How do you actually take that great idea for a business you always had and make it a reality? Furthermore, how do make sure the business you’re building is a mindful one?
When I took the seeds of an idea I had over a year ago and actually put them into action, I wanted to create a mindful startup. Phased by the countless articles out there that claim to show you the “the top 10 secrets to starting a successful company,” I turned to Jon Kabat Zinn’s book Full Catastrophe Living.
While his publication focuses on mindfulness methods to zap stress, pain, and illness, these practical tips also proved to be apt guidelines on how to mindfully take my idea from inception to realization. I derived the following seven tools from the precepts within:
To create Junga World, an animated rock band, I faced the daunting reality that I had no previous experience with animation, kids media, or music. I did know that I wanted to teach compassion and acceptance and I wanted to teach it to kids through music and entertainment. So in the midst of self-doubt and fear of the unknown, I trusted my intuition and passion and moved forward with my goal.
As any fledgling entrepreneur knows, you become your own lawyer, accountant, assistant, and web developer because you can’t afford to hire professionals. Writing the operating agreement and studying HTML, I faced steep and frustrating learning curves. On a daily (and sometimes hourly) basis, I stepped back and simply witnessed these feelings of frustration and ineptitude, letting them be until they passed on by.
Initially, I put all all my metaphorical eggs (and literal money) in one basket, creating a three-minute Junga World music video. However, I underestimated the astronomical expense of animation, lighting, compositing, and rendering. So what did I do when faced with this setback? I practiced acceptance. Do I like making mistakes? I hate it. Could I accept that none of us are perfect (and wouldn’t the world be boring if we were)? That, I could do.
Once confronted with the realization that my goal of creating an animated music video with a minimal budget and no directing experience was unlikely to yield a high-quality product, I panicked. My frustration and desperation precluded creative inspiration. I understood that it was better to take my time to regroup and gather fresh creative energy than to hastily throw together a new project. It took three months before I was ready to start over.
To figure out the next move, I tried to look at the project as if I were a separate person who didn’t have her finances and preconceived opinions on the line. I became my own outside consultant. With fresh eyes, my team devised a financially feasible strategy: create a short, fun one-minute trailer that introduced the characters in a way that highlighted their personalities and passions.
Like most meaningful and satisfying pursuits, startups are risky and take an immense amount of work. It is easy to get sucked into blind ambition and tunnel vision. When I felt overwhelmed with my to do list, I would remember to be present for the process. If I chose to spend my life caught in the trap of “if, then” (if it is a huge success, then I will be happy) I would miss being present for the process, and it is all process.
As a typical business school graduate, I tried to project and calculate every possible outcome and anticipate every challenge. As a mindfulness practitioner, I knew that I ultimately didn’t have final control. I practiced letting go by taking a deep breaths, experiencing the nervous energy and tension of anxiety, and slowly allowing my muscles and mind to relax. By letting go of the fear, I was able to remember that no extrinsic circumstances would ever undermine my inherent value and that the true barometers of success are ultimately my personal growth and intrinsic happiness.
—Elisheva Wexler graduated from the Wharton School of Business and has worked in real estate development, investment banking, and venture capital. She recently launched Junga World, a children’s media and entertainment company.