If, like me, you’ve been a solo professional services provider for a decade or more, you may be ready to do some manual labor, to work with your hands, not to replace, but to inspire your practice.
I’m not talking about a hobby although a hobby you love could be a gateway to your trade. My hobby was flower gardening but I’d done very little of that after selling my house in the mid-90′s. But on an impulse I responded to an ad for garden center help and that led to my own gardening services “trade“.
There was discomfort: a nagging sense that I was giving up on my core work and purpose, that I was over-diversifying and unfocused. I rationalized that it was temporary work and provided great cross-training for my rowing. But those were half-truths. Over time I realized that The Truth was believing that my work was highly specialized and intellectual although I’m equally kinesthetic. And I don’t think I’m unique in holding this contradiction.
Now I’m clear about loving my work: both my trade and my professional services both of which are expressions through work, of body mind integration. Body and mind are one whether we recognize that or not. How could we not expect to hunger for more if we cut ourselves off from one or the other?
So it seems that my blogging sabbatical is officially over. For that, I thank the dirt and the flowers and the sweat.
We had an interesting and provocative discussion this week at Samadhi about the intersection of the evolution of media and the evolution of consciousness. It also turned out to be one of those times, when out of the blue and unexpectedly I got what I describe as “jacked up by the Field”.
I’ve found that philosophical discussions and meetups requiring rigor, have huge benefits for professionals and content creators in the change business, including:
- Linking and integrating ideas, solutions and content that seemed mutually exclusive.
- Bringing unconscious beliefs contradicting ideas, solutions and content, into awareness.
As I developed the post, the “enlightened idea wiki” came up and I think it has a lot of potential as a both a practice and content structure and model.
This is how it evolved. I’d recently spent a lot of time developing a presentation about models for professional service providers and content creators. The focus of the presentation is: The Credit. So when I read this NYT article, Author, 17, Says It’s ‘Mixing,’ Not Plagiarism, it brought up a good deal of righteous indignation that I was happy to share with others in my social communities who felt the same way, especially about her specific quote:
“There’s no such thing as originality anyway, just authenticity,” – Helene Hegemann
It felt so good and so right to rip into this with so many people who agreed with me.
Flash forward to the meetup. The discussion was preceded with a meditation and then a reading of an EnlightenNext Magazine column, Awakening to the blob, inspired by Mediated, Thomas de Zengotita. A quote from the book via the reading:
In a mediated world, the opposite of real isn’t phony or illusional or fictional—it’s optional. Idiomatically, we recognize this when we say, “the reality is…” meaning something that has to be dealt with, something that isn’t an option. We are most free of mediation, we are most real, when we are at the disposal of accident and necessity. That’s when we are not being addressed.
I discovered that terms and concepts actually exist to describe the experience of growing up in the postmodern era. I discovered that we are living in a mediated world, and I am a mediated girl.
Suddenly my righteous indignation about the 17 year old “mixing not plagiarizing” author seemed out of whack from the vantage point of my greater self who “meets” people where they are and without judgment. I realized that How Dare You! was my ego’s voice, justifying my resistance to a vantage point that threatened mine. That was an important shift.
A wiki post is a lot of work but I recommend creating one, maybe once a quarter. Here’s why. Like a great visual it takes a lot of seemingly disconnected, linear, small things and gives them form and expression in a way that adds dimension and artistic expression to your ideas, solutions and content.
Isn’t that a better use of your time than a quarterly plan?
Someone asked me the other night what kind of coaching I do and without thinking I responded: paradoxical.
Most clients I work with want my help marketing their ideas, solutions and content. They’re very receptive to my approach:
- create your “one of a kind” point of power at the edges or intersections – markets, industries, areas of interest or expertise etc.
- discover your voice and develop your stories around that point of power
- give and don’t hold back
And then they get scared and overwhelmed and go back to their old ways which stopped working long ago: email blasts, snail-mail announcements, hiring the magical business development manager, handing out cards at networking meetings etc. They give themselves over to the habitual impulse to interrupt instead of giving themselves over to their story.
When the old methods fail I suggest examining and clearing, with my facilitation, the assumptions and expectations blocking change. And that’s when the paradox kicks in. Because this is what they believe the process should be: telling me their stories! How they got where they are. Why they do what they do. The history, the details and most of all – the reasons.
They claim to be very receptive to my simple approach: unconditional permission to allow me to interrupt if I start to get more information and story than I need to know in order to facilitate an identity shift. Then I interrupt 5 times in 10 minutes and its “Call in the Marines”.
If it weren’t for paradox it would be easy, right?
Think about it this way:
Story is your ideas, solutions, and brand in form – the content.
Identity is your beliefs, assumptions and expectations “minus” the content (story, knowledge, thinking, form).
There’s an infinite amount of things about which to be righteously indignant. The ego loves it when you respond this way and rewards you with a jolt of satisfaction in the form of superiority and anxiety relief. Both are very temporary and you want the next hit which is only a mouse-click, channel-change, phone call, mail delivery, argument or interaction away.
Righteous indignation is a massive time-suck and a creativity killing monster. There’s a lot of advice about how to break the habit. But like diet advice and most resolutions, they’re failure methods because they don’t address the underlying intention: resistance.
I prefer this. When you feel yourself getting hooked have a talk with yourself and write it down, by hand on paper.
Ask yourself, how dare I:
- not give form to my ideas, solutions and content that create a positive experience and energy that spreads
- not reach out to somebody who needs my support and understanding
- not still my mind to allow the creative insight and inspiration that is my birthright to come through me
- not trust that there’s evolution happening and its my choice to be aligned with (leadership) or against it
These are suggestions; you get the idea.
When you hold up a mirror and employ a proprioceptive technique you’re much more likely to dislodge the resistance that shows up as the habit of righteous indignation.
I dare you!
How Dare You
Sankam via deviantArt
The question I get asked most is: “how do I start/grow my business and still make money to pay my bills?”. Unfortunately, its rarely asked in those simple terms. I hear the craziest stuff including cash flow management, leveraging vendors and long-term exit strategies…but that’s another post.
My answer to the question is simple:
1) Ignore everything you read on this topic because everyone’s situation and circumstance are unique.
2) The only thing you must do is refuse to give away your creative authority.
- You have creative authority in form: your ideas, solutions and content. So get the credit.
- You have creative authority in action: your autonomy. So self-direct.
- You have creative authority in intention: your beliefs. So be mindful and aware.
Your refusal must be absolute so be vigilant for doubts or rationalizations.
Your refusal might result in a so-called “day job” wildly different from your business. I’ve done that. It was good.
My granddaughters recently gave me a painting embedded with sea glass that we’d collected together. They know I love to get things they created and this was really nice since they’d made it together.
Emily, who is younger was especially intent on pointing out that she was the one who found the light purple piece in the center and that it was “very rare, Nano”. I remember the day we were on the beach searching and collecting. She wasn’t finding as many as me and Sam, her older sister, and she was getting frustrated. Just before we left she found the purple glass and I made a big deal about it. I was so proud of her for remembering and being sure she got the credit a whole year later.
And Samantha was equally impressive. She didn’t try to upstage Emily. As anyone with kids knows, that’s not how it always plays out. She could have just as likely said “you got the purple but look at all the dark blue I got so I’m even better, ha ha weirdo!” But Sam gave, and Emily accepted the credit naturally and with grace.
Since then I think a lot about credit which I’ve concluded is a greatly underrated factor in the probability of personal or cultural change success or failure. Last week, for example, I concluded that the issue of credit was the singly largest block to any kind of political change progress. Thanks to the girls I now accept that credit is part of a complex system of beliefs with which I’d completely, but unconsciously identified..for most of my life! That lack of awareness, of course, drove many of my responses and reactions to challenging job, sport, school, family and team experiences.
I wanted to share what I’d learned. A new model and accompanying presentation that I was developing for solo professionals and content creators interested in WordPress and innovative business models provided the venue.
Art and Idea Credit: Samantha Wynne & Emily Wynne, Artists / Entrepreneurs
When my granddaughters Sam and Em were little they loved to play “Mrs Meanie” with me. I’d pretend to be the mean school teacher who would not allow freedom, fun, laughter or any frivolity. Of course this would send the girls into paroxysms of giggle fits at which point I’d pretend to go into conniptions and chase them all over the place with threats of dire punishments as they’d yell “ha ha Mrs Meanie!”. It was pure silliness that when on literally for years. The minute I’d walk into the house they’d beg “Nano, do Mrs Meanie pleeeeeeze!”
I think of that character often lately with respect to professional service providers and their client relationships. This accelerated change environment that includes rapid technology and business model innovation, increasingly compressed project time frames and downward pressure on fee structures, beautifully lends itself to the emergence of the consultant version of Mrs. Meanie. The challenge is making it as desirable for clients as it was for the kids.
Clients sometimes need it for the following reason: they don’t know what they don’t know. If that’s the case there’s no straight and clear path from their problem to your solution. Its more like a jungle of unconscious and hidden assumptions and expectations.
Some solo psf’s deal with the jungle by ignoring and denying it. Why? Because they want the work. Others deal with it by trying to manage it with lengthy contracts and processes. There’s even a large body of content addressing “firing the client”. These methods are about setting boundaries and not surprisingly, have a high likelihood of failure because every boundary is a battle line to cross. In the old ways of work boundary protection was built into fees. Forget about that in the new ways of work.
So how can you decrease the likelihood of project breakdown and failure? Through the discipline of rigor (the “R” in DRIVE).
Simply stated, through every step of the project, in real time, you honestly express and inquire about the contradictions and internal conflicts you’re hearing, observing and sensing. These aren’t judgments or things you fix, unless of course you ask permission and the client is willing. They are, however, as much of the truth and rationale for the project as are the desire and need for the project.
Clearly, facilitative skills and your own self-awareness will support your rigor discipline. Clients can react very negatively to your shining a light on what they don’t know they don’t know. Remember that argument, hubris and defensiveness from you will only strengthen the boundary lines of protection. Conversely, your consistency, non-judgment and acceptance create a space for both your clients’ and your own growth and development as well as create the cornerstone of your solo professional “Meanie Manifesto”.
I recently met some good friends, at a funky diner loved by rowers, for our annual holiday breakfast. One of us noticed a new menu item “Albanian Omelet”. We laughed about what it could be and I told them I was reminded of the great movie Wag the Dog about the government’s staging a fake war with Albania to distract the public from a presidential sex scandal.
Come to find out we all loved the movie and started to discuss the characters, actors and quotes. I talked about how my favorite was Dustin Hoffman as Hollywood producer Stanley Motss who, despite insane obstacles and setbacks, successfully creates just enough faked footage, music and hype to accomplish what he was hired to do: get the president re-elected. He considers it his finest work but when he discovers that he’ll never get the credit for it, he threatens to go public with the scheme and he’s assassinated.
Conrad ‘Connie’ Brean: Stanley, don’t do this. You’re playing with your life here.
Stanley Motss: F*** my life. I want the credit.
I told my friends that I think of that line all the time when I’m involved with emerging social business models, collaboration and sharing. How do you deal with “who gets the credit?” One of my friends, a biotech analyst, described how critical and challenging that exact question is in her company, industry and in the scientific community at large. It was great to get her insights. As soon as I got in my car I wrote a few notes about it on an index card under “blog idea”.
So why is this important? Because so many people think that they don’t have some mysterious “what it takes” to create unique and original ideas, solutions and content. I hear it all the time: “I’m missing the research, the talent, the skills, the time, the experience, the clients, the degree, the influencers…” Not true. All it takes is natural curiosity, conversations about anything and everything with everyone, love and excitement about how its all connected, playing around with metaphor, and a $2 pack of index cards.
Is it hard work? Sometimes, except when its fun and easy and you can stop pushing to make it happen and just let it happen.
I recently participated in a study in at Harvard. It was about emotion, cognition and aging. I wasn’t particularly impressed with the experiment and the methodology but found the follow-up interview valuable in that it validated my own work. The interviewer was not only surprised about my grasp of concepts like emotional and cognitive embodiment, but that I’d integrated them in my methodologies and blog and had conceived them through my personal and professional experience and development as well as my auto-didactic learning and training.
One of the criticisms creative professional service providers get is about the supposed difficulties of being in the same space as those who have the hard research to back up their theories.
So here’s the thing.
- If your ideas, solutions and content are unique, forward-thinking and deep, then there’s a high probability that there’s a lot of current research available in the public domain to validate them. So use it.
- If the research in any way contradicts your fabulous ideas, solutions and content, well there’s a great point of differentiation and positioning for you.
- If the research is non-existent or in a nascent stage, and you think its important to moving your work forward, then you can apply for a grant.
I read Creating You & Company in 1999 when I was planning to leave my last real job and start my professional service firm as a solopreneur.
It was a great influence because it validated my sense that “having a job” was a worn out concept, signally that huge, disruptive shifts would take place in the world of work. It also supported my business model idea which was to offer services as products, which I call programs.
Recently, its occurred to me that professional service “products” need merchandising just like any other product. I know quite a bit about merchandising because I work part-time doing garden center merchandising as the liaison between the grower and the big-box stores.
Three fundamental merchandising concepts in garden center merchandising can be effectively applied to professional services:
Display – One of the first things I do when I take on a new store is to scan what product is out front in the main aisles and benches, and to look at what product is in the lot and in the back of the carts. Typically, there’s old stale product where people are shopping and fresh new product languishing where nobody can see it. Are you displaying your best solutions, ideas and content where your clients are are looking and shopping?
Consolidation – In the garden centers, I’m continually maximizing shelf space while at the same time grouping products for maximum appeal. The more I do it, the greater the capacity I develop for quickly scoping out very large areas, visualizing the end result, and figuring out the most efficient way to get that result. What are your opportunities to continually consolidate and group together your solutions, ideas and content so they “pop” when your clients are looking and shopping?
Culling – I’m surprised how difficult it is for people to get rid of product that’s no good. I think its mainly because they can’t make culling decisions by putting themselves in the customers’ shoes and asking themselves: “will I buy this?” Its a no excuses point of view. Prolific author Stephen King is a great culler and strongly advises that aspiring writers pay strict attention to culling:
..kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings. – Stephen King
Are you hanging on to boring or outdated solutions, ideas and content that are spoiling the overall appeal, and are holding back the growth and momentum of your professional service practice?
If these fundamental merchandising concepts make sense, and the questions hold some truth for you, this may be a good time to put aside the latest and greatest tools and technologies and merchandise your professional services. Inspiration is always available at your local garden center. If you need a good system, I love WordPress.