The difference between the first time you do something and the next time is incredible. Muscle memory kicks in after a couple of times. Repetition increases confidence and creativity, and it’s easier to get into the concentration flow. With enough repetition you don’t think anymore you just do. In martial arts, this mind state is called Mushin. It comes from the term mushin no shin which means the mind without mind. This flow state is possible anywhere whether it’s hiking, exercising, working, playing. Rinse and repeat.
It isn’t how you are made. It’s a thing that happens to you.
Being Real hurts sometimes, but when you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.
It takes a long time, and you got to be tough and persevere.
When you are real, you are beautiful.
* * *
It’s said best in The Velveteen Rabbit:
“Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’
‘Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit.
‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.’
‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’
‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
― Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit
…”I had a discussion with a great master in Japan… and we were talking about the various people who are working to translate the Zen books into English, and he said, ‘That’s a waste of time. If you really understand Zen… you can use any book. You could use the Bible. You could use Alice in Wonderland. You could use the dictionary, because… the sound of the rain needs no translation’.”
– Alan Watts
Knowledge is only a rumor until it is in the muscle
It’s uncanny how many people imagine a green field when they meditate and still their mind. The field is there waiting for them.
“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing
and right doing there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass
the world is too full to talk about.”
Teddy Roosevelt said, “The first requisite of a good citizen in this Republic of ours is that he shall be able and willing to pull his weight.” A Good Citizen properly fulfills his or her role as a citizen.
A mercenary takes part in a battle, but is not a national or a party to the conflict and is motivated to take part in the hostilities by the desire for private gain.
People, not product, will determine the success or failure of a company. You can have an excellent product and fail because you’ve assembled the wrong team. Building a business at scale is hard. It’s fraught with uncertainty, highs, lows, wins and losses. It’s an emotional roller coaster. Good citizens roll up their sleeves when there’s work to be done. They pitch up every day and are in service to each other. Mercenaries leave if it’s about anything but themselves.
The list of GC attributes I look for when building a team:
Comfortable with uncertainty and mystery. They feed off it and enjoy it
Cocky in a kind way
Pointers for spotting a GC:
They use ‘we’ and “our” a lot when talking about solving problems
They laugh at themselves
Pedigree & degrees don’t matter. It’s about what you can offer now and in the future
They have a history of execution and getting things done
They listen more than they speak
They are self-aware
They are black belts in verbal judo. The best answer always wins the tussle
They ask for feedback, welcome it, and act on it
They have detractors. Probably a couple of bullies they’ve stood up to in the past
They respect the people they work with and are friends with them
They are rewarded and recognized by their peers
They offer up reference checks from peers and previous investors/partners
They treat interviews like a two-way street and ask questions about the team, motivations and product
They seek you out, vs. running away from their current role or company
They have hobbies outside of work
Ad hominem is not an option
They are comfortable making decisions with incomplete data
The understand the importance of luck, timing and preparedness
They are always learning, experimenting, tinkering & tweaking
Titles don’t matter
So what’s the opposite of a GC?
In my experience it’s the Mercenary. The are seductive, because they get things done, but don’t be fooled – when the going gets tough and it’s time to contribute to the greater good and sacrifice something…they leave.
Attributes that pop up time and time again:
Short tenures and long stories
How to spot them:
They use “I” and “they” when describing their current role and company
They describe past and present colleagues as ninkanpoops/clueless/tone deaf/opaque/idiots/blind/wrong/lazy
They hold grudges
They “get things done” through coercion and intimidation
They stereotype people and roles
They don’t believe in luck and good timing. It’s all about talent & A players
They are “Remember whens” – “remember when” is the lowest form of conversation. They dwell on the past, live in the world of what was instead of understanding that things change and you need to move forward. (The Sopranos Season 6, Ep 15)
Listen for phrases like:
They don’t listen to me
It’s them not me
I don’t have the resources
It’s not my responsibility
You need me
I inherited that problem
My team wasn’t big enough
They wouldn’t promote me
I told them, but nobody listened
Give me people a chance to change
Everyone can change, and I’ve seen it happen many times. Sometimes Mercenaries become GCs and even inspiring presidents, but if it looks like a goat and sounds like a goat it normally is a goat.
Change the context. Instead of giving, how about offering. Instead of taking, how about receiving? You see – it’s all about reciprocation in everything you do. Don’t just practice this with people…practice reciprocation when you are at work, exercising or even out on a walk.
Try this when you spend time with family or travel this holiday season. Ask what you can offer to family and friends or even the place you are visiting. That simple gesture will change the context of the interaction. It removes expectation and replaces it with an intention to serve. Try it, you’ll be surprised by the feeling.