The Key to Systemic Change? Self-Love.

‘Innovation’ as a mindset and a journey, rather than just a result.

I hear a lot of entrepreneurs (myself included) say that they want to “change the world”. Over time, I’ve learned to reframe the question to something like: “What is it about the world you’d like to change as a lived experience?” Or put another way, “What is it that you see in yourself that can manifest as change?”

It’s an elusive question at first. As entrepreneurs (or ‘intrapreneurs’), many of us believe that we have the power to do anything, but we often confuse courage with understanding, and knowledge with wisdom. These elements are not mutually exclusive, but they also tend to pull at each other, and create a kind of tension that forces us to make tough choices. These choices tend to come at ‘inopportune times’, such as when we launch or go to market, or when we release a new product or software version, or when we have to pivot our business models. We tend to think that if we make the ‘right’ choices at these times, then we will automagically be steered toward success. But that is only one part of the human equation.

Embracing failure and ‘learning forward’ as properties of self-love.

One of the most powerful things I’ve learned as an entrepreneur is that failure is actually an evolution of self. Let me repeat that: Failure is an evolution of self.
I’m not talking about ‘self’ in terms of indulgence, interest, improvement or preservation, but in terms of awareness and mindfulness. There’s a huge difference between these dimensions of Self. Most company or corporate structures, for example, are built around the notion that in order to succeed, one must preserve him- or herself in order to advance, garner respect and to manage or lead. What typically happens is the opposite: The separation of self-intention and self-worth manifests in mixed results, or dissension amongst groups, or often negative dynamics, such as competition over status rather than value.

‘Learning forward’ — a term I use for the process of allowing the self to listen and engage with others — produces a different set of outcomes that are predominantly positive. One of them is that failure itself isn’t really failure so much as it is the acquisition of knowledge that can become wisdom once we embrace the connection between our Greater Selves and the environments in which we live and work. Put more simply, the experience of learning shapes the perception of Self through which we identify with others. It’s the thing that actually enables us to innovate and to grow, as individuals and as groups.

Emanating power from within (living and building by virtue of our values).

Another important thing to realize is that the experience of growth, at least in the physical or material world, isn’t necessarily comprised of enlightened interactions, nor is it about always having the best intentions. If anything, freewill and interdependence have taught us that the power of making mistakes is as important as the power to choose.

What’s interesting to note here is the tension between our Greater Selves and the material or physical world in which we live. To describe this in a crude way, the Spiritual Realm is the closest to us as our Greater Selves, yet it is the most invisible (or opaque) when we see ourselves operating in the material or physical world. This is a central challenge for all of us, as we attempt to become ‘successful’ in a world (currently) that often chooses not to recognize achievement as something measured by integrity or creativity, but by money or assets or ownership of domains. That said, these attributes — good, bad or indifferent — share the same spaces and provide us with the same opportunities to grow alongside of our successes. They also shape our values through learning.

The answers really do lie within each of us (call it ‘intuition’, Watson).

I often talk about data as something that helps lead us to insights about human behavior and the advancement of knowledge. I firmly believe that and have applied it in myriad ways. I also talk about storytelling as something that expresses the human experience in extraordinary ways. I’ve experienced it, in many different modalities. What I regularly stumble upon is the notion that we must find answers in order to succeed. I’m not sure this is true. As beliefs go, it seems to be the equivalent of trading one myth for another, rather than building a story or a narrative that reflects the trust each one of us desires in our quests to become whatever it is we want to be. In other words, we, innately, are the answers.

The Intuited Self — that aspect of our being which relays power through information to the rest of the world or the environments around us — is a catalyst in the transformation of the material or physical experience. It’s the way we imagine ourselves producing positive outcomes, whatever those may be, and watching them manifest. What happens next is not only a constant exaflood of answers (as related to the experience created by the Greater Self), but more importantly, more questions. Naturally, the more we question, the more we learn, the more we grow, and arguably, the more ‘successful’ we become as manifestations of Self and Experience.

Empathy and relatedness.

In a conversation I had recently with Marcia Schafer, she enlightened me on the possibilities of creation and innovation as related to experiences in learning and listening with stakeholders. Marcia has worked with a number of organizations and leaders (some of them very high profile) over the last 15 years. To put it mildly, Marcia is incredibly wise.

What I gleaned from our talk was a really profound insight:

What we hear from people and what they’re really saying is something we have to listen for, and that requires a love and confidence in the Greater Self from which we can be open to what’s actually possible. Some consider this to be empathy, but I think it’s even more expansive than that: it’s a learned behavior to actually relate and connect with others. Empathy tends to align with an attribute towards perception, whereas relatedness embodies the connecting part.

An example: You’re at work, in a group setting, brainstorming over ideas. The process might feel cumbersome or laborious — there’s lots of ego, a fair amount of distrust, needs for ownership, and seemingly a lot at stake. In that moment, do you ever wonder what each and every person in that room is going through in their own lives? What compels them to speak and act the way they do? Do you then think about how you can (better) relate to them? We tend to deceive each other, and ourselves, when we don’t ask these questions, and more importantly, when we don’t take action and investigate the possibilities.

CEOs are infamous for being masters of deception. It’s not that they are ill-intentioned or malicious, it’s just that they feel they must mask what they don’t know, or what they feel that they can’t impress upon their employees or the going public. They’re typically not attuned to their Greater Selves. This, of course, affects how companies can innovate. Innovation, however you might choose to define it, stems from highly conscious decisions.

Conscious thought, deeper connections, enlightened actions.

On the subject of consciousness, it is rare (unfortunately) that we would have the chance to ask a co-worker how he or she is feeling that day, or if there are any events in his or her life that might be affecting attitude or disposition. That said, part of our personal responsibility to our Greater Selves and to others is the ability to hear what’s actually being said, and then manifest it.

And with that, here is a Triad of Considerations for Connectivity, which I’ll explore with you at some later date:

- Spiritual Archetypes (think Jung meets Foucault)

- Cognitive States of Being (cues from Kant through Dennett)

- Manifested Selves and Groups (the Internet of Thoughts and Feelings)

Thanks for reading. Until next time ;)