A few days ago, I was on a panel for early-stage entrepreneurs. This was for the EO Accelerator program. Each of these entrepreneurs has a business with revenue between $250k and $1MM. Each is wanting to grow their business which inevitably means personal growth.
I love serving EO Accelerator. It is a program near and dear to my heart. I was a member of the program more than a decade ago and became the first Accelerator graduate across the global program. I refer to myself as a product of mentors and peers. That started in Accelerator. Thus, I owe it a lot and more than I could ever give back. It’s a blessing to have the chance to try. Furthermore, the energy from these entrepreneurs is incredible and inspiring.
One of the questions asked was a deep reminder that our language protocols matter. Language protocol often matters more than the content.
When I am mentoring or speaking to a panel, I typically default to experience share. This stems from being in EO (Entrepreneurs Organization) and YPO for over a decade. Both organizations are peer-based and use a language protocol that is focused on sharing experiences. It’s referred to as Gestalt.
Experience sharing is done for a multiple of reasons. Frankly, as a peer-based organization, it should not come as a surprise that peers do not like being told what to do. A bunch of mostly Type-A personalities telling each other what to do and how to solve their problems sounds horrible and hostile. Yet, let’s look at the psychology of this.
When a person is corrected or specifically told to do something, it activates the reptilian brain. This is especially the case when someone has been vulnerable and transparent. The reptilian brain takes a defensive stance for protection. In addition, the left cortex begins to tenaciously cling to what it believes to be true and correct regardless if it is.
To further muddle our innate reactions, we look at our own personal actions, challenges, and problems as contextual. Yet, we often look at other’s as representing (a flaw in) character. Sharing experiences rather than giving advice helps stop the judgment of the person’s character. No one wants to be vulnerable to peers and share a challenge or opportunity to then be judged.
Even if one person can withstand that, would anyone else want to head into that potential firing squad?
In contrast, experience sharing lacks this judgment. It comes with context, actions, and results. Every one hearing it, including the person presenting their challenge, has the potential to learn from each person’s experience share. Each can draw out how it applies to her/him. I have learned more from the experience shares to other’s challenges and problems than perhaps they did. That respects my time and talents.
I love and prefer experience sharing. Yet, it is not an absolute.
The panel was asked the question, “How do you focus on your strategy?” This was a pivotal and probably the best question of the day.
As a panelist, I take the role as a serious obligation. I am deliberate in my content and delivery, including language protocol. I will typically default to Gestalt. It is the rule, not the exception. Yet, I intentionally did not for this question.
Certain questions do not need experience sharing. For example, let’s say an entrepreneur shares her challenge of getting people to return every day. Then, she shares her challenge regarding whether she should give those people compensation, such as a paycheck. I can absolutely state that she should probably pay her people. There is no experience share needed.
These are absolutes. Yes, you should pay your people. Yes, you should pay your taxes. Yes, you should treat people fairly and with respect. No, you should not discriminate based upon gender, religion, sexual preference, hair color, skin color, preference of cats vs. dogs, etc.
(There may be details of these questions, such as what, how, when, etc., that are potentially worthy of an experience share. For example, bi-weekly vs. monthly paychecks?)
My answer to the strategy question was absolute. The answer I gave was “Get off your fucking email.” It was that direct and that absolute. It was intentional. I will detail why this was my answer for most entrepreneurs, especially early stage, in an upcoming blog post.
In the meantime, get off your email.
When I posted “Oh, and I Have Multiple Sclerosis”, I had one hope – to share my story in an authentic and honest manner. I did not have any expectations other than a few people reading it. I did not know if I would receive any feedback or responses. Yet, I have been overwhelmed and blessed with responses of support. Many of them have been directly from friends and family. Some of them have come through those same people.
I can not thank everyone enough. The responses represent the best of humanity. They have been surprising, heartwarming, and, at times, heartbreaking. I have especially appreciated the thoughts of support for Courtney.
– Lil Jon (On every song)
Buried in the responses were a few questions. I wanted to share some responses and respond to some questions.
Question #1: What has surprised you most since the announcement?
Answer #1: I am surprised by the people I heard from and the stories they have shared. This includes a few people who I don’t personally know. I am reminded that we never know the burdens people carry and the stories they hold.
Question #2: Why don’t you raise money for MS (instead of CFF)?
Answer #2: I have always disliked the pictures of people holding big checks with amounts they have given to a charity. It has always seemed self-serving. The exception is if the picture will inspire someone else to write a bigger check.
I believe charity should be done because it’s the right thing to do. These should be selfless reasons. It is about helping others. The MS charities feel a little too close too home. It may sound weird, but it feels somewhat selfish because it could or will be helping myself.
For now, I remain committed to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation as my primary charity. This may change one day. I occasionally ponder if this the right response.
Question #3: Is this related to you being gluten-free/celiac?
Answer #3: Who knows? Celiac and MS are both autoimmune diseases. Consuming gluten appears to increase my chances of a flare-up. Plus, who doesn’t love rice flour seasoned with a pound of sugar? Or beer made from sorghum?
Question #4: Did your MS have anything to do with the investment in Contegix and your departure from day-to-day there?
Answer #4: Wow, no. Absolutely no. I actually did not even mentally connect those 2 events until someone asked the question.
We took the investment in Contegix to further our mission and to push our commitment to our core values. Craig and I are committed to the Rapid Accelerated Growth of our talent (their personal development), our customers, and our stakeholders. We wanted to build and expand our Go Beyond philosophy. Our industry is ripe with companies that do not care about the customer. Contegix is something different, and I am incredibly proud of that. It’s why I remain a shareholder and am on our Board.
We could have continued as-is, but we found a partner who concurred with and supported this mission. It allowed an acceleration, and I see the benefits of this decision every day. Contegix has achieved FedRamp certification. We have continued to hire and grow our people. It’s truly a joy to see it.
As to my stepping away from day-to-day operations, I am drafting a blog post regarding this, but it had nothing to do with the MS. Many people have heard me talk about this topic – Know Your 100 Miles. I hope the piece helps other entrepreneurs, leaders, and founders do what they do best. In short, Contegix needed a CEO who could take on the next phase of our mission, and we have one. I have an opportunity to observe, guide, and lead from our Board.
Finally, I will call out the elephant in the room. While this post and the last one were about MS, this blog will not become focused on MS. It will be what it always has been – my random thoughts. Sometimes, that means MS. This blog will not be defined by MS just as I am not be defined by MS.