The Soulo-preneur

In the sweet and hot days of summer, I see structures dissolving, like a sand castle in an approaching tide. I see new opportunities being created, playfully, as we build anew. What’s being swept away? What are you developing now? How are you riding the waves?

Globally, in the past ten years, we’ve gone through a tremendous amount of melting and reshaping as we’ve weathered the storms of both societal and personal change. It feels to me this pace of change has vastly accelerated in the last three to five years. I’m willing to say we are in the midst of a paradigm shift.

What is different about your life since 2005? Since 2010? For me, ten years ago I was living in Minneapolis, working at a large company, was married, and had just started to meditate and practice yoga. Funny how a small side hobby became the cornerstone of my life and all of the other roles and circumstances disappeared.

Everyone knows change is constant. But what do YOU think? Are we in a new era?

In a recent video, I describe these sweeping changes as the wave of the soulo-preneur. I believe we have an opportunity to catch a wave of greater freedom and impact as entrepreneurship becomes accepted, applauded, and in many ways, required. I also believe we have an opportunity to catch a wave of greater fulfillment as we listen to the call of our soul and pursue our dreams.

Many top thinkers in entrepreneurship believe there are no more stable “jobs”. Scratching your head on that one? Read The End of Jobs: Money, Meaning and Freedom without the 9 to 5 by Taylor Pearson. According to Pearson, and others like Robert Kiyosaki of Rich Dad, Poor Dad, working for yourself will be the new norm, and the only way to create sustainable wealth and health. What better way, as well, to create a life of meaning and purpose?

Let’s step back on shore for a moment. What might demonstrate we are in a paradigm shift?

First, I believe the broad industry and economic changes of the past seven years provide compelling evidence. David Shilling, a top banker in the mid 2000s, witnessed the implosion of the housing and financial markets from the inside out. During the booming sub-prime years, he worked in the mortgage business, at one of the king pins in the industry, H&R Block Mortgage/Option One.

“I was the #1 banker nationwide in 2005 and sat next to the CEO at the Gala Dinner in Switzerland that year.  But, I knew something wasn't right with the business model.  And, my gut instinct proved to be correct.”

I was in business school in 2008 when the financial industry began to collapse. Big firms and investment banks froze hiring or offered fewer juicy cases and roles. New grads had at once fewer standard opportunities and also more freedom towards non-traditional options. I turned down an offer to work full time in management consulting in New York. Instead, I moved to Toronto to advise the CEO of the global non-profit Right to Play. After the mortgage crisis, David took a job at Goldline in Santa Monica. In this role, he saw the billions of dollars of fiat money that consumers exchanged into gold and silver, beginning in fall of 2008, when the Dow Jones went from 14,000 to 6,500.

 “I was in the middle of two very big industries very close to the center of operations at both.  Now, I work for a responsible mortgage company which combats credit card debt by wrapping it into personal loans which amortize in 3-5 years.”

What once felt like a safe bet – expensive degrees, large mortgages, and significant debt – is now being questioned more frequently. What’s more, we are often realizing we might not actually need those expensive investments in order to be happy or successful. It’s almost a greater badge of honor in the start-up world to have dropped out of a prestigious school than to have graduated from one.

The second factor I take as evidence of a paradigm shift is the influence of technology. While technological advancements have always created change, the resources now available to the public are mind blowing. The laptop on which I write this blog was only $239. Mobile banking, microloans, YouTube, Etsy, PayPal, Udemy and Amazon allow anyone to start a business at low cost. Furthermore, Fivvr, elance, 99 Designs and others have created a global network of skilled and unskilled labor to get a new business off the ground.

According to David, on a recent phone call, “The question to ask yourself is: ‘If I am willing to believe post-WWII structures are dissolving and we are in a new paradigm, how do I move forward?’ Remember, like Darwin said, ‘it is not the smartest species to survive, it is the one most able to adapt.’ I have friends like Josh Plotkin who are thriving in the new economy. Josh moved to Brazil when he was 20, learned Portuguese, taught himself how to build websites while he was teaching English, and has now built up a skill set that allows him to live and work anywhere in the world. He blogs about his journey at BrazilianGringo.com”

Practically, how might this work?

First, as professor Michael Chu explained in the Business at the Base of the Pyramid course at Harvard, “beware of your fixed costs.” The more we have reoccurring expenses, the more we need a high paying, “stable” job. The more fixed costs we incur, the more likely we are to take a position for money, and the more entrapped we may get trying to have it all (houses, cars, boats, daily Starbucks). In yoga, we call minimizing your fixed costs “aparigraha” or non-grasping. “To one firmly established in non-grasping, all knowledge comes.” – Yoga Sutra 2.39 as translated by Satchidinanda

David reiterates this point. “Given what happened in 2008, it should be clear now that individuals need to protect themselves by traveling light (low overhead) and being careful before buying assets that are highly leveraged (cars, credit cards, overvalued homes). The existing systems can collapse on citizens, while we double down on our national debt to keep the game going again.  This is the risk in our economy which otherwise has many great aspects we can benefit from.”

Minimizing your fixed costs is only half of the equation. The powerful second part is consistent, yet diversified, revenue, and the adaptability to thrive during change. I like to think of this as moving forward, in the time of the soulo-preneur, through mobility: in your career, your geography, and your mindset.

Career mobility looks like continual skill acquisition and pursuing multiple income generating activities. In Los Angeles this happens all the time. A biotech executive who started a mixology bar. A guitar player who launched a production company. A massage therapist who ran successful online yoga trainings to thousands around the world. Even without a big idea, you can supplement your income with Uber and its associated business model spin-offs.

Geographic mobility looks like telecommuting as well as consulting gigs (check out Hourly Nerd) and other short term opportunities outside your current location. AirBnB supports this with fairly cheap monthly and weekly rentals – and you can rent your place out too, sometimes saving money in the deal. Or create your own real estate empire using AirBnB alone. The ultimate geographic mobility is building a business that allows you to work from anywhere. Ecocapsule pods now exist where you can literally live on the top of a mountain with solar power alone.

Finally, mental mobility looks like self-awareness and adaptation. Most of my coaching clients are seeking a change in mindset – they view their attitude as the key element in reaching their goals. I facilitate transformation through inquiry and tools like meditation. Curious to learn more? Find 60+ videos and techniques for meditation and self-awareness on the Executive Sutra YouTube channel.

What happens when we become more mobile, collectively? The need for firm systems and structures decreases. Adaptability and real-time information become paramount.

What we believe, collectively, can create mobility in our systems, as evidenced by the financial markets. Innovative companies like iSENTIUM now monitor data across social media to capture the popular sentiment about a company or brand. These aggregated sentiments can actually shed light on stock values and potential shifts. Who would have guessed that the stock market was so tightly linked to Twitter!

As you manage your fixed costs and become more professionally, geographically, and mentally mobile, much inner change is required. Inner growth and resiliency make it possible to stay fluid without feeling out of control.

I believe our paradigm shift relies on the combination of outer or collective change and inner or personal change. It starts with self-awareness (called self-study in the yoga sutras) and ends with action. Awareness includes becoming conscious of your motivations, existing beliefs, talents, dreams and networks. Awareness is an intangible skill, like emotional intelligence or EQ. You could even call it spiritual intelligence as coined by Danah Zohar in her book Rewiring the Corporate Brain. I like to think of this concept as Self-Intelligence (higher Self, or soul). I see this Self-awareness as a critical complement to our EQ and IQ. Perhaps as technology becomes smarter, SQ will become our most important gift to the world.

This week, I heard Blake Mycoskie, founder of Tom’s, speak at the Northwestern Mutual annual meeting. A powerful takeaway he shared was “an idea is only good if it’s followed by action.” As we reflect and build our SQ, we must act. Learn to write code, talk to a potential customer, or start your own YouTube channel. Sign up for an art class. Put your home on AirBnB and move to the woods for a month ala Thoreau at Walden. Thousands of options exist. What are you waiting for to bring your new idea to life?

Because of low barriers to entry and the subsequent proliferation of concepts, products and services, your idea must stand out. This is where the meaning, the greater significance or “Soul” aspect of what you do, becomes critical. Customers trust and gravitate towards authentic brands.

It’s time to do some digging:

  • What are you good at?

  • What do you love to do?

  • What do people instinctively ask you about?

  • If you had $10 million dollars, what would you do?

  • What are your values?

  • What are you willing to suffer for?

Related to this last point, I would get up at 5am (and often I do) to teach yoga. While awakening pre-dawn is a sacrifice, teaching is my passion. Thankfully, I’ve been able to merge this passion with my experience in business and corporate environments. Not sure what to pursue? Start by asking, “what two things in my life can I combine to create something new?”

If you’re looking for a way to get started as a soulo-preneuer, or simply some new tools to thrive in these times of change, check out the recording of my Dream Destination webinar. I coach clients through a signature seven week program to identify your passion and bring it to life. Start building a bridge today towards greater freedom and success and share your gifts with the world. Learn more by following @ExecutiveSutra on social media or email me at JessicaSchmidt@ExecutiveSutra.com.

In this new paradigm, I have a feeling we will continually be building and getting swept away and building again. It is a perfect ecosystem for testing, creating, and modifying new products and services as we listen more attentively to our customers and to the yearnings of our soul. We are becoming more independent and yet also more connected, more interdependent. Our simultaneous uniqueness and unity are treasured aspects of yoga philosophy (and most wisdom traditions) and a reflection of the rise of our collective, embodied consciousness. In the wave of soulo-preneurs we may work for ourselves and our soul but we still need each other.  

Surf’s Up!

Jessica