Over the past few years, there have been a number of hard struggles within my personal life with extended family. As I have participated in the aging of my parents, my siblings and I have been entwined in the challenges of maintaining a long-held, family-operated business. On many occasions, I have found myself having a conversation between my head and my heart, and it always goes like this…
I say to myself, “I am not sure this is the best move for me…”
Self says back, “Do it anyway…”
I say to myself, “I may even have others mad at me for doing it…”
Self says back, “Do it anyway… they will see the right-ness in the action…”
I say to myself, “What about those who will laugh and make fun of me…”
Self says back, “Do it anyway…do you really care what others think?”
I say to myself, “My kids are already upset with how much time I devote to work and extended family…”
Self says back, “Do it anyway…it will model commitment and perseverance.”
I say to myself, “I may lose all that I’ve invested in it if it doesn’t work out…”
Self says back, “Do it anyway….risk is a part of life and reward only comes with risk…”
I say to myself, “I’m not sure that I’m smart enough…”
Self says back, “Do it anyway….you didn’t know how to walk before you took your first step…”
There are so many reasons to not take risks in life and business. Even when you know, in your heart, taking certain actions are the “right thing to do” or the “smart thing to do” or even the “most financially prudent thing to do”, still, taking risks seems to be the “hardest thing to do” right now. Freedom to independently think and act is under attack.
I have personally found that there are far more people willing to tell us why we shouldn’t proceed, even at the slightest hint of risk involved above the norms of the day. Of course, the “norms of the day” are a key element of how others see risk. What does that mean? Risk today, with 9% unemployment, is very different than risk in 2005.
I am convinced that when you start having inner conversations with yourself, like the one above, it is your intuition speaking to you. There may be several reasons your inner self is speaking to you, such as the protective “fight or flight” response that is so deeply genetically encoded in our being. Equally, it might be the opportunistic “hunt or starve” response in the “survival of the fittest” environment. Or, it just might be our unconscious acknowledgement of “right and wrong” playing upon our psyche. But, it knows you must act!
My mother used to say, “your inner voice exists to keep you alive!”. However, I’ve learned to distinguish between the inner voice and the selfish self. Answer a few “rational” questions in testing your motivations. Are you considering this risky move because of selfish desires or in order to protect, feed and clothe your family? Are you considering this risky move because of ego or an unwillingness to act in reasonable ways based on today’s economy? Are you just angry someone told you “no”?
It should be obvious which reasons belong to the selfish self.
There are risks taken to protect and advance, and there are risks taken as purely a reaction to selfish self-interests. We are in the middle of dramatic social and economic change. For the first time in my working career, hard choices and careful introspection is required IN ALL BUSINESS AND PERSONAL ACTIVITIES.
We must recapture our soul and spirit! The real beauty of America is in its ability to adapt and change. As a society, we have been willing to do what was necessary to survive and then place great bets to thrive and grow. Within each of our families, the American spirit has brought us through recessions, depressions, war and great prosperity. In our businesses, it has been the willingness to “tighten the belt” when necessary, but still find ways to be creative and innovative. It is in our free elections, that we choose our destiny!
It is now the time for yet another generation of Americans to rekindle our inner spirit. The inner self is speaking…and I believe it is speaking to more than just a few.