Here’s the thing. I don’t think we can strive to have a healthy and positive community outside of business without first cultivating a similar experience within the businesses we are building. It wasn’t too long ago that business used to get done during 18 holes of golf. That’s changing. What I’m seeing today is people baring their souls like never before, and that’s leading to people doing business with people they actually like, trust and respect. Entrepreneurs today want to be honest rather than cunning. But to even get to that point, you have to open up your heart, and that level of vulnerability is new to business culture.
I think that’s important because, as entrepreneurs, our businesses are our life. The separation is so marginal that it often doesn’t exist. And the only way that can be healthy is if the values we strive for in our personal lives are also what we aspire to in our organizations. I wouldn’t spend a bunch of time with someone I dislike in my personal life just because they can do something material for me. It wouldn’t be worth it. That same level of stringency needs to be applied to our business so we can better avoid burnout, anxiety and the inherent stress that comes with entrepreneurship.
Don’t Be Afraid To Explore Outside Your Comfort Zone
At the same time, building a community outside of business is a necessity. The experiences you go through in your leisure time inform your ability to interpret different situations, and that includes in business. I recently came back from a trip to Israel through this program called Reality. It was essentially 50 thought leaders brought together from all over the world to discuss progressive topics. I can talk about the amazing moments on that trip — riding ATVs on the Syrian border with bombs going off in the background or crossing over into Palestine — but the experience that has had the most profound impact on me is the relationships I formed with people from that group.
To share such a deep connection of experiences with these incredible people in such a mystical land is something I’ll never forget. It’s something none of us who were present have forgotten and we’ve carried that experience back to our homes with us. The best part is, we still talk every day. They’ve become a part of my new family. That wouldn’t have been possible if all of us hadn’t opened our hearts up to be vulnerable to the different ideas, perspectives and methods of communication specific to everyone on that trip. It didn’t matter that we all differed in our thoughts or approach to certain issues; just being open-minded enough to welcome all those differences made us better people and drew us closer together.
I had a similar experience traveling to different Arab states on behalf of the U.S. State Department many years ago. I remember visiting these neighborhoods and being invited to have coffee by random residents or feeling so much more comfortable walking the streets of Kuwait than I did the streets of New York. Bonding with people in areas that most Americans at that time wouldn’t dare visit only added new perspectives and allowed me to welcome new friends into my life. That trip also altered the way I thought about an entire group of people and an entire region of the world. And all it took was meeting these people in person — talking with them face to face and experiencing their culture firsthand, without any bias from different media outlets.
Personal Experiences Help Inform Business Decisions
I say this as someone who is a natural introvert. I’m surrounded by people every day, but it probably surprises you to know that I feel most comfortable reading a book by myself. Being interactive with others is something I have to push myself to do. So, I get it. It’s not always easy to make those connections because you always want to protect your space, your energy, your family and yourself as a whole. But once in a while, try the opposite. Try letting down those walls and opening up just a little bit to let someone else in.
Earlier I said the distinction between your personal life and business life is marginal. That means welcoming these types of experiences in your personal life and even seeking them out should inform how you think when it comes to something like team building. Businesses that are able to innovate quickly and sustain a culture of curiosity have a measurable competitive advantage.
It should also inform how you engage with your colleagues and employees. Whether you are in a leadership position or not, it falls on your shoulders to understand that even if your career is a major part of your life, it is, indeed, only part of your life. Don’t be afraid to take random days off to visit parts of your own city you’ve never been to. Make it a point to insert yourself into one new peer group every year. New perspectives mean new ideas, and constantly putting yourself in a position to learn accelerates your overall growth.
These experiences are meant to change your life, which will naturally impact your approach to business. And when I say that, understand the communities we build outside of business should be appreciated for what they are. We shouldn’t be looking for life experiences solely to elevate our business. We should search for life opportunities that elevate who we are as people, and allowing ourselves to connect with communities outside of our businesses is a great way to make that happen.