Monday, August 11, 2008

Turn Right to Go Left

One of my son's favorite movies is the Disney film Cars. There's a scene where Doc, the old wise race car, is teaching Lighting McQueen, the rookie, to make a difficult turn on a dirt track and he tells Lighting, "Sometimes you gotta turn right to go left"...

Hmmm, that's an odd piece of advice, isn't it?

As I think back on my own entrepreneurial journey, I can tell you that I've always focused a lot of energy on my current business pursuits, thinking that if I could pour myself into it, I'd reap the rewards and then when it's over...adjust my life back to a state of "normalcy". Things like exercise, hobbies, and community have often been sidelined as a result. While I sometimes won the battle, I invariably saw myself in the end...losing the war.

For many of us who are running a business, the list of tasks is quite literally endless. There's hiring, firing, marketing, selling, negotiating, creating, managing, paying, developing and thinking going on all the time. We're constantly challenged with focusing on what's most important on a weekly or even daily basis. Stack into the, mortgage, bills, debt, health issues, obligations, etc and the nice box that we've created around life begins to crack.

After hearing the advice from Doc, Lighting tries the maneuver, knowing full well the old man doesn't know what he's talking about and with a lack of faith, he ends up crashing.

Why is it that life seems to be so challenging sometimes, especially as an entrepreneur? Through a series of experiences in my own life including always striving to achieve more to the point of breakdown, coming to faith in Christ, having kids, and birthing a new startup, the box has officially been cracked wide open., at the age of 35, with a family of 5 and an Internet startup in full swing, I have more going on than ever before, but the strange part is that I'm experiencing greater productivity, more joy and stronger business insight through...are you ready for this?

Letting go.

Part of this change started during a powerful event 2 months ago. Brett Hurt of Bazaarvoice, Leadership Austin and Bootstrap, sponsored a leadership presentation with Stew Friedman, author, speaker, and professor at the Wharton School of Business. Stew described a transformational way of thinking called Total Leadership, which can be used to become a better leader and have a richer life. Friedman describes the 4 domains of life as Self, Family, Work, and Community.

Part of the process involves creating "experiments", that challenge the way we're doing life and by measuring the results, better align what we do with what we value most in life. What do you value? For me, I value spending quality time with my wife and kids, leading other men in the way of Christ and exercising/mountain biking. What I began to learn was that pursuing these desires WHILE building my business has allowed me to stop chasing life and start living it. I work out just about everyday, spend great time with my kids and wife, and am in a life giving discipleship group.

Do I still get caught in the trap of thinking, "if I just work harder on my business, then I'll find success"? Well, the answer is Yes. But I know now more than ever that real productivity and success comes when I pursue what I say I value most. Plus, I'm finding a greater ability to keep objective about where my business is taking time to actually step away from the business.

It seems counter to think about spending less time on your business to actually become more successful, but the experiment is proving correct that if you want to go left, sometimes you need to turn right.

In the final scenes, while competing in the biggest race of his life, Lighting has the trust to let go and choose Doc's advice...and in the end, he's able to not only get back on the racetrack saving precious time, but go on to even greater glory.

Damon Flowers lives his life as a husband and father of 3, is an active Christ follower at Gateway Church and the Co-Founder of, a social community best described as online dating for Real Estate, which is being piloted in Austin. He leads the Bootstrap Real Estate Subgroup.


Stew Friedman said...

That's so cool. Keep experimenting! /Stew

Stew Friedman said...

That's so cool, Damon. Keep experimenting! /Stew

Tom Baum said...

Nicely put. I believe we all have our own personal "Doc"; what you might call an internal compass. To me, "letting go" is not forcing a logically contrived direction, but rather, listening to our internal compass and doing what is right. In doing so, life and happiness seem to simply fall into place. The skill to master then is learning to tune into our internal compass.

Brian Massey said...

You post begs the question: what happens when one of your experiments blows up the lab?

Damon Flowers said...

I'm definitely no expert, but my personal opinion is that the reward of a new more fulfilling life far exceeds the risk of having an experiment fail. I think too that experiments should be crafted to minimize large fallout...the goal is to keep the lab intact so we can experiment and grow another day!