Surrender | A Better Way to Build a Startup
5 Lessons to create with more fulfillment and less stress
If you let go a little, you will have a little happiness. If you let go a lot, you will have a lot of happiness. If you let go completely, you will be free. — Ajahn Chah
Building a startup is a grind. Or so they say. But, what if there was a different way?
Most entrepreneurs are Type A’s. This means we are constantly pushing ourselves to our next big goal, next milestone. While you very well may achieve business success as I did, you’ll likely be left thinking “what’s next”. This constant push towards new goals will eventually leave most exhausted and unfulfilled. So what is the other way?
Michael Singer’s The Surrender Experiment is the most transformational book I’ve read. It effortlessly explores Singer’s simple model he used for building a hugely successful company while maintaining full alignment with the other areas of his life. The model is built upon his own personal experience.
He just may have hit on THE FORMULA for enjoying life while building a big company. I believe it to be the key to living a joyful and fulfilling life.
Singer’s book is his personal account of building what would become a huge public company from the rural woods of Gainesville, Florida. The crazy part is Singer moved to the woods after college with the intention of meditating in solitude for the rest of his life.
Instead, he ended up accepting what he calls The Surrender Experiment: When opportunities were placed in front of him, he would surrender to them.
What began as one man’s desire to depart far, far away from the likes of commerce and into the realms of spirit revealed itself as a mind-blowing union between both, all grounded in the foundation of surrender.
To paint a picture of just how far the Surrender Experiment enabled Singer to go, consider the following: Through conducting the experiment, he ended up building a large tech company in the woods of Gainesville. He also amassed a huge amount of property there, where he continues to live. He built The Temple of the Universe there and holds lectures and meditations open to the public. (I won’t go into more detail on how Singer did it all, as it won’t do his story justice. I highly recommend reading his book.)
For leaders, I know the word “surrender” can often make you cringe. I know that as a Type-A, it did for me. But surrender in a spiritual context means accepting and not fighting the flow of life.
When we talk about surrender, what we are really speaking of is trust in a power bigger than yourself or any other human.
If we have trust in our lives, we don’t feel the need to try to control every outcome. We trust that we are in the right place, on the right path and that what will happen is meant to happen.
A few notes about trust: You can’t fake trust. You can’t say you have it and then boom, you do. There’s a technique to it: When you spend a life living at a vibration lower than your authentic truth, you don’t get any tangible rewards or positive payout for the risks you’re taking. You’ll find the universe sending you increasingly strong signals to readjust. This can be like getting four flat tires in one month, certain patterns of negativity or repeat injuries.
BUT when you spend a life living at your highest vibration, committed to truth and world service, you will find that tangible rewards come flying your way as a result of your trust. You will be more aware and equipped to recognize them in their unique packaging!
Surrender doesn’t mean that we just lay back and let things happen to us.
Surrender is all about action.
Rather than being in our heads and over analyzing every move, we strike when opportunity presents itself. We “know” when to strike not through our analytical minds. We know through our intuitive connection to the universal flow of energy readable through personalized signs and synchronicities.
I recently took on my own Surrender Experiment in building my latest company, 1heart. 1heart is a collective of companies focused on human and business acceleration. We focus on building conscious businesses through inspiring, educating and supporting heart-led entrepreneurs. Nothing about what we are doing is boiler plate. Using traditional planning and projection models is quite difficult.
By intention as well as by default, my co-founder Barry and I found ourselves living our own Surrender Experiment. Without an obvious path for funding and without a linear line to success, we were left to pursue this less travelled route. Both fans of the book and believers in the power of surrender, we accepted the challenge. Six months later, we are still surrendering daily and learning a ton as we go.
As the people continue to become more conscious, more of us will become open to living in surrender.
Traditional career and life paths are beginning to disappear for younger generations. People are less able to plan, and by default, must live more in the present. They must learn to be more flexible to change and more open to opportunity. The Surrender Experiment path offers the ability to create greater alignment between our lives, our work and our self-actualization.
This path is not easy, but neither are the alternatives. But, this path will teach you to live more in the present moment and be more alive. As people choose this path in increasing numbers, the stories of the daily successes and failures will help others on this journey.
Here are the most valuable lessons I’ve uncovered for running a successful Surrender Experiment Business (SEB):
1 | You Must Give Up Many Type-A Behaviors
I wrote a previous article titled, Why Being a Type-A is a Surefire Way to Lose at Life. As someone who considers myself a “recovering Type-A”, I believe this to be true. We are taught that we must set clear goals and lay out detailed plans for our lives and our businesses. As if the “success” that results is a linear progression. You execute according to your plan and achieve your goals. But, you rarely celebrate hitting your goals. Instead, you move quickly on to the next.
While this formula has built successful businesses in the past, building a successful life is another matter. Jumping from goal to goal, always wanting more is a recipe for being discontent. Plus, the linear paths we set, often early in our lives, are often not the paths our souls desire. We miss so much living along the way as we remain hyper focused on our next linear goal.
Focus is still important in business. But, rather than finite goals, think about setting clear intentions. For instance, an intention we set with one of our companies, Guided, was to democratize coaching. Our initial product was software-as-a-service (SaaS) that streamlined a coaches workflow. This allowed coaches to coach more people efficiently. But, corporate clients continued to come to us looking for us to bring coaching into their enterprise. We determined we could better democratize coaching by enabling companies to offer “Coaching-as-a-benefit” to all their employees.
Despite a round of funding already lined up, we decided to pass on that funding and pursue this new strategy. We generated revenue immediately in our first month and are close to profitability after just a few more. A pivot or major change in business strategy like this is not uncommon in startups. What is more uncommon is our detachment from a particular outcome (e.g. closing funding) and deeper focus on our intention. This allowed us to be open to what the Universe brought to our doorstep and smoothly follow its suggestions.
2 | You Must Align with Your Business
Building a SEB requires that you believe. You must believe in yourself, your team and your collective intentions. The deeper these beliefs, the more successful you will be. If your business is not aligned with your who you are at your core, you will find it very difficult to surrender.
In my previous startups, I built two large tech companies in the social marketing space. We worked with large Fortune 1,000 brands. Initially, I aligned with the business as we built a great team of amazing people and built an award winning culture. We were building cool technology on the forefront of marketing. But, I always knew it was not my purpose.
As my personal and spiritual development advanced, the misalignment grew. It became harder and harder to come to terms with helping large companies sell unhealthy and unneeded products. I started to desire greater meaning in my work. When my investors asked me to raise another $20MM for the business, my heart sunk. Despite our “success,” I couldn’t do it.
If the business you are creating is not in alignment, you will not be able to surrender to opportunities that come your way. These opportunities are pulling you away from your central purpose and not enabling you to live your purpose most fully. The Surrender Experiment will guide you to your highest self, not to selling out on your true self.
3 | Your Partners Must be Aligned with You
This likely seems obvious. But, it is perhaps the most prominent challenge you will face in building a SEB. People can be motivated to work with you for all types of reasons. Often in business these reasons revolve around money. Making money is an important intention. Money is the energy that will enable you to build your business and provide for your family.
A focus on money above other important values will lead you down the wrong path. In building 1heart, we’ve turned down business opportunities, investment and partners often due to lack of alignment. Recently, we turned down half a million dollars when the investor wanted to tie the investment valuation to hitting financial targets this year.
Nothing could be less SEB than that! This would leave us hyper-focused on a solitary short term goal rather than open to opportunity. A month later, we identified an ever more lucrative opportunity that has already increased the value of our business.
4| You Must Trust the Universe
Building a SEB likely requires some sort of spiritual path. This path may not even be something you immediately identify with as spiritual. What is critical is that you have established a deep trust in the Universe, or something larger than yourself. This can be a work in progress but needs to be an underlying belief you truly hold.
Many view the word surrender as giving up.
In spiritual terms, surrender is full trust in a force you cannot experience with your five senses.
It is the ability to proceed even though you don’t see the full path or your mind hasn’t worked its way through all the answers. Ultimately, this is necessary for nearly all entrepreneurs. Without the ability to move forward with uncertainty, we would be continually paralyzed in any startup. Another adequate synonym might be “courage,” and yet surrender is even more than courage — It includes an additional level of consciousness that the risk you are taking is grounded in higher truth and soul purpose.
Building a SEB puts trust front and center. You must believe that the Universe will provide what you need at each stage to continue on with your mission. You must accept that your mental mind does not always know exactly what you need, but that the Higher Power does know you better than you know yourself. So, this does not mean you will receive the $1MM you are looking for by the time you believe you need it. Rather, this means that you may discover that you didn’t need that $1MM after all. And, there is a different, and often better path you can pursue.
5 | The Universe Will Continually Test You
The Universe isn’t just going to hand you your dreams on a silver platter. You will be tested to see how badly you want them. The bigger they are, and the closer you get, the more you will be tested.
Perhaps you are feeling discouraged by this point. Just know that these tests are a good thing. With each test, you have the opportunity to gain more clarity on your chosen path. Often these tests serve as readjustments, even small tweaks that open up much larger possibilities.
Or, they may show you that you’ve started down a path that is out of alignment to your purpose. You now have the opportunity to re-align and continue creating from this new place. Once you begin to understand that this force is working on your behalf, you will learn to welcome it. When you do, you’ll witness magic all around.
“Realize a lack of control is what brought you to where you are now in the first place. Don’t hinder your present experience fighting the universe and it’s chaos. You are the universe living itself, so allow it to live you.” — Conner J.
We are not nearly over the finish line with 1heart, if such a thing even exists. We face daily challenges and many of them are significant. We have seen enough to know that building a SEB is the most rewarding thing we can imagine doing right now. The personal growth, community and daily impact we are making exceeds all the challenges.
The implications of more and more businesses learning to operate this way are immense. Rather than following existing formulas that lead to the same business models, we can break free of that. True innovation will come from those entrepreneurs who are most directly connected to Source. To those aligned to their true purpose and in service to something greater than themselves.
I see a world where conscious, heart-led entrepreneurs use business as a force of good. 1heart is focused on accelerating this evolution. We launched 1heart Journeys to help entrepreneurs along this path through transformational travel experiences around the world. We even offer scholarships to Journeys for entrepreneurs who are on a path to helping humanity through their business.
Our society is undergoing major shifts and the world is becoming much more conscious.
The implications of more entrepreneurs building businesses aligned with their hearts is massive. To do so, we must first get out of our heads and learn to follow the Universal knowledge that only our heart knows.
We’d love to hear more stories from people who are building companies using the Surrender Experiment. Write me via 1heart.com or share your story in the comments here.
Are you an entrepreneur, creator or business leader? Apply to join us in Costa Rica on a future 1heart Journey.
Read more about my personal journey from successful startup founder to joyfully Lost on Purpose.
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