In Bill George’s bestseller, Discover Your True North, Starbucks founder Howard Schultz said:


“Starbucks gave me the canvas to paint on…I don’t know if I was drawn to this business because of my background or whether it gave me the opportunity to connect the dots, but it has come full circle for me.”


Do you own your business, or does your business own you? Are you faithfully filling in a paint-by-number, or are you leveraging the canvas of your business to express your unique vision?


Not unlike many of my fellow entrepreneurs, there was a time in my journey where my business owned me. I had seen other companies operate what I perceived to be successfully, using what seemed like a proven business model. What I was “supposed” to do. 


Everyone’s favorite philosopher-poet-shoe designer Kanye West once rapped, “You have to crawl before you ball.” When we were trying to operate according to what others had done before, we couldn’t seem to even crawl very well, much less start sinking three-pointers or winning any games. After reflection on my journey, I realized that this inability to gain traction was because I was trying to paint someone else’s picture, reproduce someone else’s recipe, and sing someone else’s song…all of which eventually led to what we refer to as our “dark days.” 


But we came out on the other side, and that’s when I started working to align the business with my best interests, my intent, and my purpose…in other words, I started viewing my business as a canvas for the expression of my mission, vision, and values. Instead of filling in paint-by-numbers, we started creating originals that only my team and I with our unique abilities can create. And this commitment to authenticity is what allowed us to achieve sustainable traction and success…and that’s when my work started to feel a whole lot less like work and a whole lot more like fun.


Are you painting by number or creating something new on your own canvas? How can we as leaders further express ourselves on the canvases we’ve been given? 


How can we take the “standards and best practices” others have established and use them not as instructions to follow, but as raw materials with which to experiment; not as walls to be confined by, but as stones to step even higher upon?


What can you do today to make your painting just a little better…a little bit more impactful…a little bit more authentic?

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