Pointing yourself towards ‘True North’ and not ‘Magnetic North’ is critical to getting yourself where you want to go, says Sandy Geyer.
For business leaders to find their True North we must facilitate two critical processes early on in our business growth.
1) The first is Focused Direction towards what we want: We are all pretty good at providing for our needs but not always so good at providing for our wants. In most cases, we are completely out of touch with our wants before we leave school. This is for good reason. The majority of us are raised and schooled to seek security, be content with “a roof over our heads” and to head for a career that promises to provide for our family. And on the surface, these are good teachings but the problem is that they simply belong to a different age. We now live in a world that needs us to be making a contribution far greater than just what serves our needs. The good news is that getting in touch with our wants is a magical, transformational and hugely rewarding process, which works to drive us towards a greater contribution. We just have to start with a “what I want” list and go from there. The Vision Model in ‘Path of the Lion’ guides this simple process.
2) The second critical process is the resilience we need to have to hang on through the tough times: We can’t order “resilience” at a drive - thru, we have to build it from within. I heard a comment recently that the word resilience is a relatively new one and not everyone understands it. The best definition I have ever heard is that resilience is simply a matter of hanging on until after all the others have given up. The challenge for building resilience in today’s world is that with the ever-growing culture of instant gratification, it’s difficult to nurture; and for the younger generations it’s not being developed through their formative years at all.
For this business article I chose to share the article below with you that was published in a Motivating your Mind globally compiled e-Book for 2015. Many of us find ourselves in this space and I thought you might enjoy sharing my journey from “security” to “contribution” which I needed to make in my own mind before I could take the real physical steps. I have never looked back but developing the resilience I needed to keep me going was essential, and its foundation is to be found in this story.
150 Fax Machines
It is April 1996 and I am in my office in Cape Town with a panoramic view of Table Mountain. A heavily pregnant corporate sales executive I am on the phone to a client I have been visiting for over two years with no returns. Today he wants to know if he can order 150 fax machines. I say, “I will call you right back” and go bounding up the office stairs, two at a time, seven month pregnancy as forgotten as the sight of my toes, to burst rudely into my boss’s office with my request. He dials Johannesburg immediately. A flurry of activity ensues and it appears there are 165 fax machines in stock on the system. Yes, head office say, you can have 150 fax machines and WELL DONE!
“The faxes just disappeared off the system,” my boss says quietly when I am back in his office later that day with the last of the paperwork for his signature. “A tender from Zimbabwe came in shortly after your order and they had to make a call. The Zimbabwe tender won. I am sorry”. I am back in my office. I pick up the phone to my husband. “ I am starting my own business,” I say.
“You are what?” my husband is shocked. But don’t something like 90% of all new businesses fail?” He continues to reason with me frantically until I promise him I will reconsider. I have no intention whatsoever of reconsidering.
Eighteen months into the new business our accountant tells us that on paper we are bankrupt. We change accountants. It takes us six years to break even and eight years to become profitable.
Eighteen years on and I have the privilege of leading four successful entities across three countries. I have come to understand that whilst security remains an illusion in any profession, choice is a real life incentive. I get to choose when and where I work, and with whom. And I get to choose where my family live.
I also get to choose where the 150-fax machines go.
Being an entrepreneur is not a comfortable place to be. During our formative years I was in a constant state of anxiety. There seemed to be more wrong than right much of the time and having staggered to the top of one mountain, another far more daunting one appeared. Trusted staff stole from us, loyal clients abandoned us and political influences undermined us. Moving from barely surviving to courageously pioneering was simply about getting good at what we did as quickly as possible. We had to take complete charge of our challenges along the way to do that.
It is our entrepreneurial abilities that will determine the future stability of our economies. Our evolving world needs us, but to be successful in entrepreneurship we have to be ready to reveal all that we are capable of, ready or not. And whilst we are all capable- we are never ready. Something just needs to matter that much to us. It is in how deeply that something matters that we discover, and are driven to sharpen the traits needed to push us through.
Losing the 150-fax machines mattered that much to me and I am eternally grateful to the universe for taking them.
What losing “my” fax machines made me aware of, was inherently linked to my sense of purpose and vision. In my corporate position I had been pointing to “magnetic north”. Magnetic north happens when we are influenced by “outside factors” versus “inside factors”. Examples of outside factors include peer and family expectations, the need for security and “values programming” from our upbringing. In starting my own business, I knew from day one that I was pointing “True North”. True North happens when we get in touch with our inside factors which come from our sense of purpose and our authentic selves. Pointing True North is the very essence of focused direction and resilience.
Give some thought to where you might be pointing right now!