5 Tips for Social Entrepreneurs

Being independent of geographic location or an employer allows you more freedom to pursue lifestyles like the one I live at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage in rural northeastern Missouri. Environmental sustainability depends on economic sustainability. Becoming a social entrepreneur is a way to marry your values with your independence.

I love being a social entrepreneur and regularly help people start their own parent coaching businesses. While the ideas in this article apply particularly well to someone becoming a coach, they have validity for anyone wanting to align their business with their values and create meaningful work.

1. Marrying Paradoxes

Building a business is a masculine endeavor. It asks you to take action in the world. To stand up and be seen. To take logical, linear, and measurable action. It requires you to get paid and to engage in trade.

Building a business, especially a personal business like parent coaching, is a feminine endeavor. It gestates slowly over time growing and changing so that it’s never exactly the same business it was yesterday. It asks you to trust yourself and follow your intuition. It requires you to give and receive intangible, unmeasurable gifts.

Healing the gap between the masculine and feminine, between linear and chaotic, between logical and intuitive is important if you are to align your heart’s calling with your paid work.

2. Befriend Discomfort

One of my teachers says “No one likes change. Change hurts.” I want to argue with her. I tend to be pretty optimistic. I like to think I embrace change. But when I really think about it, I have to agree.

Being on the other side of change is great. I love the experience of having changed and grown. But the process of changing? That’s usually pretty uncomfortable.

Building your business asks you to change again and again. It’s uncomfortable, and no one can do it for you. Changing feels hard to breathe, like going for a run when I haven’t worked out in a long time. Changing feels anxious like the moment after I say something vulnerable and wonder if I just showed myself as too flawed to be lovable. It feels nervous like asking someone to value my time enough to pay me for listening to them. It feels like fearing “no” will mean I’m not good enough.

Having changed is the high after the run is over, the relief of being true to myself, the empowerment of paying clients, and the resilience to value my work and keep offering it through both “yes” and “no”. Change feels great. Changing is uncomfortable at best and excruciating at worst.

Creating an environment in your workplace – whether that’s just you or 100 employees – that values creativity and change means you also embrace uncertainty and discomfort. Allowing that to be part of your culture will make it much easier.

Growth and learning are uncomfortable, so let yourself and your employees know that they will feel that way sometimes. Ask them to lean into it rather than run away or numb out. Let them know they aren’t alone. Normalizing discomfort makes it easier to feel.

3. Persistence and Curiosity

Stay with it. When your business isn’t growing as fast as you like, resist the urge to call yourself a failure or throw in the towel. Get curious. What’s really happening?

Every time I’ve wanted to do something with parentcoaching.org and it hasn’t worked as quickly as I want or the way I expected, I notice there is a good reason. When I go back and look at what happened there is always a very good why. And the why supports my life as well or better than the thing that I had been hoping, planning, and working to make happen. Every time.

One of the great advantages of growing slowly is that it gives time to create a strong foundation. The other side of that coin is that having a strong foundation may allow you to grow faster. Persistence and curiosity are necessary ingredients to either path.

4. Daring Greatly

Off-grid independence requires you to stand up and offer your real gifts to the world. Why are you here? What is your purpose? What do you have to offer?

Offering your purpose, standing up and being seen and saying “Yes I am worth it. My idea is worth it. My desire is trustworthy.” Is an act that takes vulnerability and courage. It is an act of Daring Greatly.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, … who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.” –  Theodore Roosevelt from his speech “Citizenship in the Republic” 1910

Brene Brown in her book Daring Greatly shares research on shame and vulnerability. I highly recommend her work to anyone who wants to lead, parent, teach, or start their own business. Her personal, humorous, and wise words have helped me turn procrastination, perfectionism, control, and self-doubt into assets.

As social entrepreneurs, we get into the arena day after day. We wrestle with our doubts and gremlins while doing the work to bring our gifts to the world. Having an authentic vision and working to bring it into the world is a worthy cause and any accolades or success on top of showing up and trying our best are gravy.

5. Release Attachment to Outcome

You will fail. In the arena of Daring Greatly you will fail again and again. If you let them, your failures will be your great teachers. You can be present and learn and laugh and love and be a fully real human even as you fail, perhaps especially as you fail.

You can plan. You can put everything in to your actions and efforts to get to a particular outcome. And you may never get there. But if you show up with your presence, vulnerability, humanity, and courage along the way you will get somewhere worth going and, even better, live a life worth living while you are getting there.

[About the author: Kassandra Brown is looking for her ideal clients. If you’re motivated to work on your inner game, shadow emotions, and underlying beliefs in order to parent with integrity or build a soul-aligned business contact her through parentcoaching.org.]

Derek Markham

Things I dig include: simple living, natural fatherhood, attachment parenting, natural building, unassisted childbirth (homebirth), bicycles, permaculture, organic and biodynamic gardening, vegan peanut butter cookies with chocolate chips, bouldering, and the blues. Find me elsewhere at @NaturalPapa, @DerekMarkham, Google+, or RebelMouse.

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