What distinguishes an entrepreneur is an enormous capacity for work, determination, tenacity, optimism and great confidence. I perfectly matched that pattern for the 17 years that I spent leading my company but one day in the summer of 2013 at the age of 37, without warning, it all fell apart. I had just returned from vacation with my family and the next morning, when I woke up to return to work, something inside me collapsed. My body awoke without the strength to get out of bed and from that moment on I could only feel great inner turmoil, highly intense physical fatigue and fear, a tremendous fear of facing something completely insignificant and trivial: my everyday life.
I couldn´t understand what was happening, I cried to no relief of the tremendous anxiety I felt in my stomach. Despite being midsummer, I spent the following days with a fixed image in my mind, the image of a forest of towering trees covered by a dense winter fog. I was standing there, hesitantly, not knowing which way to go to get out of the forest. When I came across this photograph by chance one year later, I was petrified. The picture represented perfectly my situation at the time: I was the cracked ground and in front of me there was only fog...
The wise psychologist I went to made his diagnosis on my first visit: "You've spent 37 years relentlessly building up your YANG -the male side of your personality- yet meanwhile your YIN has been neglected thereby remaining undeveloped. This great imbalance has now taken its toll and you feel like a washed up wreck".
If we were to define these two aspects that make up the whole of every human being, we would say that the Yang, the male, is proactive, dominant and dynamic. It is that which drives us to relate to the world. Full of power and energy, it tends to rise upward, toward the light. Yin, on the contrary, is the divine feminine. Receptive, indulgent, nutrient and embracing, it listens and accepts. It is spiritual and deep. It is less obvious and tends downward, inwardly, dwelling in the shade.
Five months of therapy proved him right and thanks to the work I have done since then practicing mindfulness, cultivating the "here and now", meditating and trying to flow, I have realized that one cannot aspire to a healthy life in harmony and a solid spirituality without first striving to become a Yin-Yang balanced self.
As a result of the conscious and careful work I had to do to regain my balance, I developed a healthy interest in the Yin and Yang of many other aspects in life, which is how I also came to observe it in the business environment.
The Western world is predominantly Yang, where almost everything is valued for its appearance, (that which shines and has external success) in clear detriment to what it really is... The corporate world is no exception. To date, the business environment has remained obsessed with highly Yang elements such as productivity, efficiency and profit. And it has been maximized to the point that it has reached a damaging level where the search for maximum efficiency and profit has produced a lack of respect and sensitivity toward the hidden, the peripheral, the small but essential. In short, by being so focused on the male, the business world has put aside the feminine and therefore the holistic vision so necessary to develop a corporate world in balance.
This imbalance currently being experienced in the Western world has awakened an underground tide of people willing to go against the current in order to live in a more balanced and less aggressive world. In fact the idea of harmonizing or balancing opposites is ancient and eternal. In this fast changing world, where the future was almost yesterday, it is necessary for organizations strive to return to that restful balance because only from a point of equilibrium we will be able to provide solutions in order to harmonize the contradictions which we daily face in the business environment: earning money greedily - the 20th century mantra-, versus respect for the environment - the 21st century mantra -, huge human resources productivity versus more humanized and fluid relations with workers, short-term efficiency versus time to develop creativity and innovation, products as commodities ruled by planned obsolescence versus products that truly meet our lasting needs.
This requires entrepreneurs and managers who understand the value of balance, fluidity and happiness of the majority. People who dare to look with a fresh gaze, to think creatively, to embrace miscegenation, to break away from established patterns. People brave enough to manage reason and emotion equally and above all people who dare, at last, to place what is essential and what is human into the centre of the equation.
The good news is that we are starting to witness how some companies begin to succeed while incorporating some Yin elements in their DNA. Organizations like Ecoalf, Airbnb, CREAS or Ethic Magazine that truly wish to represent this change, those born to succeed in the 21st century! In this regard I would like to pay a small tribute to Rusticae hoteliers with whom I have had the privilege of working throughout these last 20 years... People who embrace a genuine Yin perspective in their business by choosing beautiful locations where silence and nature reign, pouring their souls and huge sensitivity into those very personal projects by welcoming stressed urbanites making them feel at home and giving them the opportunity to reconnect with themselves, with their inner calm, with the landscape, with their loved ones... Providing them with an experience that makes them feel alive and in harmony again.
Jung said that a person is not complete until they have developed both aspects of personality: the masculine and the feminine, and today we have more tools and knowledge than ever to develop the best version of ourselves. Therefore, only those leaders who have profoundly worked toward their personal balance and have developed their spirituality will be able to create and manage more balanced enterprises, with more soulware and less software ... The companies that citizens of the 21st century do deserve.
This Spirituality and Transformative Leadership series was set up as a response to the need to bring 'higher order' principles into leadership today and to spark an ongoing discussion as to the role that spirituality, as distinct from religion, has in today's world. It is a curated series that invites both Young Global Leaders and others with an interest in leadership to contribute to a discussion on the role that spirituality plays in leadership today. For more information, please see the following link for an overview of the origins of this project see here and for a link to all the blog posts in the series please click here