Posts tagged risk
Absolutes and contradictions
not here2.jpg

There’s been quite a bit of commentary regarding a recent Stanford study that proclaims "following your passion" is lousy advice. It reminded me of a premise for a blog post I was considering a few years ago after mentoring a number of entrepreneurs looking to launch their next great idea:

 

Don’t let passion overshadow common sense.”

 

This sounds like reasonable advice, which is why I wrote it down on a note card that perches above my workspace along with dozens of other thoughts and ideas. Here are a few others I’ve jotted down:

 

Reputation is your ROI.

Be generous with your time.

The empty narcissism of awards shows. (credit to Jeff Goodby for this idea)

 

There is a level of absolutism in all of these, a stated right way and an implied wrong way. As a writer and strategist, I can defend these premises. When I do, I’ll likely hold onto them as some form of truth, something close to absolute. I find that worrisome.

I’m careful to write about these things – and numerous others – even when I believe the premise is good (can we agree that being generous with your time might be a good thing?). My journalistic background tells me to be objective, recognize that there are two sides to every story and the truth is somewhere in between.

Instead, like those poetry refrigerator magnets, I flip premises and rearrange the thoughts to reveal something different:

 

Don’t let your passion, your common sense or your ROI overshadow your generosity.

Reputation can be narcissistic.

Generosity is your awards show.

 

I find there's as much truth in these ideas, too, even though it’s not where my mind initially went.    

 

What if passion is allowed to overshadow common sense? Not indefinitely, but briefly and occasionally? What if that seemingly absurd risk (lack of common sense) results in something spectacular? Then what?

 

We’re not inherently wrong to acknowledge things we've long held as truths. Attempting to contradict them also can do us well. It’s where growth and possibility and wonder make their cameos outside of the well-intended plan.

Recently Jeremy and I interviewed Jeff Frane for the Joy Venture podcast. Jeff’s love has always been bicycles – with a dream to design the kind of bikes he and his friends would love to ride. It’s a dream at age 6 that sounds quaint, something that parents would say – go for it! But in your mid-20s with an unrelated college degree and its requisite debt, being broke, living out of a van, and working a warehouse job at a bicycle parts shop, common sense says something entirely different: Abandon your passion. Grow up. Get a real job.

Jeff said something that contradicted that wisdom when we asked what his parents and family thought of his career trajectory. It went like this:

The truth is I had a job. I was working and contributing to society. That’s all that really mattered to them – and to me.” 

We do a lot of projecting of our absolutes on others in an effort to be right. When their contraction of our absolute view proves us wrong, too often we try to explain away the so-called anomaly instead of being inspired.

Absolutes lean toward conformity with unquestionably neat and tidy answers. For the would-be entrepreneur, nothing kills a joy venture faster than immovable absolutes.

On the other hand contradictions are somewhat rebellious; messy with peaks and valleys. People who are actively discovering, developing and desiring to spread their joy know their venture is going to require them to improvise and go with their gut at some point. There’s no clear roadmap. They know it’s not about the plan, it’s about the pursuit.

Test your absolutes. Be open to asking “But what if...?” once in a while. Contrary to conventional wisdom, you might be absolutely surprised what comes of it. 

 

Above image: Micah Lexier: Here, Not Here (Red, Detail), 2017 // Courtesy Birch Contemporary // Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid

A year of risk, reward & discovery
The #cbus studio for Joy Venture

The #cbus studio for Joy Venture

One year ago Jeremy and I took a risk to do something new (following a whole bunch of conversation and hand-wringing to get it right). But when we whittled it down to its components, it's hard to believe this was really a risk at all. Here's what we did:   

  • Developed a vision and roadmap for what Joy Venture should or could be
  • Bought some recording equipment
  • Made a list of people whose stories fit our vision
  • Built a website
  • Launched a podcast
  • Wrote a handful of blog posts with the intent to encourage

Our intent all along has been a simple one: to share stories of dreamers and doers who are actively discovering, developing and spreading their joy with the world.

Why this vision

We knew from experience -- and saw it in others -- that we all get stuck: stuck in jobs we don't love. Stuck doing work that doesn't motivate or fulfill us. Just plain stuck in a myriad of ways. What we wanted to do was give a platform for those who found ways to become unstuck -- to take risk and pursue their joy, to pursue that thing that, at some point, might not have been part of "the plan." In doing so, we believed listeners would resonate with the challenges and be inspired by the perseverance of our guests to pursue that thing they felt an itching to do. 

We've said this often: you get one shot on this merry-go-round of life. Make it count. 

What we discovered

The stories being shared are resonating and making a difference. We're finding a loyal and interested audience, even if it doesn't always show up in the almighty marketing metrics. How do you measure the impact on the heart or to quantify success when someone takes life-changing action? You listen. And you've told us that sharing a different kind of story that peels back the veneer of the marketing story and the so-called overnight success story is something worth fostering.

Something else we've discovered: It doesn’t particularly matter if you know the podcast guest. If it is someone who is well known, it's because we seek to uncover a story you haven't heard yet. But we're also big on introducing new voices with great insights and compelling stories to share. Discovery is always the key ingredient regardless of who the storyteller is. 

We've wanted the stories told on Joy Venture to be unvarnished, vulnerable, enlightening and encouraging. We'll keep asking: does this inspire or jolt you to think differently about your work or what you feel called to do? Can you see hints of yourself in stories of others? 

This was and still is our hope.

For all of you who have validated that vision for us – thank you. 

What's next

Our growing community of dreamers and doers will multiply this year and spread beyond our home base in Columbus, Ohio. We'll be taking our gear on the road in the months ahead to meet up with extraordinary folks in other states. We'll be dialing in disrupters and community-makers from Indianapolis, Minneapolis and perhaps more cities ending in -apolis; “the other Columbus” down in Georgia; Nashville and even the coasts.

We believe every story we share is unique and valuable. As our episode list continues to grow we'll also help you find the specific types of stories you're looking for by categorizing them by vocation and purpose on our website. Look for that soon.

And we have more up our sleeve – ways in which we'll invite you into to our joy in the months ahead.

Until then, take this as encouragement and a call to action: we discovered and befriended some amazing people with extraordinary stories on this journey. Because we we're willing to take that leap, we're now developing Joy Venture in ways we couldn't have envisioned a year ago. That's exciting for us, and hopefully it will prove valuable to you.

And so it begs these questions:What's that thing you need to do this year? What leap will you take?

If you feel compelled, share what's up your sleeve with us on Facebook or Twitter and be an encouragement to others who have similar ideas or simply need a nudge.  

Joy Venture is a rewarding labor of love meant for all of us – to help us push through the artificial boundaries that we've constructed. Thanks for joining us on this ride. We've got a lot more ground to cover together...

Happiness vs. Joy: what's the difference?
 

There are some really good reasons why we didn’t call this project the Happiness Venture. To pinpoint a few:

  • We knew there would be a learning curve and that difficulty would likely ensue
  • We anticipated there would be days, weeks or even seasons when things just wouldn’t go our way
  • We would feel like nobody was listening (friends and family included) and question if anyone cared about our little adventure
  • Rejection and disappointment somehow would be part and parcel of the experience

We expected these moments might arrive (and they have) – and that happiness wouldn’t be riding shotgun (disappointment is indeed a lone but frequent invader).

There’s plenty of psychological research to explain the differences between joy and happiness, much of which focus on the external emotional influence on our happiness and the more internally grounded nature of where our joy comes from. We won’t rehash all that here, but instead provide an analogy that we feel sums up this whole happiness vs. joy thing – and why we choose to seek the latter.

 

If happiness is the wood veneer applied to the manufactured table  

Then joy is the solid wood table.

 

There’s a reason that we accept and, when necessary, painstakingly restore the hand-me-down bureau or the Amish-built table. There is a deep beauty that has endured through the generations, a solidness that has been tested and upheld over the years providing function. Something so well-worn becomes a story itself worth sharing, not to mention the stories that emanate from its history.

Likewise, there’s a reason we don’t seek to restore, pass down or hang on to the DIY particleboard piece either. The idea sounds silly for something fabricated to be functional yet fleeting, destined to be disposable yet affordable enough to replace on whim.

We all want happiness in our lives and we want it now. And, much like the analogy, we have a tendency to look for shortcuts to get it.

We put on the good face in hopes that our external veneer can somehow conjure up those desired feelings. Sometimes it works. We go looking for it in all the wrong places and manage to find moments of happiness now and then. But we also know it’s circumstantial. What ushered in happiness yesterday won’t necessarily yield it tomorrow.

Joy – and in particular, Joy Venture – is about recognizing that happiness is fleeting and how we need to find that thing, deep within us, that gives us joy. That something to buoy us, to lean into when "it" hits the fan (and it will). Something that gives us purpose to persevere during the less-than-happy times.

Do you have that thing? Do you want that thing in your life?

 

Take happiness as it comes. In fact, revel in it. And recognize it for how finite it is.

Then go and seek joy.

 

Discover that thing that gives you joy – a vocation or change of vocation, a hobby or side project, a ministry or volunteer purpose – and develop it. Pour yourself into it without reservation. Hone it. Make it yours. And make it last.

Through this lens, it’s hard to imagine chasing happiness when joy is there for the taking – for all of us.

 

Need some inspiration to start your Joy Venture? Check out our podcasts and other posts to get motivated. Get outside your comfort zone and see what resonates. And take comfort in the fact that you’re part of a community of dreamers and doers who are activity pursuing their joy.

   

 

 

 

 

 

Converting inspiration into action
INSPIRATION: a screen, an internet connection and some reference books. ACTION: requires none of the above. 

INSPIRATION: a screen, an internet connection and some reference books. ACTION: requires none of the above. 

Inspiration, it seems, is everywhere.

Inspiring videos and posts fill our social media feeds as do the inspirational quotes, which also anchor our email signatures (sometimes incorrectly, as you will see). It's all too easy to be inspired by and enamored with those who did the impossible, seem to have figured it out, or found their life's calling as we continue to toil away in our everyday, mundane lives.

But finding real inspiration – entering into that discover phase we talk about that sends us reeling and in pursuit of something we were made to do – is really not that difficult. It just requires being intentional and making room in our hyper-connected, over-scheduled and immediate-gratification world.

We’ll use a couple of inspirational quotes and stories to illustrate how you might go about turning inspiration into action. 

 

Do one thing every day that scares you.”

Mary Schirch, Chicago Tribune columnist (improperly attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt)

 

This is about getting out of your comfort zone and actually “doing” something, not just thinking about it or passively absorbing the idea as something you'll consider. Notice, she calls us to “do.”

Jeremy, my Joy Venture co-founder, has recently stepped out of his comfort zone to take pictures of strangers. This requires some dialogue with a complete stranger on the street and getting their permission. Awkward? Sometimes. Intimidating? For sure.

 

But here’s the cool thing about what Jeremy is doing: he has a tiny Bluetooth printer on his hip so he can print a Polaroid-style picture for the person he just photographed. While he waits for it to print, stories and conversations happen. A connection is made. Seeds and new ideas get planted. It will be interesting to see what takes root and what this experience leads Jeremy to do next. That’s the power of discovery, but it requires us to be active.

 

“Do you want to know who you are? Don't ask. Act. Action will delineate and define you.” 

Witold Gombrowicz, Polish novelist (improperly accredited to Thomas Jefferson)

 

For years we can ask all the right the questions and still fail to follow up with any meaningful action. Jeremy and I have a friend, Stacy, who has a background in tutoring/test preparation, a desire to help kids succeed, and a passion for bicycling. Yet her professional life was a patchwork of jobs and positions that left her unfulfilled. Long before Joy Venture was a thing, our friend took a keen interest in what we were doing in Cambodia, including our efforts to raise funds to provide bicycles to orphaned children so they could get to and from school safely.

Bikes and kids. That spoke to her. If the idea and inspiration that came over her was going to amount to anything, it would require her to "do" something.

So she got involved in EduGo, a nonprofit that provides bicycles to orphaned children, and led the organization's first-ever (and then second) Road to Success Ride. She began to discover -- or better yet, rekindle -- what she felt she was made to do. She took a chance on herself and her love for empowering young minds to help them see their potential by launching her own coaching and tutoring company -- appropriately named Next Gear.  And, for the second time in a calendar year, she'll find herself in a small Cambodian village, building relationships with orphaned kids who not only will receive new bicycles her organized rides have funded, but also be assured of a meaningful education with a future filled with hope.    

And here's Stacy's cool thing:  she's combining her passion for bicycles with her calling to serve young students, both of which are making an impact on kids on opposite ends of the world. It started with a whisper, then a nudge, followed by small step, and then...

We don't have to figure it all out in order to get started. 

(That's not a quote. It's just something we know from experience.) 

 

Now about those quotes and attributions

We have a tendency to believe that only great people say and do profound things. We have a tendency to want to look up in admiration to people we all know instead of looking at who is standing next to us and getting to know their story.

A little digging on those quotes unearthed a not-so-surprising truth: some rather ordinary, hard-working and largely unknown people are behind these words – words that are embedded in their original and inspired experiences. You can find the backstory to each inaccurate quote here and here and here.  

Social media affords people to write a history of their own liking. And when we read it, we tend to believe it. But if you want to discover what truly inspires you, that thing you were meant to do, then shut down the digital feeds. Go outside. Meet new people. Listen carefully. And do something. You just might be surprised where you’ll find yourself.     

Consider taking this last quote to heart, pin it on a wall, and remember that more often than not, extraordinary things are written and achieved by ordinary people. Just. Like. You. 

 

"For what it’s worth…it’s never too late, or in my case too early,

to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit.

Start whenever you want. You can change or stay the same.

There are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it.

I hope you make the best of it. I hope you see things that startle you.

I hope you feel things you’ve never felt before.

I hope you meet people who have a different point of view.

I hope you live a life you’re proud of, and if you’re not,

I hope you have the courage to start all over again."

Eric Roth, screenwriter (inaccurately attributed to F. Scott Fitzgerald)