Anxiety

Our mind is divine. It gives everyone super powers and the dots we electrochemically connect makes us human. Such biological capacity allows us to achieve extraordinary things. At the same time, this mysterious grey matter can also hold us back, even cause havoc.

Anxiety is assuming failure in advance. As a mental cousin to fear, anticipation, worrying, and perhaps even desire, anxiety is like an unspoken agreement you make with yourself to be unhappy until you get what you want. While some may argue that this exhausting emotion is all in your head, the way anxiety effects your body can be absolutely real.

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“With great power comes great responsibility.” -Uncle Ben, Spider-Man

The connected era has made the world smarter, stronger, and more efficient, but the pressure of never-ending progress leaves us vulnerable to fear and anxiety. For those who pursue greatness (which I might suggest is anyone reading this), the more we try to achieve, the tighter we wind the strings of life. When harnessed, this creates strength, artistry, grit, and persistence. As the tension tightens however, there’s bound to be a break. Being mindful of your personal bandwidth will help reduce the frequency and severity of such breakdowns, but it seems impossible to completely avoid anxiety.

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Accepting that anxiety is inevitable, may be a secret to finding equanimity.

The most common way we attempt to manage such angst, is to stop the pain by seeking reassurance. The nourishment of overthinking every scenario in an unknown future may satisfy  the moment, but scratching this itch usually makes things worse. Even if we answer every possible question, the willingness to indulge the worry sets a precedent that keeps you coming back to what can become an endless loop.

It’s much harder, but an alternate approach is to acknowledge the suffering. Don’t run from it. Appreciate the relentless internal narrative you’re dealing with. Breathe. Be thankful for having something you care this much about. Find peace knowing you’ve done your best to tip odds in your favor, but invite doubt and welcome an opportunity to be wrong. The anxiety is here and it’s dramatic, but it’s also normal. Let thoughts float by, focus your attention on what’s good, and allow time to heal the pain. Yes, this is like letting a forest fire burn without soothing it with water. It will get wild at first, but eventually burn itself out. The scorched land is then ripe for renewal and less likely to burn again. When we acknowledge anxiety this way, the resulting clarity provides an awareness that helps us understand this energy. Our courage also helps to break the cycle and over time, often reduces the frequency of such misery.

The ability to appreciate anxiety, an eagerness to lean on those who support you, and confidence in knowing the temporary pain will pass, allows the mind to need less dramatic swings to stay centered.

Listen

Listening is louder than it sounds.

Most entrepreneurs like to talk and the more obsessed we are, the more vociferous we seem to get. Idea machines must be willing to share compelling stories, but listening is a key part of any transmission. This may seem obvious, but with precious air time up for grabs and knowing so much about our own interests, listening can devolve into feeling like a required distraction.

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Hearing is passive. Listening is active.

As we guide people through the layers of understanding, active listening forms a bond much faster than forcing yourself to be heard. The fear of not having time to deliver your message will linger, but when we truly tune into what another person is saying, it shows we care. It also helps us better harmonize our thoughts within the moment and counters the common mistake of overloading others with too much numbing details all at once. Knowing each conversation is part of a broader relationship and community-building journey, good listeners are almost always given a chance to make a bigger impact.

Ready for an experiment? The next time you meet someone new, embrace your inner scientist. Set your introverted/extroverted mindset aside and focus your attention on asking as many thoughtful questions as you can. The less you talk, the better. This will feel awkward if you just fire question after question, so be concise with each response, then return to more thoughtful questions for a more natural interaction. Consider expanding this social experiment by purposely doing this throughout an entire networking event. Remember who you talked with and track how the listening-focused conversations evolve. Over time, how do these relationships built on listening, compare to others where you’ve been more outspoken? Here are a few tactics to support your practice.

  • Center your internal attention.
  • Stay engaged with eye contact.
  • Use jarring questions to dodge small talk.
  • Don’t interrupt or jump to conclusions.
  • Occasionally paraphrase what was said.
  • Avoid the urge to make it about you.
  • Ask curious questions to go deeper.
  • Exit gracefully, without a sense of rush.

This type of active listening will extend your ability to hear more, but also make your responses more in-tune with what others are thinking, versus always trying to prove your point. Selflessness may keep a conversation from landing exactly where you want in that moment, but as you move from one topic to the next, you’ll learn how others work. When done well, an unspoken bond forms. This synchronization creates space to explore more directions you’d like to take future conversations, but now with the priceless ingredient of shared enthusiasm.

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Listening within a support network ignites optimism, connection, and motivation. A healthy balance is to also listen to your challenge network, which keeps us intellectually humble and rooted in reality.

Linchpin

We are often told being extraordinary makes us special. We each write our own story in life, but as Neil deGrasse Tyson suggests, perhaps the sameness of our cosmic composition is what makes each of us fundamentally special from start to finish? This eliminates the need for permission and invites us all to be remarkable.

Our connected era has evolved society away from the industrial age. The factory (existing organizations that have an established system in place) and replaceable cogs that follow instructions to keep the vast machine churning has faded in favor of those who unite tribes, are champions of change, and willing to make a ruckus. Back in 2010, Seth Godin gave those who choose to be indispensable a name: Linchpins.

Linchpins are artists who consciously care enough to go beyond mediocre. Linchpins solve interesting problems and make judgement calls without a map. They welcome weird. They are scientists who stay curious. They are generous and passionate about the art of connection. Through an inclusive, positive-sum lens, linchpins lead and let others lead without seeking credit. They are fearless, in that they are unafraid of things they don’t need to be afraid of. Linchpins leave resumes behind with work that transcends time as they build at speed of trust and relentlessly #givefirst, knowing that accelerating others generates unmatched energy.

The skills of a linchpin are hard to quantify with tradition metrics, but a willingness to bring your true genius to work is an open invitation for us all. Over time, the linchpin’s art often becomes meaningful to many, which makes work less about trading time for money. In this centered state of career nirvana, nobody can compete with being you. Cogs in a machine are replaceable and can therefore be paid less. When you are a linchpin, you have leverage and there is no option but to reward you for work that is a creative expression rooted in lasting purpose.

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“Leaders don’t get a map or a set of rules. Living life without a map requires a different attitude. It requires you to be a linchpin.” -Seth Godin

If indispensability is so accessible, why doesn’t everyone accept the invitation to be a linchpin?

One primal reason is the indoctrination of an education system that was designed to produce factory workers. From an early age, we are brainwashed to pursue perfection, to color in the lines, to follow instructions, to care what others think, and to define success by worldly consumption. Educational transformations are all around us and great teachers willing to be linchpins are activating students to go beyond the system. Instead of molding obedient factory workers who’s only hoping to be taken care of by factories built on promises of the past, we can teach people to take initiative. To invite doubt. To passionately explore one’s superpowers. To solve interesting problems while leading us with reverse charisma and confident humility.

Another reason why some stay complaisant, is the outdated promise of an American Dream. Gone are the days of clocking in on time and keeping your head down just long enough to climb a ladder built to resist change. The factory worker’s willingness to play it safe may extend a sense of temporary security, but this is a choice that makes you easy to replace with cheaper labor, faster tools, and advancing technology. Whether it’s fueling innovative action as an intrapreneur at an organization that prefers linchpins over factory workers, diversifying your career portfolio with an inventive side hustle, or building pain-killing projects as an entrepreneur, we may only live once and life is too short not to enjoy your work.

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What makes you indispensable?

Perpetual

It’s hard to stop anything that repeats so frequently it seems endless. There’s infinite ways perpetuity could be good or bad, but never ending happiness, trust, love, hard work, fun, generosity, action, wonder, and learning seem like safe bets.

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It’s not whether you know how, it’s whether you will.

Being inspired by so many remarkable people (like you), has instilled a lasting appreciation for consistency within the entrepreneurial lifestyle. Perpetual feels like a cousin to persistence, so without airdropping the final chapter, here’s a short excerpt from the closing moments of You Don’t Need This Book: Entrepreneurship in the Connected Era.

As entrepreneurs traverse through the unknown, setbacks are inevitable. Each conquered setback makes an entrepreneur more resilient. As resiliency bonds with experiential knowledge, focused determination makes setbacks less distracting. Eventually, setbacks become more like interesting challenges for problem-solving entrepreneurs. This hardened mindset welcomes endless suffering. Such willingness to suffer unlocks a key to entrepreneurship. Passion.

Passion fuels persistence, and persistence is a wild card. Passionate persistence combined with obsession, allows anyone to achieve entrepreneurial success.

You’ll build when others don’t. You’ll savor projects longer and you’ll fight through dips that made others quit. You’ll be comfortable with uncomfortable and you’ll enjoy making a ruckus every step of the way.

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Belief in one’s self is contagious.

Dark Matter

Something that looks like nothing can still create gravitational effects.

Invisible forces may not get as much attention as the shining stars of our evening sky, but they fill our universe and impact everything. This metaphorical dark matter may be a misguided mindset. Maybe it’s an experience that altered the trajectory of your life. Perhaps it’s a habit, a relationship, or a mysterious feeling you often sense, but don’t yet understand?

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“The universe is under no obligation to make sense to you.” –@NeilTyson

No matter how your own dark matter manifests itself, the gravity it wields will attract the light of your life. As the renewing energies of Spring begin to bloom, we’re invited to look up and reflect on dark matter that may be pulling us in the wrong direction. Even the slightest reduction on a negative charge, creates a refreshing void that welcomes positive growth.

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Let’s stir in a friendly welcome and thanks again to all who tap into this weekly blog for entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs, educators, students, and community builders! After the release of YDNTB in 2021, the soon-to-be minted NFT collection commemorating its one year anniversary, and now 67 consecutive weeks writing into these Roasted Reflections, my hope is that this innovative energy keeps us all creating art in ways that feel like play to you, but looks like work to others. Stay curious and keep building!