Too often in business and in life, we don’t see the water we’re swimming in. It’s just the water.
Take the koi fish, for example. In captivity, they grow small because they have no adversity. When in the wild, the koi face lots of adversity (like other fish wanting to eat them), so they grow larger. Also, in both Chinese and Japanese tradition, koi fish are known for swimming upstream. When faced with adversity, most fish will “go with the flow” and follow the stream. But no matter the weather conditions, no matter how hard or steep it may be, no matter how many waterfalls, the koi fish will swim upstream. This is viewed as a show of power because they will continue to swim upstream as if on a mission. They cannot be distracted or deterred by anything. 🐠
Or, take the goldfish. Reports have found monster goldfish up to 18 inches long breeding in Lake Tahoe, with the belief that they ended up there after being released into the wild by aquarium owners. In large waters, the goldfish thrive.
Too often our environment goes unquestioned, when in fact the sand of your environment might actually have you stuck. It could be the people around you, the community you live in or the culture within which you are doing business. An environment that keeps you stuck might even include your friends and family. It’s in the conversations you have and the perspective you absorb. 💡
When you change your environment, you find yourself changing everything — from your habits to how you communicate with others. If you’ve ever lived in a foreign country or a different part of your own country, you know that this is true. You might even pick up a new accent. A great way to know yourself is by observing yourself in other cultures.
Living and running my business in Hungary has been an eye-opener for me. When we first got here, I tried to immerse myself in the business community. We hired a couple of interns because I believe the youth is a great indication of where a country is heading. Our interns blew me away. They were so talented and eager to learn. It really had me rethink a lot of what we were doing as a business. While they were great, I began to notice an interesting theme with other companies I was looking to hire. The meeting would go well, and I was clear I wanted to hire them. But then, there would be no follow up from them. I would send an email thanking them and letting them know exactly what we needed, and nothing. It was so weird.
Curious, I asked our star intern what that was all about. She explained that in Hungary, they don’t have the same relationship to business that we do in the U.S. Failure is not an option for them, so unlike in America, where the entrepreneurial spirit is part of our fabric, it is not so for them. They approach business very cautiously. Interestingly, you can see the result of their dancing to this conversation and how their fear of failure holds them back from taking risks in both life and business. 💃
It makes you begin to question the conversations (environment) you’re dancing to. People, in general, gravitate to their comfort zones. Sometimes we need to see the contrast in order to notice the water. We live in neighborhoods that feel consistent with who we perceive ourselves to be and we have friends who think like we do. But as an entrepreneur, you can’t afford to be too comfortable. You need the edge of fresh, new ideas and people who inspire you — even if they intimidate you a little. If you live in a culture that is complacent (as many would argue the U.S. is becoming), you need to relate to that segment of the population that isn’t complacent (i.e., recent immigrants). In general, you need to branch out of your comfort zone.
The best way to get out of your comfort zone is to question everything. Ask the hard questions. Why are you avoiding calling that particular person? Why are you not putting yourself out in the world? Why are you so afraid to blow your own horn? The more you question, the more likely it is you’ll get under the assumptions that are driving the show.
By pushing the envelope and looking for the contrast, you can create a positive, uplifting, energetic, gung-ho environment that makes a huge positive difference for you and your business.
Surrounding yourself with people who believe in you and who root for your success is not only more fun, but it encourages you to become what they see in you. Even being in a setting that is beautiful to you can lift your spirits and keep you from getting down and stuck. As a fun exercise, look inside your community of people: Do you have the same conversations over and over, and are those conversations limiting or empowering you?
Entrepreneur, author and business philosopher Jim Rohn said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” So if you want to increase your income, start interacting with people who make the kind of money you want to make and have the kind of success you wish to have. I promise you, these people are talking about different issues and in a totally different way than people who are struggling to make ends meet.
Just like with the koi fish, adversity and contrast provide opportunities to see the water that we are swimming in and let us know if it’s time to change the water or to simply swim upstream. 🏊♀️