Posts from January 2010

Finding Your Pulley System

Posted by Donna Fenn on 01/27/10 |

I had a big breakthrough yesterday:  I did my first handstand in yoga class! This may not sound like a big deal to you but for me it was HUGE. I hate going upside down; I hurt myself a few years ago doing a forearm stand and my shoulder was screwed up for months. So it took years for me to get comfortable just doing a headstand against the wall and I had pretty much convinced myself that that was the extent of my comfort zone. I had even stopped being envious of the class “yoga beast”, who seemed to have an invisible pulley system attached to the soles of her feet—so gracefully and effortlessly did she fly up every single time.  But yesterday, after doing the requisite headstand, our teacher suggested we all try a handstand, with her spotting us but not assisting. I had planned on passing (again) but then another woman in our class—someone who I sensed was similarly reticent—agreed to give it a go. She was clearly scared, but she pushed through her fear and guess what?  She found her invisible pulley system! I’ll admit it: I wasn’t just inspired and encouraged; I was also feeling the teeniest bit competitive because, well, that’s my nature. So I declared my intention: I would try the handstand. The first attempt to kick up failed. As did the second. And the third. “Rest,” said my teacher. “Try again another time.”  Arrgh! “One more try,” I said. And voila! As it turns out, I had a pulley system, too. Applause.  High fives. It felt amazing! Gosh, I thought, courage really is contagious.

So what on earth does this have to do with entrepreneurs? Plenty, I think. While I frequently practice yoga at home alone and enjoy it, I never would have attempted a handstand on my own. But yesterday’s class provided the perfect risk-taking environment: I had a trusted teacher, a role model, and a peer, each giving me a different kind of encouraging, yet unspoken, message: “I will coach you to push your limits, but I will not let you hurt yourself”; “This is what’s possible if you work hard,”; “I was afraid and I tried anyway; so should you.”  It struck me that those are EXACTLY the three kinds of voices that entrepreneurs need when they’re starting and growing companies. As I’ve said many times before, GenY entrepreneurs are particularly good at surrounding themselves with mentors, role models, and peers. They know that while you sometimes need to work in isolation to get things done, it’s your trusted, collaborative tribe that often helps you find the pulley system you never knew you had.

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