After many years, I attended a Startup event a couple of weeks ago. It was a simple yet well-orchestrated event with early startups presenting their ideas passionately – each believing that they have the next best thing to change the world.
But lo, when the demos started, I caught myself experiencing a strange mental pattern. With each demo, my mind started rejecting them – finding reasons as to why that idea or product will not succeed. My mind failed to see what these entrepreneurs experienced or wanted the world to experience.
Flashback 15 years ago! I was in their same shoes and same mental state – believed that my idea was the best and I was out to change the world. So what happened here!!!
Thankfully my practice of mindfulness helped saved the night for me. I caught my mind making such judgments and promptly focused on what was driving it to do so. It dawned on me, that my path in life over the past many years had colored my view of the present. The past was controlling my present – experience had made me a skeptic! It gave me the insight that my experience was a costly tradeoff, and it had robbed me of wisdom and many vital aspects that were integral to my enjoying the present:
- The Idea of Possibility: One of the key strengths we all have as a rookie is the thought that whatever we think is a possibility. I still remember starting out as an inexperienced sales person in my 20s – trying to sell my startup idea to companies. At that time, the thought that whatever I was doing was an impossibility never arose. It was during that time, that my most innovative ideas came to fruition! Unorthodox partnerships, innovative bootstraps, and marquee clients. During all those years, never was there a thought nor a whisper that the endeavor we were after was a fool’s dream. Such was the openness of inexperience!
- The Naiveté of Ability: A fresh kid out of school with a few years of corporate experience and no family business background in startups! That should have convinced any right-minded person that we were punching above our weight. No idea of managing people, let alone clients and finances. But interestingly, the lack of baggage or ability turned out to be a fertile ground for exploring new strengths. That’s when I figured out that my ability to ideate, connect and communicate was a key strength that I had overlooked all this life. This experience gave me the confidence to acknowledge the abilities that were buried deep within me. Like they say, a blank page s the best way to start a story. And for me the naive assumptions about my abilities allowed me to discover who I am and what good lies buried within me.
- The Presence of “NO-Fear”: I wish I could stand here and say that the venture went on to become a flourishing success. It definitely had its great moments (maybe even days:), but inexperience took its toll and it was shuttered in a few years. But in that failure, I learnt my biggest lesson – that I was not afraid to fail. In fact even today, that experience stands amongst my best in life – all the way from the people I met, the things I learnt and the roads I traveled. In all my years of corporate life post that, i haven’t been able to replicate the learning I have had in that few years of starting up.
An important learning is that when we step out of our comfort zone and forget who we are, that’s when we give ourselves room to discover who we can be! The startup may not have been a success by traditional metrics, but for me, it was what defined my outlook in life and created a pivotal experience for what I am today!
As I stand here today, i am very grateful over the past few years of mindfulness practice that i have been able to discover the wisdom of “inexperience” And can only hope that i don’t let experience rob me of my possibility, ability and no-fear whenever I embark on anything new in life! Or to paraphrase Shunryu Suzuki – Begin each day with a Beginners Mind!