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Game Changing Life

“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.”  Anais Nin

For my birthday this year, the only thing I wished for was a few moments of pure happiness. I wanted, needed to feel the simple joy of being alive and living in a body at this moment. And so I took an impromptu trip to Hawaii with my husband — for as long as I can remember, Hawaii is the only place that I have traveled to that I never feel ready to leave. Then the opportunity to swim and touch and kiss dolphins was possible. So happy. As I lay by the water’s edge calculating how many more days in this lifetime I might get to live inside the special contentment that is Hawaii, I realized two things: I want to be happy more of the time and I want that happy feeling to live in me everywhere I go and with everything I do. Just a small birthday wish.

The night before my trip, we attended a gala- the Oregon Entrepreneurs Network award ceremony where Good Clean Love had been named as a finalist for the Game Changer award. Truthfully, all of the OEN award finalists are serious game changers, so being named as the winner of the award among many of Oregon’s most accomplished business leaders was both an honor and an irony, as it made me question my own merit. Many people experience an odd juxtaposition in the moments of “winning,” which is partly about being able to receive, but the shift goes deeper for entrepreneurs who often feel like impostors as they are winding their way from one obstacle to another while trying to make an impact. Winning seems to heighten our fears of faking it.

Hearing these same doubts reflected by the other winners was comforting for me. It’s good to know that I am not alone with the pervasive doubts that dog my heels most days. And truthfully, the more successful our product distribution becomes, the greater the challenges. We find ourselves trading the exciting years of flying under the radar with the honor of being a recognized as a player whose vision is beginning to disrupt the product space long held by huge multinationals.

My courage is challenged. My fears of feeling like an impostor as Good Clean Love grows is really about the persistent experience of not knowing what to do, while better understanding how every decision we make carries a risk. We have no blueprint to follow. Each day we come with our best guesses about how to meet the resistance and love it. This is the work of a game changer- the new invention is how we respond, not just how we envision new product lines. Inventing novel solutions to important social problems is just another way of asking people to change- everyone from our loyal customers to the FDA. It is meeting with the resistance to change where the game changes.

I want to be a more courageous person, a person who is not afraid to face this resistance to change. But coming home to Hawaii makes me clear that I also want to be more joyful. I don’t want the work of facing the resistance to make me bitter and jaded. I can tell you that there is nothing sexy about how exhausted and hardened I have become without joy. I need to be able to come to this work with the same heart that filled me while I was communicating with the dolphins yesterday. The real game changer award in raising the bar for healthier intimacy products is all about how I hold it.

What I learned from the dolphins yesterday is that courage cannot be divorced from joy. They hold each other up. They make each other possible. Figuring out how to keep them connected inside of me is my birthday wish. I think I will have to make a standing appointment with the dolphins.