What, You Don’t Need Me?

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Last Friday, my kid and I bundled up (okay, so it wasn’t THAT cold, but it makes for a better story) and went on a bit of a mini annual pilgrimage. It was the 12th anniversary of the yoga studio I founded, Sonic Yoga, in Hell’s Kitchen, NY.

After 7 amazing years and a pretty rough start (I signed the lease for a floor in a building in NYC the day before 9-11), the venture had blossomed into a vibrant global community and thriving business. All of which I take no credit for. I had an amazing faculty, partner, manager and tribe. Their beautiful energy and work even found the studio named the #1 yoga center in NYC by Citisearch for a number of years.

After 7 years, though, I found myself increasingly pulled toward other ventures and adventures. I was more or less checked out, and a community like that really needs a devoted, involved steward. So I sold the company at the end of 2008. Truth was, I probably should’ve sold the venture a few years earlier. #EntrepreneurialADD.

I also taught right up until the end. Nobody knew the business had already been sold when I walked in to teach my last class. There were people in the room who’d been students for the entire run. I saw them brave everything from cancer to childbirth and career-reinvention to catastrophe. So much love and life and suffering and triumph. And did I mention love?

As I brought those 90-minutes to a close, I sat on my mat in the middle of the room. Everyone eased from final Savasana (relaxation) into a sitting position with their eyes closed, waiting for a final thought or intention or wish or idea, as I’d often share. But, this time, instead, my eyes began to well. And I said goodbye.

It’s been five years now. I pretty much walked out and handed over the keys. That’s just the way it had to be for me. But I still go back once a year.

So the kiddo and I swung by for the big 12th anniversary bash (and a hunk of Amy’s “instant sugar-butter-coma” pink cake).

At one point, I stepped away and just stood, looking around. It continues to be not only a thriving business, but a flourishing beautiful community. And I said to myself…

How AWESOME, something I STARTED and then left five years ago continues to be so vibrant long after I’ve left.

Then, I looked around a few more moments and a second thought spun through my head…

WTF, the business and community I built is STILL so vibrant and alive, maybe more so AFTER I’ve left?! Some of these people don’t even know who I am!

Damned ego. Apparently the needy New Yorker in me who wants credit is still alive and well. lol.

It didn’t last long, though. Because I know deep down, that is exactly the way it should be. That’s the beauty of bringing cool things to life. They don’t have to define or possess you. You can create them, and then when the time is right, IF the time is right, let them go. Or not. But if you choose to, you can not only be okay with it, you can revel in it.

Increasingly, I believe the more you “do creation right,” the less it’s all about you.

You create the spark. The ethic. The culture. The idea and ideal. But then you’ve got to relinquish it all to those you’ve brought into your tribe. To trust them to not only carry on, but build something that’s potentially exponentially better than you ever could’ve.

Hire great people, aligned with the essence of your vision. Teach them how to embody it. Give them your “why,” along with the safety and space to not only question it, but improve upon it.

Then, if you’re inclined, step aside. And watch them fly.

Because, in the end, it was really never about you.

+++

P.S. – On the subject of starting something bigger than you… That little old RevolutionU webinar on Thursday massively over-enrolled in a matter of hours (you people DO know it’s just me, right?!). Anyway, we had to close enrollment less than 24-hours after it opened, BUT we’ve just added one more date to accommodate the crazy demand (and not make all our peeps in Europe and Africa have to stay up all night, lol).

The added date and time is – Friday, November 22 at 11:30am ET. Just like the first one, there is no fee, but as I’ve now learned, you will definitely want to reserve your seat very quickly. Before you ask, yes, if it works better, you may switch to Friday. Just be sure to register for the Friday date. No need to cancel your Thursday spot, if you’re not there your spot will be gobbled up by someone else pretty instantly. And if you don’t know the crazy back story, here it is.

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29 responses

29 responses to “What, You Don’t Need Me?”

  1. I just pushed the button for my online business. Today I thought, “what if I could stop obsessing over it now? what if I stepped back and watched where it wants to go? where my tribe wants to take it?” And then I read your beautiful post. Thank you.

  2. Paul Jarvis says:

    This is exactly how I feel about my clients that out-grow me and need a team instead of one dude working freelance for them. It’s bittersweet for sure, but I know I’ve done my job as good as I can if they now need more than I can provide.

  3. jean says:

    The art of selflessness…you wear it well, Jonathan.
    🙂
    Jean

  4. Karen Wright says:

    Great post, JF, and for what it’s worth the “needy New Yorker” is alive and well here in Toronto, Canada as well! I felt exactly the way you did after having founded, built and then handed over the local International Coach Federation chapter here. To this day it thrives and grows – without me! And yeah, there are now tons of people in it who – what? – never heard of me! Thanks for the reminder about leaving the ego at the door, because if you’re really all about creating something that causes change, then it can’t need your – or my – hand every step of its way. At least not past a certain point. And knowing “that point” is hard, but key.

  5. Micky says:

    Great insight, Jonathan, and perfect timing. Recently stepped out with a new venture–yikes, the risk of it all–and just today had feedback from a couple teammates about how it could be better. Nursed the bruised ego for a few minutes but am now diving into reworking some stuff. Your post was the clincher for knowing in my heart what needed to happen next. And that it really isn’t about me.

  6. Jimbo Paleo says:

    Thanks for this —
    your open hearted blog posts
    are what brings me back, time after time.

    ==>Jim

  7. Lauren Rader says:

    So beautifully put… I see myself in this. I started a small business, Releasing the Creative Powers Within, 8 years ago. It’s thriving also – but I couldn’t really see sharing the process of how I do what I do, until maybe now. Thank you, Lauren

  8. Thanks Jonathan.

    Your story today brings up my own feelings of pride and disappointment regarding a company I founded, nurtured and then sold, Limited Snowboards.

    In the summer of 1993, I started Limited from a desk in my kitchen and by ’96, thanks to the incredible efforts and passion of many (our timing was pretty good too), we were the largest Canadian snowboard brand worldwide.

    In ’98 I sold it to a ski company in Denver, who then sold it again one year later.

    While, like you, I was done and ready to move on, selling was a hard decision to make. I took great pride in our accomplishments and chose the buyer I did because I believed they would carry forward with the same commitments and passion. Unfortunately that commitment did not last.

    I got a year of feel-good after the sale during which time I could hold my head high (yes, my ego was bigger then). Then the brand was sold to a discount operator and I went from being proud to embarrassed.

    To your final point, I knew it was never about me but for some time I chose to see it that way. In doing so I told myself a story that took me up and then down, in spite of the fact that other people had their own versions.

    Today I am simply grateful for the experience and many lessons learned, which I carry forward to this day.

  9. Janet Huey says:

    Having done martial arts for four years I understand the feeling of community .
    I wouldn’t go back after selling.
    Imagine the year when no one knows who you are.

  10. Wasim says:

    Leaving something to grow after planting a seed, letting someone else look after it and nurture and not looking for credit, but feeling satisfied that you started something for others is gratitude at its finest and an extremely honorable thing to do.

    I don’t think you know yourself how much people you’re inspiring Johnathan, because it’s not only the people on your webinars and blog readers, its the people that the message spreads to, FROM these people too.

  11. This was a great read! As a sixth-year university student who’s been a leader on campus for some time now, this is pretty much my mindset as I’m approaching graduation.

    I’ll make sure to share this with my followers and friends.

  12. Molly says:

    As I create Cora, my latest venture, I’ve been wrestling with the idea to make it an employee-owned company–to hand over a degree of control and ownership so that others can immerse themselves as fully as I have and add their own creative juice to it so it can truly grow into the big dreams I have for it (but also having those thiswillcrumbleifi’mnotcallingalltheshotsandholdingupthewalls thoughts). Your words have validated some deep instincts that I haven’t had the courage to validate myself.
    Thank you, as always J. Big love and gratitude for your candor and wisdom.

  13. Jenny Fenig says:

    Sonic Yoga changed my life. So did you! At a time when I was a “lost” New Yorker stuck in a Corporate America life that just didn’t suit me anymore, I found your thriving community and the yoga teacher training program that gave me the courage to be MYSELF, quit my job, and then start my own business that’s fully aligned with my soul and my calling. Watching your evolution has been inspiring, Jonathan. Thank you!

    I too have birthed products and experiences that I outgrew and chose to pass on … and that continue to have a life outside of me. It’s weird at first to know that these entities can survive and grow without you, but then how amazing to realize that you birthed something that can impact the lives of so many. What a gift.

    To birthing and letting go … birthing and letting go. The ultimate journey of life.

  14. Adaeze Diana says:

    Oh my goodness, it seems every post you write is specifically suited for me Jonathan! As someone who is on a quest to learn and spread great spiritual ideas, I often worry about how much pride I have (I’m Nigerian – pride comes with the territory) and how feasible it will be for me to watch the ideas that I spark grow beyond me and with the significant contribution of other people. Your post has reminded me that nothing I take part in creating defines me and ideas do not belong to me; I am simply a vessel for them, and that is achievement enough. Thanks!:)

  15. Alexandra says:

    Thank you, J.
    My ego (or maybe it’s my astrological sign – Aries, anyone?) LOVES credit. I really try to practice letting go of the preference to be recognized because I see what the fight is doing:

    these adult-temper tantrums (ATT – is it as hard on us as ADD?) keep me from being creative and making more, cool stuff.

  16. Cassia says:

    Yes!!! And did I ever tell you we lived around the corner on 55th and 9th from 2005-2007 and dropped in on occasion. I remember in particular a partner yoga, wine and cheese night… I even looked at the TT program. Our paths were destined to cross for some time. Thank you for helping me to identify and hone my alignment and vision! Gratitude, big time!!!

  17. C Robson says:

    You have such a wonderful gift and wisdom. 1000 years ago you would have had a weathered staff and flock of sheep. Now you have a blog and us. Thank you x

    • Jonathan Fields says:

      Ha! if you only knew how much I consider myself a student of all of you guys! 🙂

      • C Robson says:

        Haha! Elton John said “It’s the circle of life”. JT said “What goes around comes around”. A wise man once said “That’s karma” We say “Dude, we here with you!” 🙂

  18. Lisa Nigro says:

    Ummmm, do we share the same body…Ahahahaa that would be funny. Do you share the same mind with me? What you just said is 100% how I feel when I walk into one of Inspirations restaurants (just for the record I actually wrote the word “my” restaurants …damn ego!)
    Loved it and am going to share it everywhere.

    xo

    • Jonathan Fields says:

      Well, yeah, occasionally we do inhabit the same body and brain. And, what an honor that it for me! 🙂

  19. Damn right. Face that ego head on. Stare it in the face and transcend its stronghold on your evolution – while knowing it is an essential part of you (of all of us). Very Inspiring and Humbling. THANKS

  20. […] The inimitable Jonathan Fields of The Good Life Project got me thinking about this when he wrote, “What you don’t need me?” post […]

  21. Judi says:

    Great stuff here! I know this feeling … that darn EGO! I created a conference almost 8 years ago now that I put my heart and soul into and now it’s in the hands of the new leadership as I had to move away from the project. There is a new team of incredible and dedicated people running the conference, and I’m so proud of them. Yet, sometimes I still find myself going, do they even remember me? And I know they do. And I know it’s not about that. I am so proud each year to see it grow stronger. I am proud. Even though it was hard to hand over my “baby”.

    Thanks for sharing!
    Judi

  22. Jan Moran says:

    Very timely article, Jonathan! A few months ago, the company and experience I envisioned and guided to success, Scentsa, was acquired by Sephora (the touch-screen fragrance and skincare finders in the stores). My baby is gone, and there really is a degree of separation sadness.

    So now I’m kickstarting a couple of new projects, and writing some books, which have been acquired by St. Martin’s Press. Time for a new phase in life!

    Thanks for sharing what so many of us are experiencing!

  23. […] What, You Don’t Need Me? from Jonathan Fields. We should all aspire to this, no matter what sort of work, parenting, living […]

  24. I fondly remember going to Sonic in the early 00’s (I even have the turbo flow dvd around here somewhere…:)- congrats to building a sustainable and thriving community!

  25. Samantha Odegbaro says:

    Do you think it is the same for children?
    You give them life & nurture them but at some point you need to let them go?