If I'm Being Honest
7 minute read
I've just had my 2 year anniversary of leaving steady employment at HSBC in Hong Kong so that my wife and I could attend to family matters back in Sri Lanka. While thoughts had been brewing for a while about what I might do on my own, the decision was simplified when we learned of our loved ones declining health.
I had actually been reinvigorated in the last year working for my boss and was lucky to have been able to glean some valuable experience prior to my exit. We had discussed my career and I had been given the opportunities I was promised, but we agreed before that I could not continue this role if I moved. This presented the perfect opportunity to enter the wild and wonderful world of being my own boss.
What I knew :
- I wanted to help develop the startup economy and be closer to new ideas
- I still wanted to support corporates but I was looking to pivot from banking
- I believed strongly that creative problem solving solving was the key to this new life
What I had :
- A (business partner) with complimentary skills and a similar passion
- A little bit of money in the bank and a low cost home (in Sri Lanka) to bootstrap from
- A great network of supportive wife, family, friends and colleagues with reputation intact
Within a month Disruptants Company Private Limited in Sri Lanka was born, with our mission of building creativity in people and organisations and as of January 2018 we have based our operation out of Hong Kong under Disruptants Limited. This, however, is not a story about our entire path to where we are today.
This is a story about success.....and honesty.
As an entrepreneur you have to ride the twin wave of being your #1 fan and harshest critic. Presenting an unwavering front as you push to build credibility and confidence in clients while hustling constantly to avoid complacency and accelerate your way back to comfort is the aim. Like some ducks, floating seemingly carefree atop the water, legs furiously paddling beneath.
But here's the radical honesty, I am not that duck. I have had the pleasure of meeting many of those ducks in my last two years but I have been far less fast and far less furious. We have a tendency in big corporates and startups alike to act like everything is ok when it isn't. When there's other people to pick up the slack the effects may hit you down the line, with over-stressed employees, audit issues and toxic cultures but they'll come. In startups it could mean the end of the business or perhaps no food next week.
For my part, I acknowledge that I could have spent a significantly larger portion of my time doing pro bono work, writing articles, honing facilitation and literary skills while giving more tangible experiences of the business we do. I could have at least read the 25 books I still have remaining at home instead of the amount of time I have spent on TV or gaming. And as much as I may tell myself that I'm extremely happy and have made the right choices, I have been extremely happy throughout and would have been even if I'd been working twice as hard.
Doom and gloom? Not really - all these realisations are part of what makes honesty, humility and vulnerability some of the most powerful and underutilised tools we have today. On my more immediate list of things to change are :
- Our content strategy has been a bit low key for a bit too long, so we're upping our game on LinkedIn and look out for our new online web feature in September
- A picture is worth a thousand words, so we're going to produce at least 1000 interesting words every week (and work our way quickly up to 7000)
- I've been a LEGO® Serious Play® facilitator for 2 years now but have not consistently facilitated each month. Time to top that up (watch this space for pop up sessions)
These are just a few of my To Do's but casting the lens back even further to my work in the bank, I can see the room for improvement in some of my best work. Being qualified as a design thinker and facilitator doesn't make you either, you have to do it and likewise passing a course doesn't mean you've learned something, solving a problem using that derived knowledge is how you do that.
If you take away one thing from this, it's that being vulnerable, far from being weakness, gives you the opportunity to be strong. Understanding whether you need help or have to help yourself is the first step to making a change, but you then need to make that change happen. I know that I needed to help myself by shining a bright light back on my last two years and critically evaluating what needed to stop, start and continue. Secondly I need help from you all to engage, let me and Disruptants know what we're doing that you like, love or hate.
And last but not least, if there there is anything you need, we'd love to help if we can. Take the time to beat yourself up, remind yourself you're great and then share some radical honesty with us.
Damith the Disruptor (in the future, I hope to add theme music for this title)
PS Look out for more from me and my partner Shayan Hazir as we explore Authentic Leadership, Innovation and Emerging technology in the coming months as Disruptants. If you'd like to start a conversation or discuss opportunities please reach out via LinkedIn and let's connect.
PPS In case you were wondering, it's not like I've been asleep for the past 2 years : I've started Disruptants (twice) in Sri Lanka and Hong Kong, learned how to ski, started and retired from cryptocurrency evangelism, angel invested in 3 startups, became a LEGO® Serious Play® facilitator, started a GMCA at Cambridge, I work with an education charity in HK (for Sri Lanka), participated in creativity and startup conferences from North America to Asia, spent quality time with family before they passed, got HSBC on board as a customer and had shoulder surgery. It's been a blast.
August 7, 2019