I’m Not Cinderella: The Split in the Soul of the Accidental Entrepreneur

by | Jan 21, 2009

Photo credit: Anton Gvozdikov from istockphoto.com

Yesterday millions of people across the country and around the world were galvanized by Obama’s inaugural address. I was one of them.
Today I awoke to the sniping of Cinderella’s ugly stepsisters.
Before I opened my eyes, Prunella hissed, “Go back to sleep, you pathetic procrastinator. You’re not going to do anything important today. Face it.”
Instantly Griselda bristled. “Don’t listen to her. Get a grip. Be positive. With thoughts like this, you’ll never live up to your potential.”
Well, I’m not Cinderella. My heart is not pure enough to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune with good cheer. I don’t care how many cheery little birds chirp encouragement, I don’t suffer my stepsisters gladly.
I’m just not that good a person.

The Split

Yesterday I wrote to a friend, “Obama has awakened hope, vision, and commitment in so many who have been either disenfranchised or disenchanted — or both. I am so grateful.”
Today I didn’t want to get out of bed.
Obama’s election lifted from me and many others the fog of cynicism and doubt that had dampened our enthusiasm and for a better collective future. But no election could lift the fog of self-doubt and self-criticism.
The split in the soul of the accidental entrepreneur stems from the belief that we are good, but not good enough to heal ourselves, and that the world needs healing at the expense of our personal ambitions. To do good, we must be prepared to sacrifice.
We Are the World And the World Is Us
Until I began writing this newsletter, I was not aware of the significance of this collective dimension of the accidental entrepreneur’s dilemma. Before today, I understood that healing ourselves was essential to thriving and serving. What I had not seen is the extent to which we must also heal our relationship with the world.
How do we do that? By reframing our struggle to make a living in terms of a collective good. We must come to see that picking ourselves up, dusting ourselves off, and beginning again the work of building our businesses is service, just as surely as volunteering at a food bank.
I don’t claim this is our only task. We have responsibility to the environment, our neighbors, and the world. But Accidental Entrepreneurs tend to take on these responsibilities as if they are opposed to personal ambition. We can either be successful or good.
This isn’t news to most of us. What is news, at least to me, is that the inner work I’m committed to has a collective dimension that is much richer and far more important than I had imagined. It’s not just about how we relate to the whole. Somehow, working in and on our businesses, needs to include what for lack of a better word I will call the world soul.
It’s Not About Being Good, It’s about Being Real
The world does not need more fear or anger. There is plenty of resentment to go around. And, paradoxically, when we repress or reject or avoid our own fear, anger, and resentment, the world suffers as much as we do ourselves.
The great work is not about overcoming darkness. Darkness and light will not be separated. Our great work in our businesses and personal lives is to tend to what lives in the darkness so that, when it comes to light, it comes as a sprout breaking through the earth where it will bear fruit.
In practical terms, this means bringing practices we’ve learned in our quests for wholeness to bear on our work in and on our businesses.
It’s not a question of whether to make a vision quest or a business plan: We must do both and integrate the two. It’s not a question of whether to serve others or create personal wealth: Our work is to undo the beliefs within and without that place these at odds.
The greatest work of all is to show up each day willing to not be “there” yet. So long as we believe we should be better than we are, we will be blind to our own light and resentful of the light of others.
Our greatest error is to interpret failure to be present as evidence that we are irredeemably flawed. There is no way back to ourselves and to each other that does not begin with compassionate awareness that we’ve once again lost our way.
When Obama was elected, I vowed to abandon cynicism. Today I see that I need help from you to do this. What’s more I finally get that that’s a good thing.