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Re-interpreting expectations for ourselves & others through the lens of conscious leadership
Plus 4 major trends I'm seeing at the intersection of business & spirituality
This past week, a major US law firm had the following "non-negotiable expectations" slide leaked from a training presentation:
These expectations are certainly polarizing. While some who retweeted it were fully onboard (“this is how you create a billion dollar company!”) others who quote tweeted it were absolutely appalled (“this is obviously completely toxic”). Here are two notable perspectives:
(Full tweet here)
(Full tweet here)
The thing is, both camps are 100% correct at the same time, it’s just that the paradigms within which they are operating are different.
In my opinion, one paradigm is the Old Way (Jason) and the other is the New Way (Eric). I’m reserving passing judgement here because my sincere belief is that these two Ways are just representative of the level of consciousness of their specific frame. Notably, the latter is representative of a massive shift that’s taking place with respect to what we value in life, the ways we connect with and understand our innermost selves, how we show up to work, and how we value the workplace that’s actually worth showing up to.
If you’re familiar with my personal Substack, you know that I’ve written on a wide variety of spiritual and mindfulness topics, like our triggers being the key to our healing and how life is just one big reflection of our inner state.
As a fierce advocate of the benefits of inner work, and as an observer of macro trends at the intersection of business and spirituality, I’ll present a few significant trends I’ve seen that will disrupt the Old Way, paving the path for the New Way. I believe real examples of these nascent trends will become more frequent and increasingly resonate with people until they reach a critical mass, becoming an easily observable trend for all to see.
At the end of this post, I’ll interpret the non-negotiable expectations in the slide above through a lens of unconscious patterns and emotional drivers, and re-interpret them through one of conscious leadership. You can skip to the end for the resource I created that summarizes this comparison, or read through the trends first (which I recommend) since they’ll give you more context.
Big Trend #1: Redefining Success
We’re standing at the threshold of a new beginning, a dawning of sorts, and that applies for us as humans both individually and collectively. The old paradigms of success are being replaced by a new understanding of what it means to lead a fulfilling and meaningful life. Material achievements sound great — lots of money, status, power, and all the other trappings we can dream of. But the rat race is laser-focused on the outputs while totally ignoring the inputs — and our very essence lies within the inputs! The outputs look bright and shiny, but everything that happened along the way to get them usually involves behaviors driven by unconscious patterns like self-abandonment, greediness, the fight for dominance, and many more1, which wreak havoc on our well-being (particularly for founders).
But what I’m seeing is that many in my circle no longer are solely focused on material achievements, status, and the rat race. Instead, they are opening themselves up to the idea that true success lies in expanding our consciousness, engaging in meaningful work, and doing things that ignite our soul's passion.
Expanding our Consciousness
Our power to change the world is innate and lies within us, but it has nothing to do with what others tell us, and everything to do with what we tell ourselves. This journey towards consciousness expansion is about embracing that inner potential, becoming aware of our interconnectedness with the world around us, and realizing that we are not separate from the energy that flows through all things. Cultivating a deeper sense of self-awareness and understanding the underlying unity of existence, we can begin to redefine success as a path of personal growth and transformation.
Did you know that, as you read this, you are completely whole and perfect in your current state? As silly as it sounds, you’re like an acorn. We can admire and respect the acorn for what it is — a seed enclosed in a protective exterior. We say, “that’s an acorn”, not “that’s a deficient oak tree” just because it doesn’t have roots or leaves. The acorn can certainly grow into an oak tree under the right conditions of water, soil, and sunlight — and will be whole and perfect during every phase of that transformation — but we don’t damn its very existence from the start.
But that’s where the modern personal growth story is shaped by society’s markers of success and your journey on that growth path becomes tyrannical. The story we tell ourselves and which is reinforced by society is that we’re deficient somehow, and we need to do things to catch up, because we’re constantly behind someone or with respect to something.
There is no single “best” way to overcome these forces to ultimately tap into our innate wisdom, but practices like meditation, mindfulness, and self-reflection can help us develop a greater sense of empathy, compassion, and love for ourselves and others. As we expand our consciousness, we begin to see the world from a more holistic perspective, recognizing that our actions have far-reaching consequences and that we have the power to create positive change in our lives and in the world. We can be acorns, oak trees, or anything in between, and that’s OK. Being OK with who you are at your core every step along the way is true success.
Engaging in Meaningful Work
“The world is not as we see it, but as we are”. “Hurt people hurt people”. These are just a couple of phrases that reflect what seems to be a universal truth — we are all mirrors walking about, and our unique challenges are simply a reflection of our inner state. If everyone in the world became enlightened and achieved blissful, eternal inner peace, we wouldn’t have any problems!
So we can only transform that which we see and interact with once we undergo our own individual transformation. Like the acorn growing into the oak tree which eventually goes through its own life cycle, transformation is a journey, not a destination, and doing meaningful work is simply a realignment of ones’ personal values, passions, and Authentic Self with their professional lives (I capitalize Authentic Self because the self you know today may be a “False Self”, which is driven by that handful of unconscious patterns that don’t serve you). Fulfillment and purpose makes for happy people, and a happy world. But how many people do you know are 100% fulfilled with their work? And realistically, how happy can they be if their work doesn’t light their soul on fire?
Engaging in meaningful work means that we are in resonance with our soul’s purpose. That resonance creates and attracts more resonance and contributes to the greater good in a way that feels authentic and fulfilling. When you’re in resonance, material success is secondary to aliveness and authenticity, and importantly, these are all things that can co-exist, but in peace rather than inner chaos and turmoil.
Igniting Our Soul's Passion
When we redefine success in terms of consciousness expansion and meaningful work, we open ourselves up to the possibility of discovering and pursuing the things that truly light our soul on fire. These are the activities, interests, and pursuits that bring us joy, inspiration, and a deep sense of purpose.
By honoring our passions and following our intuition, we can embark on a journey towards self-discovery and self-expression, embracing our unique gifts and sharing them with the world. As we tap into our inner creativity and allow ourselves to be guided by our heart's desires, we can create a life that is not only successful in the traditional sense but also deeply fulfilling and meaningful.
In conclusion, the future of success lies in our ability to expand our consciousness, engage in meaningful work, and pursue the things that ignite our soul's passion. By shifting our perspective on what it means to be successful, we can begin to live more authentic, fulfilling, and purpose-driven lives. It's time to embrace this new paradigm and redefine success for ourselves and future generations.
Big Trend #2: The growing prevalence of mid-mid life crises
As John approached his 45th birthday, he found himself increasingly questioning his life choices. Despite his successful career and loving family, a nagging dissatisfaction haunted him. He began spending long hours alone, lost in introspection, contemplating the purpose of it all. His once-clear priorities seemed to blur, and the thought of unfulfilled dreams weighed heavily on his mind. One day, he impulsively bought a shiny red sports car, which seemed to symbolize his yearning for change and excitement. Surrounded by societal expectations and the pressures of aging, John found himself in the midst of a mid-life crisis, seeking a new path to happiness and fulfillment.
This is the prototypical story that we recall when we think about what a mid-life crisis is, and how it plays out in the real world. But what I’m seeing among certain friend groups and other people in my ecosystem is that this mid-life crisis is happening much earlier (late 20s and early-mid 30s instead of mid 40s or 50s — an entire generation earlier than expected), is manifesting differently, and is being driven by a number of significant catalysts.
The Catalysts for Early Self-Reflection
The increasing awareness of mental health, the desire for work-life balance, and the influence of social media are all contributing to a generation that is more introspective and focused on finding their true purpose at a younger age.
Mental Health Awareness
The rapid decline of the mental health of younger and younger people, as well as societal pressures around achieving and maintaining physical beauty forever, combine to create the forcing mechanism for self-reflection to occur earlier in our lives than ever before.
Further, as conversations around mental health become more prevalent, people are recognizing the importance of addressing their emotional and psychological well-being. Central to this is the questioning of the traditional markers of success and consideration of alternative paths that prioritize mental health, personal growth, and overall well-being.
The pursuit of work-life balance has gained significant traction since the onset of the pandemic, with many younger generations questioning the value of sacrificing personal happiness and relationships for professional accomplishments. This shift in priorities is encouraging people to seek out careers that allow them to strike a balance between their personal and professional lives, leading to a redefinition of what success truly means, or at least align themselves with companies whose values resonate with their Authentic Self.
Social Media Influence
Unlike the generation(s) before us, we’re more interconnected than ever before through social media, which has given us the opportunity not only to share our own personal stories, but to learn about and engage with others’ as well. It has opened up our aperture to others’ experiences (both positive and negative), the possible and the seemingly impossible. The silver lining of being chronically online is that it’s helped us express our stories and relate to one another’s dissatisfaction, regret, and desire for change much earlier in life. Together, this expression/consumption has created the scaffolding upon which we ground our transformation.
The pervasive influence of social media also means we’ve been exposed to a wide range of alternative lifestyles, careers, and perspectives on success itself. As we witness others breaking free from conventional norms and forging their unique paths, it inspires us to question our own definitions of success and consider how we might create a more fulfilling and purpose-driven life.
And a major difference between other generations and ours is that we are desiring change not just for ourselves, but for our relationships, friends, families, communities, and our planet. It’s not just about figuring out how we can be our best, purpose-driven selves, but how we can transform into the best version of ourselves for the greatest good and benefit of all sentient beings.
Embracing the Shift Towards Authenticity and Purpose
With all these catalysts being continually and increasingly at work, the trend of mid-mid life crises will only continue to gain momentum. This shift towards authenticity and purpose is not only empowering individuals to create lives that are more aligned with their true selves but is also inspiring a broader societal transformation. Embracing this emergent trends means, at minimum, staying open to what it means for us and our lives (especially if we’re resistant to the idea in the first place!), and ultimately supporting those on the journey towards redefining success. This is all to say that we can actually co-create and foster a world that values inner fulfillment, purpose, and genuine connection, ultimately leading to a more conscious and compassionate society.
Big Trend #3: Re-connecting with the Authentic Self and embodying our values
Before diving in, I want to share additional context around the Authentic Self and the False Self.
The Authentic Self
The Authentic Self refers to an individual's true essence, reflecting their core values, passions, strengths, and beliefs. It is the genuine expression of who they are, uninfluenced by societal expectations, conditioning, or the need for external validation. The Authentic Self is driven by a desire for self-awareness, personal growth, and inner fulfillment.
Some characteristics of the Authentic Self include:
A strong sense of self-worth and self-acceptance
Emotional honesty and open communication
Deep connections with others based on trust and vulnerability
A willingness to explore personal values, passions, and strengths
The pursuit of activities and goals that align with one's true desires and beliefs
In contrast, the False Self refers to the persona or mask that an individual presents to the world to gain acceptance, approval, or security. It is driven by external factors, such as societal norms, expectations, and the need to conform. The False Self often suppresses or hides the individual's true feelings, desires, and beliefs in order to fit in or avoid conflict.
Some characteristics of the False Self include:
A reliance on external validation and approval for self-worth
Superficial relationships based on appearances or social status
Dishonesty or avoidance in emotional expression and communication
The pursuit of activities and goals for the sake of appearances or to meet the expectations of others
A disconnect between one's actions and their true values or desires
The journey towards re-connecting with our Authentic Self often begins with self-reflection and introspection. By cultivating a deeper awareness of who we are and what truly matters to us, we can make more informed decisions about our lives and find greater satisfaction in our personal and professional pursuits.
The next major step in this journey is the embodiment of our values in our daily actions. Rather than simply acknowledging our beliefs, we actively seek ways to integrate them into our lives. This may show up in surprising ways, like intentionally spending less time with certain friends, while creating new friendships and connections with people outside of your “traditional” ecosystem of acquaintances who are on a similar path and can provide nurturing support and guidance. It might mean lovingly bowing out from a friendship altogether, dropping habits that no longer serve you (e.g. casual drug use), or adding in new ones like daily breath work. Or perhaps it means quitting your job and taking a chance on yourself, picking up a new hobby, or just spending more quality time with you — your thoughts, and more importantly, your feelings.
Another essential component of this trend and path is the focus on self-compassion and self-acceptance. As we strive to reconnect with our Authentic Self, we must also learn to embrace our imperfections and treat ourselves with kindness and understanding. This process involves acknowledging our vulnerabilities, celebrating our uniqueness, and fostering a sense of self-worth that is not contingent on external achievements or validation.
It’s my opinion that re-connecting with our Authentic Self and embodying our values is reshaping our perceptions of success and happiness in a positive way. As we learn to live in alignment with our core beliefs and embrace our true selves, we can experience a deeper sense of fulfillment and purpose in all aspects of our lives, and be the light that sparks others’ curiosity to consider pursuing the same path.
Big Trend #4: Operating at the intersection of the inevitable and the emergent
No doubt there is an immense amount of chaos in the world. We are reminded every day through social media, and I won’t describe examples here at length, because what is chaotic, stressful, and painful is different for each person, for different reasons, and at different depths.
But my reason for bringing up chaos is to emphasize that there are equal and opposite forces at play. As society and individuals descend deeper and deeper into their unconscious patterns, there are others who have toed the edge of the cliff, faced the abyss, and have been saved (or saved themselves) from taking one step further. They’ve experienced a mid-mid life crisis, redefined success, re-connected with their Authentic Self and embodied their values, and are now operating at the intersection of the inevitable and the emergent, comprising a movement that will bring forth a new era of balance and growth. But what does that mean exactly?
The inevitable refers to the natural response to chaos and imbalance in our lives. As we experience challenges, we are compelled to seek understanding, healing, and harmony. This force is an innate part of the human experience, pushing us to evolve, learn, and adapt. By embracing this inevitability, we open ourselves to transformative growth and the opportunity to reshape our lives in alignment with our true values and passions.
The emergent, on the other hand, represents the conscious shift towards self-awareness, empathy, and collaboration. As more individuals awaken to their Authentic Self, they begin to embody a new form of leadership that transcends traditional hierarchies and power dynamics. This conscious leadership emphasizes emotional intelligence, compassion, and collective well-being, fostering an environment where individuals are empowered to contribute meaningfully and authentically.
Operating at the intersection of the inevitable and the emergent means embracing both the challenges and the opportunities presented by our chaotic world. It requires a willingness to face our fears, insecurities, and limiting beliefs, while simultaneously cultivating the skills and mindset necessary for conscious leadership.
How can I be sure that people have already embraced this mindset and that operating from this perspective is happening on a larger scale than we’ve ever seen before? I'm currently running a search for a Chief of Staff at a San Francisco-based VC firm that focuses on investing in heart-centered entrepreneurs. One of their top requirements is a strong cultural fit/add, specifically related to having experienced a personal "awakening" and embodying their values of abundance, oneness, and heart-centeredness. This unique role, at a one-of-a-kind firm, with extraordinary people (2-3x founders who have run major orgs that have gone public), signals a major paradigm shift. I’ve truly never seen anything like it.
While this entire consciousness movement initially started with individuals undergoing their own transformative experiences and personal journeys of self-discovery and growth, these like-minded individuals are now coming together in a very big way, for example, with a lot of energy and money to deploy in the founders, companies, and missions that will change the way we live. This movement is no longer limited to the realms of life coaching, programs, retreats, and so on. A pioneering institutional vanguard is starting to take shape, and the momentum behind this collective rallying cry will only continue to grow.
As we journey along this path, we may find ourselves in a state of constant growth and evolution, shedding the layers of our False Self and uncovering the unique gifts and talents that lie within. By integrating these lessons of the inevitable with the principles of the emergent, we can create a more harmonious, balanced, and resilient future, both for ourselves and for the world around us.
Ultimately, the intersection of the inevitable and the emergent offers a powerful opportunity for personal and collective transformation.
I am a firm believer that within chaos lies the potential for profound growth and the emergence of a new paradigm rooted in consciousness, empathy, and shared purpose, and it’s my sincere hope that more people will embrace this perspective and recognize their role in ushering a global shift towards a more compassionate, resilient, and interconnected society.
Re-interpreting expectations for ourselves (and others) through the lens of conscious leadership
Below is the resource that compares the Old Way and New Way. The columns titled “Theme” and “Current Expectation” refer directly to the following slide that was leaked from a law firm earlier this week:
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Other unconscious patterns include: polarized thinking; overgeneralization; unfounded suspicion; negativity, withdrawal, inactivity, and pessimism; fixed expectations, preconceptions, taking things for granted, false assumptions; self-centeredness; avoiding and hiding; stubbornness; desire for victory, competitiveness; indecisiveness; eagerness for quick results; seeking maximal certainty; excessive expectations; making unnecessary comparison; ignoring and avoiding action; hypocrisy and pretense; double standards; approval seeking; perfectionism; driven solely by self-interest; lack of patience; urge to control; responding with negative emotions; envy and jealousy; laziness and procrastination; shirking and shifting responsibility; torment by loss and gain; resentment and revenge; exaggerating and debasing.