#1 Letter of Inspiration - Embracing the VOID.

In this letter you find impulses on the magical endurance of uncertainty, on how to use cultivated intuition to make clear decisions, and on what inspired me recently on the subject of 'sustainability'. Last but not least: you can find the essential thoughts from my speech titled "From Rational to Emotional Thinking", which I gave to 250 managers in Zurich (in German).

Embracing the VOID

Building a business is certainly not an easy task, but for me it is probably the most exciting and formative experience so far:

- It is exciting, because I can do everything for the first time, without any support from a company, or the protection of a boss, or the security of a superficial senior title. I am - just myself. Even though it is a huge initial effort, it's a time when I grow almost daily. I dive deeply into topics, I learn to translate my experience into a new context, to eventually reach the moment when I can apply this experience - let it be a client meeting, a lecture or a conversation about an acquisition. I’m preparing to eventually share my 'new', transformed knowledge. What's so exciting about all this, you may wonder? The moment of uncertainty; not knowing whether my idea will be understood, acknowledged or even lead to inspiration. The brief moment of silence, the VOID, which feels like minutes even though it only lasts seconds, triggers a feeling of floating without a firm ground below.…

- It is a formative experience, because the moment of uncertainty triggers a void, which I learned to enjoy. The feeling of tightrope walking without a safety harness, which I described above, makes me relive on my own experience and forces me to use the latter in my arguments. A child who has once touched a burning candle, will not only avoid the the burning flames, but also will be careful when sitting around the campfire with friends. The art of enjoying the void is to instill what one experienced in the past into the present moment and instead of seeing the void as danger (burning campfire), enjoy it (gently warming fire).

Sharpening our sensory awareness is one way to learn transferring our experience into the now. Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba and former teacher, illustrated the importance of our soft skills in a convincing interview at the WEF 2018 in Davos. He brought up the education system as an example to illustrate how crucial it will be in the future to reactivate our soft skills, like our talent for painting or music.

The Gut Feeling - A Myth?

What a wonderful world it would be, in which I easily make decisions based on my feelings - from the weather forecast "I feel that it is going to rain today!” to business decisions "I just feel that this is the right way to go for our company". The reality, however, is different; Intuition is an unused potential that, like everything else in life, must be learned. Andrew McAfee, MIT Cambridge USA, a man who is always a great source of inspiration for me, expressed the importance to learn intuition quite drastically in his Harvard Business Review article in 2010: "Following intuition is a deeply misguided advice".

What does one of the digital thought leaders mean by this? It's not about naively following a feeling, but...
... it takes time to develop intuition
... we must train our ability to actively listen and perceive first
... to lay the foundation for intuition as awareness of ourselves, we need consistency in our own perception to be able to use its power. How can you do that? Read this article ‘ZERO is the light’

Almost 10 years later, I came across an interview in Forbes Magazine with Ryan Caldwell, the founder of a fast-growing technology company called MX. Ryan impressively describes what it entails to trust in one's own intuition. In the end, I can summarize the takeaway with the concept of clarity: Clarity of who I am; and what that means to my business = values; Clarity, in words and behavior; Clarity to make consistent decisions.

"Intuition is neither a caprice nor a sixth sense; it is a form of intelligence"
Prof. Gerd Gigerenzer."

I agree without McAfee and Caldwell: Intuition has tremendous potential that allows us to make more independent and conscious decisions. We need to reactivate and cultivate this suppressed strength in order to apply it. I like the comparison with sports. If I decided to do sports on a daily basis, I would probably stick to my decision for no more than five days, but to integrate sports as daily routine and let them become a habit, it takes consistency, stamina and a strong belief that our effort will add value. It works the same way with intuition. "Intuition is neither a caprice nor a sixth sense; it is a form of intelligence," said Prof. Gerd Gigerenzer, director of the Max Planck Institute in Berlin. For me, intuition is the ability to connect knowledge (ratio) with feeling (emotion) and to translate them into the present moment.

I had the opportunity to share my thoughts on how intuition can be cultivated as a way of thinking and life style at a conference in Zurich recently. The host set an inspiring stage for an audience of 250 managers. You can find here a teaser of my main thoughts and, only if you are curious to see more, you can also watch the 30-minute talk (in German).

What has inspired me recently?

Sustainability will probably be named as the “non-word of the year” soon. Every entrepreneur, but also almost all friends have the same opinion "Yes, we have to do something...". There are wild ideas on how to implement sustainable aspects in companies and ultimately in our life. One strives for an ISO certification for his company, the other buys only regional products, while another refrains from flying within the EU, but enjoys his avocado toast every morning (by the way, anyone wondered how avocados get from Mexico to Switzerland?). I was lucky enough to experience what sustainability means in holistic terms, when I temporarily lived in the Netherlands a few months ago.

Obviously, the consequences of climate change will directly affect cities like Amsterdam, which lie below sea level. Although I am convinced, that this is not the only reason, this country is closely connected to nature and the fate of the latter. It is apparent in their holistic approach through emobility, the generally healthy lifestyle, and an amazingly high number of impact startups and sustainable food concepts.

Jack Bean, a vegan fast food start-up: One of the founders, a star chef from Rotterdam, wanted to prove the fact that vegan food tastes good, easy to make and sustainable to produce. This young team uses only products grown in the region (i.e., no avocado or quinoa). They have a digital ordering process via tablets and tableware from renewable materials. Their target group are men who want to eat healthily, without giving up on taste. Of course, Jack Bean offers home delivery too, but only by bike or e-scooter and in recyclable boxes. A holistic concept with a great potential.

With this, my Letter of Inspiration comes to an end… Thank you for joining me on the way to more clarity. If you like this episode, please feel free to share it with like-minded colleagues and friends, encouraging them to subscribe!