question. I sigh. This will take a while. It’s not a difficult question, in fact I get asked it often. But I have to think it through and write it out. This isn’t paid work and it will take time away from paid work. It is customer service work, so it is important.

I send a reply and get an email back asking for clarification about some of the points I made. This continues intermittently until I call the client, find out what they really need to know and answer that question.

Skip ahead 5 months.

Another client email asking for information about a topic. I get this question a lot. That makes it easy to reply. I go into my FAQ file and copy and paste the relevant answer. I take a few moments to think deeply about this client. How is she doing, what is she working on? Why is she asking this question? What does she really need? I continue to draft her email reply, editing the pasted FAQ answer to suit her.

By being mindful of my business, I realized I was answering many of the same questions and taking too long to do an ineffective job at it. I decided to fix that.

I invested the time necessary to draft up clear, concise answers to the FAQ’s (which I continue to refine based on feedback). Now, I can reply easily. I remain mindful by taking the time to make each reply useful. It means we’re not emailing back and forth for clarification. It means I provide much more value.

Mindfulness in your business means you spend less time and get better results. Mindfulness takes away worry, focuses your attention on what matters and brings a resulting sense of contentment.

What is mindfulness? From Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mindfulness

“…as a mental factor it signifies presence of mind, attentiveness to the present, rather than the faculty of memory regarding the past. It has the characteristic of not wobbling, i.e. not floating away from the object. Its function is absence of confusion or non-forgetfulness. It is manifested as guardianship, or as the state of confronting an objective field. Its proximate cause is strong perception (thirasaññā) or the four foundations of mindfulness.[5]

I am a rank amateur in this and well over my head in trying to share what this all means, except that being mindful is the best way I can describe how I have managed to do all I have done. I am terrible at meditating and my monkey brain gets the better of me most of the time, but sometimes and more and more, I am fully right where I need to be.

Here’s what it looks like to me…

Be present.

Place your focus on the present moment. Think and feel deeply at this time. Not thinking about what happened or what will happen, but be here now. We’ll talk about review and  planning in a bit.

Expand your view. When you are stressed and upset, your worldview, your field of vision, shrinks. When you are fully present, your view opens up and you see more.

One task at a time.  Give your all and your best to what you are doing right now. Complete each task. It may mean blocking off sufficient time to do the task and making the expectation clear to those around you. Focusing on one thing at a time, means you get that one thing done well the first time.

Choose the right task. When you are mindfully diving into your next task, you naturally give thought to whether or not it is the best task to be doing. Is it the best way for you to spend your time?

Listen

To the person in front of you. Listen deeply enough so you hear what they are telling you, not just their words. Consider your reply after they have finished talking. Yes, that may mean a pause, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Conversations don’t have to be a race.

To yourself. How do you feel in this moment. What do you need? What is your body telling you? Do you heed your ‘Spidey Sense’? Do you recognize your intuition?

To what’s not spoken. Only a small part of communication is by words. Being mindful means being aware of what’s being communicated beyond and around the words.

Time

Expands! When you slow down. time slows down. I get the most done during the times when I slow down and work mindfully on one task at a time.

To Think. Being mindfully in the moment means setting time aside to think. You need to head into your head and think sometimes. Sure I like to savour doing the dishes, who am I kidding, that’s a great time for me to lose myself in thought. I keep a list of things I need to think about in my head, so that I’m not distracted trying to think about them at inappropriate times like when I should be focused on the task at hand; and I know what I need to think about when the time presents itself.

To Review. Set aside time to review what happened. Replaying the past can be a distraction, or worse, it can erode your sense of self. You know what that’s like.

When you deliberately set aside time to debrief after a situation, you can prepare yourself to look for the lessons and to acknowledge the good, the bad and the ugly. Learn from your mistakes and make your future actions work better for you.

To Discuss. Deep, juicy discussions are soul enhancing and mind expanding. Give yourself and your friends the gift of wonderful conversations.

I think there’s a lot more to explore here and I will post much more about this. In the mean time, what do you think? Does this resonate? How does this manifest for you?