“Consider the rights of others before your own feelings, and the feelings of others before your own rights.” ~John Wooden
When the old and wise Obi-Wan Kenobi told the young and impetuous Luke Skywalker, “Trust your feelings,” he was wrong. (If this reference is unfamiliar to you, listen to this.)
This is one of those cases where language gets in the way of meaning. Obi-Wan was referring to something that might more appropriately be labeled “intuition”. I’m not a screenwriter so George Lucas probably liked the sound of his line better, even if it is a bit inaccurate. Who am I to argue with art? (Especially multi-billionaire dollar revenue producing art?)
I’ll tell you who I am. I am the guy who wants to make sure that a world-altering blockbuster doesn’t get in the way of you succeeding in business.
That Darned Reality
It can be hard to accept in the moment but feelings are not reality. They are merely a take on reality, a story. Stories can be instructive and inspirational but if you start seeing them as The Truth you can get into a heap of trouble.
How can you tell the difference between a feeling and intuition? Start with this: strip away the emotion. Get rid of the fear and foreboding, or the glee and expectation and look at what remains. In the case of a mere feeling, there won’t be anything of substance left. There will only be questions and doubts. But in the case of intuition, things will get instantly clearer without the emotions. It will be solid, it will feel certain and sure.
At first you may think that you just can’t make that type of separation. It might seem unnatural. But all it really is is unfamiliar. With practice, even the most “heart on her sleeve” person can take this on. It is merely a learned skill, acquirable by all. It only requires a little self-discipline and repetition. Self-discipline is a vital entrepreneurial skill and this is a great place to start practicing it.
But I Love My Feelings
Don’t worry, I am not asking you to forsake your precious feelings. Feelings are the juice of life. It’s just they ought to play a supporting role, not a leading one. Take passion for instance. An entrepreneur without passion is a guy who will soon be looking for a job. But passion alone does not a sound business plan make. You have to go deeper than the feeling to move from passion to reality.
What Good Are Feelings Anyway?
Feelings are energizers. They can be persuaders and protectors. You cannot work and succeed without feelings. Even the most reticent feel something, even if it doesn’t readily show. As the saying goes, “Still waters run deep.” You know what is in your own heart even if the rest of the world does not.
Feelings can also be leading indicators. They are worth acknowledging even as they should not rise to the level of taking charge. Awareness is the key. Feelings can be an interface to awareness. Just recognize they are not one in the same.
Whose Feelings Count the Most?
The short answer is: not yours. Ouch. Once again, this is where self-discipline rears its sensible head. You can say, “Thank you for sharing” to your own feelings and put them away. But disregard the feelings of others at your peril.
The flip side is you can turn the feelings of others to your advantage. For instance, recognition of the specific fears of a certain constituency can afford you the opportunity to offer them a product or service that provides legitimate security. Entertainment products and services fill people’s needs for excitement and levity. Nostalgia and romance can be gateways to transactions of many kinds.
Of course in the interests of supportable ethics and good karma we don’t “take advantage” of other people’s feelings. There are plenty of honorable ways to leverage feelings without abusing them. It is all about making enduring choices.
Finally, let’s remember that other people’s feelings are also not The Truth. We react to them, sure. But we also put them in their proper place. This allows you to allay people’s fears and calm their misgivings. You actually strengthen your offerings by showing that there is something beyond the emotion, something meaty and solid.
“What is the proper role for feelings in business?” click to tweet
It Feels Good to be Free
Freed from emotions as our master, we can now make the best possible choices for ourselves, for our employees, and for our customers. So keep those feelings around, keep them close but keep them where they belong: in your service.
How have you mastered feelings in business? Tell us about it by commenting below.
Photo credit: Eke Miedaner