As a business coach and trainer with “The Difference Engine” in Vancouver, BC, we’ve had the privilege of working with many top companies in North America, who have experienced exponential growth and success, but, more important, have experienced a sustainable culture of “fulfillment.”
This Business Impact series is my best shot at communicating the single most powerful principle we have applied in organizations, both for quality of environment and quantitative results, not to mention our personal lives.
Our lives are busy. Business is busy. We are a driven-to-achieve society. Day in, day out, we are hard at work trying to get the most out of life and work. We believe that if we get “the most out life,” we will be the most fulfilled in life. Is this really true?
Would you be willing to consider another view? What if getting the most out of life was NOT the road to fulfillment?
For the purpose of this article, I am going to call that concept (most out of life = fulfillment) as “consuming.”
Consuming is the idea that there is something out there in life to “get.” In other words, I need to get to a certain goal; I need to get to a certain revenue amount; I need to get to a certain place; I need to get to a certain level of accomplishment in my career. We live in a constant state of “getting there …”
In other words, what we become is a CONSUMER of life, because it’s all about what life can give to us. What we can be filled up with in terms of accomplishments, goals, and objectives. This mindset lives in the “more, more, more” world, such that I’m a consumer of more and more with the idea that when I have more, I’ll be more fulfilled.I am going to propose that more than 90 percent of our adult lives are lived in this state. The “somewhere to get” state is a product of our society and the environment we live in. It’s a driving force that lives in the collective consciousness of our culture. It’s a push-pull experience—when we get what we want, we feel happy or grateful, and often when we don’t get it, we often start reacting with negative emotions. Our goals may be temporarily sidetracked, but with every breath we plot how to get back on track with “somewhere to get.”When we are operating from “somewhere to get,” life is a matter of ups and downs. Consuming is characterized by spaces of gratification (that hit of something you like, which doesn’t last), seeking relief or distraction and reacting to things.
The question then is—what is the alternative? What if there was nowhere to get? Nothing to do? Nothing to prove? Nothing to accomplish? Consider life for a moment without all these expectations and drivers, and that constant refrain to be “doing, doing, doing.” Would we be fulfilled without all the “somewheres to get?”
In our corporate coaching series, we offer the access to fulfillment as CREATING. The world of creating is very different from the normal day-to-day life.
Creating is bringing in to existence that which did not previously exist. It requires more than achieving and dealing with challenges that are coming at you. It requires your imagination, ideas, and experience in a holistic self-expression.When you are creating your experiences, you have a different outcome. Creating offers emotional satisfaction (the deep-in-your-bones feeling of being satisfied vs. the temporary high of gratification which goes away in seconds). Creating offers a deeper sense of joy, self-expression, internal creativity, fulfillment, and freedom in your work or life.
We are NOT talking about a cliché here or some idealistic set of positive thinking assertions. If you engage in this understanding and if you apply this concept to your life, it could be (as shown in most of our work) the most practical and effective principle you have ever encountered.
We have worked with thousands of people in business. In doing so, we’ve noticed a few patterns. Start-up companies have an incredible energy and vitality when they begin. Full of vim and vigor, they are in a massive creating mode. Companies not in a start-up phase often lose that incredible energy and vitality that existed at the beginning.
During the early phase of a business—it is all creating. We are working our asses off and loving it. We don’t notice that time is passing. And we are passionate about what we are creating, and we can’t wait to bring our ideas to the world.
Then something happens. We get successful, we get some money, and we get focused on spending it on goodies—going after gratification. We’ve fallen into that deep trap of getting stuff to make us feel good.I am not suggesting that we shouldn’t buy stuff, just don’t have it stop you from creating or generating. As our businesses grow, we get busy and overwhelmed and just want relief or distraction from all of that. Or, we start reacting to what is coming at us and are trying to just keep up with a new level of responsibilities. This is all in the world of “consuming,” and when we stop creating the juice is gone. Don’t stop creating.
I do a lot of work looking into what gives people the happiest lives possible. People are motivated to get more, because they believe happiness is the motivator “behind” all the things that they want to achieve.
Let’s look at an example of people being very happy. One instance where people feel the happiest is when they are madly in love. The sheer magic of that experience knows no equal. If you ask people in that state what is the source of this magical transformation in their lives, they will invariably say it is because a new person has entered their world. So, I ask that if the source of the magic is this person, how come the person is still there when it is not magical anymore?
My assertion is that the relationship is magical as long as you are “creating.” As long as you are making an effort to create, you are continuing and enhancing the magic. You are thinking of ways to make them happy, places to take them, things to buy them, and things to do for them. The relationship is a canvas for creating. The moment you stop doing that and just show up, you are left with what can you get out of the relationship?
Yes, that’s right—you get back to the old default emotions and experience gratification, relief, distraction, and reacting in the relationship.
Is it possible to keep the honeymoon experience alive forever—in your relationship or in your business? The answer is YES, but in order to do this, you just have to be willing to keep creating.
Many of us have had the experience of having an amazing time on some vacation. Maybe, we rented a chalet or beach house with a bunch of friends, and it was the best week of our lives. So the next year, someone tries to make sure we get exactly the same place and time and people. We all show up. And it’s just not the same. We often will try to physically replicate a great experience and end up failing to find the same enjoyment. Consider the concept that the enjoyment the first time around was all created, and later we showed up to consume something that we thought was already there.
Another example is in trying to find fulfillment by relocating. If we move to a new town, everything is new. It is fresh, alive and an adventure. We spend weeks or months creating a body of knowledge and a relationship to the city. After a while, we stop exploring and creating, and start consuming the body of knowledge we have recently created. Suddenly, the newness has worn off. It is no longer as vital and fresh and exciting.
To make this point about diverging from the routine, I will sometimes give a CEO the exercise of going home a different way from work each day. They usually think is a stupid idea. But after three or four days, they will call and say, “Wow! I had no idea what was in my neighborhood.” It is about being present in the moment. It is amazing that every day we can drive 4000 pounds of metal for 20 minutes and not even remember the drive.
I can remember being in university and flat broke. I was sitting in a yard with friends drinking beer, and we were coming up with business ideas. Riffing back and forth on top of each other’s inspirations, it was pure magic. Nothing is like the act of creating. Note that the highest level of consuming will never be as fulfilling as the lowest level of creating. Notice how much you have and see how little it has to do with how magical your life is.
So how does this apply to your business? It has been well demonstrated over time that the best businesses are vital, dynamic, and creative. No one can question the creative energies of Apple. Google requires its employees to spend 20 percent of their time just brainstorming and coming up with new ideas. To stay on the edge, great car companies have a skunkworks project. (According to Wikipedia, a skunkworks project is typically developed by a small and loosely structured group of people who research and develop a project primarily for the sake of radical innovation). I could list 50 or 100 or 1000 examples, but I assume you get the point.
If you read the previous article on the principle of “nothing works,” you will see that when you are working something, you are creating. When you are hoping something works, you are consuming.
Here’s one main approach that we work on at The Difference Engine:
Time where you or your team are doing nothing but brainstorming and creating new ideas, new approaches, and new ways to solve problems (a minimum of four to eight hours a week).Topics to brainstorm can be anything that we come up with from establishing new goals to new ways to achieve goals, and from innovative ways of dealing with issues to creative ways of implementing ideas. You can’t have anything scheduled for this time that is just for handling normal things. You must carve this out for new things. If you do it on Mondays, it will give you clarity and direction for the rest of the week that will pay back the investment many times over.
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