This weekend my 9-month-old granddaughter is visiting me, with her parents.
And, for the fifth season, I’m walking alongside forty-eight remarkable, wise and powerful women as they journey through the miracle of discovery and creative exploration that is Become Your Own Business Adviser.
Both sets of relationships show me something about success and its relationship to the arc of incarnation: Desire pulls us into engagement with life. Rich new experiences emerge from our relationships with the people, places, things and situations we encounter. When we meet these with curiosity, strength and sovereignty, as well as receptivity and openness, we grow ourselves and our businesses in alignment with our hearts, and with our soul’s purposes.
Our encounters with the world shape us and help us to grow. In turn, we shape the world around us with our presence, with the quality of our being, and the love we embody.
To be a successful entrepreneur requires the same qualities that usher us from infancy to childhood, from young adulthood to maturity.
Our becoming is our gift to the world. Our becoming is also what seeds our success.
My granddaughter explores her world with the intensity and focus of an eagle swooping down on its prey. She sees something she wants, and she crawls towards it as fast as she can until she reaches it.
If some looming grownup interrupts her trajectory by picking her up for a cuddle, she squirms and squeals until she’s back down on the ground and heading for whatever she is after.
What she is after is experience, not ownership. The encounter itself enthralls her. She has no need to possess what she so ardently aims for.
Today, her desire draws her like a magnet to a narrow wooden incense holder. Nine inches long and about an inch-and-a-half wide, its rounded end just fits in her hand.
She jams it in her mouth and gums it, exploring its taste and texture. She bangs it against a metal stool and wiggles with delight at the sound she and it make together. She squeals and laughs and pounds out an erratic rhythm, her body swaying on unsteady feet, her cheeks pink with excitement.
Twenty minutes of this, and she knows more about my incense holder than I have divined in several years of living with it. By witnessing her exploration without interrupting it in any way, I learn too – about my incense holder and its many marvelous attributes, and also about how we learn.
We have such a capacity for joy. For knowing the world and ourselves through our relationships with all forms of life, including the objects that surround us.
When we follow our natural desire and curiosity, our relationships are filled with wonder, delight, exploration, adventure. It’s what makes us human — this urge to know, to connect, to discover and explore. To actively participate in the life of our world. This is also what makes us successful as a species.
After a while, the call of a larger horizon beckons her. My granddaughter crawls — energetically, purposefully — across the living room to the floor-to-ceiling windows which look out over the garden and treetops to the sea beyond.
She presses her small hands against the cool, slippery glass and pulls herself up until she’s standing, wobbly but determined, gleefully upright. She nuzzles the window with her nose, then backs off and looks with astonishment at the small cloud of breath she’s left on its surface.
She turns her head sideways, to try and get the window in her mouth, which is her primary sensory organ right now. The glass does not offer itself. She looks at it, vexed, then sticks out her tongue, and licks it. Enthusiastically. Once, twice.
She laughs, and licks it again, then smears her saliva with the palm of her hand across the small patch of window until the glass squeaks. This brings fresh delight, and a fit of giggles that drops her abruptly onto her bum. She looks astonished, for a moment, to find herself on the floor, then crawls off to the next adventure.
Back in the Become Your Own Business Adviser class, there’s a similar process of engagement, exploration and discovery happening. Each woman there is unique, and meets the process of growth and learning in her own unique way.
Some revel in the richness of the journey, playing with whatever emerges and following their desire and curiosity wherever they lead.
Others meet the material as though it were a mountain they must climb. They pack their crampons and climbing ropes. They struggle to see the path before them. They want a map, a compass, a GPS device, a Sherpa, to navigate the journey.
The mountain is impervious to their attempts to approach it logically. They are frustrated. Exhausted. They wonder what they’re doing wrong.
Each of these women is learning. Each is growing in her own perfectly imperfect way.
We grow up being told that there is a right way and a wrong way to learn. Our culture often – though not always — values answers over questions, theory over exploration, ideas over direct experience.
Raised in an environment that short-circuits the process of experimentation and discovery, we look to teachers and guides to give us the answers to our questions. We’re afraid of getting it wrong, of feeling inadequate. We’re afraid to trust our own way of knowing.
As my grandbaby tires, she gets frustrated and cranky. She tries to crawl over a too-large ottoman to reach her dad, who is leaning against its big, round bulk. She can’t lift her leg high enough to climb it.
An hour ago, she had tried the same maneuver; when she couldn’t get over the ottoman, she dropped to her knees and crawled around it.
Now, she buries her face in it and wails.
She is inconsolable, until her mama picks her up, snuggles her and carries her off for a nap. The house grows very quiet, as she drifts off to sleep.
We, of course, are all grown up. But we go through this energetic ebb and flow too – we just get better at dismissing, hiding or ignoring it.
We follow our desire and curiosity into new territory. We expand our reach, head for the horizon, stretch our creative muscles and swing our hearts into action.
We set forth full of enthusiasm and energy. Each new creation, each movement towards growth and expansion — in life or business — calls us to grow too. To become the person whose life includes that which we are creating, that which we desire.
Most of the time, on our journey, we draw on our natural capacity for innovation. Creativity is in our DNA. When we try one thing and it doesn’t work, we try something else until we find a way to get to where we want to be, to become who we are capable of becoming.
But sometimes, we get tired. The path we’re on becomes narrow and steep; the air thin, vertiginous. The wind that buoyed us becomes a gale that threatens to sweep us off our feet and tumble us down the mountain’s face.
Our enthusiasm flags. Our energy wanes.
Fear. Doubt. Shadows loom, menacing.
Then, the patterns that turn our feet to boulders and cause us to stumble, the beliefs that lodge like stones in our bellies, grow powerful, clamorous.
If we were nine months old, like my granddaughter, we’d plop down on that mountain path, lean on the nearest rock and cry until someone picks us up, comforts us, soothes us, carries us to safety.
Instead, we feel guilty or ashamed of our need to be held, to be comforted, to feel safe and cradled in a loving lap.
We drag ourselves painfully along the disappearing path, ignoring our need, until our bodies collapse and illness or injury stops us in our tracks.
We project our power and creative capacity onto others, wanting them to tell us what to do, to rescue us, to get us off the mountain and back into our beds.
We turn away from the deep sources of comfort and nourishment that are always available to us, and seek safety and solace in things that cannot provide either: in money or status; the newest shiny thing; in work or other people; in food or fame.
We drag our exhausted selves over rocky terrain, chasing that elusive bird of success as it flits out of reach.
Here’s what I know about success.
Success is pressing your hands against the window; pulling yourself up, wobbly but determined; licking the glass when it won’t fit in your mouth. Discovering, in the process, something new and enthralling about yourself and your relationship with the world.
Success is following the call of your desire; anchoring it to a clear and concrete intention; then acting on it with all the power and purpose at your command.
Success is making the path by walking it. It is bushwhacking a new trail when the old one peters out.
Success is becoming the person who can ask for hugs and holding when your own strength has deserted you.
It is wrapping your arms around yourself when there are no other arms nearby.
It is calling on the rocks; the trees; your walking stick; your trusty hiking boots, for love and support.
Pinning your heart to sky and mountain; knowing they will respond, because they are part of wholeness too. Knowing that you are safe, held, cradled, wherever you are.
Success in business is creating a business that holds you when you’re tired; that makes a soft resting place for you when you need to lay down your head and cry.
It is the wide horizon that calls you to the journey. It is the joy that floods your body as you run towards your desire — arms flung open, heart soaring high.
May the sweet bird of success land on your shoulder today. May its wings remind you of what you already know.