Quotes from the Point of No Return

 by Cohort V member Selma van Halder

Groundswell V is at the point of no return! We have now landed exactly in the middle of our programme. Three months in, three months to go. It’s time for a bit of a recap. What did we do? What did we learn? Where are we at?

Let me give you a glimpse into our process by pulling six quotes out of my notes from the last three months, and putting them into context.

Be aware of your weaknesses, but focus on your strengths. It’s strangely liberating to fully realize what your weaknesses are. The holes in your knowledge, the precise location of your privilege, the lack of experience in certain fields. They give you the information you need to choose: What do I learn? What do I delegate? Who do I need to surround myself with? Being aware of your weaknesses is a strength. It gives you the peace of mind to focus on what you know you’re good at.

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We might be hippies, but we’re not naive. We are constantly working hard to reduce the risks involved in starting a venture, by making sure we do everything in our power to avoid guesswork. “My mom said it was a good idea”, “I need it, so for sure everyone else does too”, “It worked for 3 people, so it’ll work for 3000”, all assumptions that our mentors won’t let us build a business on.

You think your idea is viable? Ask. Validate. Try it out. Evaluate. Change direction. Baby steps. Successful businesses are built on foundations of certainty, not guesswork.

Before you take off, you need to realize WHY you’re doing what you’re doing. David, one of our mentors told us we’d get sick of him asking us “why?”.  And boy, are we.  I want to start an organization that helps people become more comfortable in their own kitchens. Why? Because I think it’s important for people’s health, for the planet, and for so many other things.

But why? What’s driving me? Why me? Why this way, and not a different way? Why now? Why here? Why with these people and not others? Ask yourself why at every step, and ask why after you answer it. Yes. It’s annoying. But it’s important.

We talk a lot about MVP’s: “Minimum Viable Product”. How can you scale your idea down to such a size that it is attainable, manageable, pilot-able; into a shape that can be run with minimal effort, and maximum impact. You don’t really know what your operation is going to look like until you try it, right? But how do you scale something down? How do you make sure that this small incarnation of your big idea doesn’t turn into a bastardization of your big vision, or fails to touch upon the biggest motivators for you to want to be in business in the first place?

Try making sure your business behaves like a cauliflower. Your big ideas must permeate every aspect of it. If you break it down, it should still represent the whole cauliflower. Is your main goal to provide people with meaningful employment by selling ethically raised bacon sandwiches? Don't run a pilot with 3 cent frozen Costco buns. Did you start a business to be able to provide an accessible service to underprivileged families? Don’t charge 50 bucks an hour during your pilot phase.

If you can't uphold your values in the scaled down version, think again about why they would in the larger scheme of things.

Half of our cohort recently declared to feel ‘uneasy’ around excel sheets, that’s what you get for being an ‘unlikely entrepreneur’: the image in the forefront of our brain is not a dollar sign. We weren't born with an inherent ability to create a multi million dollar business. Or the absolute confidence that we can sell a fridge to a polar bear. We were happy to learn: no one is.

Entrepreneurship is like working out a muscle. You need to keep at it, work hard every day. And you’ll screw up, you’ll fall flat on your face, more than once. You know what? You learn. You surround yourself with people who have the knowledge, the experience, and the drive to help you, and you learn. It’s not luck or magic that keeps a hot air balloon in the air. It’s science. And a dude with a lever.

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I’ve never liked competition. I shy away from it. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to do well, do things to the very best of my ability. I just don’t like thinking, “What will make me better than everyone else? More successful, wealthier?”. The question we focus on at Groundswell is, "What will make everyone better?" 

I know that is a big goal, but it’s what we strive for. We navigate between the possible and the imagined, we envision a world in which zero sum games do not exist.

Meaningful lives aren't only achieved by putting someone else down, or ‘beating’ anyone. If you want to be better than everyone else, you’re probably not going to achieve it in your lifetime, but you’ll live your life within that philosophy. I know I’m not going to make everything and everyone better, but the beautiful thing about living within that philosophy is that even if you only change the lives of three people, including your own, and you work hard to not consciously hurt anyone, you’ve already succeeded.

Do you want to learn how you can create a meaningful livelihood and make a difference in your own life and others'? Groundswell's Social Venture Program gives you the tools to do just that!  Find out more at an Info Session on Monday, December 19th, 5:30pm at the Groundswell Community Space.