My Blog

The Greatest Growth Hack No One Talks About

I never used to cry in front of other people.

My immigrant family was tough, and they didn’t handle crying well when I was growing up. So I learned to cry in private. I tucked away sadness deep inside because I didn’t know how to deal with it. 

Until I began scaling my startup and I realized that fearing sadness was creating huge stress in my work. That’s when I began my journey of inner work, which ended up being my greatest growth hack to scale to millions in revenue while maintaining my sanity. 

Understanding Inner Work: The Key to Entrepreneurial Success

Inner work for entrepreneurs involves activities that bring awareness and love to your inner world. You shed light on things about yourself you do and don’t like. By being with that, you get closer to reality—both the reality of who you are and the reality of the outer world.

Sitting closer to your own reality gives you the power to sit closer to the reality of the business world. I’ve resisted changing markets before. I was too attached to my ego of things “going well” that I was unwilling to take a look at my competitors and how similar we actually were. Ultimately, I was too afraid to acknowledge that truth without having a strong path forward. It would make me feel helpless, which is a feeling I didn’t want.

I’d argue that the ability to spelunk into the depths of your own truth and shine light on your monsters means that fewer things in the outer world ever scare you. This is a vital part of self-awareness in business leadership.

Overcoming Emotional Blockers: A Path to Entrepreneurial Growth

One of the biggest blockers to inner work is that there are big emotions we’ve exiled. For me, it used to be sadness. Ten years ago, I could barely cry in front of my romantic partners, let alone friends. I felt weak and vulnerable.

So when my ex-fiancee left me six weeks before our wedding, I was confronted with a deep sadness that scared the living daylights out of me. It was like trying to forge a relationship with a demon that I had hidden away in my depths. I didn’t even know how to begin the conversation.

But that’s how life works. When we aren’t willing to acknowledge these parts, life throws us a situation where we are forced to plunge headlong into the feeling. It takes a crisis for us to be with the feeling we fear so much.

I resisted sadness. I tried to distract myself, I even thought of how to upend my life to avoid sadness (move somewhere else! Find adventure!). Until the moment I was on a plane to Vienna on my post-breakup trip and I was sobbing (why are planes such great places to cry?). And I finally surrendered to it. I let it rise up from the depths, open up its jaws, and take me in. I didn’t have the energy to hold it back at bay anymore.

From the center of sadness, I found something unexpected: beauty. I was in awe that I could feel such loss from something I loved so much. It was heartbreakingly beautiful to feel that much love.

As they say, the only way out is through. I met my sadness nakedly that day. And I emerged from it with a lot less fear. It wouldn’t kill me. In fact, it had its own truth and beauty to it. This is a key part of managing stress as an entrepreneur.

Harnessing Anger: Transforming a Powerful Emotion into a Leadership Asset

Anger is another emotion I have contended with and help others accept. I’ve seen anger erode my family. It’s scared me. I have clients who have seen their own anger unfurl and envelop everything around them. So they lock the anger up in chains underground, trying to control their external world so nothing opens that basement door.

But I found that when I locked up my anger, I also locked up my truth.

Anger has rich information for us about a boundary being crossed or an expectation not being met. If we ignore this, we risk having porous boundaries and not holding others accountable.

What does it look like to be with anger in a healthy way? It means that you don’t shame or fear it, you listen to it. You don’t let it drive, but you acknowledge its presence in your car and offer to hear out the deeper reason that it’s here.

When my anger is frothy and in annihilation mode, I hear it out but I won’t act on it. When it’s passed the initial explosion phase and softened a bit, that’s when I’m willing to take action with it. Much like a kid throwing a temper tantrum, you want to give it its time to go through the initial outburst, but don’t ignore it entirely. It has something important to tell you.

Embracing Emotions: The Hidden Key 

Notice that both anger and sadness have innate messages for you. Messages grounded in truth. If we can learn to ease the resistance to these (and other) big emotions, then suddenly we don’t have to build as many defenses. It’s as if the wall is less necessary because we realize a lot fewer things can actually hurt our castle, our core.

Building and maintaining a wall (and inner basements) takes energy. I’ve learned this from coaching work. There is a subconscious tax to holding back the truth.

Put another way, there’s a huge release of excess energy when you embrace truth. This self-awareness in business leadership is transformative.

You have a strategically weak cofounder? Okay, there it is!

You aren’t sure if your romantic partner is a long-term fit? Aha, let’s acknowledge that.

The market has shifted and you don’t know your next strategic move? Well, at least you have clarity about your lack of clarity.

Notice how each of these acknowledgments can create a subtle shift in you. A sort of relaxing into truth, no matter how scary it is. That’s the power of reality.

Turning Towards Reality: How Embracing Truth Boosts Entrepreneurial Success

Turning towards reality can:

– Unlock massive reserves of energy

– Help you see the world as it is, not how you want it to be

– Speed up the process of action

– Provide a competitive advantage since being with hard truths is rare

– Make you adaptive to the ever-changing world

Starting with Yourself: The Foundation of Effective Leadership

Start in your own backyard. Begin with a list of everything about yourself that you want to change. These are the things that you refuse to be with as they are. This is the starting point of things you must first learn to listen to and accept.

In IFS parts work, they believe each person has 30-50 “parts” in them—elements of your inner world that are either resistors or resisted (though sometimes we can resist the resistors, too!).

Peel back the layers of your inner onion by getting to know these parts. This can happen solo with journaling or in conversation with a coach or therapist.

Once your inner world becomes less frightening, the outer world becomes less frightening too. In fact, I believe our attitudes about the outer world are simply a mirror of what we are believing about ourselves.

As an example, I recently came to understand a part of myself that I’ve been locked in battle with and I’ve been strong-arming my way around. It’s the part of me that feels the need to eat when I’m not hungry. It’s not just stress eating, and I couldn’t put my finger on what it was.

I recently had an inner conversation with it, where I realized it was actually an inner mother. She was trying to ensure that I didn’t get to a place where I was hungry but couldn’t have my needs met. She was simply trying to take care of me by compelling me to eat before I was hungry! She was also attached to a younger version of me that struggled to ask for what I needed if others around me weren’t hungry as well. I thanked her for caring about me and her efforts at self-love. I also let her know my current age and capacity to feed myself when hungry and ask for what I need (or place an order on DoorDash).

I’m proud to say in the last week since I spoke with her, I’ve been able to curb my food cravings dramatically. When I crave food early, I acknowledge that inner mother and remind her that I’ll take care of myself when I’m hungry. It’s like magic.

Being with that part of me exactly as it is, I’ve been able to come to grips with the reality that I’m not hungry and don’t need to eat ahead of schedule. This keeps me from an overeating guilt cycle and tunes me back into the present moment.

The Power of Present Leadership

Imagine what it would be like to take this Presence into leadership. This is when everything feels like it’s on fire but the leader is centered, present, and able to take action. There’s a calmness as that person acknowledges the depth of the situation but also doesn’t let it engulf her. That’s the ultimate act of Present Leadership. It’s the action of a healed leader.

Incorporating self-awareness in business leadership not only helps you grow your business but also ensures that you maintain your mental health. By managing stress as an entrepreneur and doing the necessary inner work, you can find peace amidst the chaos and lead with clarity and strength.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *