From Start-up to Grown-up.

November 8, 2021

From Start-up to Grown-up.

May 29, 2023

This essay is about a book. From Start-up to Grown-up was birthed at an MEA workshop in Jan 2020 and nourished into existence at a Sabbatical Session in February 2021. It’s about the transformations an entrepreneur must undergo as she grows from the founder of a tiny business to being the leader of a thriving company.

You may not be an entrepreneur, but as a member of the MEA community you’re well-acquainted with transformation.

My book is divided into 3 sections: Managing You; Managing Them; Managing the Company. As I wrote my book, I thought often about how you can map your personal wisdom journey along the same lines.

Managing You
Approaching any new chapter of your life with grace and intelligence requires heightened self-awareness. Founders have to be conscious of their triggers and natural tendencies so they can regulate themselves and make wise decisions about whom to hire and how to handle the bumpy start-up journey.

As you travel into midlife and beyond, your mission is to build wisdom, and one of the gateways to wisdom is self-awareness. Being able to tune into what you’re thinking and feeling allows you to access wisdom from your heart as well as your head.

Self-awareness also lets you see your invisible scripts. One powerful activity from my MEA workshop still stays with me. We wrote down our fears, concerns, limiting beliefs on sticky notes, stuck them to our shirts, then walked around so everyone else could see them. Although that was uncomfortable (very) it prompted me to confront my self-limiting belief about the things that “would never happen for me.” Once I made my invisible issues visible, I was able to resolve them. That’s why I was finally able to achieve a major goal: writing a book.

Questions to ask yourself: What are the invisible scripts in your head that no longer serve you? How do you counteract negative voices in your head?

Managing Them
Entrepreneurs need to learn to manage “them:” their employees, their cofounders, their boards and all the other people who are key to the business. As their startup grows up, they need to hire new employees with different skills and, sometimes, part ways with others.

As you transform, your goals and values change, and so do the relationships around you. Sometimes that means that your friends from the old days may not be as good a fit. Sometimes that might be an invitation to regenerate old relationships by being more vulnerable and asking different questions.

And, you can bring new relationships into your life. One way is through mentoring. I have practiced Chip’s concept of co-mentoring for years. Currently, I have a 30-year old mentor who is an expert in blockchain and a peer-mentor (whom I met at MEA) who helps me think about my investing strategy while I coach him on scaling his business.

Questions to ask yourself: who are the people in your life you might want to go deeper with? Who can you establish a co-mentoring relationship with?

Managing the Company
No matter their vision or charisma, every founder has to pay attention to the mundane aspects of running the company. They may not get excited about the monthly budget meeting or the quarterly goal-setting process, but that unsexy stuff is how they build a thriving business.

For you, this means personal infrastructure. You earn the right to have more options later in life by living below your means and investing your money wisely. Nobody gets to be enlightened without taking the time to care for the body with the right fitness and nutrition. I started lifting weights about 8 years ago (ask Chip about how he got his kettlebells) not because I loved it (although I do now) but because I realized that staying fit was not optional for me to live the life I want to have.

Questions to ask yourself: what kind of personal maintenance have you been putting off? Where would some attention to your financial affairs bring the most value?

A startup grows into a thriving company because the founder never stops growing. As you grow into your next chapter, my wish for you is that the same can be said of you.

Alisa Cohn
is an MEA alum, executive coach and the author of From Start-up to Grown-up. Thinkers50 named her top startup coach in the world. She guest lectures at Harvard, the Naval War College, and Henley Business School, and has been featured on the BBC World News, and in the NY Times and Wall Street Journal.

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