Paradox of Success: Life in both lanes
“Only the paradox comes anywhere near to comprehending the fullness of life.”
Most things in life are a paradox, right? We break down our muscles to make them stronger (when I am weak, then I am strong). We take medicine that hurts us in hope to find healing (let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us). We suffer great pain so we can attain great joy – e.g. childbirth! – (those who lose their life for my sake will gain it).
The heartbeat behind all these seemingly incongruent avenues for joy, strength, and growth is sacrifice, endurance, and trust. This paradox of life, which is ultimately a universal picture of the paradox of the gospel, plays out around us every day.
It is a courage that, as Brené Brown says, is cultivated not from strength but from vulnerability. For exercise, chemotherapy, and childbirth to yield all the healthful and happy outcomes they’re intended to deliver, we must sacrifice comfort at varying degrees and trust in the final outcome. A painful paradox but a true one nonetheless.
I love this from Brown’s most recent book, Braving the Wilderness:
“The mark of a wild heart is living out the paradox of love in our lives. It’s the ability to be tough and tender, excited and scared, brave and afraid – all in the same moment. It’s showing up in our vulnerability and our courage, being both fierce and kind.”
Wow, do I want my life to read like that statement! Truth be told, I’m only about halfway there. But at least now I know where I want to be. And it’s not just in the tough, excited, brave, and fierce lane. It’s in both lanes for the best life.
My question for the female entrepreneurs out there is: why don’t we paradox in business? If many considerable parts of our life reach pinnacles because of paradoxes, why don’t we take the unlikely but ultimately victorious route of both fierce and kind? As strong women with focused goals and convictions, why don’t we lead and communicate like someone willing to break her own muscles down in order to help build others’ up? As strong, working women of faith, why don’t we seek to make the Lord our primary demographic and then tailor our marketing to meet consumers within a God-honoring space? Why don’t we actually be quick to listen and slow to speak so that when we do speak, it’s seasoned with truth yet digestible by many?
In talking with remarkable female entrepreneurs during this series, it’s become evident our struggle is not with strength. If we want something, we’ll do it, and we’ll do it well. What we do struggle with is doing it all or doing it all ourselves. We have a tendency to either put up walls or resist taking walls down because a false sense of self-security feels better than admitting we have very little security at all. Starting a business, shoot, creating anything, is scary and unstable. It’s all risk and reward. But are we risking the things that will actually bring the richest reward?
One of our She’s in the City guests flipped the mic during her interview and asked me what surprised me most about the success of NaSHEville’s first year of operation. I replied that it is, without doubt, the power in sharing my real pain, struggles, and weaknesses. I hate that that’s true, but it’s true. The community we’ve built and goals we’ve met have stemmed from being open-hearted, not hard-nosed. So I’m starting to agree with Brené Brown and her colleague, Carl Jung who says this:
“The paradox is one of our most valuable spiritual possessions…only the paradox comes anywhere near to comprehending the fullness of life.”
Women, both in business and in life, long for security, strength, and success, but it won’t come from sturdier walls. It will come from living the paradox that giving more of ourselves, accepting more from others, and building our businesses and ourselves on truth. It may hurt a little before it helps, but it will undoubtedly yield the greatest reward.