Begin with beginner's mind
Michael Burne looks me in the eye and gives me his analysis of my business prowess: “It’s a shambles” he says. I can’t help but laugh – because I know this to be true, and fortunately I don’t believe it’s going to stop me.
The man I’m talking to is a lawyer. Not just any old lawyer, but the man who founded Carbon Law (a truly innovative law firm - take note). I’ve won a day of his time at an alternative auction to get his support and advice on how I can make The Speaking Adventure into a sustainable business.
He also tells me that I’m incredibly single-minded. And I realise from his tone that this isn’t all positive. Yes – once I’ve set my mind on doing something and I’m really behind it, I will keep going a bit like a tank. Not in the sense that I’ll flatten anything in my path, but just with dogged insistence. Aged 12, I played the original Tetris without pause until I’d completed all 9 levels, and watched in awe as a crudely pixelled rocket went off on the final screen. This is such a nerdy achievement, you hopefully don’t even know what I’m talking about.
But I could also see that in choosing a particular path and then adhering to my beliefs and values like superglue, I was shutting myself off to other perspectives. Now that I’m off on a new Business Adventure, I desperately need to stay open to the wisdom of those around me who have more experience and insight in creating and sustaining a business.
It’s humbling to realise that, despite working as a trainer in presentation and public speaking for 17 years, when it comes to business I’m a shambolic beginner – and I need a beginner’s openness and humility if I’m going to get good at this. Or as the great Zen teacher Shunryu Suzuki puts it:
If you are interested in strengthening your ability to speak in public, this attitude will be a great asset. For those of us who identify as being good, capable speakers, it’s necessary to drop back into the vulnerability of being a beginner so that we can open to the next step of our education. And for those of us who assume we can do little in this arena and are inhibited by a sense of inadequacy, it can be a relief to remember that, as a beginner, we are supposed to stumble before we can walk, and walk before we can run.
What Michael so beautifully embodied, the thing I was so attracted to that I bid in an auction for his time, and a far more important lesson than how to create a business plan, was the willingness to be open and vulnerable in learning something new. And so here I go, 3 ... 2 ... 1 ...