I had a coaching session today with a young internet entrepreneur. He wanted to talk about focus and priorities and said he was overwhelmed with so many activities. He then went on to list a few things he had been up to that – so it seemed to me – had nothing much to do with developing his business. First he had been making some money investing in cryptocurrencies.. Second he was trademarking some of his services and products saving nearly £20K by doing the legal legwork himself rather than paying a lawyer to do it.
We quickly tallied up the time he’d taken on these profitable or money saving activities – around 5 days this month. I suggested quite bluntly that neither of these were anything to do with the core purpose of his business. I asked him why was he wasting his time doing them, while simultaneously not attending to the 3 or 4 key strategic tasks he knew he needed to do.
I pointed out that from what he had said I had to conclude that the purpose of his life and business seemed to be about making money, not helping animals – which he tells me is the purpose behind his business. ‘Otherwise’, I said, ‘I can’t explain why you spent 5 days in a month trying to make or save money instead of develop your business’.
Focusing on money at the expense of the bigger picture:
This led to a rich and fascinating exploration. He acknowledged with great honesty that he is often quite ‘tight arsed’ (his phrase) about many business decisions – from the apparently trivial (eating at McDonalds when on business in London because it is cheaper than a healthier option) to the more significant (not wanting to hire professional help if he could do it himself). He framed this as still being in ‘penny pinching start up mode’, and suggested that he now needs to transition to a new approach as his business grows.
I suggested, again quite bluntly (I was in that kind of mood and it seemed fine by him) that this was really about his personal relationship to money, largely unconscious, and not actually anything to do with being in start up mode. After all plenty of start-ups invest from the off in significant capital spending – offices, furniture, websites etc as a way of creating a brand and profile that they want to help grow into the world. I suggested that this was not really about any particular business phase, it was about his personal style and specifically about unconscious choices regarding money obscuring his creative gut feel about the next steps for his business.
Unconscious conditioning about money affects our daily behaviours:
He got really engaged. He said he could now recognise many situations where he had taken an option based on saving money which he thinks may have actually held back his business. (The business by the way is currently doing very well with big opportunities to expand significantly and a healthy cash flow).
Given that his presenting question for our session was about focus and progressing his business, I suggested that rather than think of this as relating to time management, this was more accurately about shifting his priority from ‘maximising money’ in the short term to ‘doing the most important things I need to grow this business.’ My client actually has very good intuitions about the latter. But this level of knowing sometimes gets confused with a more heady inner voice that counts the pennies, believing that to be useful and necessary.
‘You are identifying with your inner Finance Director instead of your inner CEO’, I suggested.
Our inner CEO and inner FD:
In archetypal terms the FD is a controller, a Saturnine, limiting and constraining force. The FD needs to monitor money, ensure no mistakes are make and – in theory at least – to do so in order that money works in service of the bigger picture which is the strategic vision of the CEO and the overall life of the enterprise. The FD energy is necessary and important, but should never be allowed to be in charge. Once in charge of the whole show, decisions slowly but surely become disconnected with passion, vision and the founding life energy or life force of the enterprise.
Our unconscious anxieties and concerns about the future often become entangled with our own inner FD (‘Will I have enough?’ ‘Should I hold on to what I have?’ ‘Can we afford it?’) None of these are bad questions in themselves, but all of them can constrain the deeper life flow of an individual or enterprise if they are allowed to take centre stage at the expense (sic) of other considerations.
In archetypal terms the CEO is a more progressive, Zeus like, expansive force. The CEO energy is about moving forward and outward, with due respect to practical realities of course, but very much in line with a vision and a relationship to the future and unfolding horizons. Inner CEO questions include, ‘where are we trying to get to?’, ‘what’s the next step?’, ‘are we moving in the right direction?’
My client’s homework this month is to listen and really trust his intuition and knowing about the next steps his business needs to realise its vision. He has a natural faculty in this regard, but does not always listen well to it. As he does this I encouraged him to then pay very close attention to the arising of the inner FD on his shoulder who will, inevitably caution against whatever more expansive impulse arises.
Making money questions serve our overall life path:
This inner conversation mirrors precisely the wider dynamics of what I call the Money Path vs. the Life Path in our lives as a whole. Many of us will recognise this sort of internal conversation regarding various visions and plans for our life and work – both large and small. We so often constrain or block a step we feel deeply called to take in our life or work, due to some (apparently sensible but ultimately unhelpful) inner chatter about the logic of money. Given that money is a human construct, both virtually non-existent and utterly mysterious, is it not odd that we let it run the show to the extent we do?
To trust in and learn to follow one’s life path with and without money, is the same as really listening to our inner creator / visionary CEO energy while respectfully acknowledging, but not being taken over by, the more cautious internal FD. The FD’s job is always to serve the bigger vision and not to distort the bigger vision in service of money. Organisations that end up being dominated by the FD energy eventually lose connection with the vision and passion, which are the ultimate resource for any organisation. Therein lie a great many problems.
My client really liked exploring his own inner tensions using these archetypes, it seemed healing and rebalancing for him. So we agreed his other homework was to book a posh restaurant for his team’s Christmas dinner and to spend an afternoon shopping to buy each member of his team a personal gift that cost ever so slightly more than felt comfortable for him.
I look forward to our New Year meeting.
 By ‘archetypal’ I mean as an essential pattern or constellation of energy and behaviour. I am not saying that all FDs behave one way and all CEOs behave another.