As 2017 was nearing its close, I shared a post about making 2018 magnificent. Many of you found it valuable, and I’m grateful for your feedback. While the five questions I posed resonated with different people for different reasons, I’ve been thinking about one in particular: ‘Of what are you most afraid?’
Some answers are obvious: we’re all afraid of losing loved ones, of injury, or disease. These are part of the essence of the human condition. While I don’t want to dismiss them, they’re not my focus today….
Of what are you most afraid in your work? In your career? In your business?
Are you ready to make 2018 magnficent?
Honest answers to these questions can be profoundly revealing, because they can point directly at what stands between each of us and the opportunity to realize our potential.
Two and a half years ago, Junxion’s shareholders made the incredibly difficult decision to close our office in New Delhi, India. We had put hearts and souls into building that office during the preceding four years. Two of our principal shareholders had moved there, we’d hired over 20 great, local staff, we’d worked around the clock year after year, and we had done some amazing work…. But early in 2015, a couple of major contextual changes made it clear we couldn’t keep going. As a business decision, ‘by the numbers,’ it was pretty straight forward. As a personal decision, it was heartbreaking.
Whenever I tell the story, I find myself using the phrase ‘all in.’ The picture in my mind’s eye is always of James Bond at the poker table in Casino Royale, sliding a massive stack of chips across the green felt…. We went ‘all in’ on India.
The fallout was devastating. Two partners left the business. The two of us that remained, already exhausted, knew the work ahead to rebuild the business was daunting. And then like some cosmic ‘kick ‘em while they’re down,’ Brits voted to Brexit, and the bottom fell out of our UK business as well. It was like we’d fallen into a dark hole, and just as we were dusting ourselves off, eyes adjusting to a new reality, we were falling again….
Abject failure was suddenly imminent, and utterly terrifying.
In the privilege-infused framing of entrepreneurship, of which we acknowledge we are fortunate beneficiaries, talk often turns to “failing fast” or “failing forward.” But true failure isn’t something that can just be managed, like an employee resignation, or a minor lease negotiation. For most entrepreneurs, everything is on the line. And when failure strikes, fairweather friends make themselves known. Or they don’t….
I won’t dwell here on our disappointment in supposed allies of our business that retracted their support when the going got tough for us. I’d much rather acknowledge and express deep gratitude to the many that stuck with us: family and friends, first and foremost. An angel investor, without whose support and advice our second chance simply wouldn’t have happened. A coach and a peer circle that helped me navigate the turbulence that smothered our income statements and our hearts. And who knows how many pep talks shared back and forth between Adam and me. A stronger business partnership is hard to imagine. Even with all this support, it’s been a long, hard road back.
As we began to set our plans for 2018, we realized that two years after closing our office in India, we were still leading from fear.
To plan our lives around what we fear is to play a game of defense.
Having been so close to failure once, we were petrified to find ourselves there again. And that fear had permeated how we were making decisions, how we were running the business, and how we were ‘showing up’ for clients, allies, even friends and family.
We have enough self-awareness to be gently forgiving with ourselves. Our fear was justified, and rebuilding has taken every ounce of the skill and experience of our amazing team. We’re also smart enough to remain careful, now that we’ve got the company healthy again—achieved primarily through pouring as much value as we possibly can into each and every one of our incredible clients.
Yet recognition of that lingering fear has opened a new perspective. How might we move through the fear? How might we embrace again a mindset of abundance and achievement? What might Junxion do now, if we brave up?
Remarkably, January is already behind us and the days are getting longer here in the northern hemisphere. Spring is just weeks away. The distant dreams of a year ago are becoming the generative goals of 2018…. We’re getting ready to share some bold new moves.
It’s going to be a magnificent year.
I hope yours is, too.
Mike Rowlands is President & CEO of Junxion. He has been described as a “peace warrior” and thought leader on issues of social importance. This is one of a series of letters he’s writing as he seeks to embrace transparency, step in to courageous conversations, and be in service to a new era. You can reach him via [email protected].