Welcome to The Spiritual Game of Business, where entrepreneur Jesse van der Velde guides you on an inner path of becoming – a path he has been walking with the unique mentorship of both his successful business mentor and his plant medicine shaman mentor.
In this first episode, Jesse challenges you to look within:
- What truly motivates you and your professional and personal aspirations?
- How do you respond to discomfort or problematic situations?
- What does it mean to surrender in the face of difficulty?
- And conversely, what does it mean to take action instead?
Join Jesse on this journey of becoming as he intimately shares his personal discoveries of The Spiritual Game of Business.
With every single situation we face in our lives, we have two choices. The first choice is to take control – to take charge. The second choice is to surrender. A choice that, for a long time, didn’t seem like a true choice to me. For many years, I saw this as a sign of weakness. But when I met my shaman mentor, a wise man, I learned that, to him, this is his preferred choice in life. While at the same time, my business mentor – a man who builds a 100 million euro a year business – would never make this choice. He would never decide to surrender to anything. Because also to him, it was a big sign of weakness. And these two choices are what we will explore here with The Spiritual Game of Business Podcast.
The Problems We Face
Welcome to The Spiritual Game of Business Podcast. My name is Jesse van der Velde and I’ve been an entrepreneur for nearly 15 years. I have come to understand that business is a spiritual game. That is, everything in life is a direct reflection of what lives inside of us; our outer world is a direct reflection of our inner world. The opportunities, problems, people, situations, even conflicts – these are all a direct reflection of what lives inside of us. This reflection spans the scope of all aspects of our lives, including our own businesses.
Many entrepreneurs are faced with great problems. Entrepreneurs learn to see these problems as opportunities – as challenges to grow from. But the question is – how do we deal with the situation we are faced with in our inner world first? What is the initial response to problems? Is it to say, “Move over; I will take charge and fix this situation?” To immediately kick into action and control a situation? Or is there space to allow the breath to flow – to simply sit and be present with the situation? To be in peace and not need to change the situation at all?
To not take charge – to not throw on my superhero cape and try to solve problems – this used to seem like an incredible weakness to me. And I know that I’m not alone in this: for so many entrepreneurs, not kicking into “fixing” mode seems passive and weak. It’s what business mentors would strongly advise against – including my own business mentor.
This active kind of approach can get us to a certain point in our own development, but what does it reveal about our inner world? Is it possible that even deeper and more meaningful growth awaits if we simply let things be? After a lifetime of trying to fix my problems, it was my plant medicine shaman mentor who taught me that there is strength in choosing to instead sit with a situation rather than getting involved.
Being With Our Emotions
I met my shaman mentor a few years ago: an old wise man, complete with a long grey beard and wisdom that emanates in his every word and step, who has been working with sacred plant medicines for over 35 years. One of the practices in which he specializes is the traditional Native American sweat lodge ceremony. In this ceremony, stones are first heated in a fire until they are boiling hot. The stones are then brought inside a pitch-black lodge, insulated with thick blankets, and then placed in a pit. The shaman then pours water over the stones, creating an intense and engulfing steam.
As you sit in the lodge, the boiling heat and darkness become so consuming that all you want to do is escape. Your body is faced with a fight-or-flight situation, not unlike our reactions to the problems and discomforts we face in daily life. The sweat lodge ceremony becomes a transformational metaphor for how to sit with the problems in our lives.
My shaman once told me a story about traveling through South America and holding these sweat lodge ceremonies with teenagers who were finding their way back into society after living on the streets and battling drug addictions. After one such sweat lodge ceremony with a group of teenage boys, my shaman began taking a headcount of all the boys sitting outside the lodge after completing the ceremony. To his surprise, one of the boys had chosen to remain in the lodge, to remain in the discomfort.
At this point, my shaman began to cry when recalling this memory. I could clearly see that this moment had made such an impact on him; that the sacred healing he offered was having a profound impact. As tears flowed down his cheeks, I couldn’t help but notice that he was accepting the tears and the emotions that were rising within him. Rather than brushing them off or changing the subject – to essentially “fix” a situation – he instead let himself be. We sat there together for nearly 15 minutes while I witnessed the wisdom of choosing inaction; choosing to breathe and experience what comes up rather than feeling the need to suppress or fix.
How often do we avoid or even ignore difficult emotions and situations in our life? How often do we “dig in” and work harder? How often do we subconsciously ignore a situation by pushing through it, rather than allowing our feelings to be?
Whatever my mentor was faced with in life – be it problems within himself or in his external world – the first thing he would do is to sit and close his eyes. Instead of taking action, he would instead be with that situation or the emotions he was experiencing. To give the situation his breath and presence – not his immediate action.
Why Am I Doing This?
Our society conditions us to constantly seek self-improvement, and as entrepreneurs, we are most likely to be the ones seeking out self-help books and courses. While this may seem well-intentioned, have you ever stopped to simply ask “Why am I doing this? Why am I seeking to improve myself?” From what place inside of ourselves are our actions coming from? And what are we looking for in seeking self-improvement?
Is it possible that we are silently trying to compensate for something that we can’t find within ourselves?
As an entrepreneur, we fear not having done what we are capable of. We live with the notion that ‘Hell on Earth is meeting the person we could have been.’ We fear that if we surrender, we won’t achieve what we are capable of. We fear that not doing anything is an escape – but is it possible that personal development is another covertly disguised escape?
Think of two people: one who has achieved a great deal – someone who is quite successful – and another who has been through difficult times. If you were to ask them the question, “What matters most?” Would they answer things like ‘fame’ and ‘wealth?’
Both would likely say that what mattered most was what they have learned from the experiences they have had, and how they have grown as a person because of it.
In the end, the path to professional success and wealth is not as important as the people we become while on this journey. The path of becoming is what it is truly about.
Choice on the Path to Becoming
On the path to becoming, we are faced with a variety of problems, difficult moments, and challenges. When we confront these obstacles, it is tempting to immediately react with a problem-solving mindset, saying “I can fix this. Every problem is an opportunity and I will become stronger by fixing it.” As we discussed earlier, entrepreneurs pride themselves on this quality as a sign of strength. But is reacting immediately really giving yourself a choice, especially if this is how you always respond to conflict?
When you take that moment to be alone and connect with yourself, to surrender – what comes from there? What new inspiration, thoughts, or belief systems will arise? You may surprise yourself with the creativity that comes from simply doing nothing.
You may think, “Reacting and solving a problem is better than ignoring it altogether!” Sure; there is truth to this. But have you ever noticed that working harder and pushing through a problem can also be a way to ignore what is truly underneath the problem?
Not-doing is not the same thing as ignoring. Conversely, doing something in response can subconsciously be the same thing as ignoring.
The only time you have a true choice is if you allow yourself to instead do nothing when faced with a problem. At this point, you allow yourself to truly be present and with your emotions – fully aware of your inner experience. Then we have a choice: to take action or surrender to the moment.
Finding the Silence
When taking the time to be still and find that moment where you drop into yourself rather than reacting, a great place to do this is in nature. Nature can be our greatest teacher: nature isn’t striving for anything and nature can’t be rushed. Nature is flexible yet unshakeable at the same time. Nature is always adapting yet always present. Nature simply is – it simply exists.
Just as nature simply exists, so too can we learn to simply exist. Physically bringing ourselves to nature, we can connect with the information, knowledge, wisdom, healing, and energy that is and always has been there.
In my own journey, I am grateful to have had the guidance of two mentors. My business mentor built a business that revenues 100 million euros annually and is someone with whom I bought a company with eight years ago. My shaman mentor, on the other hand, has spent nearly 35 years practicing plant medicine and living in teepees. While each of my mentors is considered successful in their own right, they both approach life and problems in a completely different way. They are complete opposites!
While surrendering to the moment is profoundly beneficial, it is not a true surrender if you have an intention driving that choice. The classic example here is: “I’ll surrender; I’ll meditate; I’ll let go – then I’ll surely figure out how to fix this problem.” With this underlying intention, we are not truly surrendering. Instead, we have merely found yet another way to mask our underlying need for control.
Welcome to the Spiritual Game of Business
After walking with my mentors on the path of both business and plant medicine, I have grown to understand the path of becoming.
There is no difference between our outer world and our inner world, and what is important is what lives inside of us.
As my mentor said so eloquently, “Consciousness is complete, but the body is on a journey.” Join me in this series to discover The Spiritual Game of Business.