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  • Writer's picturePhil

Getting (un)stuck

Updated: Jan 13, 2021

Last October I launched myself into the creation of this new venture. My goal with Not Neutral is to build a business that helps business leaders ensure that their companies have a net positive impact on the world. I believe that the ultimate concern of all human endeavour

should be the benefit of humankind - whether that be through meeting basic needs like food and shelter, taking healthcare to new heights or more esoteric concerns like expanding knowledge or raising consciousness. When it comes to the world of business, which is where I focus, that benefit, often captured as a mission or purpose, should be the ultimate reason why an organisation exists, with sustainable financial profit an enabler of that - a means rather than an end.

As I set out I was full of excitement and energy. I felt a tremendous sense of freedom and opportunity as I stepped out of the constraints of working for someone else and got going building something that's all me and 100% aligned with my personal sense of mission and with my values. I'm an inherently social animal and take a lot of energy from interacting with others, so that's what I did, picking up the phone and meeting up (mostly online) with people I know who already have at least a foot in this space. Through that I quickly connected with a brilliant array of people doing interesting things and looking to make a positive impact in the world. I met many great people at Year Here, started to get to know the team at T-Minus, and caught up for coffee-chats (some virtual, some over the course of a walk in the park) with good people like Kelly at Impact Edit, Rima at Impactful, Hannah Keartland and Ravi at Four Points. I also got to spend some good time reconnecting and kicking ideas around with my old friends Rich at Let's Go and Caitlin at Great Heights Pathways.

With all that I still felt like I was only scratching the surface. There's so much to read on the subject of conscious capitalism, the new economy or business for good right now. Exciting titles like The Shareholder Value Myth, Brands on a Mission, Reimagining Capitalism and Doughnut Economics are all burning holes in my reading list, adding to the sense of urgency. Now's the time! Plus there are a whole host more businesses in this space that I want to learn more about and connect with. People like Xynteo, On Purpose, Yunus, SY Partners and Kyu, not to mention my ex colleagues Jemma and Sarah who I know are going to do brilliant things at Element.

And then? I got totally overwhelmed. It all became too much. It felt like there's too much already out there. Like, too many brilliant people are already working in this space, many of them having dedicated their long careers to it, with a wealth of knowledge and experience I can only aspire to. Self doubt crept in. What right do I have to play alongside them? And if, despite all their great effort, we're still, for want of a better way of putting it, totally fucked and going in the wrong direction, how am I going to make a meaningful difference? Is it all pointless? Yup, that's where my mind took me.

To get away from all that self doubt and depression I spent days procrastinating. I sat at my desk killing time. I hid away from the world, stopped making and taking calls, left emails unanswered for days on end. Random dash-cam and cyclist videos of bad road usage on YouTube became a, particularly weird but curiously addictive, time-wasting go to for a couple of weeks. I got stuck. And I stayed stuck for a few weeks. But finally I managed to get unstuck.

I can identify the exact moment I turned the corner. It was 9:30am on Thursday 3rd December. I'd signed up for the Co-Active Training Institute fundamentals course which was due to start at 10:00am that morning. I knew it was going to involve sharing of myself and, with the mood I was in, I was seriously questioning whether I was up for it. In the end I decided "to hell with it," I could always drop out if it became too much. So, having made that decision, 30 minutes later I dialled in.

Through the four days of that course I did indeed end up sharing of myself. It took me a while to warm up to it and I confess that I held back from volunteering for any of the "get coached in front of all the participants" opportunities. It was, however, exactly what I needed and it benefited me in two big ways. First, through the various rounds of practice I received coaching that enabled me to talk out my feelings - sadness and regrets about the past, fear and anxiety about the future. I began to understand them and find the self compassion needed to process them. Second, it introduced me to a new skill set that answers many of my big questions about how to take things forward with Not Neutral. The Co-Active coaching model presents a way of bringing the mindfulness practices that have so helped me in my personal life into my work. I'd actually go beyond they present a way of making work itself a form of mindfulness practice. And in that they present a type of work that's good for me, giving me energy and making my heart sing.

Having turned that corner the process of getting unstuck continued, fuelled by lots of exercise, time outdoors and quality time with my wife and kids. I continued the process of reflection begun on the course. I applied Co-Active's levels of listening to myself, going inwards in order to work out how I'm going to take things forward out in the world. I came to a realisation that my thinking about work had been focused entirely on what I thought I should be doing, on this moral imperative to have a big impact, at the expense of thinking about what I would enjoy doing, of finding ways to get going that would play to my strengths and bring me joy in the moment.

As I launch myself into the ongoing building of Not Neutral in 2021 my actions are being guided by this realisation. I've chunked this down and am pursuing three paths to growth, all of them approached from this angle of doing what I enjoy and playing to my strengths:

  1. Taking on consulting projects for purpose driven companies, collaborating with some of the people and businesses listed above, working at an achievable scale and doing work I enjoy;

  2. Taking on coaching clients as I continue my professional development with Co-Active, continuing to work on these exciting new skills and practice deep listening in a business context;

  3. Treating the bigger question of how to make a meaningful impact on the world, how to accelerate the shift to a new form of capitalism at scale as an inquiry, one I'll experiment with in small ways through my consulting and coaching work as well as explore and write about here on the Not Neutral blog.

So onwards into 2021 and to the development of Not Neutral as a consultancy, a coaching business and an inquiry into how business can make the world better and the role I can play in making that happen.

*Thanks to Riccardo Annandale for that first image, which I found on Unsplash.

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