Don’t Give It Away

[Continued from Paddle Two Rivers]

Following his questions about 1) variability in actor performances/entrepreneur pitches and 2) the fragmenting nature of poor leadership on a team, Skip’s next question referred to this phrase from my post, Step Onto The Field:

Entrepreneurs, like actors, are more likely to meet success when they cease giving away their power and show up as they are.

He asked a question that lives at the center of much of the work I do with artists and clients: What does it mean to give away your power? He wrote, “… it’s like each sentence in this piece [this post] needs a story.”

I laughed because the flipside of this particular question is the reason I started writing in the first place. Three years ago I was working with a corporate team and they asked, “What does it mean to be powerful?” The notion that we explored that day is that power is something that you create with others. No one is powerful by them self. Great teams empower each member. Great leaders empower their community. Individuals become powerful when they offer their gift in service to their world. They empower. Power is created between people.Power is an aspect of relationship. Power is something you bring to a relationship, not something you get from it.

The word power is tricky because we most often associate it with power-over. The idea of having “power over others” is a misnomer because power over others is not really power. It is control. It diminishes. It takes from. These two concepts, 1) power is created with others (and therefore, expansive) and, 2) control diminishes, is what is necessary to explore Skip’s question. How do people give away their power?

If you are telling yourself a story of “I can’t…,” you are controlling/diminishing your potential. You’ve given away your power.

When you think someone else is responsible for your happiness, you’ve given away your power. You are seeking something from another person that you can only find in yourself. You are looking for what you can get. What would life look like if you believed the responsibility for creating your happiness what yours? Happiness follows. It is something you bring.

If you are invested in comparisons with others, you’ve given away your power. In a comparison the other person will always be the standard – and you can’t be them. Power returns when you bring yourself to the game without squeezing yourself into someone else’s identity. Power returns when you are the standard for your self.

If you bite the apple of perfection, you’ve given away your power. Perfection is subjective. Whose standard of perfection are you trying to meet? Most perfectionists will claim that they are the keepers of their own standard but betray themselves when someone criticizes their work. They are invested in the accolades of others. Generally, notions of perfection are really strategies of control. The rule of power-over works the same within an individual as it does within a country or an organization. Wielding the sword of perfection over yourself can only happen if you are already divided.

Another control strategy is to tell your self a false story, like: “I’m not an artist until my paintings sell.” False. Artists make art. The selling of art does not legitimize the artist. Selling is something else entirely. According to this silly scenario, poor Vincent Van Gogh was never an artist in his lifetime. False stories are great tools for justifying the relinquishing of power.

There are many variations on the theme – all apply equally to entrepreneurs, artists, plumbers, CEO’s, and tooth fairies. The general rule is this: you give away your power when you diminish yourself (I can’t), assign responsibility for your feeling to others (I have to, I should do), float through life looking for what life owes you (I’m entitled), or otherwise try and control your potential (how will I look if…). If you’ve eaten from any of the above orchards – and we all have – tell me the story and I will forward it to Skip. He’s correct: each sentence in this blog thread deserves a story.

[to be continued]

For a humorous look at the wonderful world of innovation and new ventures, check out my new comic strip Fl!p and the gang at Fl!p Comics.

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