Hello Etsy Recap: "Fear, Working With It" by Michael Carroll

Forgive my last post, readers. I think it was disjointed.

However, I also think that particular HelloEtsy presentation, which was about reimagining work, was disjointed as well. Where as the other presenters all worked well within context, I'm still not sure how well those three presenters jived.  Again, it could be my feeling toward the presenters, which I'm sure came across in my covering of them, but as I sat down to draft this post, I realized that I should have written about the second presenter, Rasanath Dasa, who talked about his experience leaving Wall Street to become a monk and the idea of letting down your mask, in today's post.  Rasanath jives well with Michael Carroll, the man who not only had an entire room of 200 people close their eyes and meditate for a few minutes, but sat in a single chair on a dimly lit stage and told stories.  If you can't already guess, I loved him!

Michael Carroll is a mindfulness teacher and author, who once was an executive at Shearson Lehman/American Express, Simon & Schuster, and The Walt Disney Company.  He is now a consultant and coach whose client list includes Proctor & Gamble, Starbucks, Unilever, and the National Board of Medical Examiners. His goal is to help individuals explore embracing their fears and using them to their advantage. Oh, and meditation.  Heavy, right?  Yeah!

I was a few minutes late to Michael's presentation, but as I walked in and sat down, I walked into a story about a missing cat that took residence under the barn behind his house.  He told us about the family that was looking for the cat and how he called to tell them, your cat is hiding out under my barn. When the family arrived to claim the cat, the cat would not come out. He stayed rooted to the spot even as the father offered food, and the little girl cried, and the mother demanded that the father trying different approaches.  Finally, after a bit of time, the family gave up. They were moving and the cat was not budging, so they left.  Michael says that he never bothered the cat, but instead allowed the cat free reign and now, when he sees the cat around the yard, he seems more confident and sure of himself. He's more aligned with his feline ways and is out frolicking as he was meant to frolic.

I remember laughing at that story.  I've known some lazy domesticated cats, yet, they do still enjoy hunting birds and other animals at moments so there is something instinctual to being wild.  I suppose more importantly, what I enjoyed about this story is the symbolism of the cat wanting to be free and actively seeking freedom in a way that made him turn away from security and chase the wild unknown.  Sounded a lot like me last October when I got on a plane and flew to Japan to study paper making.

Having studied Buddhism (he started studying Buddhism in 1976, graduated from Buddhist seminary in 1982) and meditation for many years now, his teaching of mindfulness as a leader makes sense.  Meditation after all is the art of being present. Of understanding yourself in all the chaos going around.  That mindfulness can avoid messy conflicts in all arenas, but especially in what we create ourselves when we focus on our fears and limitations.  That is what Michael focused on as he continued his presentation - fear and how to work with fear.  

Now, a little about me and why this presentation made my heart happy, and made me want to meet and talk with Michael the next morning. Last year, I got on a plane to Japan. I knew the over all plan, but I didn't know the full plan. I knew I didn't know Japanese, but I knew that wasn't going to stop me. I knew I had a certain amount of money and so I'd have to work within those boundaries. I knew one friend in the entire country and he lived in Tokyo, and I was traveling hours, and hours away.  When I boarded my plane for my first stop on my trip, Istanbul, I cried for most of the trip. Until I fell asleep. My cousin had written a card to me that said something along the lines of, "you're one of the bravest people I know. I don't think I could do this." That only made me cry more. I was essentially stepping out into the unknown world. I had absolutely no expectations aside from learning paper, some fear, but I got the education of a lifetime and that includes, accepting my fear and moving forward with it by my side.

Now, back to Michael's presentation...

He stated boldly, "Artificiality is powerful, and we are being spoon fed it daily."  Artificiality is a form of fear. It's the idea that you have to put on a mask (thanks Rasanath!) to confront the World; to protect yourself.  If you think about it, America projects this idea of fear, time and time again.  In order to get away from this, you have to understand the principles of fearlessness, which are the following:

  • Just appearing as a human being has fundamental presence to it;
  • Vulnerability is the essence of being human; it is seen as a weakness, but it is not - to the fearless mind, vulnerability is power. 

That's it!

He cited examples that included Karate. In Karate, you're not intimidated by your circumstances, you're aware of them and because of that, you know how to react.  This is confidence at its core.

Confidence has an openness to it. 

When you meditate, you're allowing openness. When you practice mindfulness as a leader, which is the name of his book, by the way, "The Mindful Leader."

To work with a fearless mind, we have to work with the mind we have. Working with our mind, that is given to a whole host of chemicals running through our bodies (endorphins, anyone?!), emotional reactions, untrue thoughts, etc. The reason meditation works for many is because it focuses you to stop focusing on these million thoughts running through your brain. It gives you pause for how ever long you practice, even five minutes can change your day dramatically (if you can't tell, I practice meditation on a some what regular basis), and how you react to these running thoughts. 

According to Michael, humans spend our time thinking on experience rather than having it. In fact, 80% of the time, what we are thinking about is more distressful than it really is.  We keep trying to get reassurance in a world with no guarantees for the painful experiences we have yet to, but will, have.

As he began to wrap up his presentation, he discussed how we all want to get somewhere and usually fast. He also mentioned that when we do get to where we think we're going, we want to be someone else. This blind spot is intense and it creates an enormous amount of suffering of us as individuals.  In doing this, we overlook how simply being here is who we are. It doesn't make us boring to be who we are. Being boring is healthy; it helps heal our souls after being out in the chaos of the ever changing and rapid World we live in. 

How does this all impact you and your Etsy shop?

For starters, it means you now have the freedom to be YOU. In fact, someone visiting your shop, wants to buy from YOU, not Gap, not Anthropologie, not Pier 1, not Walmart. They want YOU. 

I have a great example of someone being themselves and selling on Etsy. Her name is Lauren Falk and she sells some great quality, funky leather handbags and accessories under the brand LolaFalk Designs.  Last week, she sent out an email to her fan base that as soon as I opened it, I thought, "Damn! Lauren nailed this blast to a T!" In the email, she paired outfits and events with her handbags and accessories.  Lauren is a dear, dear friend of mine and the outfits, the events, the handbags all screamed Lauren. They showcased her particular style and confidence. I already own a leather wallet by LolaFalk, but it made me want to shop and buy not just her products, but some of the products she had matched up. That white/grayish zipped up at an angle coat/sweater thing is a dream!  I think you can get where I'm coming from here...BE YOURSELF. It'll shine through and attract the right customers.

The other way this helps is in the way you handle all the situations that turn sour in your daily business operation: the irate customers, the ones who don't pay, the missing shipment, or whatever else. If you take five minutes, (I swear five minutes works!), and start channeling your being here, your presence in this moment, you'll be able to handle the situation much better. 

Finally, in bringing this back to fear and how to work with it, if we can train ourselves to be present, to be mindful, in every thing we do through the day, we can tackle fear. We can say, "hey fear, I see ya, and I love you, and I'm glad you're here for the ride." When you face that irate customer, you can choose instead of being defensive, to be vulnerable. When you're upset because your package went missing and you lost revenue, you can choose to be vulnerable in how you approach the postman, or the Fedex employee on the phone.  By being mindful of your emotions and allowing yourself to feel them, including the fear, you can take that breath and choose to see the situation head on and find a mindful resolution without giving into the chaos. I guarantee, your business will be better for it, not to mention you and it will have a ripple effect on those you're dealing with in that present moment. 

If you're wondering how to meditate, well, I can give you some notes, but honestly, I suggest you do some reading and experimenting and maybe even find a class, or something along those lines.  Here is how I meditate:

1. Sit in the morning or afternoon in "your space." (If you're in the middle of the day, find a quite space, or maybe step outside.) Keep your back straight, let your head fall and let your head fall forward. I have pillows and a blanket set up in a small area of my apartment, by the window.

2. Close your eyes and breathe deeply. Feel the breath pull all the way down and then release it.

3. Your brain will start racing a mile a minute not sure what you're doing, but try as hard as you can to not pay attention. This takes practice, a lot of practice.  I tend to focus on my breathing when my mind starts trying to take over and win.

4. When just starting, sit for as long as you can. Eventually, as you build up your practice, five minutes will turn into 10 and then 20 and on and on.

5. When you finish, say thank you. You are now present.

Oh and below, is a talk Michael Carroll did a few years ago after his book was released. It's interesting and will give you a voice to the name, as well as perspective directly from him, not just me.

If you have any thoughts on meditation and this topic, you know the deal, share below. I'd love to hear how you practice mindfulness, or intend to practice mindfulness after reading this post.   And Remember, practice mindfulness as we get into the whirl of the Holiday season. Even the Grinch, learned to be present...Until next time friends!

//Sara Stroman

S2 Stationery & Design