Recently I was in Santorini and got a great “taste” of the power of Leading Naturally, by trusting our heart’s desires. On this particular evening, I was feeling extra stuffed–full of good food. Being a values-aligned partner on an adventure means empowering Mikey to do his part (planning, arranging outings, etc.) while I do mine (not taking over, or micromanaging, etc.). As you may guess, this is not always my first nature: sometimes I want to be in charge, especially when the plan is desert and I’m already stuffed to the gills. But I’m slowly learning that honoring his ownership of a plan and receiving well is a big part of celebrating his joy of providing great adventures. More on “our part” and “not our part” later.
So, me honoring his ownership of this vacation journey led to us discovering the Greek Gelato Guys.
This is our hero, Greek gelato maker Nick. Clearly, he is doing his part. When we walked into his shop, I stopped in my tracks when I saw this sign: it reads “joy first.”
I have an MC-ism “Joy First, Product Second.” I love watching the ripple that emanates out from work done in pursuit of the things that ignite our spirit. The ripple can reach across the globe. It’s not only good for our well being, it’s good for relationships, teams and the business bottom line. This shop was the #1 rated Restaurant on Santorini for good reason!
Our job is to find “our part,” “our joy.” When we follow our heart we get to watch beauty unfold. Creativity, innovation, contribution and value flow. When desire leads the way, we are receptive to growth and challenge: the growing pains seem worth it because we are transforming into something we desire while creating something we admire. Joy-ful, joy-making.
Joy First, Product Second ties directly into our world view. Albert Einstein framed it this way: “The most important decision we make is whether we believe we live in a friendly or hostile universe.” The answer to this question (and you have answered it even if you’ve never consciously thought of it) will determine your reaction to bad drivers on your commute, a co-worker’s white lie, the tone of a buyout.
Depending on your perspective, there is evidence for benevolence in every moment of life. Everything can be viewed as supporting us: quite literally the ground supports us, as does gravity which stabilizes us; our alarm clocks helps us start our day; the boss who’s yelling encourages us figure out an exit strategy. The benevolent universe is always giving us feedback to help us find our joy or grow into expressing it more masterfully.
If we decide that the universe is benevolent, then of course our heart’s desire is linked inextricably to our highest purpose.
“Joy First, Product Second” is a mentality that leads to living our purpose and service not in terms of martyrdom but in the joy of sharing that which we love with the world around us. The deeper we get into work that we love, the more it reveals it’s secrets to us, the more it gives us to give others. It’s beautiful, self-renewing energy and work almost like riding a current. Not only does this return energy to us but it brings our colleagues and customers into that energy. To use another food metaphor, it’s like a stone soup where ideas can grow bigger and stronger and passions thrive. This, in turn, creates “real value” in your business.
To be sure, joy first doesn’t translate to “easy all the time!” Or even “what you’ve always been good at.” Sometimes joy is following the scent of something promising, something enticing and challenging out of a rut you’ve been in. Often our culture encourages us to stick with things we’re good at (but you’re so great at accounting or or project management). Sometimes our heart’s desire pulls us out of the comfort of our zone of competency so we can tap into a zone of genius.
To quote an expert joy follower, our gelato hero, Nick, “When you choose joy, you feel good; when you feel good, you do good; when you do good, it reminds others what joy feels like! And it just might inspire them to do the same in their own way.”
This gelato maker has a cousin and business partner who shares his name–they are named after a favored grandfather. The cousin Nick, does not get joy from experimenting with flavors and hand beating cream. He follows his joy when he immerses himself in running the business–keeping the ledger book, tending relationships with vendors, and negotiating leases. This kind of relationship, where each follows their own joy, leads to thriving businesses and happy hearts. And yes, we all have to do things in life that are not our highest joy. This is simply suggesting that we seek to tip the scales to more joy and less martyrdom.
Sometimes, it seems like a misguided luxury to put joy ahead of the bottom line. The survival brain kicks in, saying “gotta make this deal now” or “do this job, just do it, even though you hate it” because you need the money, you are supporting your family, you need your business to grow. All of these needs are important! It’s good to think about the bottom line. But following joy will meet those needs quicker, more efficaciously. I see this time and time again in my own life and my client’s lives and businesses. And yet, it’s a trap I still fall into and a lesson I need to keep reminding myself.
For some of us, It bucks the survival brain’s pattern to follow joy ripples in our work. We are rewiring cultural memes of over-work that have become default superhighways in our brains. This wiring can drive our almost unconscious behavior to look at email the last thing before bed and the first thing in the morning (as an example_.. Creating new neural pathways is not always ease but with practice in “following our nose to joy” we can accelerate the access to thriving. Here are some practices for Joy First, Product Second:
1) SLOW DOWN. Declare enough! This helps us become aware of “intherited” patterns that are literally joy-killers. Plus slowing down as we practice new habits helps lay new neural pathways more quickly. This sounds like saying, “I have done enough email. I’m going to find 20 minutes today to follow my joy and see what I learn.”
2) Develop a community of support. Cultivate relationships with the people who stretch you into the joy side of yourself. This may be friends a coach or a life-adventure guide (like Mikey in my case). The Gelato Cousins had a business-owning uncle who mentored them, for example.
3) If even knowing what your heart’s desire is sound overwhelming, don’t fret. Tap into your values: they are stepping stones to joy, leading you to greater freedom. Think on this: doing your heart’s desire will have long-term dividends. Living out your values has an appreciative effect as more energy and joy and love will return to you.