Last week, I spent the day at my favorite country hotel in Hobbitshire.
It was a Wednesday morning.
Some friends were staying there, so we planned to meet up.
My friends had just finished a successful product launch, and were treating themselves to a week of luxury – spa, wine, afternoon strolls through the deer park.
(It’s a phenomenal place.)
We got lucky – the weather was perfect.
We spent the morning wandering through the orchards. Catching up. Spotting deer. Trading stories about learning gardening… and failing miserably.
Later, we adjourned for lunch in the atrium...
5-star food and a perfectly chilled bottle of Clare Valley Riesling.
It was a perfect day.
But my friends were distracted.
I could see their minds were elsewhere.
They’d been working hard. They’d grown their business. They’d made millions.
And now – they were thinking about what’s coming next.
How will they spend time? How will they use money?
Big questions. No easy answers.
Their minds were on the future.
“We came here to chill out, but we really need to sit down and do some thinking, figure out what it’s all for!”
I said nothing.
I looked around at our idyllic surroundings
I thought to myself:
Last month, I was in the Canary Islands for our StoryLearning team retreat.
At the end, I stayed on for a couple of days.
A good friend happened to be on the same island, so we hung out.
It was a fantastic weekend…
We rented a car and drove around the volcanic island.
Ice-cold beers on the beach.
Warm evenings, fabulous sea-food, and all the time in the world.
My friend works online, and has been doing well. But he’s been having an extreme reaction to the “digital isolation” felt by many these days.
We’ve never been more connected.
We’ve never been so isolated.
As we tucked into the seafood platter, looking over the marina, he was distracted.
“I’m an IRL fundamentalist.”
(That’s in-real-life, by the way.)
It’s a great catchphrase. I think stands a chance of trending.
He explained how all this online stuff is killing our minds, and what we need is more in-person connection.
“I need to do different work. I need to do something with real people, in real life.”
Then, I asked:
“So, what does an IRL fundamentalist do?”
He looked around the marina.
Beer in hand.
Sun setting over the ocean.
“This, I suppose.”
Earlier this year, an old friend came to stay with his family.
It was the first time catching up in years.
Our kids are the same age, and they got on like a house on fire.
We explored the beaches of Hobbitshire in the glorious winter sunshine. Spent long afternoons at home. Drank good wine.
One evening, my friend and I were standing around the kitchen island chatting, working our way through preparing a curry recipe, watching the kids playing across the room.
(It was an impromptu rendition of Peter Pan. I took breaks from chopping onions to play the crocodile.)
But my friend was distracted.
Recently, he got started online and has been busy building his vision of the future - membership sites, paid ads, webinars.
He’s going hard, and he’s doing great.
That month, he’d made $7,000.
I was thrilled for him – that’s a great outcome after less than 12 months.
(Took me a lot longer to make $7k in one month!)
“You must be thrilled!”
“Well, yeah. But what I really want is to make that $7k every month. Then I’d be happy!”
I thought for a moment.
I asked him what life would be like if he was happy.
Looked around at our kids playing.
West-African music playing on the stereo, wine in hand, cooking together, the whole evening ahead of us.
Buddhism has a mantra:
Attachment is the root of all suffering.
What are we attached to?
As entrepreneurs, we are attached to one thing:
Typically, this looks like: “When X, then Y.”
- When I make $10k a month, then I’ll be able to enjoy life
- When I get my hours down to 4 hs per day, then I’ll be happy
- When I sell my business, then I’ll have made it
There’s one problem with being attached to future outcomes…
You never arrive.
Don’t get me wrong – you will achieve your goals.
The trouble is, by the time you’ve achieved your goals, they’re not enough for you any more.
The goalposts always move.
You'll want something more.
The risk is by time you reach your destination you discover, too late, that you forgot to enjoy the ride.
They say comparison is the thief of joy.
But for me, attachment is the thief of joy.
Attachment to future outcomes.
In the three stories above, my friends were all so anchored in the future, that they were unable to enjoy the magic of the place they found themselves in.
And there is only one answer to the attachment problem:
Learning to be present in all you do is the ultimate secret to fully enjoying the experience of entrepreneurship.
When you’re fully present, it’s impossible to be attached to the future.
And when you can exist in the present, the answer to the question “What’s it all for?” becomes blindingly obvious:
There is nothing else.
Right here, right now.
(It’s the Mexican fisherman parable.)
There are many was to be present:
- Listen to your interlocutor with attention and inquisitiveness
- Fully taste every sip of your wine
- Complete mundane work tasks with curiosity and integrity
- Notice the texture of the light filtering through the leaves
- Remind yourself that this is a unique moment, never to be repeated
All of this is fleeting.
But life is nothing more than a series of fleeting moments.
If you’re lucky, you’ll get to experience a lot of them.
You Are Not Your Thoughts
As you try to be present, thoughts of business will enter your mind.
Interrupting your peace.
- What should we do with the money?
- How can I have more IRL experiences?
- What do I need to do to increase monthly revenue?
“Why are these thoughts disturbing my peace? I’m trying to be present!”
Does this mean you’ve failed?
Not at all.
Thoughts of work are simply a self-protection mechanism.
Thinking and striving got you where you are today. So, continuing to think is your mind’s way of keeping you safe.
Your mind says:
“If I keep thinking, I’ll spot any danger round the corner!”
So, you will think.
But you must understand:
You are not your thoughts. You are the one who observes them.
When thoughts of work cross your mind, it’s ok to acknowledge them.
Notice that they’re there, then, simply allow them to pass on by, as you return to the present.
My world changed when I understood this, so I'll repeat it:
You are not your thoughts. You are the one who observes them.
It’s scary at first.
Because of the self-protection mechanism in your mind.
But, after a while of practising non-attachment, you realise that your business won’t actually come crumbling down if you don’t jump on every thought that crosses your mind.
And, with the confidence that you’re safe, you can begin to step back.
The thoughts will still appear.
But it gets easier to accept them, not react to them, and allow them to pass on by. Leaving you gradually freer to exist fully in the present.
So that, when you’re strolling through the park on a Wednesday afternoon, with beautiful weather and wonderful company…
And you find your mind intruding with the question:
"What's it all for?"
You’ll already know the answer:
CASE STUDY: Blueprint Of A $10M Online Education Business:
Join my free newsletter for online educators and I'll send you the case study immediately...
We will protect your data in accordance with our data policy!