Emails to a Young Entrepreneur: Applying Conceiving

Day 115 of Self Quarantine                       Covid 19 Deaths in U.S.:  132,000

Applying Conceiving

Starting a new venture is an experiential process as Sarasvathy describes. The good news about the effectual process is that you start with the resources that you have available to you. The bad news is that you become so overwhelmed with the urgent you forget to take time for the important.

The most critical skill to develop as an effectual entrepreneur is to constantly observe the world around you and easily flip perspective. To survive as an adult, we develop habits that tacitly guide our actions. It is those tacit habits that blind us to what is happening in the world. The flipping perspective exercise for applying the concepts in the book is aimed at breaking our hidden patterns of behavior so that we can see the world we inhabit with new eyes. By seeing differently, we can think outside the box and see opportunities that others cannot.

The core process throughout the book is to commit to a daily flip of perspective.  The process has four components:

  1. Identify a pattern of behavior to break
  2. Break it by flipping your perspective
  3. Take a photo which represents some part of the flipped perspective
  4. Spend 7 to 10 minutes free writing about your flipped perspective

That is all there is to it.  Just a few minutes each day spent breaking your tacit patterns.

We’ll start with easy patterns to break and flip. With the “Applying” part of each Email, I suggest a theme for what kinds of perspectives to flip. These themes will echo the topic of the Email exchange with Mikhail.

This exercise is inspired by many years of mentoring entrepreneurs and working with graduate students at the intersection of design and business and with the core exercise in The Artist’s Way at Work. The Artist’s Way authors describe the importance of their core exercise of writing three morning pages:

“We all suffer ambivalence about our simultaneous desires to be a part of, and apart from, groups, and many of our new tools are designed to explore this ambivalence. We have found that morning pages show us both our connectedness and our individuality.

“As you will soon discover, the inner self has a variety of voices. In doing morning pages, you will experience some of them. You will also learn to discern which voices of this ‘self’ are best heeded and which best disputed. You will discover many positive forces that might have become silenced over the years, including one we call the Inner Mentor.

“This Inner Mentor, which some of us characterize as an older sage, is not unlike the eldest dragon of Chen Rong‘s painting or Star Wars’ Obi-Wan Kenobi in our popular mythology. Knowledge of this and similar voices will eventually evolve into a guidance system you can depend on. But first you will meet a host of other voices, the voices most of us think of as ‘myself.’

“Realize that in just thinking about doing morning pages, you have already heard one of your inner voices. If you listen carefully, below the resistance you will probably hear the whisper of ‘hope,’ barely audible above the din of your other ‘rational’ voices, that might say, ‘What if this works? Wouldn’t it be exciting?’

“Creativity expert Howard Gardner has noted three practices common to many ‘Big C’ creatives:

      • Some type of daily reflection
      • The ability to leverage their strengths
      • A way to reframe failures

“Morning pages and other techniques in this book help you do all of the above.”

Allen, Catherine; Bryan, Mark; Cameron, Julia (2012-12-01). Artists Way at Work: Riding the Dragon (Kindle Locations 381-384). William Morrow.

Start by making a short list of the patterns that you do on a daily basis that you don’t think about. Here are some questions to help you get started:

  • Do you drive the same way to work each day?
  • Do you eat the same foods for breakfast each day?
  • Do you do your emails first thing in the morning?
  • Are all your emails textual?
  • Do you eat lunch with the same people every day?
  • Do you read the same newspaper or news source each day?
  • Do you exercise the same way every day?
  • Who is a colleague or friend or family member you haven’t talked with in a long time?

You get the idea. What are your habits or patterns of behavior that you just do and don’t think about?

Start with one of the easiest patterns to break like the way you go to work each day. Take a different path to and from work today. Or take a different mode of transportation to work.  While you are breaking your pattern, take a photo or video of some aspect of the pattern that you are breaking. Notice what is different while you are breaking the pattern. Are you seeing, hearing or feeling objects or people from a new perspective?

When you get back home or to a quiet place after experiencing the breaking of your pattern, do a free writing exercise as part of making meaning from the pattern break. Free writing involves:

“… continuous writing, usually for a predetermined period of time (often five to fifteen minutes). The writer writes without regard to spelling, grammar, etc., and makes no corrections. If the writer reaches a point where they can’t think of anything to write, they write that they can’t think of anything, until they find another line of thought. The writer freely strays off topic, letting thoughts lead where they may. At times, a writer may also do a focused freewrite, letting a chosen topic structure their thoughts. Expanding from this topic, the thoughts may stray to make connections and create more abstract views on the topic. This technique helps a writer explore a particular subject before putting ideas into a more basic context.

“Freewriting is often done on a daily basis as a part of the writer’s daily routine.”

Using the picture or video that you took during your pattern break, start free writing about the experience.  Write for seven (minimum) to ten minutes (maximum). Look at the picture and your writing, and reflect for a moment on what the experience of breaking the pattern means.

I find mobile apps like Collect or Google Photos an easy way to capture your flipped perspectives (here is a month of flipped perspectives recorded in Collect):

A month of flipped perspectives

I keep a daily journal of my flips in perspective. Here are a couple of excerpts from my Flipping Perspective journal:

January 2, 2014

When I can, I like to walk a three-mile trail that is a loop from my house through a combination of roads and woods. I decided that for my flipped perspective today I would walk the route in reverse. I take this hike so for granted and have been doing it for so many years I rarely “see” what is in front of me. Just by reversing the path I see things that I haven’t noticed before. I can no longer walk on autopilot anymore as well. I have to pay attention to where I am stepping. And because I don’t know the path as well I have to look up and see what is around me. It is amazing what a tree that I pass from the other direction looks like from the reverse path. This tree is so gnarly and who knew it had so many trail markers on it. If I had just taken a picture a little differently, I would have seen two blue eyes instead of three.  This forest primeval (well not really as Bainbridge Island has been clear cut at least three times) is a brief respite from the houses that surround me on all sides. But for a few minutes I am alone in the Northwest woods in the rainy Puget Sound. Should I walk backwards when I am traversing the trail backwards as well? But then I would see what I see from the regular direction of the path. So maybe another flipped perspective is to walk the path forwards but walking backwards. Maybe in the summertime because the trail is so slippery right now and even walking forward it is difficult with all the tree roots covered up by the leaves of fall now all brown and slippery. I love the way so many of the fir trees in the forest have the dead limbs just sticking out like a witch with unruly hair. So many metaphors are conjured up as I walk this path in reverse. What if I could walk my life in reverse? Would I really be interested in doing that? There is so much that is fun right now as I am writing again and enjoying the two granddaughters that have blessed our life. How can we help them learn the joys of flipping their perspective? How do I pass down the art of seeing and the art of flipping perspective? How many other paths do I need to reverse every day? How many paths have become as ordinary and unconscious as my walking of my woods path? Doing this flipping has also made me realize that I need to expand my horizons and walk many more of the wonderful Parks and Recreation paths on Bainbridge Island. It is just so nice to walk out my front door and not have to get in the car and drive to one of the trailheads. Walking these paths is also difficult right now with the problems with my right knee. I’ve taken walking and even jogging for granted for so many years and now the thought of not being able to walk freely because of the pain in the knee makes me a bit fearful about the future.

January 5, 2014

Early morning ferry ride

I always sit at the aft of the Seattle-Bainbridge Island ferry.  This practice is about not wanting to be at the front of the boat with the Type A extroverts who want to rush to get off the boat. I enjoy sitting at the back reading my Kindle books on iPad and sipping my coffee from Commuter Comforts. Yet, the most spectacular view on the ferry is at the front. Clearly, I’ve gotten too much in the habit of commuting versus flipping my perspective to SEEING. So this morning on the 7:05 as I head to the airport for my trip to a seminar in San Diego I sit up front.  It is an interesting winter time of day as the sky is mostly dark black but you can start to see a faint streak of light on the horizon.  And today the sky is crystal clear (and a cold 28 degrees). I was treated to an immediate glorious sight as we turned south out of Eagle Harbor – Mt Rainier. I forget that sitting in the very front row, the window serves as a frame to see the world.  Here was Rainier framed so beautifully in the Window – a silhouette.  Then the ferry made the left hand turn to head to Seattle.  The skyline of Seattle is a faint Christmas tree kind of blinking small line on the horizon.  I look for a while and see the sky lightening and hoping that there would be a sunrise before I got to the Seattle side.  As I looked out my “window frame” I decided it was time to continue reading Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet.  I pulled out my iPad and got immersed in Rilke.  After about five minutes, I folded the cover back and started chuckling. The whole point of the flipping perspective exercise was to get out of my habits. And here I was back in my habit of reading on the ferry boat, not noticing anything.  I put the iPad back in my backpack and enjoyed the sights of getting closer to Seattle and see the silhouettes turn into real buildings as the sun’s early morning light slowly emerged.  I took several photos a few minutes apart hoping that I would get the buildings to fill up the height of the frame. Then as I looked at the image that was showing up on my iPhone I saw that the internal lights on the ferry were creating a mirrored effect and I was doing a selfie. So I got two perspectives in one – you can look through the glass at Seattle or you can see the reflection of myself and others in the first couple rows at the front of the ferry. As the ferry turns to the dock, I see another view – the condensation from the window on the outside sloshing back and forth in a mercury silver trickle – back and forth as we turn.  Never seen that before.

I recommend doing the flipping perspective for your first week of daily habits that are not related to your new venture. For the first seven days, just do it.

As we progress through each future Email we will work on themes of different patterns to break.

This entry was posted in Content with Context, Emails to a Young Entrepreneur, Entrepreneuring, Flipped Perspective, Learning. Bookmark the permalink.

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