Progress is a spiral, not a line.

[158/365] Knightseeing
Good Queen Elisandra summoned forth her boldest knight and said, “Brave Christina, there is a nameless evil that lurks in the Cave of Seven Rivers. I bid you, ride forth and slay it that the land might be free of its stain.”

Christina was a most valiant knight, in joust or tourney or battle. She was feared and flattered and fawned upon in court, and her life was full… except for one small thing: Christina had never been sent on a quest. So it was with great excitement that she gathered her lance and sharpened her bec-de-corbin and rode forth.

The road was not uneventful.

When Christina stopped to fill her waterskin a warlock, struck by Christina’s noble face, cast a malevolent spell to ensnare her affections. But Christina bore a piece of the winding-shroud of St Jerome, and could not be harmed by such diabolical sorceries. She feigned enchantment and then struck the warlock’s head from his shoulders with her broadsword.

Then Christina met a great raven who told her of the Helm of Incendrius, which renders its owner invulnerable to flame. Christina followed the directions of the raven, and dug at the feet of a lightning-blasted oak tree. There indeed lay the Helm of Incendrius. Christina tied it to her pommel and went on.

There were more tales than I have time to tell – of giantesses, impossible rainstorms, mer-men, wingéd steeds, and other tests. Christina: scarred, dripping wet, footsore, but pure of heart, surpassed all trials and came at last to the Cave of Seven Rivers. After praying to Our Lady of Lourdes, she strode inside.

The dread beast was a dragon – cunning with the passage of ages, armoured with plates of adamant, with talon and tooth and deadly flame. But Christina bore the Helm of Incendrius and the flames did not touch her. Her valour was steel, and the great roars of the monster did not make her quail. Her breastplate was forged by the great dwarven queen Galasax and no claw could rend it. Her lance burned with white light… and she slew the fell beast.

Christina returned to the court with the head of the dragon and there was great rejoicing. Good Queen Elisandra celebrated her most valiant knight, and the dragon’s head was fixed to the castle gate, where forevermore it would give warning when enemies approached.

The end.

But then, next Tuesday…

Good Queen Elisandra summoned forth her boldest knight and said, “Brave Christina, there is reports of a new evil: a demon infests the Cotswolds. I bid you, ride forth and slay it that the land might be free of its stain.”

Christina said proudly, “Your Majesty, this I shall do.”  In her heart she felt a great surety – she was the slayer of the dragon. This would surely be no challenge to such as mighty knight as she! So once more she gathered her lance and sharpened her bec-de-corbin, tied the Helm of Incendrius to her pommel and rode forth.

The road was much more eventful than Christina expected.

Firstly she was accosted by a pair of witches who desired to avenge their brother, the warlock. They ambushed Christina with curse and imprecation, and Christina had to fight more valiantly then ever before to finally slay the two and bury their hag-ridden bodies at a crossroad.

Then the great raven appeared again and told Christina of the Sword of Adamant – a sword quenched in the blood of a fallen archangel, and the only weapon that could harm the demon-queen of the Cotswolds. Accordingly, Christina dug to the heart of a mountain and found the sword, tied it to her baldric and rode on.

There were more tales than could fill half a lifetime: ghasts, drowned youths, curative plants, great curses, maddening songs, old men, cunning thieves, sad maidens, evil plots and a faithful hound, to name but a few. Christina cried out, “Why do you continue to challenge me? Am I not the slayer of the dragon? I have quested, I have been victorious! Why then am I still thwarted?”

A wise and ancient alchemist heard Christina’s words on the south wind and strode forth from her tent to meet the knight. She found Christina sharpening the ever-sharp Sword of Adamant, just for something to do. The alchemist sat down and made a pot of tea.

“Brave Christina, have you heard of the Spiral?”

“Yes, wise one, it is a line that circles ever outward, never meeting itself.”

“Beautifully said, bold knight. You’re in one.”

“I’m in a spiral? But I’m treading the most direct path to the Cotswolds.”

“I do not mean physically. The quest to slay the dragon was the first round of the spiral. Now you walk the second round, where the same challenges reoccur, but at a higher level. And when you have slain the demon queen, you will be ready to walk the third circle, which will be more challenging again.”

“But… I…”

“You thought that this path was linear. Having slain the dragon, the challenges in your path were left far behind and would never come again.”

“Yes, wise one.”

“But know this: all things circle around – each time they are harder, but your might is greater each time and thus you will continue to triumph. Does that calm you?”

“Yes, wise one, it does. I thank you.”

And Christina, fortified by sage words and very good tea, rode forth once more to glory.

The moral of the story

Your progress as an entrepreneur is a spiral, not a linear path. If you accept that premise, it has important implications to your business.

Calm the fuck down

Since your progress follows a spiral, it doesn’t mean you’re doing something terribly wrong when an old long-solved problem reoccurs, probably much bigger than last time. Example: you clarify Who your bestest people are, which leads to lots of new visitors, which allows you to do more work and dig deeper into what you do, which leads to you not knowing Who your bestest people are anymore.

If you think of this as a linear process you’ll beat yourself up at this stage: “But I figured this out! Why doesn’t it work any more? I suck!” If you accept that this is a spiral, then you say, “Ah, here we are again. Sooner than I thought, actually.”

Of course, when you’re at the beginning of a spiral, the changes happen much faster. It can feel vertiginous to be reworking a strategy that seemed perfectly solid three weeks ago, but you now realise is totally inadequate. Again, that’s normal.

You can relax into this certainty: this has happened before, and it will happen again.

The expert on a pedestal

If you think of progress as linear, you tend to put people into two categories: People Who Have Gotten This Sorted (experts), and People Who Haven’t Gotten This Sorted (clueless). If you’re an expert you know everything you need to know, and if you’re clueless you know nothing.

There are so many ways that this is a dangerous dynamic.

Firstly, the experts have no room to learn in. When major change comes, as it always does, the expert suddenly looks… clueless. But they’re an expert! They’ve already Gotten This Sorted, right? The only possible explanation is that they’re a fraud! Boooooooo

Secondly, they have no room to admit that things are hard. Because clearly the Land of Experts, which the clueless can only see as a glimmer on the horizon, is much more perfect than over here. If anyone in that glimmering Land of Experts isn’t gliding through it, then there’s something wrong with them.

Thirdly, experts are distant, alienated from the clueless. And that leads to worship instead of relationship. That’s a lonely and isolating place for the expert, and a desperate and unsatisfying one for the clueless.

Fourthly, worship is always followed by the inevitable tearing down of idols. Sometimes they haven’t even made a mistake and been too-harshly punished for it – sometimes we just want to see the statues come down.

There are more, this list just got too depressing.

In a spiral, everyone is close.

The experts are “people who are walking the spiral a few levels up from me”, and your clients are often “people who are walking the spiral a few levels down from me”. They might be close enough to hold hands, or further away – but still close enough to see and be seen, to build real relationships.

Since we’re all facing the same challenges at different levels, there’s no worship or contempt. There’s no desire to attack someone more successful when they stumble – hey, they’ve got more resources to use, but they’re facing bigger challenges! They might fail, or take a while to overcome that challenge.

cashandjoy-spirals

When you’re designing your experiences with your clients, you can bring so much more honesty and vulnerability to it if you accept that we all experience and re-experience challenges. If you’re undergoing one right now  – and you are, we both know it – it does not in any way invalidate the value you bring to other people.

You can talk about making money when you’re not making quite as much as you want to.

You can talk about relationships although you’re arguing with your kids again.

Because there are lesser challenges you’ve already overcome to get to these ones – you’re not making as much money as you want, but you are making some. You’re fighting with the kids, but within a framework of respect that doesn’t leave you shaking with rage afterward.

There are so many other benefits from spirals.

But since I’m already at 1600 words I should probably leave it here. Add your own thoughts in the comments on this idea: what does it make possible for you and your business?

Sick of being the lone hero on the rutted road? Then you need to have a look at The Provocateurs. It’s easier to travel the road with other adventurers, you know.

Creative Commons License photo credit: pasukaru76

  • Anonymous

    *stunned* Holy shit. YES. 

    This is the answer to everything, and I mean that. Apologies for not being able to contribute anything extra…

    • I can’t think of anything else you’d need to add. 🙂

  • Ncbmore

    Thank you, Catherine! How many times in the past few weeks I worried that I didn’t have it together because I’m in transition. Thanks for reminding us that transition is all about growth and that the key is to keep it moving!

  • Brilliant! **cues sunshine and sparkles and rainbows**. I’ve used this metaphor for a long time, but it’s SO NICE to see an “expert” saying the same thing (except prettier and more memorably) so that I can link to it and say, Look, Catherine Caine tells a lovely parable about it! I’m not above using social proof to convince people that they’re not failures 😛

    •  If I have any value as an “expert”, that is it. 🙂

  • Landofjas

    Holy shit. YES.  (jwitcraft’s comment was spot on)
    What it makes possible…. that being able to learn from others not only can enhance your own biz, but also that what you learn will not ‘taint’ what you yourself built.
    Kinda like wanting to build a tower all on your own, but using someone else’s ‘greatest mortar ever’ will not make it any less yours…

    •  Yes! And it also means that we can easily learn from people a few levels down – watching someone solve a simpler problem often gives clues on how to solve a more complicated one.

  • Thank you for writing exactly what I needed to read today.
    It leaves me with the wonderful sense of spaciousness about how I approach my business (and everything else for that mater.)

    It’s really helping me to give myself permission to be where I am, which is an idea I know well, but don’t always practice as much as I might like.

  • Kerry

    I often tell people a similar thing that we are just steps ahead and behind of each other, all aiming for the same place.This is sooooooooo good to be reminded of!”You can talk about making money when you’re not making quite as much as you want to.You can talk about relationships although you’re arguing with your kids again.Because there are lesser challenges you’ve already overcome to get to these ones – you’re not making as much money as you want, but you are making some. You’re fighting with the kids, but within a framework of respect that doesn’t leave you shaking with rage afterward.”

  • Beautiful Catherine! I know this in my head – but the picture of “people who are walking the spiral a few levels up from me” makes it less depressing when I forget and have big sighs when I feel “I can’t catch up” to my heroes.
    They are my guides  “They might be close enough to hold hands, or further away – but still
    close enough to see and be seen, to build real relationships.” If I focus on building those relationships, I can focus on growth and expansion instead of feeling like playing catch up.

  • You know something? I don’t believe I’ve EVER read a story about a girl knight before. I very much like Christina. She seems awesome.

    • Slightly off topic, but just as inspiring in its own way. :>

      Since you liked Christina, you might want to check out the ‘Princess’ series by author Jim C. Hines. Cinderella, Snow White, and Sleeping Beauty as kick-butt, take-no-prisoners princesses. :>

      Awesome stuff! 🙂

      http://www.jimchines.com/novels/princess/

      • Anonymous

        And Robin McKinley has a whole legion of lady heroes, including The Hero and the Crown, The Blue Sword, Chalice, Beauty, and Sunshine.

        • You’re a fan of Ms McKinley too?
          How awesome is that! :>

          Have you read her other B&B story, ‘Rose Daughter’?
          The two are among my fave novels EVER. :>

          • Anonymous

            I have! I liked Beauty better, though. The Blue Sword and Sunshine are among my faves – I have read the Blue Sword about 7 times, and Sunshine at least several. I’m looking forward to the sequel to Pegasus. You can follow her blog via Facebook.

    •  I wanted a girl knight SO BAD.

  • OMG, HOW DO YOU DO THIS???!!!

    I’ve recently been spiralling back around to a Great (as in both Awesome & Huge) Course I’ve been thinking about since the beginning of the Remarkables.

    And I was just saying to Mike & Monodon last night ‘How can I do this now, when we haven’t gotten all the way through the process ourselves?’

    This is how.

    We point out that it’s a Journey, not a road. A Spiral, not a straight line.

    That you WILL go ’round the cycle, but that’s okay, because now you have tools for dealing with it.

    So, short form answer to your Q:
    It gives me Permisison to be seriously planning and planning seriously on this Awesome.

    It calms the Monsters and removes the yucky, heavy energy around going around to what seems like the same space, but isn’t.

    It lets me move forward with FAR more confidence in myself, my work, and the general plan, both ours & the Universe’s.

    And it gives me yet another Little Miracle, a.k.a. ‘co-incidence’ to write about for ‘Paranormal Lifestyle.com’.

    Thank you SO MUCH for all of it! 🙂
    *hugs!*

    P.S. And as a sneaky, awesome bonus, it lets me legitimately promote of of my fave authors and all-round Nice Gut, Jim C. Hines. -B! :>

  • This is a beautiful post and applies to so much more than business!

  • This is plain and simple the greatest article you have ever written. I think all your others are magfabtabulous, but for me, today – this one has made me grin from ear to ear, and just get the fuck on with it. I offer forth to you the biggest props in my saddle bag in thanks. x

  • Hiya Catherine,

    What an amazing casting! Your representation of spirals is so true and so clear. But most importantly, the way you’re writing about these subjects is just amazingly magical; whenever I read you I feel transported to somewhere beautiful, I even imagined that Christina (your client) got injured, lost her weapons and was to receive a fatal coup-de-grâce… but that sacred moment just had to happen, that special cycle within that exceptional cycle: the Deus Ex Machina moment where the Queen-Knight Catherine herself dashes towards that evil final blow, and saves the unexperienced Christine from an almost certain death.

    The spirals continue…

    •  Of COURSE that happens! That’s why my work exists!

      Thank you for making the story even betterer.

  • This did not end the way I expected … but the way it did end has kind of blown my mind. Thank you Catherine 🙂

  • “If you’re undergoing one right now  – and you are, we both know it – it does not in any way invalidate the value you bring to other people.”

    Do you have a secret map that says “Ellie is Here”?

    This is what I’m learning right this very minute.  It’s been three weeks since launch, and I already blew something up that’s giving me huge fits.  But I’m staying mindful of the spiral, reminding myself that it’s a journey, not a destination.  I’m growing every damn day since I opened the doors.

    •  It’s a secret map that says, “EVERYONE is here.” 🙂

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  • erinpillman

    Woman, this us b r i l l i a n t ~ thank you!!!!!

    • Erinpillman

      *is 😉

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