SURVIVAL TO SIGNIFICANCE IN 2016
04 January 2016
Over the holiday break, I took a moment to reflect upon not just what we as builders, creators and makers do, but how we do it. And articulating what can often be confounding ideas is the centerpiece of effective communication—and in truth—our legacy. And here at the dawn of 2016, it makes sense to reflect upon not just what we’re doing, but why we do. Early last year, I was on the phone with a mentor friend who is a successful entrepreneur and business-builder. While we were chatting, I began to feverishly draw on an oversized sticky pad in my office. When we were done, a new model that describes my journey had been created. It’s the hero's journey of a business builder—summed up into a hierarchy of needs.
Whether building a career as part of a larger company, or building your own company with a team of your choosing, the first stage is Survival. I recall the early days when my brother and I stepped out to create Manifesto. Beyond our newly penned Manifesto that guided our every action and gave us our “why”, we had a shotgun approach to business because the untamed instinct of survivaldemanded that we secure the proper cash flow to support our small operation. At that stage, you think of yourself as a roving post-apocalyptic marauder seeking the next stash of food stuffs and supplies. It isn’t sustainable and you know it. But your immediate goal is to hunt, kill and eat. It may sound primal, and frankly, it is. This stage’s focus is on building your business. Like the old adage of give a man a fish vs. teach a man to fish, you know you can't run this pace forever.
The next stage is Success. You’ve experienced traction; you’ve felt the win and you are honing your craft, your positioning and the way you tell your story. You've begun to scale and are putting some of your most challenging tasks on auto pilot—surrounding yourself with powerful employees, colleagues and mentors who augment your weaknesses and help you build on your strengths. You are no longer a hunter-gatherer. You are building not just a dwelling place. You're building a village, a community. You’re building a life.
For me personally, I ran ragged for almost four years, always feeling behind the 8 ball. But there was a vivid moment I remember where, for but a moment, I could raise my head from treading water and see clearly a strong vision for the future. Within the stage of Success (which is a relative concept to begin with) is where your momentum allows you to reset goals and trajectory and realize an invaluable truth: work and life are not the same thing. They are woven together, but distinctly different threads. Within this stage, you begin to value rest and reflection, knowing that only time to pause will replenish you for what’s to come. You begin to peel away from the day to day and focus on setting vision and providing leadership to those who support you.
The final stage that many never to get to is the most critical: Significance. In fact, were I to rework this model today, I would suggest putting significance as the foundation. Why is it that so many successful business-builders, entrepreneurs and innovators eventually turn their time and attention to philanthropy? Because they realize there’s something greater than making money, then scaling or even making something bigger, better, stronger or faster. They realize there is something in the world bigger than themselves. Significance is key. And on the left of our model, accompanying our hierarchy of needs, is a scale ranging from sacrifice to satisfaction. The sacrifice up-front will lead to deep satisfaction down the road. Within this stage, the focus is not just on building the business or building life, it’s centered on building a legacy.
For the first time in five years, I took the opportunity recently to articulate what I believed the legacy of Manifesto could be. At the same time, we as entrepreneurs sometimes forget that our greatest legacy and often the one most overlooked, is our progeny. Our children who watch us come and go to work everyday sometimes suffer from the sacrifice we are making to build a business. And this is a stage where we may realize that the people around us, our friends, employees, colleagues and co-conspirators are the people we can leave a lasting legacy with. Whether through our business or through our personal interactions, our ripple effect can create a legacy that transcends all the business building we could ever do. Survival, Success, Significance. It’s the journey we all must face—and the opportunity to leave a lasting legacy built by design.