Holding the Space

  • January 31 2018

Do you have a dream, and want to change the world? Here’s how to get started.

This post is part of the series on Lessons Learned in Achieving Your Vision

Launching a startup is like being on a boat in the middle of the ocean, searching for an undiscovered island.

Without a map.

All you have is the compass of your true vision.

If you’re like me, your boat is not some fancy yacht. Most of us don’t have those kind of resources when we start out. We have a beat up dinghy, and if we’re lucky, a paddle. And a weathered mast without a sail.

I’d like to share the voyage of building my startup with you. Not from the hindsight glory of the finish line, but through the grueling mid-race sweat. As part of WokeUp, I will provide you with lessons I learned the hard way, so you don’t have to. I want to empower you. Success is never easy, but let’s start this journey together.

The first lesson I learned is what I like to call “holding the space” for my vision. This is your mental image of the island. It will help guide you toward your goal and away from tempting but false destinations.

Write It All Down

Your vision is a delicate thing. The gossamer shimmer of your island can quickly dim and fade. Do what you can to beef it up. I keep a white legal pad, where all my thoughts, scribbles, and half-baked ideas go. It really doesn’t matter what you get down into physical form, so long as you do. Keep a mood board, get a pinterest or Instagram account, or go old school and clip magazine images.

Even if you have a radical shift in accomplishing your vision, some ideas from your initial writing may have merit. I love lists. I don’t always check off all the items but I like to go back to what I’ve written. This is where some of my best ideas have some from.

Dream Big

I want to change our political system into a better democracy. It’s a big haul and a heavy lift, but it’s what keeps me going. Don’t be afraid to imagine your island as the perfect tropical escape. Your vision should be what gets you out of bed every morning. If thinking about it doesn’t give you the tingles and make you want to shout from the rooftops, it won’t be enough to sustain you through the squalls and becalmed days on the water.

It’s okay to be a little delusional too. Anyone who’s produced a great work will tell you that sometimes the vision is so big to overwhelm a mere mortal. But it’s what the world requires of you. Keep reminding yourself that you are the emissary of this vision. It’s your purpose to bring it into the world. You are worthy of this.

Be Gentle

You may get caught in a current that takes you far off course. You may long for the comfort and security of the shore. In these moments, be kind to yourself. Finding your island is a process. We may never fully realize our vision in our lifetime. I always say, imagine the amount of time you think achieving your vision will take, and double it. But don’t talk yourself out of it.

Your Worst Critic is You

We all have a negative recording in our head. You know, the one that tells you that you aren’t  good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, resourceful enough or loved enough to accomplish your goals. If you let this voice control your life, you will always stay small. If you try you may yet fail. If you never put yourself out there, failure is certain. Tell the voice that you hear it, and it can come along with you in the boat (because it’s already there and trust me, trying to drown it will only create more issues). But never let it steer your craft.

Stop Comparing

That voice will also talk trash about your vision. Again, acknowledge it but don’t give it control. There are lots of islands in the ocean. Some are lush and dense with foliage, others boast powerful volcanoes. Some have powdery white sand and crystal waters, others have incredible reefs. Your island is unique. It is like you, a treasure among billions. Only you can show the world where it is. And we are counting on you to put it on the map. So let go of what other’s success looks like.

Welcome Constructive Input from Others, Dismiss the Rest

You will want to share your vision with people. You will have to as part of your journey. Someone out there has a star chart, a sextant, an outboard motor- something to help you on your quest. More on this here. But like your internal monologue, external input can be helpful or in the worst cases, devastating. Be resilient with your vision. Again, thank and acknowledge other people for their input. But if the input of others is not helpful, let it drift away entirely. I believe in you. I wouldn’t commit my time and resources to WokeUp if I didn’t think you could make it to your island. Don’t settle for input from people who aren’t willing to champion your cause.

Do Something

Finally, and most importantly, do something constructive to get you closer to your island. Every day. I know it’s tough. I feel like I only ever get anything done on stolen time. But those productive moments inch you closer to your goal. And not doing anything is a dangerous whirlpool. Famed shame and vulnerability researcher Brene Brown warns that “unused creativity is not benign. It metasticizes. It turns into grief, rage, judgement, sorrow, shame.” So grab your oar and start rowing. Your vision awaits.

Check out more Lessons Learned in Achieving Your Vision:

Talking to People

Stop Staying Small

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