Building a House of Belonging

What’s it like to find your path of authentic service in the world? What if you could use the pain of the past, a pain of not knowing where you fit in, of not knowing where you belong to propel you toward work that makes a difference? What if you could create a place of belonging? Well, it might look a lot like what Tanisha Robinson is building with Print Syndicate.

Started just 2.5 years ago with 8 people, Print Syndicate now has over 140 employees and will generate more than $20M in revenue this year. But the company isn’t just about shirts and home goods, it’s a place where people, including a black, gay, woman from a Mormon family of 7 in a small town in Missouri, have a place to self-identify and a place to belong. As Tanisha shares with Jerry Colonna in this episode of the Reboot podcast, running a company fueled by your passion to make the world better is both exhilarating and heartwrenching.

“Caring and connecting with a sense of deep purpose creates an enormous amount of energy.” – Jerry Colonna

Creating a company to develop a sense of social identity and a sense of belonging isn’t just a business opportunity, but is rooted in a greater sense of purpose. For Tanitia, her purpose in being an entrepreneur is having her company be a lever for impact. Caring and connecting with a sense of deep purpose creates an enormous amount of energy and passion.

By reaching back into our pain and shadow we actually access creativity and spontaneity that come from accessing the wholeness of who we are as a human being and bringing that forward. Much of the success at Print Syndicate stems from the fact that they have been accessing disenfranchisement, and dislocation, then utilizing love and humor to connect with that.

This greater sense of purpose can be an amazing driver for success, but not without challenges. The problem with caring so much is that it actually increases the stress because you think about what happens if you fail? To survive this thinking, Jerry encourages Tanisha to practice the art of being a CEO.

You have stepped into the practice of being the CEO. – Jerry Colonna

The CEO of a company has three jobs: to hold the vision, to build and maintain the team and provide the resources the team needs to succeed.

Jerry shares that it is critical to accept the role of the CEO as a practice, there is no endpoint which Tanisha, or any CEO, will ever achieve. To be resilient as a CEO is means to accept this, and to strive to practice better.

Listen to the full episode “Building a House of Belonging.”Podcast-Layout-Youtube-19-360x203






Taking Your Seat

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Fear is a familiar and powerful co-founder in startups.  We do our best to quiet it, shut it down, deny it, but perhaps our biggest struggle is simply acknowledging it.

What happens when you let go of your own hope to control things, and go back to building and leading from a place of love?

Jules Pierri, Co-Founder and CEO of the product launch platform, The Grommet, has done just that. In episode 18 of the Reboot podcast, Jules and Jerry Colonna discuss what it was like to face head on the fears of being a non-prototypical entrepreneur and build a new kind of company in one of the scariest economic times in recent memory. Through it all, Jules has been able to move forward with courage to build an organization where her 55 employees can feel loved and do great work in the process.

“What kind of company do you want to work for? What kind of company would you like your child to come to work for?” – Jerry Colonna

We all want our work to be a commercial success. However, there is far more that we can expect from business. As Jules shares with Jerry, she believes that business is the most powerful entity on earth. In every business there is the potential for an impact greater than the bottom line. Business can be a force for good. We can expect more from business.

Stonyfield Farms and Etsy are two successful businesses who have exemplify this mindset. In his book, “Stirring it Up”, Stonyfield Farms founder Gary Hirshberg discusses the idea of an additive rather than subtractive business. He believes that businesses can embrace their power to make a difference in the marketplace by doing business in ways that consider more than the finance bottom line. Etsy is guided by the principles found in the book, A More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible. Etsy conducts business imagining that a better world is possible.

At The Grommet they spend their time together building a “good” company regardless if it is the one that wins because they already did win by living their lives together in a way that is healthy. Jules shares, “We can expect more from business by supporting the companies that represent what we want the world to be.”

“We should have the idea of not imaging work as a dreadful obligation, but work as a means to creating something more in ourselves.” – Jerry Colonna

Our work is where we form some of our most meaningful relationships, sense of self, capabilities, possibilities, and learning. Work does not have to be a dreadful obligation. It can be a means to creating something more in ourselves.  It is possible for everyone to reach their full actualization at work.

When founding The Grommet, Jules couldn’t afford to pay the team what they deserve, nor give them visible promotions or opportunities. What she could do was small behaviors like getting flowers for team members birthdays and snacks for people or hosting guest speakers for the group. These behaviors express to employees, “you matter.”

Today each employee at the Grommet owns a piece of the behaviors they agree matters. Every employee is a VP of something that is part of their shared values. Jules is the VP of the Garden.

“Claim the wholeness of who you are and step into that as a leader.” – Jerry  Colonna

Jules initially felt uneasy about not being the typical pattern recognized founder. It took time and work for Jules to acknowledge the inner strength and grit she had demonstrated in her entire life.

The things that we are so scared of will not knock us down forever. If we respond to them with grace, openness, heart and remembering core purpose, we can grow. Successful leaders possess the ability to claim the totality of who they are regardless of age, gender, race, or sexual orientation.

You can listen to this full episode of the Reboot podcast here.








Are You Being Stubborn or Resilient?

A good half of the art of living is resilience. ― Alain de Botton

Startups navigate some degree of failure daily. From the a cold email with no reply to a failure to raise capital, failure is part of the cycle. Founders who want to survive must develop a deep resiliency to move with the ebb and flow of the startup life.

Nigel Sharp is a British Armenian entrepreneur and founder of Lion Sharp a computer-human interaction product startup. The company seems to be perfectly poised for a moment that catapults the company to a new level of success. Following a harrowing 6 months, they have brought a new product called Voiceboard to market. At the same time the company has almost completely exhausted their operating capital. Employees have recently taken pay cuts of 80-90% and face fears of survival in a country with no social welfare system to rely on. Episode 17 of the Reboot podcast unfolds as Nigel asks himself the question, “Am I being resilient or just stubborn?”

How much do you really believe? – Jerry Colonna

As an entrepreneur, sometimes it is difficult to know if you are being resilient or being stubborn by forging ahead. When Jerry thinks about this question of stubbornness versus resiliency, one of the questions he often asks is “how much do you actually believe?” People often stick with something past a point in which they actually believe. That stubbornness tends to be rooted in ego not allowing you to experience failure or you wanting to prove people wrong.

Through their discussion, Jerry believes he is not hearing that with Nigel. Instead, he is hearing a belief in the technology and team they have built.

Give First – Brad Feld

A primary driver of Nigel operating in Armenia is wanting to build the startup community in Armenia. He is dedicated to helping teach younger generations and to be an example of building a successful technology company.

Having a deeper purpose and mission other than just building a business is important. A deeper mission is the passion, the spark to propel a company to great success. Nigel clearly has the spark and drive to create deep society level change.

We make pain worthwhile by extracting the lessons from it. – Jerry Colonna

One of the mistakes we make as leaders is we take on all the responsibility. Taking all the responsibility cuts us off from accessing the very people we need. For Nigel, this means realizing that the problem of moving Armenia forward is not just his problem.

What is the definition of resiliency except the ability to rise after being knocked down? Isn’t that resiliency? It is not about whether or not you got knocked down. In the end, the definition of resiliency is the capacity to cut through your own lying, your own tendency for self-delusion, and to pick yourself up and learn from the experience.

You can listen to the full episode from which this blog was produced here.








Mindful Partnerships

Startups are hard. There are long hours. Endless to do lists. An overwhelming pressure to be “killing it” all day, every day. At Reboot, we work with leaders and teams to unwind this suffering and to build companies that are free of this all too often unrecognized, but all too often felt, violence. To build companies that help their employees to not only be great team members, but their fullest, actualized selves.

We’re honored to be partnering with UP Global to share entrepreneurs’ experiences and the transformational work they do that is revolutionizing their companies. This, and subsequent posts by me, are inspired by episodes of the Reboot podcast. You can learn more about the podcast here.

For Episode 16 of the Reboot podcast Jerry was joined by Zelle Nelson and Maureen McCarthy, cofounders of the The Center For Collaborative Awareness and creators of The Blueprint of We, a collaboration process used to build and sustain healthier, more resilient business and personal relationships.

“Hell is other people”. – Jean Paul Sarte

A relationship is a contract, written or unwritten; spoken or not. When we first enter into relationship with others we instinctually construct contracts. We subconsciously engage neural pathways around protecting ourselves and our safety. We utilize forever as the time frame. We start our relationships under the premise that we have to protect ourselves. The contract is created with the expectation that the relationship will end. When we construct contracts in this way, we are drafting the relationship from fear.

The Blueprint of We is different in that it is about building a foundation based on being in a good place in relationship, on building a relationship for today. A Blueprint asks participants to consider things such as, “Why do I want to be in this relationship? How are we going to interact with each other? Here’s what I need in the moment, that I may not be able to ask for in a stressful moment.” When you enter into a relationship in this way you are entering from a place of hope. It’s mindfulness meditation for relationships.

When Jerry and Fred Wilson were launching Flatiron partners, Jerry asked Fred to make a deal that if he ever did anything to piss Fred off, Fred would promise to tell him. Jerry knew that due to a painful experience in his previous partnership, he may otherwise waste time in worry or trying to figure out what was going on.

20 years later Jerry and Fred are still friends. They have had many disagreements, but have never had an argument. When Jerry was vulnerable with Fred in the earliest stage of their relationship and shared his fear, it became a very conscious conversation. This set the tone for their relationship.

“Stress is not a bad thing. It is a messenger.” – Maureen McCarthy

When we learn to pay attention to even small feelings of stress, we can catch problems early. We can get the message of what the stress is trying to tell us. You can use stress for clarity.

Should your partner do something that pains you, that stress is pointing to something in your subconscious that you have a painful story around. If you have taken the time to structure a blueprint, you can use this stress as a signal to come back to what you have already articulated. You have the experience to bring that up and make a change to the way you are thinking about it.

One of the benefits of working with a blueprint as your underlying structure is that your partners or colleagues know how you may behave when you are in stress or fear. Through this collaborative awareness space other people are helping to look in to you.

“I don’t just go to work to earn a living. I go to work to grow and become a better human.” – Jerry Colonna

In his book A Hidden Wholeness, author Parker Palmer shares that through work we are looking for three things, ”We are seeking the ability to pay our bills, we are seeking the ability to express our soul, and we are seeking the ability for community”.

Completing a Blueprint of We, or a Blueprint of Me, or any inner work helps us to not only become better colleagues, cofounders, employers or employees, it helps us to become better humans. This work empowers the best version of you to show up. When we are able to show up as our best selves and to unleash our passions, we do our best work.

You can learn more about the Blueprint of We and mindful partnershps by listening to the full episode of the Reboot podcast.