We are taught from an early age that each person is an island, separate from others. We think that competition for any success in life is a zero-sum game – when one person wins, others need to lose. However, there is a different way of looking at the world, where we picture ourselves within our communities. If we think about all the people in our lives, we can see that winning doesn’t always mean that someone else has to lose. What if we acted as if other people’s lives were as important as our own lives? What if we considered that we won only when the community as a whole has won?
This may sound a bit abstract, so let’s step back to look at the example of you as an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs are part of many communities. Everyone you interact with is part of a community in your life – your family, your customers, other business owners, your suppliers, your colleagues, others in your industry, neighbors, and so on. If you try to list out all the individuals and groups of which you are a part, you will be amazed at how many people’s lives you touch. Now for each community, think about what they know about you and how you can support one another. For example, your customers may think you are clever and innovative or powerful and connected. They give you their business; provide feedback and referrals; and in return you provide products and services that solve their problems. Your community of entrepreneurs can be a mutual support network. You can learn from each other’s mistakes, exchange tips, and mentor or be mentored.
The more you leverage your network of communities, the more you can succeed as an entrepreneur. Consider building greater connections with others by being vulnerable and reaching out for help. Share your aspirations and ask for input. Find out what people really think about you. Admit that you don’t have all the answers and enlist your community to participate in your life. A powerful tool is a simple interview. Invite someone to observe your business or a project then ask questions such as: Do you think my business is on track? Is there anything missing? What would you do next? What do you see as my strengths and weaknesses? What do you depend on me for?
You can make greater connections in your community by sharing and allowing people to offer their help. And you can do the same for them in return. Remember, being vulnerable is not about evaluating your self-worth or the worth of others. It is an opportunity to let people know who you are, what you view as your future opportunities, and offering them a chance to work with you so you can all win together (also consider the value of integrity as discussed in Honesty is the Best Policy). Think about how you’d like to be viewed by the different communities that you interact with, and then be that person. Act how you want to be known and your aspirations will take on a life of their own.
Who are your important communities? Who will you reach out and interview? How can you win together with your communities?