In a business context our self worth is typically tied to transactional, success-oriented thinking. But there might be a way to overcome our deeply internalized ideologies.
Once we realize that the journey starts with us, with finding the Why behind our actions, we can start engaging with our peers in a more meaningful conversation. This conversation will not only change the way we do business, but also the way we lead our lives.
Stefan Beiten is the CEO and Initiator of The Argonauts. He successfully founded 20+ companies, structured and placed over US$1bn investments through his investment holding Argo Ventures since 1986. Next to his passion for being an entrepreneur, Stefan is also a lawyer, public speaker and film producer. With his company Greenlight Media he produced global hits such as “Deep Blue” and “Planet Earth”, influencing more than 1bn people on how they perceive sustainability and the role of humans on our planet.
In February, the Initiator and CEO of The Argonauts, Stefan Beiten spoke in a member Q&A about cultivating relationships and connecting with people for the sake of taking responsibility in the world, today. Alongside his perspective as an entrepreneur, lawyer, film producer, and public speaker, he adds a social mission to his biography as a „from-Idea-to-Vision-to-Strategy-to-Execution Guy“. He had structured and placed over US$1bn investments, founded 20+ companies, raised 3 kids and produced 3 global media classics.
Thinking in standard economic parameters is pretty deeply ingrained in our psyches. In a business context our self worth is typically measured by that one big word: success. But how do we define success? If we look at the increasing economic disparities in the world and at what has been happening to our climate, it becomes clear that our metrics for success might have been slightly off. The transactional way of approaching business has been standing in the way of our ability to look within ourselves – to connect with our feeling world. The real question is: are we happy?
Stefan Beiten tells us that asking these kinds of questions is essential on the path to becoming a more conscious leader. “Most people in business equate success with making money,” says Stefan. “We have traditionally measured success in monetary terms. Transactions and their measurement make the business world spin. But people who have made lots of money find that it can’t always buy happiness or, as the song goes, love. Those who achieved financial success often find that they are feeling empty and unfulfilled. Their transactional accomplishments lose meaning. They seek deeper purpose.”
The decisive moment where we realize that this way of doing things – the way we’ve been conditioned to do things – hasn’t served us well, is what Stefan calls the „AHA-moment.” When we’re pursuing the What in our lives, we are acting from a script that society has laid out for us. The dopamine rushing through our bloodstreams prompts us to seek momentary satisfaction. We’re always looking for the next success, the next rush.
Paul J. Zak, a researcher in the U.S., went to companies and took the blood of employees to measure the level of oxytocin in the body — the love and connection hormone. He found that there was a direct correlation between distrust or fear in the company culture and the level of oxytocin in the blood. It was almost non-existent. The fact that we are so used to approaching our biochemical reward system this way can make it very hard to rewire. A profound AHA-Moment calls this pattern into question. We take off the rose-tinted glasses and see something has been missing. Something deeper within ourselves, beyond the What. These moments can be very small but they can be profound, life-changing experiences.
In these moments we realize that there is something beyond the What: the Why. Why are we actually doing the things we’re doing? This is where the path to becoming a more conscious leader begins. If we want to affect meaningful, sustainable change in our company cultures, we have to start with ourselves and our Why.
As Stefan explains, “We are ‘meaning-making machines.’ The second we enter a room and see another person, we are creating meaning — a judgment. And that judgment is based on where we come from, how we grew up, our conditioning, our traumas. And yet, all the other person has said is ‘hello’. This judgment is happening subconsciously most of the time. An event is never just the event, it’s the meaning that we give to it. That meaning can either be created unconsciously – then we are reactive to life, we are not in control — or we create it consciously. Then we become authors of our own life-story. In fact, that authorship means becoming aware that we are co-creating our reality with others and with nature itself.”
This is where the journey will take us. From unconscious to conscious. From reactive to active. From Me to We. From below the line to above the line.
Where is that more profound sense of fulfillment, happiness, aliveness to be found? Again, the answer can be found with a question: Where am I? To elucidate this, Stefan tells us about the line in our mind. “Draw a horizontal line on a piece of paper and ask yourself a question, at any given moment. Am I feeling above the line or below the line? What does that mean? Below the line, we are driven by fear, of missing out, of lacking something we need, thinking only of ourselves. Above the line, we are filled with feelings of abundance, of connection, thinking about others, feeling love.”
What does it take for a leader to stay consistently above this line of consciousness, heading in a life-affirming and loving direction, moving toward higher awareness?
It requires trust. You need to have a safe space where you can share your true feelings. It requires courage. You need to leave your comfort zone and become curious and vulnerable to try new things and show your true self. It is not something to be done alone. It requires connection with others.
This is what Stefan calls “having a different kind of conversation”. “This new conversation,” he says, “cannot be based on giving advice or telling others what to do. It means listening actively, attentively, to what others are really saying, between the lines. It means observing silently, to what is not being spoken. It means expressing oneself authentically and vulnerably. Revealing moving experiences. Sharing personal insights. The Argonauts’ path to conscious leadership is based on what we call conversational fluency, learning how to talk with each other, in a new way that leads not just ourselves, but others as well, to higher consciousness. Shared awareness, mutual responsibility, empathy for each other. Showing and sharing who we really are.”
For this purpose, The Argonauts have developed ‘Circles of Trust’, regular virtual roundtables of heartfelt conversation by diverse leaders in a confidential setting, guided by a professional facilitator. “There we share our deepest personal and professional challenges, uncover our blind spots, explore our blocks and pain points. Then, together, get beyond them, out of our comfort zones, and into a new kind of conversation. This is the practical method that we keep ourselves above the line, heading continuously toward higher consciousness, greater capability and purposefulness as human beings and as leaders. Each leader lifts the others higher. Sometimes sooner, sometimes later, but eventually, always, there are sudden insights, moving revelations. AHA moments when each individual and the group as a whole raises itself higher and gains perspective. That is magic happening. That is aliveness. That is fulfillment.”
This is what conscious leadership is all about for The Argonauts. Becoming aware of our internalized ideologies, taking responsibility for them and using empathy to engage with our peers in a meaningful conversation. It starts with a new kind of conversation. It starts with the personal question of: Why? Starting conversations this way, with a Why touching on higher purpose and deeper meaning has the potential to completely alter the way we approach not only business but also every other aspect of our lives. Stefan gets personal: “It has completely changed me. It has changed the way I relate to people, the way I relate to my loved ones, the way I find answers. And not the quick, easy fix solutions but the ones that are, long-term. The ones that truly hold water, the ones that give me meaning.”
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