Why we’re so much more invested in each other when we heal and grow together
Christina Kisley is one of our favourite people at The Happy Startup School. She’s an entrepreneur coach who will kick your ass one minute and hug you the next.
She’s been described by some as our own Brené Brown. We first met at Alptitude last year and we’ve since become friends and collaborators.
We now want to share her amazing work with more people.
As well as a mother, friend, sister, business owner, coffee house frequenter, animal lover and explorer – she is also the latest guest on our community podcast as part of our Summercamp series which you can listen to below:
This interview is most notable for the wonderful warmth of Chris’s personality that comes winging through the airwaves from the word go – and the passion she has for helping people to grow.
If you’re in a rush check out these highlights at minute…
10.30 for what Christina really means by growth in this context
22.00 for the Need/Fear Dilemma that we all hold within us (more below)
29.00 for The Law of the Lid ie how your growth affects the people you lead
35.00 for a profound statement on what it means to grow together
Currently in a moment of transition between her old business and her new one, Chris joined Carlos to talk through her work over the last 20 years to support entrepreneurs, leaders and their teams and she’s driven by the realisation that:
“There is no business growth without personal growth”
The Need/Fear Dilemma
In the episode she talks about something every human has in common called the need/fear dilemma.
It’s the paradox of behaviour where what you really need you also most fear.
So if you really want to feel like you fit in, you’re craving belonging and connection, if, and indeed because, that’s been the thing that’s hurt you in the past, you’re afraid of it. So as opposed to leaning in and trying to work through something, we run from it in some shape or form.
Because we’ve got it in common, we need other humans to help us figure it out.
“Growth happens in community, You actually can not do this kind of restorative growth by yourself. You have to have at least one other person to witness what you’re going through, what you’re dealing with. It’s part of that process. Your Summercamp is just a beautiful place for growth to happen, and I know that healing happens at Alptitude too so I have no doubt that at Summercamp healing happens as well, and in a bunch of different ways. I can’t wait.”
Christina Kisley is a person with so much to offer, in an exciting and incendiary moment in her career. She will be joining us this September at our 7th annual Summercamp for entrepreneurs and changemakers, running a workshop on Your Growth, On Purpose; Achieve Extraordinary Impact.
One of those questions that makes me die a little inside
A bit like “What do you do?”
It instantly makes me think of revenues, and how well we’re doing at that moment (or not) as this is how we traditionally measure success in business.
And typically I blurb out something like:
“Yeah, fine thanks”
Money wasn’t a motivating factor to start The Happy Startup School, far from it. There are a million easier ways to make a living, and lots that would be far more lucrative.
Clearly money is an important measure of how business is doing, but this takes out a vital part of the equation — us.
From my experience, business can be good on the outside (or spreadsheet), but end up with the founder(s) feeling anything but on the inside. If we make decisions focused solely on the business, we might lose something of ourselves in the process.
Also by asking this question, we end up making others feel like a failure if business isn’t good.
It’s time we got more creative and asked more useful questions. Some other questions I prefer to ask:
I’ve found that asking this question can be a game-changer for many, me included.
Long-term plans can be useful in their own right, but often they can feel too far away and hard to bring back to the here and now.
I’m way happier — and more effective — now that I have control of what my average week looks like — and it’s no coincidence going through this exercise as a team has meant that we’ve found a better rhythm too.
Obviously there are exceptions, but I know that when I focus on activities that create variety and much needed space, I’m more productive and in flow more often than not.
📔 Myself and my co-founder Carlos have a high-level catch up every Monday morning face-to-face to help us get in sync and plan ahead (inspired by the Rocket Fuel book)
️☎️ I have calls and meetings on set days and only in the afternoons (Calendly is a lifesaver for this)
🌲 I typically coach people on Fridays, where possible outdoors (if there’s one thing I’ve learnt, it’s not to struggle alone)
💡 I work at home on Thursdays and use this as thinking and writing time (my goal is to write a book this year)
🐕 I make time for walking my dog, pilates and swimming as these things makes me feel good and help to prevent recurring back pain (long story)
👪 Family always comes first so I prioritise time and activities with my kids (as Steve Blank says in this timeless post “your kids are only passing through. It will seem like forever but it will be gone in a blink of an eye”)
I deliberately make room for serendipity, particularly activities that include greenery, campfires and coffee :)
For many, this can seem indulgent or even selfish, but from my experience you’ll be of no use to anyone if you aren’t showing up as your best self.
After years of working a certain way, I’ve learnt that it’s ok to work how you want.
Why else would you want to be your own boss?
ps. My favourite week of the year is coming up June 8–15th — go take a peek
pps. We recently held a campfire conversation on creating your ideal week, members can access the recording here (see below on how to become one)
While you’re here — did you know that we have a thriving online community of 200+ purpose-driven entrepreneurs like you? Request an invite here www.happystartups.co and benefit from the support and accountability of likeminded peers.
Graphic by Lily GrosIf you stand for nothing you’ll appeal to no-one
How do you start building a community?
This is one of the questions that was put forward at yesterday’s Ideas Café (by more than one person).
With a question like this, it’s important not to dive in with advice — what works for one context might not work for another.
Also it’s important to ask clarifying questions, and when appropriate sharing relevant experiences.
Community is a buzzword right now
However starting a community can be the easy part — nurturing and growing a community can be much harder.
We didn’t set out to start a community, we shared our ideas with the world and these resonated with a particular group of people that felt similar frustrations — we were sick of business as usual and felt there had to be another way.
Luckily others felt the same.
So how did we start a community?
Well we didn’t, it happened by accident…
We created a manifesto and invited people to share and pledge their support
We’re told that being selfish is bad and that being selfless is good. I remember from my Catholic school days learning that being of service to others is the highest form of work. But what if you burnout in the process? What if you spend so much time helping others that you forget yourself, and in doing so you’re no longer able to serve to the best of your ability?
Self-care IS a thing. We need to look after ourselves and maintain our well-being in order to keep being of service to others. However, a more preventative measure is self-knowledge and clarity which means being clear and intentional about your own needs.
Good old Abraham Maslow gave us a simple (if overused) picture of how our needs stack up from: basic to psychological to self-fulfilment. I believe understanding and respecting these needs helps us to be more able to help others.
When you’re struggling to satisfy your basic needs then being altruistic and giving to others is always going to be a challenge. While there are people out there who are truly selfless and offer help and support despite having very little they are few and far between. At a personal level I have very little patience and find it impossible to concentrate when I’m overtired and hungry. Which usually means I’m not of great use to anyone. On a more serious note, when we’re physically compromised it really affects our ability to perform or to manage our emotions. We are then not able to help to the best of our ability.
This seems to make good sense. Look after your body or else you won’t be able to look after others.
When we start getting to higher order needs it’s harder to see how being selfish can be in anyway good. But I’d argue that being clear about these higher order needs and attending to them properly means you can be more impactful.
When I feel confident and connected I’m much more creative and resilient. I’m able to accomplish more and be more effective in my work. Also, when my need for contribution is being met and I feel like my work has purpose I have much more energy to continue. By being conscious of my emotional needs I’m able to align my work with what I believe.
Also, if when I understand what my core needs are and when they’re not being met I’m able to deal with conflict and disagreement better. I’m able to express myself more clearly and also catch myself when I’m unhelpfully reacting to a situation.
So being selfish is good. Being clear about our needs and tending to them at all levels actually helps others. Our ability to look inward with clarity improves the quality of our outward behaviour.
If you’d like to find out more about how to align what you believe with what you do and then use that knowledge to build businesses and do work that creates more impact in the world then follow our publication and check out our website.
You Are What You BuyWhat you or your company make is a vehicle
Almost everything we buy we buy to send a signal, to our group, friends, family, tribe.
I buy a new kitchen. How do I look in this?
I buy a Volvo. How do I look in this?
I choose this school over that. How do I look in this?
These clothes, that doughnut, those pants. How do I look in these?
If we’re in the business of making, creating or providing — every prospective customer is asking the proverbial question: does my bum look big in this?
I was helping the owner of a great little business the other day. They provide live-in care services. They are honourable, knowledgeable, dedicated and genuine. A beacon of trust in an ocean of agency scams.
Price is important to them. So important, they promise fees lower than the competition — not because they’re competing on price but because they believe it’s fair.
Except there’s a problem.
Their customers are making a tough decision at an emotionally charged time. They need live in care for their parents. They might feel guilty. They might feel hopeful. They might be desperate. Who knows.
One things for sure: they don’t want to feel cheap.
Sure, be good value. Sure, charge less. But the words you use become your customers story. And feeling cheap doesn’t feel good when it comes to caring for your elderly parents.
Choosing live in carers is like any other purchase. We want to feel better, to look good, to be reassured.
A great purchase — the thing you make or share or provide — is one which makes me feel big and strong and part of something.
Almost every creative project I’ve undertaken has resulted in a rollercoaster of emotions like this.
The reason I ask is I’m coming across more and more folks that are building communities around their business or mission.
After all where there is a purpose there are believers.
This movement of movement makers is back up by the writings of folks like Priya Parker in The Art of Gathering and Charles Vogl in his book The Art of Community — who’ll be a guest our podcast in the Spring
However often these community builders can end up being thrust into bringing people together in-person with little idea of what’s ahead, meaning they can crash and burn (no-one wants a repeat of Fyre right?)
In my latest post I share some things no-one ever tells you about running events, but probably should, in the hope that you’ll be aware of some of the roadblocks ahead.
And even if you’re not thinking about hosting events, most of these are equally applicable to running a business :)
You need the mindset of an entrepreneur
You’ll need to ask for help (lots of it)
You’ll need to get good at selling your vision, fast
You’re the only one who cares at the beginning
It will be *way* more work than you think
You can fake it before you make it
You’ll learn things about yourself you didn’t know
It will consume 24–7 if you let it
There’s *always* one
It will be worth it, it will be worth it, it will be worth it.
When we’re inside the bottle, we can’t read the label
Rewind to January 2018 to when myself and Carlos were sitting down to work out our plans for the year. Closing our co-working space a month previous had meant we now had more headspace to get clear on the year ahead.
Unexpectedly, one thing that came out of those discussions was a desire from both of us to offer more high-touch support to a handful of entrepreneurs and business owners.
Whilst there’s lots I didn’t miss about the agency days, I had missed the intimacy of working one-to-one with founders and feeling like I’ve played a part in the growth of their ventures over time.
It turned out Carlos felt the same. Who knew?
So the question then became: Just because we have a grand vision for The Happy Startup School, did that stop us from working one-to-one with people? Did this realisation mean we were thinking too small?
My answer to this in the past would have been different to the one today.
My Dad passing away in 2017 shifted my view on the meaning of impact.
I used to think it was about changing the world, but his sudden death — and the stories that followed it from those he had helped over the years, on the quiet — has taught me a valuable lesson.
That it’s not about changing the world at all, it’s about giving the people right in front of you the time of day — and being there for them when they need it.
Sometimes a listening ear and kind word is all it takes. That in itself can be world-changing for someone.
“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” — Mother Teresa
So whilst the ego in me loves the idea of us being able to reach millions of people through our work, now nothing satisfies me more than a great conversation with someone I feel I’ve helped nudge in the right direction.
I can feel the impact right there and then. And not feel the need to be anywhere else or achieve any more.
Personal growth = business growth
Our journey has been far from a smooth one and we’ve had to make some bold decisions along the way, decisions that are now starting to pay off, but only after a lot of hard work and belief. And the crucial support of a couple of business coaches.
We certainly couldn’t have done this alone.
Coaching was something that I didn’t truly get until I experienced the value of it at first-hand. It all felt a bit business 1.0 if you like. Or maybe I thought I knew it all.
But then I realised what a good coach was — someone you trust, who gets you and helps you to find answers to your biggest questions. Most people talk about businesses in terms of numbers and targets, but behind every business are people. And we sure are a complicated bunch.
Entrepreneurs, it turns out, are on another level. They think differently. Entrepreneurs that aren’t doing it for the money are an even rarer breed.
You can get lost in your own head and often can’t see the wood from the trees — it’s a struggle to stay true to your beliefs and vision and not follow other people’s path.
I know because I’ve been there myself.
Hence I’m ready to help others get on track and stay there. For the last 12 months I’ve been coaching several people including:
the founding team of a children’s innovation lab based in Germany
the founder of an online wine education service in Switzerland
an entrepreneur who’s recently sold his company and wanting to launch a running community and brand
a creative coach in the US that’s looking to shed the business armour and be more authentic
the founder of a new music tech startup in Portugal looking to launch their first product
Some I meet in-person, but most virtually. I’m loving it and already seeing positive results in a short time.
Last March we even invited them all to the Alps for a memorable few days so we could get to know each other (new learning: snowshoeing is A LOT of fun).
“When you are trying to climb a mountain on your own, you need to a have clear idea of the path forward, the road map, the most efficient way to reach your way up. The coaching sessions with Laurence have not only helped me to find a clearer path to move forward, but also provided the much needed oxygen to complete the task. It is hard to breath sense when you are confused and overwhelmed by daily life and family constraints.” Juan Lo Bello, Wine Guru on Wheels
Want to level up?
After running the agency for close to 10 years and helping to launch dozens of startups during that time, we’ve both since built up many years invaluable experience transitioning from a service to product business and building a sustainable, profitable company with a global following of over 150,000.
But more importantly following a dream we had and making it happen — that is, building a sustainable business that is a true reflection of who we both are, what we care about and how we can best serve the world, where money was never the goal.
For us it’s not about the numbers, it’s about how it feels every day.
We’ve learnt what it takes to create a purpose-driven business and build a global community. Plus crucially, trying to stay balanced in the process, in the face of what life throws at us.
After a busy few months we each have capacity from March onwards to work with a couple more founders. Maybe that could be you?
Some things I specifically can help with:
Getting clear on your vision
Aligning your business decisions with your values
Balancing the demands of others with your own needs
Finding a healthy balance between work and family life
Finding your creative flow and managing your energy levels
Being confident that what you’re doing next is the right thing
Finding the quickest route to your goal — whether that be building a product, finding customers or hiring
Discovering new tools, methods or books that can help you fast-track your way to success
Growth hacks for building your community
Connect you with influencers or collaborators I know that can help you
Or often just being a sounding board or offering a few words of advice based on my experience and observations
So whether you’re looking to start a business, grow an existing one or course-correct, I’m happy to have a quick chat to see if either Carlos or I can help you avoid some of the mistakes we’ve made, and seen many others make, saving you precious time, money and worries.
Through regular 1-to-1 sessions I can provide a safe space for you to get clear on your vision for change and make it happen. Where appropriate I wear more of a mentor hat, offering guidance based on my 20 years experience across design, innovation & happiness at work.
If you think we could add value to you and your business fill out this short form and we’ll follow up to arrange a call.