Sherry Walling – Where Did You Come From and Where are You Going?: Thriving in Business by Understanding your Origins, Identity, and Future Self – MicroConf 2017

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    • Last Weds… supposed to send my slides to Xander
    • Last Weds… I decided it was a good time to start writing my slides
    • Started letting the ideas flow
      • After about 15 mins, I found myself on Twitter
      • It was fortuitous
      • Saw tweet of article: “Brain scans of founders show they love their companies like children”
        • “Entrepreneurial and Parental Love—Are They The Same?”
        • Studied two groups of men: men with companies, and men with children
        • Showed photos of their children, then neutral stimulus, then a kid who isn’t theirs
        • Measured brain activity
        • Then did the same with own company logo → similar-ish company → unrelated company
        • Turns out — the brain reacts very similarly in each case
        • Part most activated — reward center of the brain
          • Mid-brain centers
          • Activated when experiencing basic rewards (food, money), and produces dopamine
        • A founder loves a company like a baby.
        • Suppression in the parts of the brain that are active in social understanding and assessment
        • The brain doesn’t recognize the company as a separate thing. It sees it as an extension of the self
          • We can’t tell where we end and the company begins
        • Love for the company shuts down critical judgement
      • 1. This explains some things
        • If you’re a little bit obsessed with your company, like people are with children, you’re probably doing it right
      • 2. This is great
        • If we can find something that we love, that makes our brain mushy, gushy, in love… go do that. That’s a great way to live
        • How cool that founders get that much pleasure and satisfaction from their work
      • 3. This is dangerous
        • To have this level of fusion, of lack of separation, between one’s self and one’s company
        • Same as in a romantic or parent-child relationship: fusion, loss of self, is dangerous
    • Are you your company?
      • “In separateness only does love learn definition” (Robert Penn Warren)
    • If you are so fused with your own company, immersed, that you feel all the ups and downs of your own company, that’s dangerous
      • Your company needs you to be an adult with a brain, not ride all the ups and downs of the rollercoaster the company is experiencing
    • I try to distinguish the voice of the company from the voice of the human
    • There’s a place where the needs + wants of the company stop and the needs + wants of the person start
    • Companies have tantrums. Ups and downs. They’re swayed by external factors.
      • The company needs to be able to be erratic. To be a toddler. Without the founder going along with that.
      • Sometimes the “company toddler” wants to grow and take every customer; the founder wants to be more selective
    • Don’t lose the ability to see, hear, and understand yourself as distinct from your company
    • The risks are really real
      • There’s a psychological price to all of this
      • You’ve built something you love, which is fabulous
        • But it takes sacrifice
        • That sacrifice shouldn’t be your self
    • Entrepreneurs are tremendously lonely people. There’s anxiety. There’s substance abuse.
      • You alone bear the weight of the business you’ve created and the life that you’ve made
    • How do you cultivate a business that is strong enough, and that you can separate from?
      • It takes intention and effort
        • To be a good person
        • To be successful
        • To look at who you are and be true to yourself
      • Identity = who you are in all your domains and all your moments
        • The past, present, and future ‘you’
        • Who you were as a kid matters a lot to who you are
        • Your understanding of your adult self is based very heavily on how you grew up in this world
          • What did you love when you were 6? 10? 15?
            • Hiten Shah was taking apart the computers at the hospital where his dad worked
            • Patrick McKenzie loved video games, but didn’t have a computer, so he took out a coding book from library and wrote the code by hand, imagining what the code would do
        • We have to develop this way to play society’s games
        • As adults, it’s so easy to lose that essential self
        • A lot of wisdom to understanding that essential self and how he/she shapes us in this moment
          • If you jumped from thing to thing to thing as a child, maybe you’ll end up as a serial entrepreneur, trying lots of things
          • If you liked to build and build and build one thing, maybe you’re not a serial entrepreneur, maybe you’ll have one thing and see it through
        • What did you overcome to get here?
          • Knowing your toughness
          • What you had to put up with, or conquer, as a child
        • Many founders have hard hard things in their stories. Traumatic events
          • Those moments, as much as our joyful moments, shape who we are
        • What parts of you are non-negotiable?
          • Your past self is the best indicator of that
        • Knowing your past self
          • Practice memory
            • Tell stories about your childhood antic to your family and friends
            • Talk to people who knew you as a kid. Don’t lose that anchor to who you were
          • Practice play
            • So many mental health benefits
            • Doing things “just for the fun of it”
            • Helps you reconnect with your childhood self. Holds a lot of value
          • Practice joy
            • Terrifying emotion — actually makes us feel very vulnerable and uncomfortable. All the barriers are pulled away. It’s raw
            • Give yourself some moments where you just get to be joyful
              • Not protected
              • Not anticipating the next tragedy
              • Immersed in positive emotion
        • “Becoming belongs to the heights and is full of torment. How can you become if you never are? Therefore you need your bottommost, since there you are. But therefore you also need your heights, since there you become.” (Carl Jung)
    • How do we separate ourselves from the bad things that happen each day in a business? The server going down? The angry email from a customer?
      • Those are the company’s problems, not yours
      • But how do you know who YOU are in that situation
      • You are not your Twitter feed
        • You aren’t what you project as the leader of a company to the world
      • Connect with your present self
        • How do you avoid getting caught up in the whirlwind of your company?
          • Practice detachment
            • Just like parents take time away from their kids every now and then
            • Allow yourself a break
            • Space between the company that you love and your separate self
      • Be known
        • Let yourself be known by other people. They can help you understand who you are
          • In relationships we bring forward our best selves
            • Have a mastermind
            • A group of founders
            • That will help anchor you in your present self
    • Lots of research into future self
      • Capacity to step into the shoes of your future self
        • Better self control
        • Better decision making
        • A sense of trust in yourself
        • Ability to delay gratification
        • Critical assessment
      • What will it mean if I continue in these patterns for 10, 15, 20 years?
      • Web site that lets you chat with your future self!
        • How do you talk to your future self?

 

  • What will my future self want me to do about this decision right now?

 

  • Fusion is the path of least resistance
    • Whereas IDENTITY takes work
    • There’s a drift toward the easy path
  • Traumatic events, bad situations, make you stop and take notice.
  • Loving your work is a GOOD thing
    • You CAN love your family AND your work
    • There’s time and space for everything that really matters
      • For me one of those things is my work
  • A founder who’s killing it is a founder who’s awake
    • Be awake
    • Don’t just let yourself get consumed in the tasks of the day
    • Help your company to grow up
    • Let yourself be a full self
  • This is not a dress rehearsal. This is it
    • So if you’re unhappy with what your life is right now,
      • you better have a conversation with yourself in 20 years — “what do you want you to be?”
      • or a conversation with yourself from 20 years ago — “what did I love?”
  • Love your company. But don’t let it take you over.
  • You start dying slowly — Pablo Neruda
  • Sherry Walling
    @zenfounder
  • Q&A
    • “(For Rob), did you visualize where you are now, 5 years ago?”
      • I didn’t build Drip to sell it, so I wouldn’t have thought that. But I did have a note written down that I wanted to sell a company one day for X price. So…yes!
    • “Stoicism is all the rage after a few thousand years in the darkness. Thoughts on stoicism for entrepreneurs?”
      • Stoicism: Certain level of detachment from emotional experience
        I’m of two minds. Big fan of emotion (really fun way that our mind, body, soul is all mixed up together). We have the capacity for passion. For being thrown off kilter. I want to retain that, but I also like the capacity to step outside of what’s happening and objectively from some distance observe. So, “yes, and”.
    • “When a founder is in the shed, in all those panic situations, emotions are torn everywhere, how do they separate themselves?”
      • Take deep breaths!
        That is the shifting that we all have to do. Shifting from one way of being to another. People talk about work-life balance. Not a helpful term. Throw myself into whatever that moment it.
        Don’t necessarily detach into blank space — rather detach to something else.
        It’s OK to detach for a time, attach to your bike ride, or that meal with your kid. To shift. Then come back to it. It’s like a pause, not a fully walking away.
    • “Being emotionally detached. “Feel the pain, keep stepping forward”. You can stonewall, you think that’s strength, but it’s not. True strength is feeling the pain but still moving forward.”
      • I’m more of an existentialist than a stoic. I’m not going to fear the feeling, I’m going to know within myself that it’s all survivable (until it’s not).

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