Think Like a Startup

Sally-Anne, 16.09.20

Contemplating the glistening mountain waterfalls where I live, I breathe a deep breath of gratitude. I remind myself how lucky I am to be here, now. And how I never want to get used to this…

I’ve done this every morning since the remarkable week I spent last June with 25 purpose-driven entrepreneurs from around the world. In the beautiful landscape of the French Alps, just down the road from where I live, Alptitude offered us time out and a safe space to take stock of our life and work.

Happy though I was to be a part of this unique event, I secretly thought I’d already done my fair share of stock-taking in my life. Many years of hard learning and hard work had brought me to where I wanted to be: living the life of my dreams as a successful executive coach and co-owner of a fabulous Alpine holiday chalet, which is also my home. And how lucky I was to be sharing this with a like-minded partner and a wonderful family. I felt I’d arrived.

But then something surprising happened. As I listened to the stories and aspirations of my fellow Alptituders, I was reminded that ‘arriving’ doesn’t mean staying put.

Happiness or contentment, like most other emotional states, is not fixed. Expecting it to stay the same is to ignore the ever-present signs of change right in front of you.

We were all, in fact, at different stages of our personal and professional journey. My contentment with my status quo was no more stable than another person’s anxiety about theirs.

Claes Janssen’s Four Rooms of Change model puts this in simple, tangible terms. We move in and out of different states of being, which he names Contentment, Denial, Confusion and Renewal. We can flow through these ‘rooms’ organically or we can get stuck in one for a while. What’s important is to understand where we are now.

The irony perhaps of sustainable growth is that it needs an element of discomfort. Nature constantly reminds us of this – moving as it does through its seasons of change. To expect anything ever to be constant is to guarantee unhappiness. Holding on to something too tightly—probably through fear of losing it—guarantees atrophy.

Alptitude reminded me to think like a start-up: to be at the beginning again of something even more purposeful and creative, to be in a state of growth and learning. The journey isn’t easy, nor should it be.

In the words of this year’s Nobel laureate in literature:
Then you better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone For the times they are a-changin’

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