Entrepreneurs make stuff happen. Obstacles, tough times, these are signs to innovators that the time is right to strike. Now, mid-pandemic, is the perfect opportunity to find that bolt of lightning, the surge of adrenalin and energy you need to set you charging toward radical new opportunities. Maybe you’ve already discovered that you are an Outsider, or a Guardian, Accidental, or perhaps like Jon, an Athlete. Self-awareness steels your confidence, tightens your focus, and grants you a dose of wisdom to build a more diverse team. But make no mistake: this is no walk in the park. You are about to set out on a grueling long-distance endurance run that will shake your stamina and commitment. How best to begin this journey? What’s critical to advancing beyond the dream to actually capitalize on your ideas? The intrepid who bring courage, vision and mettle face six or seven trials that ultimately lead toward the Launch, the Test and the Scale. Today we feature an excerpt from The Entrepreneur’s Faces on the all-important moment of inception that many big companies and founders too often skip over, the Awakening.
[Below content is excerpted from The Entrepreneur’s Faces, © 2020 by Jonathan Littman and Susanna Camp. All rights reserved.]
Welcome to the Awakening, the crucial first step on the path to growth, where we fundamentally shift how we see the world, professionally and personally. We call this adopting a mindset of discovery, a new paradigm that brings an intense curiosity about ourselves, ideas, and how things are made or sold.
The Awakening is about character too. It’s about who you are becoming as much as what you hope to do. We think of the Awakening as foundational, the essential grounding and support necessary for launching this formative journey. Because there will be countless times when you will doubt yourself, when you will wonder, Why can’t I just do something normal, like everyone else?
It’s easy to be lulled into complacency. You may already have a job, enjoy the security of a steady income, or be tracked into a certain, promising career path. The Awakening blows in a newfound sense of openness. It may start with reading a great book, discovering an inspiring TED Talk, or getting dragged to a meetup. What’s different is that these experiences jolt you into thinking there’s something more.
Everyone’s Awakening is unique, and our core characters provide us with telling real-world examples of how specific Faces – say, the Maker, the Visionary or the Athlete – shape how you awaken. This is how it happened for the character we call the Leader. Adrift as a young man, he happened upon a lecture that triggered his innate courage and imagination, and would ultimately inspire him to alter the course of his life.
The change in behavior during the Awakening can be just that spontaneous and stark. Quite suddenly you’re open to grabbing a coffee with people outside your core group, attending unusual events, and that’s where you expand your potential. Here’s what may not seem obvious at first glance. With just a few changes in where you go and who you connect with, you multiply the chances that you will find that missing purpose, that galvanizing idea, or ideal collaborator you’ve long been seeking.
The Awakening is about inquisitiveness, about cataloging and curating, trying to make sense of a new field. You aren’t always sure why you’re pursuing this new interest, but in the process something big happens: you become a trend-spotter, a database builder, and yes, an expert. The Accidental had his Awakening in just such a way. He started tapping supercomputers and writing AI code for his personal goal of learning French, never anticipating it would amount to anything more than a hobby.
The Awakening is about something unseen. A surging rush of confidence. You begin to believe you’re capable of more than you’d planned. More than others had expected. You begin to trust that the process is worthwhile and rewarding in and of itself. You become less concerned about what you will discover, and more confident that each day you are growing stronger and more capable, more prepared to capitalize on whatever is next.
Pain too can spark an Awakening. Getting fired. Being overlooked for a promotion, stymied in your job, or simply waking up one morning, and seeing no viable runway to advance in your career. Everyone feels these pains, but if this is your Awakening, you don’t whine, become depressed, or scale back your dream. It doesn’t matter why you failed. Maybe you were in the wrong place and time? Maybe office politics conspired against you? Whatever the reason, failing frees you from your set path, and provides a sudden, sharp awareness that you were on the wrong track, and that there may be another far more interesting game.
This may sound counter-intuitive, but success can also deliver a pain that helps you to awaken. You become very good at what you do. You do it well for years or decades and wake up one day with this odd epiphany: Success is holding me back. All the money, recognition, and comfort I’m finding in a risk-free career … is not enough.
The awakened takes stock of his or her surroundings and thinks, This doesn’t work … or, This could be so much better! What sets them apart is that they have the patience to stay with that pain. They name it. Feel it. They examine the problem from all kinds of angles. This is, after all, the Awakening. It’s when you slow down long enough to consider another path.
Next week: Stage Two, The Shift