A Brief Word on Personal Evolution & The Requirement for Failure
I believe we all experience life-changing moments (both positive and negative). Negative moments could be that a friend committed suicide, the love of your life left you, or you started down a new path that your friends/family weren’t ready to support. Whatever the case, these moments are the ones that require courage and perseverence to overcome. Positive moments might include finishing college, getting a new job, or hitting some of life’s great achievements (parenthood, marriage, etc.).
Each of these moments helps shape who we were meant to be. The young caring gentleman eventually becomes a father. The avid filmmaker becomes a videographer.
I have evolved over the years, but it has come from a place of trying and failing multiple times. With each failure, I critically examined my mistakes, considered ways to improve, and eventually try again. It’s the typical heart-filled “try again” attitude, but people don’t talk about the long-term impact it has on people. I know some people who’ve turned to drugs, alcohol and began hurting themselves. Yes, the path is unbeaten but it’s also very dark. However, there are the lucky few who eventually feel the warmth on their face. When these periodic rays of light reach us, it’s a moment of inspiration and evolution.
The journey will leave its scars, but it will be worth it.
Having evolved a few times throughout my life, it’s started to become apparent when a new revelation is on the horizon (and that’s what this blog post is about).
Current Dilemma & Feeling Conflicted
I’m at another turning point in my life. It’s not just another chapter, rather something different altogether — it’s hard to explain.
Anyone who knows me, knows I regularly push myself to my limits. For years I’ve been a career-oriented person focused solely on my performance, results, and execution. By repetitively experimenting with ideas, I have learned useful skills. I learned the basics of graphic design, how to build websites, elements of videography, SEO, and writing (that people actually read).
But this time, the barrier doesn’t relate to my skills. This time, the barrier challenges the backbone of my ideology.
The Last 2 Breakthroughs
My last 2 big breakthroughs were in 2017 and 2018.
In 2017, I had revelations with respect to sales, marketing, data science, and economic development (the first ripple leading to the pursuit of my MBA in Community Economic Development). At the time, I was working at a consulting company in Halifax. Much of the organization’s revenue came from other provinces and countries. Through our work, we increased the wealth in Halifax’s community and found ways to redistribute it in meaningful ways. This experience convinced me that the way to develop a community is to increase its wealth. This fascinated me and demystified the whole dilemma of why do what we do as marketers and salespeople? After leaving that company, I set out to show others how to drastically improve revenue and ways to redistribute it in a community.
- Please note, this was before I started my MBA and my current perspectives and feelings on the topic have changed (perhaps a blog post for another time).
In 2018, my breakthrough was developing my skills in emotional intelligence. This was a big year for me as I learned how to be genuine, to ACTUALLY listen and to connect with individuals on a much deeper level. By December of 2018, I had a stronger idea of how to place myself in someones’ shoes rather than assume conditions of their lives, challenges, and motives.
Looping back to my current dilemma with ideologies, allow me to share a short exchange I had with one of my MBA professors.
PhDs Know Their Topic
Upon my first introduction with this professor, he openly described himself as a radical anti-capitalist.
Anti-capitalist? How on Earth could he say such a thing? My entire career stems from helping others achieve wealth, efficiency, and profits. If it weren’t for capitalism, where would I be? What would I do for work?
On top of that, who the hell does this guy think he is? He works and gets paid (quite well I might add). Who is he to oppose the ongoing battle, challenges, and risks associated with being an entrepreneur? To take pay hit after pay hit. To struggle to make payroll. To pay back loans and acquire new investment? Entrepreneurs take the risk, so they should get the reward, right?
Lastly, why would someone who describes themselves as a radical anti-capitalist teach a course in an MBA program? To share a perspective, I learned.
I was very frustrated and ready to defend capitalism. Capitalism has played a huge role in my family’s history. It’s how my family rose out of the lower class. It’s how I was raised. It’s why I strive to do my best. When this professor started into everything wrong with capitalism, I leaned in, listened, and made my first attack.
Call it a life lesson.
My professor is almost double my age, has far more experience than I, and carries a PhD in a topic that I just openly attacked him on in front of 30-40 people. Looking back, it probably wasn’t a great idea to engage. But I believe these moments serve as opportunities to grow. His response to my argument put me in my place. By the end of the exchange, I realized I had never truly reflected on the history, development, and values of capitalism before — I simply just accepted it.
I have a lot of respect for that professor now and appreciate how he handled my interjection. He used information and sources I had no idea of, he caught me on things I hadn’t considered before, and he left the conversation in a ‘go think about it’ place.
Self Reflection on Capitalism & Current Projects
Over the next 8 weeks, I became inclined to learn more about capitalism and reflect on the other ideologies that oppose it. As with all my reflections, I tried tying it back to the activities and projects I’m currently working on. Here was my train of thought:
- What’s is my real dream job? Helping people turn their hobbies and passions into “successful” businesses.
- How do I define success? 8 weeks ago.. I probably would’ve said profitability. I’m not 100% sure now.
- Is profitability the only metric of business success? No.
- Is my blog really the right method for helping people turn their hobbies into businesses? Maybe from an inspirational perspective but in most other cases, probably not.
- What about the people who don’t have the education, skills, or resources that you do? How does capitalism work for them? I don’t know. Personally I feel I worked hard with what was available to me, but maybe there were advantages I had access to that I didn’t comprehend at the time. Looking at the overall movement of my family’s history, growth in a capitalist society is slow (it’s incredibly hard to move out of a class bracket). If you consistently work hard, you might not see the results of your efforts (although your kids and grandchildren might).
After this reflection, I was uneasy about capitalism. It was really off-putting and made me want to do something helpful for people. The first thing I did was hop on Kickstarter and back 3 projects. The second thing I did was deploy a new program called ThriveCB which offers entrepreneurs and students of Cape Breton volunteer sales and marketing services.
Being a consultant and offering my services for free probably doesn’t make a lot of financial sense, but it feels like the right thing to do. It’s very likely that as a result of this program I may have to change my business model, but I’m okay with that.
I still don’t know yet where my values lie yet. This next phase of my development is leading up to a tipping point. It’s a mental barrier I need to overcome, but don’t know when it’s going to happen (though I feel it’s coming soon).
The internal debate I’m having with myself is not whether I’m a capitalist or a socialist (there doesn’t need to be a name for it). I just want to understand where my heart lies as a business owner seeking to help others achieve growth (in all meanings of the term).