Some days ago, I visited my grandmother in Russia. When she opened the door, I was shocked by what I saw: instead of my grandma with red-coloured hair in a bun, there was a very old woman with short grey hair. For many years she was holding on to her long hair and refused to get it cut, although it was difficult for her to manage it. Now, she gave in – her eventual resignation, one step closer to the finality of it all. She is less present, less involved in the mundane, with her gaze turning more and more inwards. Although we are as connected in spirit as ever, I notice that she is asking fewer questions and is distant from life. I do not know how long it will be, years, or months.
What I do know, is that the presence of our ultimate undoing, of death, stirs up something so deep.
Seeing that change in her, knowing that we do not have much time left together, brought up the questions:
Am I living up to my commitments or am I letting my time go by?
How much time do I dedicate to living my legacy vs taking care of survival?
How much do I invest in being Love vs pleasing my identity, buying into my thinking and feeling?
How present am I to what matters vs to my to-do list?
How often do I stay true vs hold on to being right?
What am I willing to put on the line, in order to live a life that matters?
In this light, I saw everything – my life, my business, people around me. What are we talking about? What do we choose to spend our energy on? If I am to choose, here is the bottom line: I am here to support people, to liberate people from suffering, to support them in standing up for what is true, to lift the veil of pain and regrets, to bring people to their Light!
I am writing to say this: people, stop being so interested in your thinking and feeling, stop perpetuating your own suffering, stand up for yourself and get the guts to live what truly matters to you!!! For the sake of your own lives, get yourselves together and commit to something that really gets you going and, most importantly, go spend time with the ones you love and do not be stingy and give the people around you the gift of your presence! If you are alive – LIVE!!! You can be bored, right, on it, confused, resistant, some other time, but now, as long as your heart is beating – LIVE! Make a difference! Create! Enjoy! Celebrate!!! Go now, go!!!
I am very fond of “The Lean Startup” by Eric Ries. What learnings from the Lean Startup approach can be applied to life in general? Here are some reflections. (NB – I am aware of the perils of such a reductionist approach and know that life is more complex than any analogy can possibly capture, yet, I cannot resist the temptation of comparing life to a startup. It is a metaphor, not more and not less).
1. Eric Ries writes that the goal of a startup is “to figure out the right thing to build – the thing customers want and will pay for – as quickly as possible” (p. 20). In life, we are our own customers, and the people in our environment are our stakeholders. Isn’t it the goal of life as well – to figure out what we want, what we are ready to invest our time, energy, talent in, to figure it out as quickly as possible, and then start living it? Isn’t it our goal to learn our lessons, integrate the learnings, and create a new, more advanced, “version” of life? I believe it is. We as human beings search for meaning, long to apply ourselves to a worthy cause. We are entrepreneurs operating in the setting of complexity and uncertainty. We try to create and promote a “product” that would make a difference. Our life’s vision and mission, our unique profile of talents and characteristics constitute our “product” – our essence, our selves ready to be given to the world. The “profit” we expect to leverage takes the form of happiness, love, and fulfillment. The question, therefore, is: how can I create my “product” (myself) in a way that maximizes my “profit” (happiness, love, and fulfillment)?
2. Creating the product, according to the Lean Startup method, goes on in stages of revisions and incorporating feedback. Ries urges companies to develop and ship their Minimum Viable Product (MVP) in its first version right away, without further ado. Developing the MVP, you should “remove any feature, process, or effort that does not contribute directly to the learning you seek” (p. 110). Let’s say your life’s vision and mission is your MVP. It is tempting to spend years on discovering, refining, and polishing your uniqueness. Years can go by, and you will still not feel ready to get out there and make impact. What if you do not need to wait long until you can start making a difference? What actions can you take already today that take you closer to living your vision? And – what minumum requirements do you need to fulfill (what needs to be in place) for you to “ship” the first version of your “product”?
3. One of the cornestones of the Lean Startup method is soliciting and integrating customer feedback. As we live our lives, we constantly receive feedback from our environment. It shows up through the universe supporting our actions and giving us the green light – hints, shortcuts, chance meetings – versus the universe signaling that our actions are not in alignment with it. When we are stuck, bored, “unlucky”, or not successful, this means that something in our attitude is simply not working. Sometimes we are stubborn and unwilling to learn. We continue living the old version of our “product”, investing lots of effort into being right about it. The universe gently pushes us to reconsider our approach and adapt. We get the same lesson over and over again until we are finally able to acknowledge and integrate it. Thus, it is crucial to develop sensitivity to feedback, ability to recognize it, inregrate it, and initiate change basing on the learnings. What do I need to do to make my “product” work? What is missing and what is irrelevant? What do I need to let go of and what should I keep?
4. The Lean Startup highlights that companies make decisions basing on assumptions. This holds true for life: how often do we act assuming that this action will make us happy, bring us more money, get us new love, make people like us? Very often we base complicated schemes of action that come down to one simple, yet fundamentally flawed, assumption. To save yourself the pain of discovering the mistake too late, identify the assumptions that you base your “product” on, and then get into the field and test them. Is this really so or do you say/think that is so? What was it that you assumed about your “product” and environment that took you to where you are now?
5. “Waste not” is the Lean Startup mantra. It can work as a life mantra as well. What if we do not have as much time as we think? How would you live and what would you focus on if there was no tomorrow? What can you get rid of in order to live a more happy and meaningful life? The trick is to not only welcome the learnings, but also to learn fast. As the saying goes: if your horse is dead, stop riding it. And (I suppose it was Ram Dass who said it, but I am not sure) – when you got the message, put down the receiver.