Excerpt from Exhilarated Life: Discovering Inner Happiness
When do you give up on yourself?
Yesterday I had tea with a friend who had recently had the occasion to chat with Kevin O’Leary of the business reality shows Dragons’ Den and Shark Tank. These are the gems of advice he offered her:
1, If you can’t articulate what your business is about in ninety seconds, no
one will invest in you.
2, Successful people have to be prepared to spend eighteen-hour days for
3. Spend your time not your money, and finally…
4, Know when to get out.
My friend queried me on the last point. “How do you know when it’s
time to call it a day, or when you’ve spent enough money—when do
you decide your great idea just isn’t going to fly?”
Of course, I had to confess that I was probably the wrong person to ask about that. I still believe in my business vision that I first diagrammed on a flip chart in my (then) web designer’s boardroom. That was five years ago. It showed overlapping circles (a vesica piscis) depicting autonomous businesses collaborating to the greater good of all. The foundation of that business exists. It is the LightBeam wheel of websites. It echoes a little—okay, it echoes a lot—because it’s waiting for the people to populate it. It’s innovative and a slightly different way to use the Internet—and the
Internet itself is an ever-changing mystery to many. More on this later.
After my afternoon meeting, I was off to meet another friend for
dinner. As we walked around the block arm in arm over icy patches
she asked about my sons—were they off on their European tour with
the band this summer? Hmm…she was a little out of date. I had to
explain that those plans had been side-railed because, one afternoon
the savvy and beautiful promoter and manager known as “Ms. A” had
taken a powder on the way to a meeting to discuss the imminent tour
date. “Oh,” replied my friend, raising an eyebrow. “Do you think they
should do something else?” My immediate response was no! These
young men are good musicians and they have a unique sound. When
I envision them, I see them pressing against the membrane, just about
to break through.
Now, before you conclude that an innovator mother with unrealistic goals has spawned sons with unrealistic rock star aspirations, let me rush in and say this: I’m not stupid, and just like everyone else I get dragged down by “reality.” So on the way home, I was blue. Doubt was hanging about me like a pall. Fear comes rushing in because I am the sole supporter of my family and that scares me at times. And then can self-recrimination be far behind when I think that most parents would have “made” their sons be realistic and get jobs—or even go back to school?
I stopped on my way out of town as I passed Athan’s door for a quick
pick-me-up hug. “Everything is going to be okay—isn’t it?” I muffled
into his shoulder. Athan held me at arm’s length, looked deep into my
eyes and said, “Of course! And even if it isn’t okay—it will be ‘okay’.”
Now it might seem that he was patronizing me and sending me off with
a “Now, now, there, there,” but the effect of his words ripped away the
mask of “reality” and I was once again looking at the meaning of life.
These reality shows are a true barometer of our times. They are a
reflection of the distortion that we call life. In a way I wonder if they
are the backlash of the times—most recent—when schools, parents
and sports leagues all decided that competition was somehow unfair.
That failure discriminated unfairly, that success must be equilateral or
shared. These shows are based on humiliation of the many and the
exploitation of the one. The “one” has to fit a very specific criteria and
the “win” is not based on excellence but in compliance.
It is the archetype of the worst father who disinherits his child if he
does not comply with the family way of excellence. It is social coercion
at its most nihilistic. Fit the mold—or live alone in mortification!
I’d be bleeding all over the stage if I presented my innovative business
model on an aforementioned TV show. My heart would be pounding
to the clock ticking down ninety seconds. BEEEEEEP! Time’s up:
You’re fired! Oh—wrong show.
My business is about holistic living; body, mind, and spirit. These dudes are so out of harmony with the natural and pleasurable aspects of life, that they probably wouldn’t get my concept if I drew a thirty-second Venn diagram. It’s helpful to be able to sum up your business in a few phrases, but Life as reflected in our business is more than a few sound bites. And here’s why:
Our real business is not what we do for a living. It’s not what we exchange
for money. Our real business is our own Life—in all its complexity, troubles, and pleasures. Our family, our work, our engagement with the world we live in is the playing field where we discover who we are. Our talents, our strengths, our weaknesses, our desires and our dreams, and most of all: Our contribution to the evolution of this world. We are not here just to put in time as people—a general population—but as contributing energy to the direction the world will take—“good” or “bad.”
When we focus too much on success for success’s sake we rush to results before we look to effects. When I was in the construction industry, it became evident through the very nature of building how the culture
of a region or country viewed their responsibility or accountability to
the future. Our business was architectural entranceways, including
revolving or security doors for banks, hotels and condominiums.
They were grand—you never get a second chance to make a first
impression—in polished bronze or mirror stainless steel. Here’s a
thumbnail of different perspectives, in very general terms:
The west coast—Canada and US—had a “disposable” perspective. They
would not invest in high quality, because the architectural landscape
(aka “trends”) changed so often that buildings would go up with a
lifespan already in mind. The emphasis was on glamor, flash, and price.
Some of these buildings are notorious; high profile with paper-thin
walls. Big hype for quick sales—high class, low fees—only to find in
the fullness of time that the shortcuts taken in construction are in short
order catching up with the owners in gargantuan fee increases.
New York, Chicago, Toronto, London; cities of banks and investors,
chose elegant and stately designs, and considered the front entrance as
a cost percentage of the overall value of the property. The architect has
a greater influence on quality products and consistency of durability
than on the coasts, where design built is more initial profit oriented.
Interestingly, in Asia companies we dealt with spoke in terms of generations, of legacy. One company was over five hundred years old! Their responsibility to the future was a guiding principle. Every aspect of a building was efficient, beautiful and resilient—constructed to last and be a tribute to those who created it.
When we create our own life, on what do we place our values? What is
our unique contribution? What is our legacy? How are we accountable
and how do we leave the world a better place?
My sons are musicians—that is what they are. So many “advise” them
and me that you really can’t make it in the music business—it’s too long
a shot to be a star. Maybe, some suggest, they should go on Canadian
Idol. Now one thing is for sure: You can’t make it in the music business
if you don’t make music your business. Luck is for the few. Since the disappearance of Ms. A, their will-o’-the-wisp “manager” the band has discovered that they really don’t need her after all.
They have developed a business plan, designed the logo, nearly finished
the MySpace page, written an album’s worth of original music, are
mastering a demo tape, created a “merch” list—the T-shirts are already
in and selling like mad. In fact my youngest can already claim, “Been
there, done that, got the tat!” The thing is, the world of music has
become so sophisticated, that an artist is expected to instantly have the
same complete package that in the past would have been provided by
the record label.
In my mind, this change is for the better. My sons have strengthened
in experience and competence in ways that a “real” education couldn’t
begin to offer. Secondly, they have by necessity and disappointment
become knowledgeable and savvy, developing traits that will stand
them in strength in a business that is notorious for manipulation and
exploitation. They have learned the value of creativity—in their case,
music—to heal from loss and grief. They have, as brothers, come to
ways of collaborating to use the best of each one’s talents—musically
and business wise. They work with the two other group members with
a maturity, discipline, and diplomacy that would do well in the largest
So, as a mother, I am incredibly proud of their work and their
accomplishments. The fact that they haven’t “made it” yet is almost
inconsequential to the point of who they have become, and the stability
they have gained will help them ride the crazy world of excess everyone
loves to hate in the entertainment world.
As for me, my lack of “success” as reflected in my present bank account
and credit rating doesn’t begin to disclose my own path of fine-tuning,
learning, growing, resilience, and courage. Yes, I can say that about
myself—even though I was taught not to take too much credit for
myself. These past five years included the illness and death of my
husband, embezzlement and fraud within the web design company I
trusted, the erosion of all my capital, and realization that the world was
not quite ready for what I offered.
My belief in the LightBeam vision kept me sane through the devastating
grief of losing my husband, business partner and the father of our
still-young boys. In desperation I began to take courses on websites
and Internet marketing—just so my nefarious web designers couldn’t
dupe me. What started out as the fury and fear of walking away from
tens of thousands of dollars in web design that never worked turned
into my own competence and understanding of open source software
platforms; outsourcing; Internet marketing and the nature of the
Internet in general. Collaboration in the highest terms—by strangers
for strangers! For free! Awesome!
Dreams are the vision of all that is possible. Without dreams there
are no realities. Dreams hold us steady while all that is in the chaos
of creation sorts itself. Like an epic voyage, my adventure in fulfilling
my vision has led me on a circuitous route to the center of my own
being. Opportunities that I dreamed of years ago are now coming forth
because all the elements for real success had to evolve until the timing
was right. And that time is now.
Eighteen-hour days? Oh yeah. But when you are doing what you love,
they are not eighteen-hour days of slugging or slavery during which
you work for someone else’s dream. They are inspired and inspiring
days that often run into nights. Dreams can wake you up to the most
amazing solutions to a nagging problem. Often a solution that defies
logic—and often a solution that you could never get from someone
Spend your time, not your money. I had to nearly exhaust my capital
before I figured out that self-proclaimed experts were rarely that.
Especially in the Internet world, which changes in a heartbeat. Being
of a trusting nature and deferring to an authority leads an entrepreneur
on the downhill spiral of, “An innocent and his money are soon parted!”
Take the time to learn what your business connects to and relies on so
that you too can spot a scammer.
How do I measure success? I am happy, confident in my own abilities,
and have something to make the world a brighter place. I have gained
knowledge and wisdom. When will I be rich? I am enriched in self-love
and self-respect—can I ever be poor? Even if it’s not okay (by whatever
standards I might set), it will be “okay”—it will be more of my own
beautiful life unfolding! When do you give up on yourself? Never!
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