Life in service of an idea can be good if this idea is life-giving and emancipates the individual from the fetters of self without propelling him into a different bondage. Science and art can work this way, but they can also lead to enslavement or unhealthy pampering and over-refinement. But, I would not dispute the notion that these efforts lead to an inability to cope with life. After all, even water is poison if you drown in it.
– Albert Einstein
What is self awareness?
It is that conscious process of knowing who we are. The knowledge of our passions, desires, strengths, weaknesses, feelings, motives, and character. Self awareness is that ability to self reflect, self evaluate, self correct and learn, and most importantly grow and evolve.
Self Awareness is essential because it allows you to understand other people, how they perceive you and how they react to you. It provides you with clarity about your attitude and your responses to outcomes, people, and processes, in the moment that they occur. Self awareness is the foundation of our success and is essential for personal and professional mastery.
We might assume that we are self aware, but it is helpful to have a relative scale for self awareness. If you have ever been in a car accident you may have experienced everything happening in slow motion and noticing details of your thought process at an entirely new level. This is a state of heightened awareness and it is possible to do this on a daily basis. With practice, we can learn to engage these types of heightened states and see new opportunities derived from heightened interpretation in of thoughts, emotions, and conversations.
We can actually step back from being “IN” our thoughts and start to “OBSERVE” them. That’s when the magic starts to happen. We become less reactive by observing and asking, “Why is this triggering me?” and learning from it, rather than being reactive and being in the reaction. It’s powerful stuff because emotions are predispositions for action and if you are reactive, you are creating “reactive action,” which is not always the best approach for life or for business.
Self awareness and the entrepreneur
Self awareness and entrepreneurialism is a winning formula. Anyone with an unstoppable and insatiable appetite, who has the ability to self evaluate and self correct, will get to evolve in a constant state of improvement and ultimately be able to play out their visions and goals!
Self awareness in business is like riding a bike. You don’t know balance until you actually “experience” balance. And when you finally experience balance on a bike, you never forget it. It gives you access to new experiences and outcomes. Self awareness is like learning a new language. The experience of a new language opens you up to new cultures, new communication levels, new interactions and new results. Self awareness gives you the “experience of understanding your self” which ultimately gives you access to new opportunities and possibilities in your life and your business life. It is therefore, essential to business.
Anthony (Tony) Tjan is CEO and Managing Partner of Cue Ball
One of the most incredible things about my job as the Editor-In-Chief of The OGM, is that I get to speak to some of the greatest minds on the planet. That’s how I met Tony Tjan. Coincidently, (there are no coincidences) Tony is from my hometown, St. John’s, Newfoundland, Tony Tjan and I went to the same schools, McDonald Drive and Prince of Wales Collegiate. Tony and I never actually met in school. Unknowingly, we ended up with similar philosophies about what makes life and business work. Maybe it was our culture, our parents, our schools, our similar experiences or maybe it was all of the above. What is evident, is the mutual understanding that entrepreneurialism works with self awareness as a foundation.
Imagine my surprise when I found out how similar our paths had been and how the fabric of our upbringing had led to our conclusions about entrepreneurs and business. I know that’s not a random coincidence, in fact, I’m sure my father who has since passed, would delightedly say, “This is all a part of life’s rich pattern.”
Self awareness is not rocket science. In the words of Harvard graduate, entrepreneurial enthusiast and author of NY Times bestseller, “Heart, Smart, Guts, and Luck,” Tony Tjan advocates, “you need to begin by being fully honest about all of your strengths and weaknesses and the biases that drive them. You also need to understand that you are more entrepreneurial than you think and that you have the capacity to develop your self awareness.”
What it takes to be an entrepreneur and build a great business is Tony’s “thing”. He’s played several key roles in building companies and has now founded several of his own businesses. These companies have ranged across the spectrum from starting one of the earliest Internet web application service firms, to being the Senior Advisor to the former CEO of Thomson Reuters, Dick Harrington, as well as co-founder of a retail beauty service chain, MiniLuxe to the venture capital firm, Cue Ball that he founded and runs as CEO today. Like most great leaders, he finds most of his passion and purpose in contributing his talents and knowledge to supporting entrepreneurs in their own goals, towards “trying everything possible to positively imprint upon them, and play some role in helping them realize their full potential,” says Tjan.
The company name comes from the Cue Ball in billiards. Tony says, “If you think about a game of billiards, the Cue Ball leads and breaks the pack. It is the momentum driver behind each shot. It is the catalyst for change and it is the driver and energy behind that change.” Cue Ball’s philosophy is that change is inevitable and the firm would rather be the driver of that change and compete with themselves, rather than competing with someone else who’s leading change.
Cue Ball’s core values confirm that human capital is everything. Tjan says, “by realizing the potential of human capital, things become faster, better, or just more beautiful and so the world gets a little bit better. We seek great people with bold ideas that dare to create new standards.”
The common standards and common values of their firm Cue Ball are:
1.Integrity and reputation above all else.
2. Commit to adding value.
3. Infectiously learn and infectiously mentor.
4. Embrace optimism; suspend disbelief.
5. Be a seeker of truth and self awareness.
“Many of these values, stem from the context in which I grew up. I was fortunate to have a great family and set of mentors growing up in St. John’s where all people pushed me to do my best, but to do so with the spirit that defines so much of our province — integrity, hard work, optimism, and truth-seeking,” says Tony.
With these core values permeating the culture who wouldn’t want to work there? Cue Ball is located in Boston, Massachusetts, USA, and is unusual in its long-term focus and active involvement in its portfolio companies. Today, the organization has 20 companies in its portfolio with areas covering enterprise Internet, digital media, and tech-enabled retail. But Tony is adamant about returning to the core of his theme and says, “Venture capital is really about human capital. It’s all about the people.” That explains why Tony is in the process of writing another book focused on how to better judge good people and how to proactively help develop them. Cue Ball’s success stems from its partners believing that they too have been “by-products” of the good people who have supported them and mentored them, enabling them to become successful self-made business builders of highly respected enterprises.
What does Cue Ball look for when it is investing in a company? It’s website summarizes it well, and emphasizes that the company’s past successes have come from following three simple golden rules:
“Entrepreneurialism is the relentless pursuit of opportunity without regard for the resources at hand,” is a definition that Tony often uses from his former Harvard Business School Professor, Bill Sahlman. However, Tony is quick to add that entrepreneurialism is not just about business but it is about the entrepreneurialism of life. With that in mind, he has created a powerful test that determines what drives an entrepreneur, “Having researched thousands of entrepreneurs we have developed a psychometric test to determine what are the drivers for entrepreneurs.” Summarized into four main categories the test measures heart, smarts, guts and luck in a unique and creative way to decipher your true motivators and what makes you jump out of bed in the morning to go and create something incredible. You can take that test at www.hsgl.com. Ultimately, Tony says that the goal is to try to reach a state where you do what you say, and what you say is what you think and what you think is what you feel and how you feel is who you are.
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