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Finding Love in Every Business (Mark Silver) Transcript

Making It – Episode 148

Finding Love in Every Business (Mark Silver)

Mark Silver: I’m Mark Silver, and you’re listening to Making It. I run a business called Heart of Business, and we help people in business who really want to make a difference and they need to make a profit, realize that every act of business can be an act of love.

When I was little, I think, like many young children, I felt like I had a real connection to God, the infinite, the divine, the mystery, whatever language you want to use. And I think that there was something about that connection that I really wanted. There was a point where I thought I was going to be a rabbi. I did not grow up in an orthodox Jewish household by any means. It was conservative Judaism. We didn’t celebrate Shabbat every week. We were not a very observant family.

But I had my bar mitzvah, and I definitely spent time in Judaism learning, and there was a lot of joy in that. And I think that there was just a desire to be closer, to feel that connection, to feel that sense of wonder. And I remembered that after I got my masters of divinity and became a Sufi teacher, and I’m like, oh, yeah, I was on the track to be a rabbi. My business was born in a mistake. I was a paramedic, and I had left being a paramedic, and I was helping clients, doing cool things. And I had some experience from a magazine about doing design. This was the nineties.

And then I started to help them think through and work with their business. Oh, how do I price things? How do I talk about my business and these kinds of things? And so I was doing that under somebody else who I had been learning from. And then when I decided to go out on my own, because I was getting my initial Sufi healership training, and I’m going to launch. And I had set the first, like, newsletter to the people that I had gathered and saying, hey, I’m going to be out on my own doing this was September 12, 2001, which was the day after 911.

I was so scared about money at the time. Like, I was going out on my own. I didn’t have another job. My wife had chronic illness. And I was like, I’ve got to get this going. And I didn’t stop. I mean, it’s so obvious. It’s so obvious. You don’t send out a newsletter the day after 911. It’s stupid. But I did it, and I got tremendous blowback, which I deserved. And it took some time for me to recover from the shame of that. But it was also like a very deep lesson around what fear drives us to do that we know aren’t right. And it also deepened my commitment to myself.

When I was young, I was so afraid of making mistakes. I was so afraid of doing it wrong. And it was a lot of healing. It was a lot of healing with my Sufi teachers. A lot of healing just on the path of life to realize that mistakes are actually beautiful and necessary. There’s a Sufi teaching that says that the divine created the human being to make mistakes. Mistakes are so important to life and to love and to our connection. And it said that if human beings didn’t make mistakes, the divine would have created an entirely different race of beings that did make mistakes, which is how important they are.

It took a long time for me to be able to feel like I embody it. And I’m like, oh, yeah, mistakes are great, but we don’t want to actively mess up or be sloppy. But there have been lots of mistakes I’ve made along the way where I’ve hired someone with a lot of good intentions and what I call over hiring, meaning I wanted to give them so much freedom, like I wanted to really do right by them. But I wasn’t paying attention to what the actual needs are of the business.

We have a tiny business, a handful of people. At the time, it was even smaller, and I hired someone that really was better suited to running a larger team. We didn’t have a team. I need somebody to get things done. So that was a terrible mistake. And another mistake was being really slow at recognizing it. And that was a very expensive mistake. There’s been a lot of times where my mistake that has happened repeatedly has been to put more care into clients and into the people that work for us, without bringing that same care to the business itself, to what the business needs because there was a disconnect in me around, oh, if I care for the business, then those people are going to be cared for.

But I kept dropping that ball. And I think that there’s a really beautiful quality in myself that I really appreciate about how much I care about people and how much I care about justice, and how much I care about doing the right thing. And I just need to make sure that everything is included in that, including myself and my family, including the business.

I’ve never been able to have a creation process, whether it’s in business or whether it’s a woodworker, or whether it’s as a father, or trying to create a food forest. Like nothing’s quite linear. There has to be some room for chaos. There has to be some room for mystery. There has to be some room for, okay, now this is in place. What’s next? Every other month, six times a year, I run a virtual retreat. That’s for, like, a deep dive in listening. It’s not like a strategic retreat. It’s a spiritual retreat for listening very deeply. And that listening process, for me, is something that can feel hard to get to when life gets very busy. But I’ve never been able to make a successful next step without that kind of listening.

And for me, it’s the listening that precedes the making, the construction. There is a certain amount of complete surrender that’s necessary. Like, everything that I have, I’ve received. It’s not like I have something that’s not the divines also, or not from the mystery. The analogy I think of is, you know, you have a hand and you’ve got fingers on it. It’s not like the finger is separate. The finger can’t co create with the body. It’s just part of the expression of the body. And when I listen deeply, I can feel much more in sync. And so there’s this sense of surrender.

My wife, she does spiritual practice fairly effortlessly, and I feel like I cling to it with my fingernails. Like, I feel like I have to bring myself back to it because my personality can get caught up in the doing or the planning or the effort of it. But coming back is where the effort melts, because I’m listening, and the next step is shown.

A few years ago, we made a shift. A large part of our business model was shifted to what we call pay from the heart, where the client can choose the price. And we set out guidelines. There’s a whole thing to it. And because we have a natural sense of generosity and care, we had left ourselves out of the equation, and it was starting to impact the business in some pretty significant ways.

You know, the first instinct is to, like, overcorrect. Like, okay, we’ve got to come in strong. We’ve got to set the price. And that never felt right. And so just sitting and listening very deeply to the heart, the grief, and also the deep care and the sadness and the fear, but also the joy and the hope and letting all of that kind of mix together enabled us to speak to our clients from the heart about what had happened in what we were looking at. And we came out with a much more gentle message, and people responded with such beauty and such generosity, and it made a huge difference.

So there was a program I was going to launch, I guess this was a few years ago, and I wrote up the whole sales page. I’ve written a lot of sales pages at this point. I’m pretty good at writing a sales page. And people had even been asking for this. And it was a spiritual development program, and nobody was signing up. The heck was going on. And somebody who was in my company at the time looked it over and said, Mark, you left out your own teaching. Like, you haven’t talked at all about how this applies to business at all. Like, you’ve just been talking about the spiritual aspects. Like, I’d left out a whole piece.

And so, for me, that wasn’t in the full appreciation of what our clients were really wanting. And I wasn’t in the full appreciation of, we don’t just do spiritual work. There’s this intersection of love and business that we work with. And I didn’t mention the business. It was a mistake. We can’t just be elevating the spiritual over the material. Like, the material is not less spiritual than what is sometimes called spiritual in our hearts. Like, that inner feeling, like the physical world is just as spiritual.

Some of the more common mistakes I see entrepreneurs make on the road to developing their business is this fear of mistakes. Like trying to avoid making mistakes, like building their business from the perspective of, I must not make any mistakes. It distracts from what they should be paying attention to, which is, how do you develop your business? And I’m always encouraging people to do small experiments rather than large ones, because I think that that’s another mistake that people make, is that they think they have to go all in. They think that they have to be completely committed, or it’s not going to work.

I think another mistake that entrepreneurs make is falling into this kind of polarized thinking. Either it’s working or it’s not working. Either it’s all yes or it’s all no. And I think that it’s rare for something to be a complete failure. Right? Like, lots of people come and say, my business isn’t working. And I’m like, is that true? Let’s look at it. And I do deep assessments with businesses, and we identify these pieces, and there’s often lots that’s working really well. But there are aspects that are troublesome.

One of the things that I love when I think about the term making it is I love things that are both beautiful and practical. And I’m a hobbyist woodworker, and I like making beautiful things that are also useful. And so when I think about making it, I think about the act of creating or putting something together and making it.

Making it is iterative. You can’t just make it and walk away from it. You make it and then you tweak it and you tweak it and you tweak it and you tweak it. And so there’s places where we come back and we come back. So when I think about making it, I think a lot about this process of listening, this process of learning from mistakes, this process of celebrating the path and this process of really embracing everything with our full presence and our listening and our surrender.

I think if I went back in time to my younger self who had thought about being a rabbi at that time, I think I would have said that there is so much less to fear than you think. I’m very happy with my life. I’m very happy with my work, with the body of work that we’ve created over the last 23 years. I’m very delighted with the people that we get to work with. I’m very delighted with the team that we have.

But I’m not done. I still have desires and yearnings and ambitions for the business and I also see places where it’s, oh, we could do that better. Oh, wow, that feels like there’s friction in that part of the business. I feel like the journey continues in that way, but I really love where we are.

I’m Mark Silver and you’ve been listening to Making It. You can find out more about me at

Cassandra Topperwien: Making it is part of the Mirasee FM podcast Network, which also includes such shows as Just Between Coaches and Once Upon a Business. To catch the great episodes that are coming up on Making It, please follow us on YouTube or your favorite podcast player. And if you enjoyed the show, please leave us a comment or a starred review. It’s the best way to help us get these ideas to more people. Thank you and we’ll see you next time.