A woman in New York has an idea about a llama business.
Excited, she calls up all of her friends and asks them to assemble. When everyone is present she takes a deep breath and says, "I have an idea for a llama business." Her friends stare for a moment, and then laugh her out of the building.
Wildly depressed, she goes to visit her friends in California. As the dinner plates are cleared, she decides to swallow her fear and bring up the llama business idea.
When she does, her friends stare silently for a moment. Her stomach starts to knot.
Finally one says: "Well, what kind of llama?"
Then another one says: "What if there were two llamas?"
And a third says: "My uncle has a llama farm -- maybe we could get him involved!"
Bruce told me this story last week, and I had to laugh. Having come to the west after a lifetime in the east, I can't help but see some truth in how different the two coasts can be -- as well as some important lessons about the nature of co-creation; an act in which we are all constantly engaged, whether we realize it or not.
The fact is that we spend a lot of time here talking about the power of story to open doors and move people to action around your business or cause. And, if you keep telling your story and coming up against confusion, resistance, or ridicule... the obvious diagnosis to make (assuming your idea is valid) is that your story needs work.
But what if your story ISN'T the problem? What if the real problem... is that you're sharing it with the wrong people?
I started out building my business on the east coast, where tradition and hierarchy reign supreme and change proceeds at an infuriatingly slow pace. And while I had some success, I quickly grew tired of jumping through bureaucratic hoops and detecting that dissonant note in the voices of people who'd say: "oh, that's... interesting."
In such a harsh climate, I might have made it work... eventually. But, given enough blank stares and doubtful tones of voice, I may just as easily have let Doubt start to creep in... perhaps followed by its close and insidious cousin, Defeat.
Here is the truth: Everyone around us acts as a mirror, into which we can't help but look for insights into ourselves and our paths.
However, depending on that person's own internal beliefs about what's true and real and possible in life, the reflection they give you will necessarily have some distortions in it.
Sometimes these distortions are positive and encouraging - as when your naively optimistic friend tells you that your untested idea is GOLDEN and you should immediately invest all your life savings to build the prototype!!!
But more often, it is those twisted by fear, doubt, and ignorance that rattle and derail us.
This is why it's vital to be conscious of which mirrors you let yourself gaze into, and which ones you regard with a grain of salt.
My soul was hungry for people who could suspend doubt long enough to let me see if my idea had legs; and who would then help me tear it down, so that it could be built back up again.
Which begs the question:
How do you know when it's time to find a new band of co- conspirators? And, how far are you willing to go to find them?
In my case, I moved across the country to find them, and when I first arrived in SF, I was amazed and disconcerted by how blatantly self-promotional people were. Coming from the east, where it's cool to act like your accomplishments are not that big a deal, it was nothing short of shocking to encounter person after person who talked so highly of themselves and their projects with such little modesty.
But now, I realize that this level of self-confidence, whether deluded or not, is an essential ingredient in being able to offer others the mirror of possibility and innovation. If you don't think of yourself as an agent of creation and change; then how can you listen to your friend's llama story and NOT laugh her out of the building?
This week, ask yourself: What kind of mirrors currently surround you? Is there a certain person or group whose distorted reflections are not truly serving you?
And if you were to be brutally honest: how do you tend to show up for others as a mirror and co-creator of reality?