“Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next.”
— Gilda Radner
“The most important single ingredient in the formula of success is knowing how to get along with people.”
— Teddy Roosevelt
What does it mean to know something in today’s Digital Age; when a Google search and sites like Quora provide answers in en-masse? What does it mean to know yourself, when you can reboot and switch things up a bit in real-time and online with Photoshop, social media, cosmetics, and even drastic measures like plastic surgery? I have been pondering these two questions as well as several questions…. about life, about entrepreneurship, about technology, and about the human condition. I’ve touched on these concepts in my book, The NICE Reboot, and again in an Open Letter to Women Entrepreneurs in my latest Tumblr post for The NICE Initiative, which I am working on launching. I’ve touched on these concepts in my current series here on WordPress, which I began after seeing the film Transcendence last month. It left me with much food for thought, including these 5 questions I’ve been trying to answer one at a time:
My 5 questions to ponder, and 5 implications for entrepreneurship:
1. Do you ever really know another person? Implications for social media avatars and digital marketing trends i.e. storytelling2. What does it mean to truly connect with others and understand their needs? Implications for marketing and problem solving3. Are you self aware, how do you know? Implications for the ‘trep mindset and journey vs. outcome4. How can technology be harnessed to further humanity? Implications for ed-tech startups and mobile app development, especially in healthcare and underdeveloped countries5. Is the Internet the great equalizer because of ease of communication or because of ease of content curation? Implications for the glass ceiling and women entrepreneurship and thought leadership, especially in the current blogosphere
Are you self aware, how do you know? Implications for the ‘trep mindset and journey vs. outcome:
• “To Thine Own Self Be True” (Hamlet)
A lot is being written these days about emotional intelligence as a prerequisite for leadership and why it matters in entrepreneurship. In practical terms, the higher the emotional IQ (or EQ as it’s called), the higher the level of social skills a person reportedly has, barring any psychological or pathological issues! Women in particular have the potential to have a high EQ, which can lead to increased entrepreneurial opportunity. Emotional intelligence helps a person hone his/her collaboration, team building, inferencing and problem solving, and empathy skills; all traits needed in today’s startup culture which is influenced by tech trends, social media marketing trends, global pop-culture trends, and a “shrinking digital neighborhood” causing easier communication overall.
Knowing yourself is not just an intellectual exercise where you tell the salient points of your Story. It goes beyond the life details that an entrepreneur shares when interviewing for a job or promoting oneself at networking events. It’s about connecting the dots between your environment and your reactions to it; something I’ve learned as a speech therapist/Autism specialist. It’s about understanding your Theory of Mind and how it affects your behavior i.e. productivity and workflow, your success, and your ability to create a work-self that’s authentic and unique. It’s about understanding your mind-body connection. It affects your work/life balance, your health, and your overall choices to find happiness in, and happiness about, your relationships and your career. Knowing yourself is crucial, especially if you are seeking investors for venture capital and if you are providing mentorship; two likely scenarios for today’s startup founder.
Scientists are attempting to better understand human sentience and behavior by mapping the brain. People in criminology and psychology have a renewed interest in studying body language; two areas with ramifications for entrepreneurship and digital marketing catering to specific buyer personae. It’s clear that human learning promotes changes in thought and deed and all the steps in between, but it’s even clearer that self-awareness is a chapter in the book of life that needs to dusted off and be re-read and reinterpreted at regular intervals, especially in entrepreneurship.
• The ‘Trep Mindset vs. Attitude
An entrepreneurial mindset is different than attitude, something succinctly explained in this interesting post. It’s something to think about when evaluating a person’s potential for creating disruptive innovation. There are essentially two basic mindsets that shape our lives, and our interactions with people. From negotiation to networking, from forestalling boredom to staving off burnout, one’s mindset is what counts in the entrepreneurship arena. It’s what counts when making decisions, taking risks, and reframing success and failure. It’s what counts when a person needs to stay strong and be resilient in the face of obstacles and setbacks.
Resiliency grows as a person’s self awareness does, and stems from a specific outlook and mindset. It can’t be taught in school, but does get taught, sometimes repeatedly, in the school of hard knocks; life. How one “goes with the flow” can determine the trajectory of their learning process and entrepreneurial outcomes. It can spur people to increase their compassion for others and engage in heroic acts. That’s why I’m such an advocate of embedding mentorship and reverse-mentorship into the entrepreneurial flow. That’s why I’m such an advocate for embedding social entrepreneurship into the entrepreneurial mission statement; both of which I’ve written of before either here, on Tumblr, or in The Huffington Post. How one “bounces back” is indicative of a specific mindset, one that shapes an attitude, like a puppet on a string. As we heard Cristina Yang say on Grey’s Anatomy tonight in her last episode:
“Sometimes the future changes quickly, and we’re left only with the choice of what to do next. We can choose to be afraid of it…assuming the worst that can happen. Or we step forward into the unknown, and assume it will be brilliant.”
• The ‘Trep Journey vs. Outcome
It’s a shame that the first entrepreneurial ground zero, Silicon Valley, is getting a reputation for being iterative, not innovative. The recent fervor that greeted the Facebook acquisition of WhatsApp caused people like Chelsea Clinton to publicly speculate about priorities, the efficacy of silos, and what happened to the valley’s credo about promoting change. This overshadows a deeper problem in entrepreneurship; the focus is all about the outcome, not the process, the journey, which is often more important.
If we’re not being present, being mindful, and being purposefully observant about the journey of entrepreneurship than we miss out; mentally and emotionally. We miss the point of what it takes to make it, and why digital business is everyone’s business along the way. We lose opportunities to hone our thought leadership and problem solving, and mentor and be mentored at different intervals of the journey. This can negatively impact our learning and our momentum. Both are increased by taking detours that seem counterintuitive but in reality enhance our productivity and creativity; both of which are pivotal to the process of disruptive innovation; the raison d’être of entrepreneurs.
The entrepreneurial journey gets compromised when people are only concerned with the outcome. It narrows their focus so that they are less likely to integrate their “trep trip” with civic engagement and less likely to
1. Take risks2. Join forces with others to create a collaborative, digital, and entrepreneurial ecosystem, not just a lone venture3. Have realistic expectations of technology’s reach and resources, which can cause tunnel vision about the people impacted, resulting in the imbalance seen in humanity and technology; especially in underdeveloped countries
The first step in practical, effective social entrepreneurship is to know oneself and what strengths, weaknesses, and biases one brings to the journey. The second step is to combine resources and assets and strategize, hopefully with others, what to do about it. Only then, can today’s entrepreneur achieve intellectual transcendence and experience the unchartered entrepreneurial opportunities that can truly change the world.