Why the right hemisphere matters
I always loved dancing but it was only recently that I took it seriously. What happened? Why? I would like to treat dancing as an excuse and share a few thoughts on soft skills in startups and in business.
Each story is different, I will share the one that I know the best.
I was an intelligent kid, simply the processor in my mind worked fast. I guess I was in the top 0.1% of the population. I loved thinking and I loved abstraction therefore I did my first two degrees in most abstract and intellectual subjects, that is in philosophy and mathematics.
But I was missing something and when opportunity happened I eagerly accepted an entrepreneurial proposal that a friend of mine proposed to me. It was the first level of my personal development. To be practical. To have things done. To sell. To deliver results. Because the resources as in every startup were limited, any delay, any mistake was painful and could be lethal for the business. On the other hand successes were exhilarating. Changing the world was a fascinating.
Being practical was liberating and it was like my earlier fascination — sailing. Wherever I sailed, racing on 420s or crossing the open sea with no lands
around, or enjoying Mazury, it was always the same: if you did not execute well, the response was merciless. Practical activity opened me up. I was in-between thinking and action.
The next step came when I learned to read emotions around me. Long story short: coaching and relationships have totally changed me. Empathy emerged — I do not need to analyse what the other person feel and what mood she has, I simply feel it. There are two worlds people create around them and communicate with: emotions and thoughts. I started to read both of them. My coaching experience at ParisPlayground was transformational. New activities, for example public speaking, have become possible. I did change profoundly.
I know from the time when I was a teenager that the best way to make me feel better is to get physically tired. Hiking, swimming, two year experience with karate — it was all great, but the deeper level change started a year ago with yoga. Yoga for me is exploring and pushing limits of my own body with mindfulness. It is a master of physical awareness and it was yoga that draw my attention to dance.
Dancing is my current love and fascination and I guess it is because it helps to emerge these parts of myself that are closed and suppressed. In my day by day job of a VC investor I use the three forces described above all the time: I use thinking (getting information, analysing, building models), praxis (getting things done, having satisfaction to see it happened and having negative feedback loop if it is not so) and emotions (convincing, negotiating, using intuition), but whatever I do I am in control of my actions.
Dancing is the opposite. It is physical and it requires submerging into the flow. It needs a lot of intuition and empathy but thinking is practically non-existent. While dancing, mind works in a different mode and time passes in a different way.
At this point I would like to thank Edward for creating such a fantastic place as Kontakt.
I like the metaphor of right and left brain hemispheres that we overuse the left one and neglect the right one. In my case there is always this other part of myself that is neglected and helping it to manifest makes me a richer person. I will dare a statement that it makes me to do my job better.
Why soft skills matter
Why soft skills matter in building a startup? Let me go through the reasons:
The single most important skill. Yes, it is is arguable whether soft skills are necessary to be a doer and an achiever but I believe that long term delivering results needs soft skills.
Creativity and innovation
Being creative makes you fulfilled on one hand and gives your product and your startup the competitive edge on the other. I think that there are two types of creativity. Everyday creativity of adoption new elements to everyday business and breakthrough innovation that becomes a foundation of good businesses. The second is absolutely important but it is not more than 2% of what you do (in whatever metric). The first one has to be present everyday.
Working with people is the core of almost any human activity and it is not mathematics — it needs soft skills.
Building business is selling. Selling is communication, empathy, being motivated and being analytic.
For all of the four reasons, soft skills matter. It is not a wishy-washy soft stuff. Soft skills build results.
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I dedicate this post to everybody searching for the other half of themselves, searching for the metaphorical right brain hemisphere. For me today it is dancing. Being a pragmatic person — believe me it pays back!