Traditionally, when your cup runneth over, it signals having more than enough for your needs.
However, according to Zen philosophy, it has an entirely different meaning, which is an indication that it's time to create some space in order to allow in additional wisdom.
Why are we talking about cups of tea, and what has this to do with running a successful business, you may be wondering?
Well, as a business owner starting out, you will have set up your business from scratch and put your heart and soul into it, nurturing it and helping it to grow. Essentially it was all about you.
But there comes a point when you want to take it to the next level, that you may have to admit that you need help from other sources. Different skill sets that you don't possess maybe, fresh ideas on different – and dare we say better - ways of doing things. And that actually can be quite daunting.
It takes a certain amount of courage to take that step, to stand up and say, "Yeah, I want to do better. And I need help to do that. I can't do this by myself."
It's about checking your ego at the door, taking a step back and doing whatever it takes to help the business. Sitting with an open mind, and without judgment.
You set the tone and the direction from the top, so the willingness to change and commitment to making that change stems from you. This is where the Zen teachings come in, if only to illustrate this in a more eloquent and thought provoking way.
I'm reminded of a story my Dad used to tell me when I was a child.
Once, a long time ago, there was a wise Zen master. People from far and near would seek his counsel and ask for his wisdom. Many would come and ask him to teach them, enlighten them in the way of Zen. He seldom turned any away.
One day an important man, a man used to command and obedience came to visit the master. "I have come today to ask you to teach me about Zen. Open my mind to enlightenment." The tone of the important man's voice was one used to getting his own way.
The Zen master smiled and said that they should discuss the matter over a cup of tea. When the tea was served the master poured his visitor a cup. He poured and he poured and the tea rose to the rim and began to spill over the table and finally onto the robes of the wealthy man. Finally the visitor shouted, "Enough. You are spilling the tea all over. Can't you see the cup is full?"
The master stopped pouring and smiled at his guest. "You are like this tea cup, so full that nothing more can be added. Come back to me when the cup is empty. Come back to me with an empty mind."
Replace the important man with successful business owner who complacently thinks he's at the top of his game and knows everything he needs to know, and you have the same message. This Zen parable shows how much ego plays a role in our decision making.
The first step towards listening and being open to new learning is being silent ourselves, and realizing that when our heads are full of perceptions, it is hard to take in anything new.
So, we need to be open to receiving and correctly interpreting the right information, in order to become wiser and more dynamic. We can always rise to a stronger position than before, and face any new challenge head on, and then we start to lay the foundations for our new venture.
It can take a great deal of courage to make changes to a business model that is essentially working, in order to take it to the next level.
Daring to scale can be likened to a quote by ex Canadian President and Nobel Peace Prize winner Lester B Pearson, who said "Failures are made only by those who fail to dare, not by those who dare to fail".
After all, we all know the classic saying that you can't make an omelette without breaking a few eggs, right?
Moving away from food and drink metaphors, let's look at some of the facts.
There are five critical areas of your business, five elements, that can be addressed independently, and yet, as a whole, become what you need to be to move forward:
1) Business model and revenue generation;
2) Strategy and financing;
3) People and leadership;
4) Cash flow and systems; and
5) Operations and efficiency.
In our previous article we waxed lyrical about how in order to successfully scale your business, you need to think like a mountaineer.
As we head for each summit, or each new stage of our business, we are continually learning, applying what we've learned, analysing and assessing its effectiveness, making any necessary adjustments, and advancing to the next summit.
Lather, rinse, repeat.
In conclusion, as coaches we will doubtless say a lot of things that you've heard before.
But if you remember to keep emptying your cup and opening your mind, in listening to and carefully considering our message, you may just hear exactly what you needed to hear at that moment in time, to scale that next summit!