Sitting in one of our weekly team calls, our startup founder was transparently discussing how we are currently taking an opportunistic attitude in business, by trying to find any opportunity of investment in our products. Why? because if this does not happen, our funds would end in April, hence we would not be able to exist any longer. Statements like this, would generally induce fear and discomfort. However, maybe what allows one to swallow them with grace, is that they are expected in a startup context. By definition, unlike an established company, a startup is an organization that is meant to discontinue, if it actually does not start up.
As humans, most of us tend to prefer their comfort zones, most of us prefer something that is predictable, it starts with Maslow’s safety needs as infants, and this pattern keeps repeating itself taking a different form at every stage of our lives, but actually the core need is the same. Having this in mind, it is a little astounding to actually see people, indulged in the startup culture, embracing it, taking part in it and it keeps growing and becoming more popular, even common for the matter.
So which aspect of our human nature or conditioning are we neglecting to survive this type of environment?
Coming from a background in teaching at a school, planning stands at the core of what we used to do. Be it planning curricula and distributing them over hours and days, or planning lessons and sessions, by the sentence and the minute, and frankly after 17 years of experience, well it stops being a high-risk environment, as all is planned. So personally, it has been a major shift, at least in terms of predictability and comfort, however I seem to enjoy it. Not for the adrenaline rush per say, but rather, because it enhances the one and only state of being that we need to have… PRESENCE!
In their teachings, both Eckhart Tolle and Alan Watts, have mostly spoken about being present in the moment. Alan Watts wrote, Here and Now Contributions to Psychology, Philosophy and Religion, similarly in The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle discusses this notion with practices throughout his entire book; both of them discuss the notion of presence, and that the only way to exist is being in the now. Actually, if you do not want to refer to advanced teachings and philosophy readings, we can simply make reference to Kung Fu Panda, when the wise turtle, Master Oogway, says: “Yesterday is History, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift, that is why it is called present”.
How often have we heard the stories of people who decided to completely let go of their corporate jobs to follow their passion, find their dream and sometimes start from scratch. Be it related to factors that are related to health, to boredom, to high stress levels, the result at many times is the same, a total breakdown and a need of a breakthrough from the corporate ties. So, are we really neglecting our safety needs here? Or are we developing a purely courageous ability to be PRESENT in the NOW!
Easier said than done, presence is not simply choosing to just be, let go and develop a detached attitude. Actually it is in that same team call, that the conversation took a toll to become a self-help one, on the skill assets needed to perform in uncertain environments.
Presence is a conscious decision that happens by the minute, that makes us calm the mind down, and force the fears of the unknown out. For some it is done with breathing exercises or meditation, and for others it can be any other coping mechanism such as music, TV, workout, or even food.
From our vision to teach lifelong learning skills at CoCo World, we have developed content that contributes to the skill assets needed to practice the ability of being present.
So, what would some of these skills be?
• Self-Assessment: Developing self-awareness that will allow one to know where they stand and what they need to work on
• Emotional Awareness: Developing an ability to understand and rationalize how we react in situations, and how we react toward others
• Self-Regulation: Developing an understanding of when we perform best, and how are we able to organize our tasks to meet final outcomes
• Overcoming Fears (My personal favorite): Understanding the root cause of the fear, mostly the unknown, and developing an ability to work with what is given now, in other words practicing presence.
The list can go on, but for the sake of being brief, I chose the most obvious ones.
To conclude, yes, startup environments might be risky, they might be uncertain and surely sometimes they can trigger the needs for safety. However, maybe everyone is luring back to this type of work and community because we all need that sense of grounding and presence to come from within rather than be based on outside factors. It is the presence that comes from within that makes us unshakable, efficient, still being able to be productive without always associating it with an extrinsic motivation factor, but rather choosing an intrinsic one, a sense of self, an intuition, a notion of trust of our gut feeling.
I will tell you from personal experience, and coming from the most planned environments, I would not have been able to perform in a startup environment, if I had not done the work and learned, throughout, to apply the major skill of life and living, the skill of being PRESENT!
Stay present, stay connected!