You probably may have read the Indian parable or poem of the blind men and the elephant? The one where 6 blind men, each wise in their own respect chance upon an elephant on their collective path and set out to describe the nature of the animal to each other? Yes, no? I'll refresh your memory.
So these intelligent but blind men encounter an elephant and proceed to describe the animal before them based on their limited experience and first encounter with it. One fellow had reached out and grabbed the trunk of the elephant and to the others proclaimed, ' My goodness, this animal is like a snake, a python!', yet another had held onto a tusk and loudly objected, 'No my friends, indeed the animal here is a strange beast, it is shaped in the form of a spear and sharp to the tip.' A third blind man hugging one of the monstrous legs of the elephant flatly said: 'Look all of you, anyone can see that the animal is as tall and strong as a tree...here feel for yourselves!' . Of the men still, the most adventurous one, scaled the animal and hanging against its flank shouted, ' No, no, no....this animal is like a wall...wide and flat and high!' , whilst his fifth comrade, dangling from one of the massive flaps of ears of the now perturbed beast countered, ' Come on, now....the animal is like a huge leaf, a fan even...gentle and light. I experience this myself!' . And it was the last man, the meekest, the smallest one who had unknowingly walked around the large mammal and now stood directly behind it, who grabbed the tail and in a moment of final triumph said, 'You are all quite wrong, the beast is like a rope...short, dry and brittle.'
The short story has one key lesson: there is no absolute truth and every individual perception can be wrong and right at the same time
It also reminds me of a quote by one of the most successful men in history and the key inspiration behind Stoic belief, Marcus Aurelius the Roman Emperor who once said,
'“Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.”
Disturbing isn't it? What is truth and why is it that we are so dangerously protective of our truth that we are willing to kill and even die for it? The truth of our culture, religion, academic achievement, personal relationships, perception of self and even....beliefs around our business.
And truth, and the extent to which we believe our own truths, to a large extent determine who we become in life because our beliefs determine the extent to which we achieve what we feel we must do in life. This is a concept I have written about in past blogs and train on in my mindset sessions but the diagram below best summarizes how this comes about:
Your truth or what you believe in to a large extent determines the potential you have in life whether it is in your career, profession, business, health, relationships or spiritual growth because you rarely ever go beyond what you believe is ultimately possible.
Potential determines the subsequent actions you take in life. For instance, you will not think about going to medical school if your belief and reality is based on a perceived potential in banking.
And your actions lead to specific results that only help to strengthen your initial beliefs and largely exclude others that do not fit into this narrative. This is how we mold our own destinies, generation after generation after generation. We do it through stories that we hear in the living room, classroom and worship rooms and we painstakingly and violently cling to those beliefs. Now are they necessarily wrong or right, our beliefs ? The quick answer to that is it does not really matter. Just like the blind men, all were right and also wrong but life went on, elephants remained elephants and the blind men remained who they were.
The fact is, if we want to break from a cycle, invent, create, recreate, disrupt or evolve, we need to be willing to appreciate that an elephant can be a spear, rope, fan, wall, tree trunk, snake or even all of these things at once! We have to be crazy, daring and vulnerable enough to step back and see the bigger picture. We have to allow our fragile egos to take a beating, to be corrected and to be able to wade into the waters of numerous truths and then put together something that makes sense to us that will ultimately help so many people in the process. That is the scary but exciting path of the inventor, creator, the entrepreneur.
If you have a new business or are planning on starting a new business, no doubt you reach out to 2 sources: the first is the blind wise man or woman who has been where you want to be....we call them business mentors or coaches, and yes...I am one. The other blind person you reach out to is known as social media and here again, you get all manner of conflicting messages (true or not) about what your new business should be like, peppered with phrases like:
The Top 10 Mistakes You Are Making As A Business Owner !
How To Stop Struggling And Start Selling !
How To Get More Followers And Make More Money !
Want To Retire Young And Rich And Debt Free ??
The Key To Selling Your Business In One Year !
And they are neither right nor wrong, they just are. One person's advice based on what worked for THEM and based upon their limited experience. Sometimes the experience is shared by a large enough community and thus branded as irrevocable truth. This is the beauty and diversity of the human experience but it also has a downside and the downside is that if you:
Focus on your own limited singular experience, you cannot grow exponentially or
Take on too much from every source around you, you risk getting overwhelmed
So, what to do you do as a new business owner?
Who do you turn to and what are the next steps one should take so that they understand their true path as they start of on their entrepreneurial journey?
Here are 5 TIPS to help with that but even as you follow them, keep in mind that these are the perceptions of yet another blind man and do not entirely envision the scope of your business elephant. That instead is a business path you ultimately find for yourself, dear reader. Let no one tell you any different.
SELF AWARENESS IS THE KEY AND THE FIRST STEP
Many times the obstacle to us finding our path, purpose and growth as individuals and entrepreneurs is: ourselves! We struggle to get out of our head, we believe our own hype and sway from over confidence to low self esteem, sometimes as a result of real trauma, no fault of our own. Self awareness is a tough but necessary journey and involves us truthfully facing the things we do not desire about ourselves, taking ownership for them and using them as sources of empowerment vs self destruction. In the process we change for ourselves and learn to love and respect those around us as well. More often than not, how we treat others is a reflection of how we treat ourselves and sadly, many a human has been sub consciously taught to hate themselves.
Claim Your Power by Mastin Kip and How to Do the Work by Dr. Nicole LePera are powerful, practical, yet easy to read resources that can help you on that journey, especially where serious past trauma was involved.
SELL YOUR SOLUTION, NOT THE PRODUCT
The best businesses, the legacy ones, the great ones - survive because at the heart of the business is not the need to pay the bills or enrich the owner but rather, to offer real solutions to real people. Find your WHY. The business WHY is not the product but it is: the real reason you began your business and if ultimately that was to help yourself more than others, be open to rethink your business model because your business sustenance and mental wellbeing will depend on it.
You get paid in direct proportion to the difficulty of problems you solve - Elon Musk
LEARN FROM EVERYONE RELEVANT, BUT CHOOSE YOUR OWN REALITY
Once you understand your business purpose: the specific problem a specific group of people have and how your business can provide the solution to that problem, irrespective of the product you have, once you understand that - then you are in a very good position to seek out men and women who share the same beliefs as you and you can in turn start modelling your business, maybe even your life - around some of their beliefs. As you do so, be open to researching on contrary or controversial beliefs as well. Ultimately you can choose which beliefs to adopt and which ones are not relevant to your reality.
The thing is to be brave enough to embrace something you traditionally and logically were brought up not to believe in but which your heart knows is 'true', for your own reality.
This is how you give birth to a disruptor business, this is how you become an entrepreneur. By getting comfortable with the uncomfortable.
LET THE ULTIMATE GOAL BE : TO HELP OTHERS
As you evolve and grow, you may acquire a sense of self importance or perceived entitlement. Some call it ego. This is quite ok and you should not feel guilty about this. You are human and deserve all the self-love you can give. However, do not stay in this place for too long. This can lead you back to square one and we do not want that, do we? Remember the reason you sought your path in business and the reason you are here: to solve people's problems. This is why we run businesses. Simple.
Always default back to this belief.
ADOPT A GROWTH MINDSET...EVERY MOMENT
Finally, with each success, with each achievement and business milestone achieved there will always be someone wealthier, smarter, more charismatic, good looking... you name it, than you. This is the natural cycle of life. How do you learn from it? Become a sponge, not a rock. Embrace them, do not be too proud to learn from them. Do not be so caught up in your notion of how your elephant looks that you refuse to see another's point of view.
Remember, as you expand your belief system in a responsible manner with a view of helping others by solving their problems using your business solutions, the World will indeed pay you handsomely.
All the best as you seek your path and business purpose!
The author, Jan Okonji is an entrepreneur, mindset virtuoso and founder of the company Business Growth Solutions, www.bizgrowth.club.
He is also the Startup Expert with the SNDBX, a unique collection of 40 business experts that offer affordable and impactful business support to entrepreneurs across Africa.
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