2007. I’m devouring every fitness and therapeutic certification I can find.
I stumble upon something called the Egoscue Method. It was created by a Pete Egoscue. Most pain, says Pete, is the result of “postural dysfunction.” There are 8 major load-bearing joints in the body. Your ankles, knees, hips and shoulders.
When those don’t stack on top of each other properly, they load muscles and connective tissue in a way they were never intended to be loaded. That puts a stress on them. Sometimes immediate and acute, but more often it’s a slow, chronic build.
Over time, things start to twist and torque and rise and rotate, all in an attempt to keep you upright and your head looking forward. That puts even more strain on muscles and connective tissue that have to work harder and harder in ways never intended. Eventually, this becomes pain.
Now, here’s where it gets interesting. A lot of people will say “oh, you’ve got lower back pain, you need to strengthen your abs to support your back and it’ll go away.” Or you need to strengthen this or that or the other muscle. It’s always strengthen this and that and the pain will go away.
Problem is, when you strengthen into dysfunction and compensation and pain, very often you end up not only doing nothing to abate the pain, you end up making it even worse. It actually deepens the dysfunction. So, Pete and his method take a different approach.
Align then strengthen.
This makes sense to me. If your body is loaded with torque, dysfunction and compensation, if everything is out of whack, the thing to do isn’t strengthen and often deepen these patterns, but to first unwind them, return the body as close to “model posture and optimal function” as possible and then begin the process of strengthening around that foundation of optimal function. Better yet, focus on postural alignment and function from the beginning so you never have to end up in pain and go back to rebuild.
Thing is, this isn’t just about your body and physical pain. It’s about your business. Your career. Your life. And it’s especially true for entrepreneurs.
An interesting this happens with entrepreneurs. They often focus entirely on “product-market fit” in the early days. Aligning what they’re making with a well-defined, tested need. This is important, really important. They get it pretty dialed in. They understand what their market needs to function optimally, to be out of pain and have “model posture,” then build and strengthen the business to accommodate the market’s demand for delight.
Things start to hum, money starts coming in, it’s all growing nicely. Until one day, the entrepreneur realized she’s in pain. The company she’s building, the job she’s created, has become a cage of her own creation. She hates going in to work every day.
What happened? She aligned, strengthened and built around what the customer wanted, but never did the same for her own needs and wants. Her own personal “pain-free, optimally-alive model posture.” The one that leads to a great, vibrant, alive, purpose-led, connected venture and life.
She learned all about what the customer wanted and needed, but she never actually asked herself the tough questions about what mattered to her, who she wanted to serve, how she wanted to serve, why she wanted to serve, what she wanted to build, who she wanted to build it with, what her desires, pain, aspirations were and so many other critical points of self-inquiry. This is really hard work. And nobody teaches it in business-school or beyond. So, most people just don’t do it.
Without doing this, though, without identifying the key elements of your own fully-expressed life, you end up aligning around what you do know, and where all the entrepreneurial literature tells you to focus: your customer. Then you start to strengthen around your customer’s “optimal posture.” Over time you build something that serves them well, but leads to “postural dysfunction, misuse and compensation patterns” in your own life and business. And that inevitably, leads to pain.
Here’s the thing…
Entrepreneurship done right is not about building a successful company, it’s about building a successful life.
I’ve worked with many entrepreneurs who’ve arrive at this place of outward success, but internal pain. They can’t complain to anyone else, because to the outside world, they’re sitting atop a successful venture. And, hell, they built it, if they didn’t like it, why’d they’d built it that way in the first place? The answer, of course, is that nobody teaches any other way.
Most entrepreneurs try to “strengthen and build” their way out of pain, only to discover the more they do this, the more they spend, the more they build structure and systems around a foundation of dysfunction and misalignment, the worse the problem gets. Because, of course…
When you strengthen into dysfunction, the pain only deepens.
Until finally, you implode, physically, emotionally, spiritually or socially. Often, all the above. You end up walking away from, selling or shutting down what’s left of a business at that point.
Those few who DO figure out how to build a venture that is deeply aligned with the fiber of their being almost always get there through a lot of painful trial and error. Most entrepreneurs just never get there.
So, what do you do about it?
How do you fix a venture that it misaligned with who you are on the level of DNA? Can you even fix it? And, if you’re at the early part of your entrepreneurial journey, how do you ensure that you are building something deeply aligned not only with what the customer wants and needs, but what YOU want and need? So when you move into the strengthen and build stage, you’re strengthening and building around something that will be far more likely to serve both your market and you.
The process is remarkably similar to my work years ago with the body.
First step back and understand what’s really happening, what the true source of pain is. Is it that you don’t have enough sales, the right product or brand, the wrong people on the bus? Or is it that you’ve built something fundamentally misaligned with the fiber of your being and what you want and need in both the way you contribute to the world and the way you want to live your life?
Rediscover what matters. All those tough, deeply-personal questions you skirted in the early days, in the name of serving the customer. All the avatar exercises and profiling and experimenting and processes of research and inquiry you’ve done to get into the head of your customer…do that to yourself. If you need, find someone who can help.
This is actually the starting point of the Good Life Project Immersion and Aligned Entrepreneur Lab. I learned early on through a parade of missteps and mistakes, business is personal. Always. No matter what you’ve been told.
Know your customer, but know yourself better.
3. Align, Then Build.
If you’re just starting out, be sure that the decisions you’re making are well-aligned with not just who you want to serve but with what you need to get out of your venture as well. It’s so much easier to build upon deep alignment and optimal function from day one than it is to deconstruct and rebuild down the road.
If you’re already into a venture and you’re feeling the pain of having strengthened and built around your customer’s needs but not yours, the process is often more involved. Doesn’t mean it can’t be done, just that how much you will have to do to get back to “optimal function” and remove the pain will be unique to your life, venture, needs, wants and the amount of pain you’re in, as well as your ability to find support for your desire to rebuild around ease, vitality, joy, connection, purpose and that deep sense of sustained aligned action.
No matter you’re path, though, remember, with rare exception, the answer is not to continue to strengthen and build around misalignment and dysfunction. Step back. Do the work. Peel open your own personal soul-onion. Find your way back to that sense of essence and ease, your model entrepreneurial posture. Then, and only then, strengthen and build.
We’re a week away from the start of the 2014 Good Life Project Immersion. Seven months of of deep-discovery, powerful alignment, business mastery and fierce support. Plus you’ll melt into 6-days in Costa Rica. #WinterUgh! #CostaRicaYay!
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