Shame is a divisive devil that can bring you unstuck in the most extreme ways manifesting itself in society as suicide, depression, anxiety and a range of dysfunctional behaviours such as eating disorders, body image issues, aggression, violence, alcohol, drugs and mental illnesses. You'll need to largely overcome it if you want to run a good business. Unfortunatey, I'm an expert!
In a commercial sense, your business is a personification of you, so if you're suffering from a sense of shame, be it conscious or unconscious, it will be playing out in your business in the form of chaos, overwhelm, lack of vision, direction and disconnection from your customers and clients, and staff and stakeholders. Shame disconnects. Its a pervasive beast that erodes relationships and the best businesses are built on good relationships.
On a personal level, shame is often treated by self-medicating in the form of drugs and alcohol, and when that doesn't work, patients often turn to prescription drugs that may deal with the symptoms but usually the source issue or trauma. As a more extreme example, world renown marketer Joe Polish from Genius Network and Genius Addiction, often says, "You cant Jail the trauma out of someone". Trauma and shame often lie in bed together.
Addiction is also a sibling to shame and trauma. Most of us have addictions to something. Coffee, chocolate, food, alcohol and drugs are common addictions. Even football, gym, running and healthy addictions are all around us because they help us switch off and focus our minds. Interestingly, Joe Polish also says "The opposite of addiction is connection". I'll look at this notion shortly but I want to share something first.
One of my sisters was an alcoholic (15 years sober) and the other a drug addict (passed away 2012), and I was a work-aholic. That's three siblings all addicted and playing out in different ways from conservative parents, and all of us attended the best private schools in the country. I guess I was 'fortunate' to have the socially acceptable addiction of work-a-holism but I also suffered debilitating anxiety- even when I had my TV show and often on air. Very few people were aware of my anxiety and I didn't talk about it because of shame. Shame had me cornered for more than 10 years!
I also believe I manifested my participation in the Royal Commission. I was shamed out of my profession. I spent a week on the front page of newspapers and news feeds as the villain of finance because of a narrative invented by media who needed a scape goat to create a story that best served their objectives of bringing down the finance sector. What better scape goat than a 'celebrity financial planner' as they described me. Side note; I was never a celebrity by any stretch of the imagination.
You'll have to forgive me for not having perfect administration processes. Like most business owners there were holes and I was not perfect. I was accused of directing staff to impersonate clients. That didn't happen yet it was written into the media, and you can see it yourself if you Google me. Falsifying a Masters Degree and having a conflict of interest were also heavily watered down as administrative issues following an ASIC investigation because they were explained as simple errors not a dishonest attempt to hoodwink people. I'm simply not like that.
No one lost money and no one suffered as a result of the imperfect administrative processes for which I received a three year ban from financial services, yet I still felt the shame and trauma of having my good name dragged through the mud. But I wasn't a victim either so don't take the above narrative as trying to duck responsibility. I created the situation by being in the media, by being imperfect and by making mistakes. Im a relationship based person, I love people (most of them anyway) and I hate admin! It sucks to be human but we need to own our position and as Jim Collins say "Face the Brutal Facts."
The first book I read after the Royal 'Commotion' was Extreme Ownership by US Navy SEALS Jocko Willink and Leif Babin. They were responsible for other people lives on a daily basis- mission after mission, and often people died. What I needed to own is why I was there in the first place, the administrative issues potentially caused by a lack of care, or a casual nature, and the impact my actions had on those people around me including my family, friends, clients, staff and commercial stakeholders.
So too, the industry as a whole has been suffering immense shame from the banks and across all financial institutions, the associations and even the regulator, ASIC copped a bruising. I recently heard anecdotally that 19 financial advisers had committed suicide in the past 9 months. That is a bad year and a waste of life.
Now, the Australian public seems to have little concern for the people often touted as tall poppies or 'high rollers' because they work in finance but these people are mums, dads, sons and daughters, brother sisters, friends and family, and if I can save just one life from writing and talking about shame then Iv'e had a good day or even a good life. Don't let tall poppy syndrome vacuum compassion from our social fabric- that would be a sad indictment on our country.
So here's a question for you; what narratives have you made up or believed that have created limiting beliefs in your life and for your business? How have these narratives directed your life? What if they were different? What is they were just lessons or mistakes that everyone experiences? What if you were gentle and forgave yourself? What if you were as compassionate with yourself as you are with other people?
Let me tell you, shame has a mortal enemy. It has a Kryptonite. When shame is shared, it is extinguished and it cannot survive. When discussed and talked about and empathised, it dissipates and disintegrates. It can't stand being shared because with empathy comes understanding and grace, and with understanding comes forgiveness. And with forgiveness and self-forgiveness comes a new dawn, and ability to step into the light and away from the darkness.
Shame is a source of darkness that doesn't like vulnerability. But most people don't like vulnerability because we're worried about being tarnished as weak and helpless.
But the really interesting and engaging thing is that most people love vulnerability. We love stories about vulnerability and conflict. Think about it, Aussies are well loved the world over and our unique ability is our self deprecating nature and humour- the rest of the world loves us for it. Vulnerability works in the same way because as Brene Brown describes after you've had that 'face down on the canvas moment' and you share your story with someone, that person or someone will respond with the magic words, "me too"! And the shame is released.
Lifetime bonds, friendships, connections and engagements around the world have been fuelled by the words "me too", "I understand you", "thats happened to me" and "don't you hate it when that happens". In such situations, shame is disarmed, vulnerability got you there and you feel free of the shackles of shame.
Seinfeld was one of the funniest comedians in the world for decades because he described awkward situations to which we can all relate. We've all had a George Kostanza moment, we've all danced, or seen someone dance, like Elaine and we all know a Newman. This "Hey, don't you hate it when..." humour made us feel closer together and understood, and allowed us to laugh off our imperfections. Laughter is a powerful remedy and Australians love a good laugh.
Whilst my coaching work now centres around business practices, my first and most important process I embark on with a client is my YouInc module. It's the first of 12 modules and it's all about checking in and seeing whats happening in my clients life, investigating limiting beliefs and how they're playing out both personally and professionally. I also work closely with fully qualified Counsellors to assist where I'm not trained. If your mind is not clear and focused, then success will continue to evade you through chaos and overwhelm.
Whats any of this go to do with business coaching and entrepreneurs?
- 2x more likely to suffer from depression
- 6x more likely to suffer from ADHD
- 3x more likely to suffer from substance abuse
- 10x more likely to suffer from bi-polar
- 2x more likely to suffer from psychiatric hospitalisation
- two thirds of entrepreneurs are men, one third women
- and entrepreneurs are 2x more likely to experience suicidal thoughts
Entrepreneurialism won't make you sick of course. But there's probably a reason or a predisposition to do what you do. It's why you're different in the first place and don't want to work in a boring old job like everyone else.
If you're experiencing any of the above the thoughts, addictions or afflictions then I implore you to seek help or reach out to me and I'd be glad to point you in the direction of help. If I can help save one life, or better someone's life, or improve the lives of friends or family you support, then its been a great day, and a great year, and a great life!
Asking for help is not a weakness. It's actually an act of bravery, and despite the fact that it could be awkward, uncomfortable or even embarrassing, it's where the life-change happens. Importantly, its possibly the most momentous step you ever take to change the rest of your life, and impact those around you.
In the past year, the gift of the Royal Commission has helped me help others through visiting and sponsoring orphans in Bali, supporting Lighthouse (mens mental health and women victims of domestic violence) and C3 Cares feeding the homeless. When my sister passed away, the single word it taught me was 'compassion'. After the Royal Commission I combined that with 'humility'. The royal Commission happened for me not to me!
As Sean Stephenson, also a Genius Network member who sadly passed away this year said as his final words, this happened "for" me not "to" me. Sean was three feet tall, wheelchair bound and suffered from osteogenesis imperfecta. He was also a Therapist, author of Get off your "but" and a Genius Network member and speaker. Sean was known as the Three Foot Giant as his impact on those around him was enormous and far reaching. He was truly inspirational!
If you want to launch, grow or scale or your business, its important to get your head right to allow you to focus on whats important to you. Real growth may involve real change and if thats uncomfortable, thats OK. We all have feeling of not being enough and being insecure but that behaviour wont serve you if you want to bring about change and success so forgive yourself, be kind to yourself and seek help if you need it don't be afraid to ask.
And remember, none of us are perfect and mistakes will be made- don't I know it! But it's ok to give yourself the gift of forgiveness and grace. There is no mistakes, just learnings. Shake the negative narratives if they're yours or not- they wont be serving you! Hold your true north, stay the course, and go and create the business and lifestyle you deserve. I'll leave you with this...