Let’s geek out for a moment, shall we?
Think about the way a doctor, a CEO, and an athlete decide. Their environments couldn’t be more diverse, their stakes wildly different. Still, with great decision-makers, there’s always a common thread in their practice, no matter where they are in the world or how different their professions are.
Looking back at life when you’ve settled into your 40’s or 50’s can surface different skills and insights compared to how it feels in the moment, as you’re building your life, your professional path, and, most often, yourself.
Talking to Xenia Muntean was exactly this type of opportunity and it came in 6 parts (topic-wise).
Part 1: Participate
Xenia is the co-founder and CEO of Planable and she’s on a mission to build “the future of marketing teamwork” with a group of young and determined professionals. Currently, they’re doing it by providing brands big and small with “a content review and marketing collaboration platform” that really works.
Planable is backed by one of the strongest startup networks in the world – Techstars – having been through their London accelerator in 2017. They’re growing and working relentlessly to improve the product and the business. But Planable may have never exited if Xenia wouldn’t have had some significant experiences in her life early-on.
One of the key that popped up in our conversation was that Xenia’s choices drew heavily from her constant involvement in projects.
Whether it was her side project in high school, starting a digital marketing agency at age 20 or graduating from one of the best entrepreneurship schools in Silicon Valley, Xenia always showed up.
She did the work, which is how she noticed the way the digital marketing industry worked was inefficient in terms of workflow and processes. That’s how the idea for Planable started to take shape.
The story is much more interesting the way Xenia tells it so it’s best to hear it from her. And there’s something else you may notice: participation is highly influenced by examples, especially for women. And in the entrepreneurship sector we still need many more role models to make it a worthy path women are inclined to pursue.
More on it in the episode.
Part 2: Stretch yourself
Once participation becomes a habit, one practiced with awareness, it’s time to do a different kind of work.
For Xenia, it was developing the ability to think bigger and to get comfortable with risk.
For you, it may be something different but the mechanics can be very similar.
That’s why listening to Xenia speak about her experience can help you value and balance both the difficult, labor-intensive parts of levelling up and sweet rewards.
Part 3: Power through
You can’t build something big if you’re paralyzed by fear of failure.
Fear is a powerful trigger for our lizard brains, the part of us that holds us back from making bolder choices.
One way to overcome this automated response from the ancient part of our brain, that Xenia and I talked fondly about, is to surround yourself with people who bring out the best in yourself.
No, I’m not talking about cheerleaders but about people who will challenge you and tell you difficult things no one else would.
Part 4: Notice the subtle things
Xenia also talks about the power of subtler aspects and how impactful they can be for both decisions you make and the ones that other people make for you.
You may want to keep an… ear out for that in the episode, irrespective of your current job and role.
While the startup culture has many downsides, many of which are becoming blatantly obvious, it also has some great concepts that are worthy applying. One of these is dealing with complexity, something founders are required to do.
Noticing these subtle aspects is essential when talking to an investor, for example. And you can’t cultivate this ability to observe and notice without a strong sense of self-awareness. At least in my view.
When you listen to her story, you’ll learn exactly how Xenia developed self-awareness. The process involved a different kind of work, a type of work many people don’t have a name for. Seth Godin calls it…
Part 5: Emotional labor
Having difficult conversations.
Making decisions that make you uncomfortable now but know will lead to better outcomes in the future.
These are some types of emotional labor with the list going on and on.
To free up the mental space required for this kind of work, Xenia plans to apply something she saw worked for Mathilde Collin, CEO of Front, and one of Xenia’s role models.
This involves taking an hour each week to focus on evaluating priorities. No phone. No laptop. Just her, a pen, and a notepad.
As Xenia noticed in her own work, “checking off tasks feels good and it makes you avoid the big ones that are messy.” But as we both know, those are the important challenges worth tackling.
Part 6: Listen to learn
Listen to learn instead of looking for things to compare yourself to.
Seek out feedback from people but track your progress by only comparing yourself to where you were a few months/years ago.
These are two pieces of Xenia’s experience that spoke to me and I think you may resonate with them as well. They’re also indirect influences in our decision-making process, swaying our preference for one choice over the other.
Consider what you factor in.
Are you ready to take a dream job because you compare yourself to more successful peers?
Are you willing to get married just because comparing yourself to your newlywed friends makes you feel like you’re not making enough progress in your own relationship?
These are uncomfortable questions we must ask ourselves to avoid making choices that focus on short-term satisfaction and undermine us in the long run.
These are the kind of decisions I hope my conversation with Xenia, as well as other episodes from this podcast help you spend more time on.
As Xenia says, chat with someone from a different industry/group. Someone who can help you break your pattern.
It may be one of the best things you do.
Listening to this episode can be one way to do it, especially if you have nothing to do with the startup world.
It’s time to show up for yourself more often.
Will you start here? Now?