Find Your Silly Self
Vol 8. of Growing With a Startup
I’m back from sunny Kenya.
The sense of adventure hasn’t left me, so I’ve cancelled my London flat to go and explore the world. No plans just yet.
On exploration: today’s edition is a pretty personal exploration. It came out of a session with my coach and was just intended for myself -- it felt too personal to share. Some of my close friends haven’t seen much of this side of me.
The internet is weird in that it can be both much less intimate and in some ways more intimate than the real world.
As much as the below reads just like me trying to figure out who I am, I have a sense that this will have an enormous impact on the kinds of organisations I might build.
Find Your Silly Self
Let me introduce you to Looney, my Silly Self.
You'll know Looney when you meet him. His presence is pretty obvious and usually comes about in one of several ways. He often:
Makes loud, high-pitched noises unrelated to the conversation.
Speaks in unusual, unexplained acronyms, like HAGD (Have A Good Day, of course).
Refuses to engage in anything serious.
Cackles with maniacal, silly laughter.
Loon-ey lives in stark contrast to Rune, my not-so-silly self. (Sometimes pronounced Rooney.)
Rune is pretty serious. He’s the one who always cuts chit-chat short at the beginning of meetings. He could even be described as tense-jaws-when-you-make-a-joke serious or Gantt-chart-a-career-break serious. He likes to worry about high-stakes meetings, hoping the worrying makes his mind sharper.
Historically, Rune and Looney have not coexisted. Looney is like a Joyful but Careless Dr. Jekyll to the Serious and Structured Mr. Hyde and only comes out when I find myself in a safe haven, psychologically speaking. Like Sunday mornings in my family home where the people around me appreciate all sides of who I am.
Looney only crystallised as a character for me on a recent five-week trip to Kenya with my girlfriend, Henna. Around her, in our own little world for weeks, I felt safe enough to allow Looney to peep out of his box for weeks on end. He frolicked about like a cow that’s just been released from its cage onto grass fields for the summer. Now, he refuses to go back in the box around her. He joins for dinner, butts in between breaks in the workday, and in quiet moments out in public.
I have kept Looney in the box because part of me - Rune, my not-so-silly self - believes joy and carelessness are antithetical to building a successful company. Building a company takes hard work, perseverance, and careful planning, right?
But Looney doesn’t have to be in charge of the Gantt charts for changing the world. That’s Rune’s domain. Looney is more inclined to delve into open, curious exploration of ridiculous-looking ideas. Less self-editing, more creative expression. And maybe, just maybe, showing up as a fuller version of myself, Rune and Looney combined, enables me to create conversations, projects, organisations with more authenticity, more connection.
So I would like to invite Looney into the light more often. Share him with my friends, bring him to work, make him somewhat presentable. Letting others see, feel, the full me, breaking down the distinction between Looney and Rune. Even if some people might think less of me. Even if giving Looney more space means fewer things I do go to plan.
The first step is to spend time in my safe haven to get familiar with Looney. To me, that’s time around family, around a few of my closest friends who make me feel most at ease. From there, the next step might be to invite Looney into brand new relationships. Here, there will be no expectations of how Rune should be, and no surprised looks when Looney peeks out. The hardest step, then, is to invite Looney into my existing relationships. Here, there are thousands of micro-memories of Rune deciding not to invite Looney in. If I were Looney, that’s the dance floor I’d fear most.
If you think you might have a Looney inside you too, the first step might be to spend a lot of time in your very safest haven. Let your guard all the way down. Perhaps around your siblings, your childhood best friend, a gentle uncle -- around the people who make all of you feel loved, cherished. Be curious about how you show up differently. Latch on to that.
Then, explore that side of you in a brand new setting and let your Silly Self alight.
Thanks to Hampus Jakobsson, Sara Campbell, Tom White, Jordan Jones, Hrvoje Simic, Leise Sandeman, Tycho Onnasch for comments.